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British Industrial History

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Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson

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Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, (1840–1922), bookbinder and printer.

1840 born Thomas James Sanderson on 2 December at Alnwick, Northumberland, the only son of James Sanderson, a district surveyor of taxes, and his wife, Mary Ann Rutherford How.

From 1857 to 1859 he studied at Owens College in Manchester

1860 he went to Trinity College, Cambridge.

1863 left without taking a degree.

Met Edward Burne-Jones and William Morris

Late 1860s: he took up the law

1871 began practising as a barrister in London. He was involved in making "a kind of Code of all the powers, rights, and obligations of the London and North-Western Railway Company"

1881 he met Morris's wife in Sienna, with Annie and Janie Cobden, daughters of the radical MP Richard Cobden.

1882 he married Annie Cobden, changing his name to Cobden-Sanderson out of respect for her father.

1883 At the suggestion of Janey Morris he took up bookbinding for which he trained with Roger de Coverley

1884 Started work for himself as a book-binder. He chose what he would bind, which was not the usual practice in the trade.

1886 Began buying books, rebinding them, and selling them - the more he admired a work the more sumptuously he bound it.

He worked as a binder for only about ten years, but he started a tradition of fine binding in Britain.

1893 he took a lease on 15 Upper Mall, Hammersmith, near William Morris's own Kelmscott House. Here he started the Doves Bindery.

1900 started printing books at the Doves Press in partnership with Emery Walker. He used the Doves type, which Walker derived from a fifteenth-century Venetian typeface.

1908 The partnership was dissolved but Walker claimed part-ownership of the Doves type.

1909 Cobden-Sanderson signed an agreement whereby the type would be his for life, and would pass to Walker at his death. But he did not trust Walker to use the type in the spirit of his vision. During the war he brought the printing to an end.

1916 During the autumn and winter, under cover of darkness, he took the Doves type and threw it into the Thames off Hammersmith Bridge.

1917 The Doves Press closed.

1922 Died.



See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Biography of Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, ODNB