Case five: The Doves Press

The Doves Press was founded by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson in March 1893. It was a communal enterprise in which Cobden-Sanderson designed the books and supervised their production, while a fellow craftsman Emery Walker supervised technical production.

Cobden-Sanderson himself had arrived at the bookbinding trade in a curious manner, one that highlights the interconnected nature of the Arts and Crafts circle. A chance dinnertime conversation with William Morris’s wife, Jane, on June 24, 1883, during which she casually suggested that he try bookbinding, resulted in a lifelong passion for the trade. He designed his own tools, was consistently innovative and ruthlessly critical of himself, personally completing every aspect of the binding process except for the sewing. This he entrusted to his wife, Annie Cobden, a vegetarian suffragette with whom he had combined his surname in a symbolic act of union, a surprising move which indicates the progressive nature of their circle.

After founding the Doves Press, Cobden-Sanderson never bound another book but instead focused on design. The Press’s greatest achievement was the Doves Press Bible, and soon after its production rising expenses and the disintegrating relationship between Walker and Cobden-Sanderson led to its closure.