Doves Press

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Doves Press

Jan 5, 2020, 3:41 pm

Delighted to pick up my first Doves Press book, Unto This Last: Four Essays on the First Principles of Political Economy by John Ruskin, bound in limp vellum and printed on handmade paper by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker. Thought provoking essays written over 150 years ago and yet still topical today.

Jan 6, 2020, 4:28 pm


My time will come, some day....

Editado: Ago 9, 2020, 8:34 pm

General query to everyone... in the St John's College bookstore in 2014, I encountered what I remember as a reprint of the Doves Press Bible. It included a preface with a story of how the type was thrown into the Thames. I thought the price at something like $70-100 a bit steep for a recent reprint so passed it up. But now I cannot find any evidence that this reprint ever existed. Has anyone heard of this?

edit: My best guess at present is that I passed up a ridiculously good deal on Tidcombe's "Doves Bindery" (1991). However, this doesn't match my memory too well.

Ago 9, 2020, 6:24 pm

I have a copy of Unto This Last from the Doves Press. I bought it 23 years ago for $400.00 at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. A hefty sum even in todays dollars. its a beautifully made book and a pleasure to hold. You've inspired me to re-read it and see if it holds up to today's economy.

Nov 1, 2023, 2:56 pm

There's not much talk here about the Doves Press. Do those who have one or more Doves books have any reflections to share? Do you like the book(s), or is their value mostly their historic interest as early examples of private press publishing?

Nov 1, 2023, 3:55 pm


Beautiful letterpress printing of one of the most beautiful and readable typefaces, as expected. However, Doves Press editions are austere and unadorned to a fault and, ultimately, quite boring to read. If you own one Doves Press book you needn't own another.

Nov 1, 2023, 8:18 pm

>5 ubiquitousuk: Doves Press books are beautiful examples of pure typography and I think any fine press collection would benefit from having a sample of. As the Oracle says, there is a case of ‘once you’ve seen one Doves book, you’ve seen them all’, but this doesn’t equate as a bad thing, as I think the base format of them is beautifully and very readable. I feel the only things that should really preclude Doves editions from being on one’s shelves are the price, and whether any given text is of interest.

Nov 2, 2023, 4:22 am

>6 dlphcoracl: >7 ChestnutPress: thanks, this is the rough impression I had. And it begs the difficult question: which Doves book to own? Although the cost of these editions will likely narrow the choice set somewhat!

Nov 2, 2023, 7:44 am

>8 ubiquitousuk:

In my opinion, FWIW, the one to own is the 2-volume set of Robert Browning's 'Men and Women' with the hand-colored flourishes of initial letters by master calligrapher Edward Johnston. However, this set is prohibitively expensive.

In defense of the Doves Press, nearly all of their editions were poetry collections. Since I do not like poetry editions that are illustrated, the austerity of the Doves Press editions fits well and is appropriate. Wm. Wordsworth's 'Prelude' is to be avoided because the Doves Press used his final revision in 1850, which is wretched and not at all like his original inspired version (fair copy) published in 1805.

My suggestions (in no particular order):

1. Poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley
2. Poems by John Keats
3. Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson
4. A Decade of Years, Poems by William Wordsworth 1798-1807

Nov 2, 2023, 9:49 am

The "Doves Type" was a beautiful roman face. Edward Johnston did some beautiful calligraphy for a few books of theirs, most notably Paradise Lost (1902) and, of course, the Holy Bible (1903-05, I think). Highest quality materials and consistently good printing across the board with all Doves books I've handled.

I used to own a couple Doves P. books, Emerson's Essays (1906) and Credo (1907). I grew very bored of them fairly quickly, as I have with most books in the Arts and Crafts tradition. It's no knock on the austerity of Doves books (I don't care at all for the overwrought decorations and illustrations of their contemporaries), but to me, there was nothing fun about reading Emerson in the Doves edition. It seemed like the kind of book that should be appreciated, but not actually enjoyed. Maybe the price of the books sapped some of the fun out for me, as though they were precious objects that only a conservator in gloves should be handling. And, as others have noted, most Doves books are pretty much the same, maybe excepting the ones with Johnston's hand.

Nov 2, 2023, 9:54 am

Isn't the Doves Press Holy Bible widely considered the finest modern fine press edition of the Bible?

Nov 2, 2023, 9:59 am

>11 ultrarightist: Absolutely, which is why it sells for $10k+. It is up there in the stratosphere of most beautiful modern Bibles with Bruce Rogers' "Oxford Lectern Bible" (1935). If you ever get a chance to handle one, take it! (the chance, that is)

Nov 2, 2023, 10:11 am

>11 ultrarightist:

I prefer both the Bruce Rogers 'Oxford Lectern Bible' and the Arion Press 'The Holy Bible' . For me, the Doves Press Bible comes in a distant third.

Nov 2, 2023, 10:48 am

>12 DenimDan: and >13 dlphcoracl: I'll have check out the Bruce Rogers Bible. I don't believe I've ever seen photos of it.

Nov 2, 2023, 11:39 am

>14 ultrarightist:

It is pure typography. There is a standard version (1000 copies) and a deluxe large paper version (200 copies) printed on an exceptional handmade linen rag paper from Barcham Green. The latter is greatly preferred.

Nov 2, 2023, 4:21 pm

>8 ubiquitousuk: I only have the one now, and that is Mackail’s essay on William Morris, which I think is a very nice little volume.

Nov 2, 2023, 4:24 pm

>15 dlphcoracl: The 200 specials are printed on Batchelor Kelmscott, dlph. There was one special copy printed on a Barcham Green handmade, though, which I believe went straight to the Library of Congress!

Editado: Nov 2, 2023, 5:13 pm

>15 dlphcoracl:

You are (of course 😃) correct. It is Batchelor Kelmscott paper, different and finer than the paper used in the standard edition of 1000 copies. The unique copy donated to the Library of Congress was printed on Barcham Green handmade. Additionally, it was even larger than the 200 specials on Batchelor paper.

Nov 2, 2023, 10:20 pm

>18 dlphcoracl: Having that Barcham Green copy would be something else, wouldn’t it!! Mind you, I would more than happily settle for one of the Kelmscott copies.

Nov 3, 2023, 6:16 am

>9 dlphcoracl: By chance I agree with your ranking of texts. I've been fortunate to spend time with pretty much all their output, both on paper and vellum, & the Pomes by Shelley in particular, printed on vellum, is my favourite by far. I would add one other, from a point of pure typography: their first book, a small printing of Tacitus, is to me almost hypnotically printed. Very deliberately reminiscent of Aldus' De Aetna.

Nov 3, 2023, 7:30 am

>17 ChestnutPress: Any idea why the unique Barcham Green copy went to the Library of Congress? It seems slightly odd for a British-made book - why not the Bodleian? Perhaps it was at Rogers' behest.

Editado: Nov 3, 2023, 8:28 am

I settled for a very nice copy of An Account of the Making of the OXFORD LECTERN BIBLE instead of the actual Bible. It is printed in the same 18-point Bible Centaur type on a nice paper. You would agree that at 16 pounds each volume is rather inconvenient for daily perusal.

The copy on Barcham Green paper is an inch or more taller and wider than the other hand-made paper copies and was intended from the first for the Library of Congress in Washington, where, through the generosity of a number of my friends (B.R.'s that is) it now is placed. The cost of printing this special copy was approximately $1,200 paid by voluntary contributions.

Now I wonder since the Library of Congress is open to the public, may be one can arrange a meeting with this copy?

Nov 3, 2023, 8:24 am

>22 BuzzBuzzard:

Thank you for that quote from Rogers.

Nov 3, 2023, 8:54 am

>21 affle: I couldn’t say for sure, but I think it was down to Bruce Rogers

Nov 3, 2023, 12:40 pm

>22 BuzzBuzzard: You should be able to request it if you're in DC

Nov 3, 2023, 2:46 pm

>25 921Jack: Thanks for the link!

Nov 4, 2023, 7:49 pm

>27 Lukas1990: Thank you

Nov 5, 2023, 1:13 am

>28 ultrarightist: Just a couple of pictures but you can buy the book and take us some more :)))

Nov 5, 2023, 5:21 am

Knowing full well that I don’t have the pennies for one, I happily settled for the scarce prospectus for those deluxe copies. It’s a beautiful teaser!

Nov 6, 2023, 12:35 am

A bit more information on the LoC's unique copy of the Oxford Lectern Bible, specifically about the paper used...

From the New York Times, 9 June 1935, under "Notes on Rare Books" by Philip Brooks:

A unique copy of the Oxford Folio Bible designed by Bruce Rogers is destined for the Library of Congress. Destined, that is, with the help of public-spirited book lovers. The Bible, which is at long last nearing completion, is being printed in England at the Oxford University Press by John Johnson in collaboration with Bruce Rogers. The text, which is that of the authorized King James version, will occupy 1,250 pages. Five years ago Mr. Rogers discovered in an English paper mill a small quantity of beautiful paper made by hand from fiber imported from Japan.

He calculated that there was just about enough material for printing a single copy of his Bible, and he pur- chased the paper with the idea of producing such a unique example for the Library of Congress. The thickness of the paper made it necessary to readjust the forms on the press after the other sheets were worked off. This extra effort, together with the special full leather binding (probably pigskin) will bring the cost of manufacture to about $1,200. As Mr. Rogers cannot afford to make an outright gift to the library, he is asking for at least 100 subscriptions of $10 each. The names of subscribers will be printed on a presentation page and bound in the first volume, and an extra copy of this leaf will be given to each donor. Those who are aware of the sincerity and integrity of Mr. Rogers's work will sympathize with his desire to see his typographical masterpiece installed in the national library. Checks may be made payable to Philip C. Duschnes, 507 Fifth Avenue, New York, who is the agent for the regular edition of the Bible.

There was a broadside printed to solicit these subscriptions but I haven't found a copy yet. There also were two promotional/ephemeral items issued for this project: "A Prospectus Giving Particulars and Specimen Pages of the New Oxford Lectern Bible," and "An Account of the Making of the Oxford Lectern Bible" (see Sophie Schneideman's listing for a copy of the Bible). One or both might have more information on the LoC copy, and it's driving me crazy because I know I have one of these, but I couldn't lay my hands on it for a million dollars. It'll bubble up one day.

Nov 6, 2023, 9:42 am

>12 DenimDan: There was, and I'm thinking probably still is, a copy of Roger's Oxford Lecturn bible bound in the old wainscoting from the British House of Parliament on the lecturn of the Christopher Wren church that was rebuilt on a site in Fulton, Missouri. It is the where Churchill gave his famous Iron Curtain Speech. The Church had been destroyed in the war and was brought over and reconstructed there. It is a small, unassuming little town. I only learned of it because I was a graduate student nearby in Columbia, MO. I asked and they let me thumb through the book. It was a special moment.

Editado: Nov 11, 2023, 10:35 am

Austerity in book design is a gold standard, and Doves Press books are key to understanding that. I do not own one, but I pour over Tidcombe's book and facsimile pages and photos on the internet copiously every time I'm designing a new project.

I can look at unadorned pages of Doves press bifolios and Nicolas Jensen bifolios for hours.

Jan 3, 7:12 pm

For those with $110,000 burning a hole in their pocket, this seller is offering a complete set of the Doves Press "vellum books":

By "vellum books" the seller appears to mean the books bound in vellum rather than those printed on vellum, but still an impressive set.

Jan 3, 7:32 pm

Abr 3, 10:00 am

I have only one Doves Press volume in my collection.

Regarding Paradise Lost, arguably my favorite work of literature in the English language, there are many fine/private press options from which to choose. In my case, the Arion Press edition was the one. However, as far as I know there is only one fine press version of Paradise Regain’d out there - the Doves Press. In addition to Regain’d the volume also includes a vast collection of Milton’s poetry, Samson Agonistes, and Comus. Some of the works are in Italian, Latin, and even one or two in Greek.

As many here have already mentioned Doves Press books are pure typography, and as such I get more enjoyment out of my Paradise Regain’d than the majority of books in my collection. It’s one of my favorite volumes to return to and admire for its typographic and printing perfection. If these aspects of fine press are as important to you as they are to me, I highly recommend making it a goal to add something from Doves Press to your collection at some point.

Editado: Abr 3, 1:17 pm

>36 Nightcrawl:

There’s also this, the LEC combined edition (unless you don’t think of it as fine press, I’m not looking for an argument on that point):

Abr 3, 3:10 pm

>37 GusLogan: No argument here. I absolutely consider LEC fine press. In fact I just acquired one of their Mardersteig printed editions a couple of days ago. If that’s not fine press printing I don’t know what is.

Was not aware that this Milton volume existed but it looks lovely.

Abr 3, 4:57 pm

John Henry Nash was certainly a fine press printer.

Abr 5, 10:25 am

There have been at least two other great fine press editions of Paradise Regain’d: Nonesuch Press (1926) and Cresset Press (1931) - in each case a companion volume to Paradise Lost.

The Nonesuch edition includes most of the same additional material as the Doves, minus the Latin and Greek poems. The Doves edition is an exquisite example of pared-back elegance, but the Nonesuch, with its Blado italic type on Van Gelder rag paper and the monochrome Blake illustrations, is immensely effective, too. I’m glad to have both.

Abr 5, 1:29 pm

I saw that Besley's Books had a very competitively priced copy of the Doves Paradise Regain'd, albeit not in its original binding. Alas, now purchased by somebody.

I have to say that I recently got my hands on my first Ashendene press book. Although not their best work, I feel a bit underwhelmed. Sure, the typography is nice and it's good to have a piece of fine press history. But the book as a whole feels a bit mean compared to the relative luxury of later private or fine press editions. Even some of my more modest Golden Cockerels, for example, feel like much nicer books all round and also have their own typographic merits.

Abr 6, 10:01 am

>41 ubiquitousuk: which book?

Editado: Abr 6, 11:24 am

>42 abysswalker: Vita di Santa Chiara Vergine

Abr 10, 2:19 pm

>40 bookist: I own the Cresset Press Paradise Lost/Regain'd. It is a magnificent two volume folio work with artwork by Demetrios Galanis and one of the top three Cresset Press productions. This book receives prominent treatment in the Whittington Press "Pages From Presses II".

Abr 10, 2:54 pm

>44 Sport1963: It's very high on my wishlist but also very rare.

Abr 10, 4:47 pm

>44 Sport1963: It’s a stunner isn’t it! And the vellum copies are ridiculously lush!!