The Ideal Book or Book Beautiful:
A Tract on Calligraphy, Printing and Illustration & on the Book Beautiful as a Whole
by T.J. Cobden-Sanderson (1900)
Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson (1840-1922) was one of the luminaries of the Arts and Crafts movement in England in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1884, he left his law practice to establish the Doves Bindery, which was followed by The Doves Press in 1900. The Doves Press is renowned for printing some of the finest English-language books of the 20th century, including a five-volume Bible and an edition of John Milton’s Paradise Lost.
Arts & Crafts - A Movement in Many Fields
The Arts and Crafts movement – a term coined by Cobden-Sanderson in 1887 – was a response to the mass production, division of labor, and de-skilling of workers caused by the Industrial Revolution. Social critic and writer John Ruskin argued against this “servile labour,” instead advocating for labor dignified by handwork and craftsmanship. As an artistic movement, it was exemplified by the textile designs and books published by William Morris (England), with whom Cobden-Sanderson disagreed, thinking Morris made books unreadable. Luminaries of the movement's expression in architecture and furniture include Charles Rennie Mackintosh (Scotland), Greene and Green (United States), Frank Lloyd Wright (United States), and Gustav Stickley (United States). The American art pottery of Roycroft and Rookwood and the stained glass of Louis Comfort Tiffany (United States) are world-renowned Arts & Crafts creations.
The Doves Press Paradise Lost was one of the most important fine press editions of the 20th century.
The Ideal Book: The Original Pamphlet
In The Ideal Book or Book Beautiful: A Tract on Calligraphy, Printing and Illustration & on the Book Beautiful as a Whole, Cobden-Sanderson applies core aesthetic tenets of the Arts and Crafts movement to the printed book. The Doves Press was a major influence on the “fine press” movement of 20th century in both Great Britain and the United States, and it continues to help drive the vision of Ampersand Book Studio.
With just 300 printed on paper and 10 on vellum, copies of The Doves Press original pamphlet – just their second publication ever – are very scarce. When available, they sell for thousands of dollars.
The Ampersand Book Studio Edition
In August 2022, Ampersand Book Studio begins work on a new, fine letterpress edition of The Ideal Book. It will be as near a facsimile of the historic original as possible… the same size, typeface, and layout as the original. It will be limited to 100 copies bound in paper, twelve copied bound in vellum, five copies bound in Morocco leather, and ten copies in pages. We are even printing up to five copies on vellum!
The fact that it is a facsimile edition does not mean that there is no creativity or excitement in the design process. On our way, our Patreon supporters will…
Investigate everything there is to know about the original... its unique binding structures… the historical context of the Arts and Crafts Movement and advent of the fine press movement... the quirky characters behind the essay – not just the author, but the typographer, and even the pressman who physically printed the original pages… and much more.
We will visit rare book archives to get our hands and eyes on original Doves Press editions, and be inspired by their simple perfection…
Learn of the conflict between the partners of the Doves Press that led Cobden-Sanderson to spend months destroying their exclusive typeface by dropping it into the Thames River, and hear about the efforts of a typographer – and salvage divers – to recreate it 100 years later.
Follow every step of the design, printing, and binding of the Ampersand Book Studio edition – our excitement, challenges, creative solutions, and the aesthetic principles that we employ in creating our new edition.
We anticipate that the new edition will become available by the end of November. But we have come to expect the unexpected. And you can join us on the journey by following us for free on Substack. We hope that you will join us on the journey.