[1913 – Letter To a Demon on the Thames Re: Absent Vowels]

by | Apr 15, 2023 | Contemporary Epistolary Forms Day 2


You petty wretch, gve back me my letters, you know wych!
Eye want the keys, upper & lower cases, for the myssng letters,
even yf they must be fyshed from the Thames ytself.
Can hang you by your toes to get them.
Tsn’t hard to call you back, my poor excuse
for express’n. Eye wonder now, d’you take them
solely to wreck my type busyness &
to always be called? Demonac. Keeps me
needyng to address you. Keeps me red.
Keeps scrawl from settled text.
Eye need that absent vowel. Can’t command,
But entreat you, T: even your name ys not complete.
Eye miss my eyes. Return them please.


Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson, London, 1913

[Background: Cobden-Sanderson co-developed Dove typeface in London at the turn of the 20th century. Due to a disagreement with his business partner, Cobden-Sanderson ended up “committing” the entirety of the metal typesetting keys for Dove into the Thames over the course of several months, handful by handful pitched into the river. Mudlarkers and other curious Londoners have been recovering the type letter by letter. This epistle imagines Cobden-Sanderson addressing the demon Titivillus, a medieval “patron demon of scribes” responsible for typos and mistakes, etc. after the demon has absconded with the character “I”]

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