I hadn’t realised what a revolutionary development the typewriter was until a couple of days ago. It must have changed the 19th Century communications world in much the same way as the internet has changed ours.
I recently spent a day at the National Library of Scotland going through handwritten letters from fur traders in Canada to their boss back in London. To put it mildly, some of the handwriting was pretty difficult to read and that wasn’t just because the ink was fading. A lot of time must have been wasted back in London trying to decipher some of the handwriting. And I’m guessing that the fur traders were proud men who wouldn’t allow someone with a better hand to write their letters for them.
I’ve got an old typewriter, circa 1924, which I bought for next to nothing when it was declared surplus to requirements at the Inverness Courier in the mid-1980s. A new typewriter had been purchased and its new owner passed their old one to the next person in the typing pecking order, who in turn passed their old machine down the chain until eventually the typewriter in the basement, used to type address labels for the newspapers sent out by post, was declared surplus.
If I was a conman I would claim that the typewriter I have was the very one the original Loch Ness monster story was typed on in 1933. But I happen to know that the report was sent in by the paper’s Loch Ness-side correspondent and would not have been typed up at the office prior to going to the typesetters. By the way, the correspondent called it The Beast. It was the paper’s editor Evan Barron who changed it to “Monster”. The rest is history, or if you prefer, mystery. But, sadly, it doesn’t involve my old typewriter.