Tag Archives: printing industry

HARRY MOTTRAM FREELANCE JOURNALIST: the strange story of a bitter business dispute over a typeface that ended at the bottom of the River Thames in mysterious circumstances (and how a graphic designer today tracked down the evidence beneath the water a century later)

Thomas Cobden-Sanderson

Harry Mottram reports for Print Monthly

It is a curious story of how business partnerships in the printing industry can go horribly wrong. One particular bust up between business partners was brought back to life by the typographer and designer Robert Green, who discovered the evidence of a bitter dispute a century ago at the bottom of the River Thames.

He says the dispute was between Thomas Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker at the Doves Press in London at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Cobden Sanderson was a designer while Emery Walker was a printer. Both were dedicated to their crafts and as a combination created not only beautiful books, but also a unique typeface, the Doves font, designed largely by Cobden-Sanderson. The font was only available in 16pt and was seen as classic, elegant and sophisticated.

Emery Walker at the Doves Press

The partnership began in 1900 after Cobden-Sanderson had in effect coined the phrase ‘arts and crafts’ to describe a revival of tradition craft skills used in a range of disciplines, in a generation of designers and artists in reaction to the mass production of the Industrial revolution. The partnership with Walker would continue to produce and celebrate this movement and some of the great works of literature including Paradise Lost. However, like so many partnerships, things began to go wrong. Walker had other business and social interests that kept him away from the publishing house which Thomas Cobden-Sanderson resented. By 1906 the partnership was under strain and Cobden-Sanderson suggested it should end. There was only one issue and that was who owned the font Dove. Cobden-Sanderson had been its chief designer but Walker had also had an input into the beautifully crafted typeface.

“I first saw the Doves Press font when I was at art school, and I thought it was incredibly elegant. It has real authority, and it also very idiosyncratic”

I first saw the Doves Press font when I was at art school, and I thought it was incredibly elegant. It has real authority, and it also very idiosyncratic”

Robert Green at the river

Robert Green says: “I first saw the Doves Press font when I was at art school, and I thought it was incredibly elegant. It has real authority, and it also very idiosyncratic. The type is all and that is a very modern approach. For some reason I began to get obsessed with the type but I didn’t know the story.”

A sample of the typeface

Green began to recreate the font digitally by scanning each character to create a digital version of Dove. As he looked into the background of the two men behind the font he discovered the extraordinary outcome of their bust up. When the partnership folded in 1906 they appeared to have resolved the ownership of the typeface. Walker would have the right to continue using it and the metal characters so beautifully crafted for use in his letterpress, while the elderly Cobden-Sanderson would be the owner of the font until his death when the ownership would pass to Walker.

The deal seemed to work until Cobden-Sanderson began to ponder on the agreement and found himself unhappy with it. So in an act of revenge he decided to destroy the typeface. Two years after the partnership ended, he returned to the print room and picked up the heavy metal typeface and put them into a bag and walked the few yards to Hammersmith Bridge where he threw them into the River Thames. Not just once, but perhaps it took him more than 150 journeys on foot to empty the characters and everything associated with the typeface into the dark depths of the river.

The Dove typeface used in a printing of the Bible

A century later, Green had by now not only researched the dispute but was on the track of the lost font. He worked out where the lead had fallen and how the tides would have moved the small pieces on metal in the mud.
Green says: “There was a ton of type, which was a lot of weight for an elderly man to shift. It must have taken him about 170 trips on foot. I studied where the traffic is and where he might have thrown the type in and began to look. The first letter I found was the letter V which had spent 98 years under water being thrashed about by the tides.”

He comments: “Cobden-Sanderson was a socialist and man of ideals, but the most beautiful thing he created he destroyed instead of sharing it with the world.”

Cobden-Sanderson admitted to disposing of the font in a letter to Walker’s solicitor. And it can be assumed the two men never spoke to each other again. Cobden-Sanderson died in 1922, while Walker continued to work as a printer and was knighted in 1930. He died three years later. His house is open to the public once a year during London Open Buildings Day.

For more stories from Harry visit www.harrymottram.co.uk

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More stories on the print industry at www.printmonthly.co.uk

HARRY MOTTRAM FREELANCE JOURNALIST: a video report from the Wasps Arena at the Ricoh Stadium in Coventry on the Print Week Live Show (it was very nice – but there weren’t too many people there)

Harry Mottram reports

Visitor numbers at the Print Week Live event held at the Wasps Arena in Coventry last week were estimated to be at around the 2,000 mark raising questions by some over the future of trade shows for the print industry. To be honest it wasn’t very busy although as a talking shop and networking event it had its merits.

In 2014 the print show Ipex recorded about 23,000 visitors to its Excel venue in London down from 2010 when 50,000 passed through the doors of the show but by last year numbers were down to 7,000. The Print Show has usurped Ipex as the industry’s number one exhibition holding their event at the NEC this September having gone head to head last year against Ipex in something of  High Noon showdown in which Ipex blinked first.

There has been an increase in open days at print manufacturers showrooms as buyers come under time constraints. One delegate at the Wasps Arena said that once upon a time the whole workforce would go by coach to a trade show. A day out to see new kit – but as he pointed out there was no kit to see at the arena.

More stories on the print industry at Print Monthly at www.printmonthly.co.uk and freelance reports from Harry at www.harrymottram.co.uk as well as at www.icsmcredit.com

HARRY MOTTRAM FREELANCE JOURNALIST: Jobs on the line over the marriage of political opposites with the Mirror Express deal (and Trinity Mirror’s £2m a year CEO says duplication will see cuts – but it’s good for shareholders)

Marriage of opposites: the left leaning Mirror and the right leaning Express are now owed by Trinity Mirror

Marriage of opposites: the left leaning Mirror and the right leaning Express are now owed by Trinity Mirror

Despite the reassurances from both Unite and Trinity Mirror, there is little belief amongst workers at the media group that the purchase of Northern and Shell will not result in job cuts. It sees the publisher of the Daily Mirror takeover the Daily Express and other titles, with more redundancies likely.

Harry Mottram reports

A year ago, Trinity Mirror made 78 redundancies in its regional newspapers with 40 more in September and more again just before Christmas, while some local titles were shut down altogether.
The acquisition of Northern and Shell will see yet more job cuts in Trinity Mirror with so-called duplication being the main reason for redundancies. Print Weekly reported Unite’s Louisa Bull claiming that print workers’ jobs may not be affected with expected cuts expected amongst ‘white collar’ workers in editorial. This suggestion may ring hollow as the Mirror have shut print plants in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and in Wales in the last two years with the loss of scores of print jobs.
The Times reported last week that: “Significant job losses are expected after the owner of the Daily Mirror agreed to pay £126.7m for titles including the Daily Express, the Daily Star, and OK! magazine. In one of the most significant deals in the newspaper industry in decades, Trinity Mirror is buying the publishing assets of Northern and Shell, owned by Richard Desmond.”

Significant job losses are expected after the owner of the Daily Mirror agreed to pay £126.7m for titles including the Daily Express, the Daily Star, and OK! magazine

It went on to say that Simon Fox, chief executive of Trinity Mirror, (who earns in salary and benefits around £2m a year), says: “Job cuts are inevitable as the company seeks savings of £20m a year.” One worker who wished to remain anonymous told Print Monthly that workers had been reassured of job security in October in one Trinity Mirror centre only to be made redundant a month later.
The National Union of Journalists’ Michelle Stanistreet comments: “The NUJ is concerned that Trinity Mirror, with its long record of making cuts to its newspapers, will not be the knight on the white horse they were hoping for.”
Fox comments: “This deal is a really exciting moment in Trinity Mirror’s history, combining some of the most iconic titles in the UK media industry. It is good for our readers, good for our customers, and good for our shareholders. Northern and Shell’s titles have a large and loyal readership, a growing digital presence and a stable revenue mix and offer an excellent fit with Trinity Mirror.”
The deal sees the left leaning Daily Mirror and the right leaning Brexit supporting Express owned by Trinity Mirror, who will also acquire the Daily Star and magazines such as OK! but not Richard Desmond’s stable of porn magazine titles as they were sold in 2004.
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HARRY MOTTRAM FREELANCE JOURNALIST: Trinity Mirror circulation woes and the Guardian goes tabloid – latest issues for the newspaper industry in Print Monthly

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Going tabloid will save The Guardian ‘millions’ according to the national newspaper’s editor Katherine Viner, who told Radio 4’s Today listeners it was a new era for the paper. Millions that is, in terms of printing, paper and workers. The Press Gazette reported that around 250 people were made redundant last year from the newspaper group.

The editor was backed up by The Guardian’s CEO David Pemsel who says it will be a saving of ‘several million pounds.’ Pemsel comments: “The media sector remains challenging. However, our reader revenues are growing well, and more people are reading us than ever before – we now reach over 150 million unique browsers each month and we have over 800,000 supporters.
Read the full story and other printing industry stories at http://www.printmonthly.co.uk/News/Industry/6296/the-guardian-goes-tabloid and more freelance info from Harry at http://www.harrymottram.co.uk/?page_id=1956