The typeface Typist originated during an extensive research on the origin and development of typewriter typestyles. The first commercially manufactured typewriter came on the market in 1878 by Remington. The typestyles on these machines were only possible in capitals, the combination of capitals and lowercase came available around the end of the nineteenth century. Apart from a few exceptions, most typestyles had a fixed letter width and a more or less unambiguous design that resembled a thread-like structure. A lot of this mechanical structure was due to the method the typestyles were produced.

Looking at type-specimens for print before the first typewriters were good enough to came on the market we can see that in 1853 (Figure 1) and in 1882 (Figure 2) Bruce’s Type Foundry already had printing type that had a structure of the typewriter typestyles. Of course printing types were proportional designed as typewriter typestyles had a fixed width (Figure 3). So it is possible that except from the method of production for typewriter typestyles, the design of printing types were copied.

In the design of the Typist, the purpose was – next to the monospace feature – to include some of the features of the early typewriter typestyles. Features such as the ball terminals and the remarkable design of the letter Q.
This new typeface laks the mechanical and cold look of the early typewriter typestyles. The Typist comes in six weights with matching italics in two versions. One that resembled the early typewriter typestyles (Typist Slab) and a version designed with coding programmers in mind (Typist Code).

Figure 1: Engravers Hair-line No. 644. Bruce's Type Foundry, 1853.
New York: George Bruce's Son & Co.

Figure 2: Long-Primer Engravers Hair-Line. Bruce's Type Foundry, 1882. New York: George Bruce's Son & Co.

Figure 3: Type-test from Model nr. 59 of a Remington Type-Writer from 1879.
Courtesy of Peter V. Tytell from New York.

As the  research initially is written in Dutch the translation is done by Google Translate. Apologies for the probably crapy English.


The typewriter is generally seen as a technically advanced invention, to which various social changes are attributed. When one considers only the operation of this device, it can rightfully be called a special invention, which shows the talent and ingenuity of people. In light of other inventions during the Industrial Revolution, some may have had a greater impact on everyday life. Take the invention of electric light, telephony or airplanes (Adler 1973, p. 19). I believe that the little cog in the whole that the typewriter once was has a fascinating history.

Initially, the machine was invented to support blind people in written communication with sighted people. Gradually, these mainly sighted people developed, the possibilities of this device were seen in various professional practices (Jensen 1988, p 256). With foresight, an editor of Scientific American magazine wrote in 1867 about the invention of John Pratt's machine (which he called Pterotype):
‘The subject of type writing is one of the interesting aspects of the near future. Its manifest feasibility and advantage indicate that the laborious and unsatisfactory performance of the pen must sooner or later become obsolete for general purposes. Printed copy will become the rule, not the exception for compositors, even on original papers like the Scientific American. Legal copying and the writing and delivery of sermons and lectures, not to speak of letters and editorials, will undergo a revolution as remarkable as that effected in books by the invention of printing, and the weary process of learning penmanship in schools will be reduced to the acquirement of the art of writing one’s own signature and playing on the literary piano, or rather on its improved successors’ (Scientific American 1867).

A new technology can only be used successfully when there is a need, and the typewriter was no different. To illustrate this, there are four main reasons why the typewriter was chosen over manual writing: legibility, speed, multiplication and ease of use.


One of the professional practices where the typewriter was used was the office environment. Before the arrival of the machine, a legible handwriting for writing correspondence and official documents was essential. A lot of attention was therefore paid to this in schools. The author of the aforementioned article - from the Scientific American - predicted that a good and legible handwriting would no longer be so important with the advent of the typewriter. The craftsmanship "writing" of the office clerk was once the calling card of a company. With the advent of the typewriter, the clerk not only lost more and more work, but also lost his prestige. The office clerks saw the machine as a threat to their profession (Clayton 2013, p 245; Wilson 1973, p 3). The clerks who wrote down the dictated correspondence in shorthand were less likely to be bothered by the arrival of the typewriter, although writing in shorthand was also mechanized in the long run.
The benefits of a legible copy were also discovered by newspaper editors and publishers: the improved readability eased the work of the editor and the typesetter. In addition, extra costs could be avoided by making mistakes due to poorly readable copy (Jensen 1988, p 261). Manuscripts and copy were therefore at one time refused when it was handwritten.


The acceptance of a typed letter was not entirely smooth. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the recipient of a typed letter could feel insulted because "he could read handwritten text anyway." A typewritten letter was also regularly mistaken for advertising and unceremoniously thrown in the trash (Current 1954, pp 84-85; Backes 1911, p 396). Below is an example that shows that even in the mid-twentieth century, the recipient of a typed letter had doubts about how the letter came about (1974, p. 124):
‘It is said that the first of the IBM Executive machines with proportional spacing was presented to President Roosevelt, and his personal letters were typed on this machine. One of the letters was sent to Mr. Churchill who replied that although he realized their correspondence was very important, there was absolutely no need to have it printed!’


The fact that legibility was an important reason for many consumers to purchase a typewriter is evident from the fact that manufacturers released sales brochures focusing on clear and legible typefaces. These brochures outlined typewriter potential user groups and applications, coupled with recommendations for specific typefaces. Especially with machines with typing arms, it was important to consider the desired typeface when purchasing, since it was hardly possible to change the letters.

An example of such advice, intended to stimulate the sale of its own machines, can be found in a brochure by Remington from the late nineteenth century (figure 1). For example, it was advised to mount the largest possible font on the machine if the typed texts were intended for use in a dimly lit environment (such as a church). For a more classic look, or for a letter that resembled the older print letter, other typefaces were recommended. Another way to arouse interest in the device was to let users have their say, a way of promoting that is still used today (Figure 2).

Figure 1: Some examples of fonts for Remington typewriters (Wyckoff et al. 1887, pp 8-9).

Figure 2: Users about the machine as an example of available letters (Robert 2007, p 44).


Speed of machine versus manual writing
The growth of companies during the Industrial Revolution led to an increase in written documentation. This meant that handwriting had to be faster and more efficient, which undoubtedly came at the expense of legibility and accuracy. With the advent of the typewriter, typed documents were not only easy to read, but typing was faster than writing by hand (Seybold 1984, p. 13). At the beginning of the twentieth century, an average handwriting speed of twenty-five to thirty words per minute was possible (Walker 1984, p 102; Bliven 1954, p 35). At the end of the nineteenth century, machine writing was able to reach a speed of thirty to forty words per minute on a mechanical machine with typing arms (Adler 1973, p. 42).
The manufacturers' competition to conquer the market with their typewriter has led to organizing competitions in fast and flawless typing. The participants trained extensively for this (Nowotny 2006, pp 78-79). After all, they determined the typing speed, insofar as the machine could also handle that speed. The incorrectly typed words were not included in the final score. Below a small selection of winners with the amount of typed error-free words and on which machine these matches were won.

The arrival of electric machines with interchangeable letter elements did not immediately end these competitions. Although the processing speed of this element was generally fixed, the user determined whether this amount of words per minute could also be achieved.

The typewriter was not primarily invented as a device for multiplying the typed, but this possibility made the device popular. The aforementioned Scientific American editor in 1867 saw applications for the multiplication of documents within various professional contexts, such as legal, academic, journalism, and religious. He therefore saw a great future for the typewriter, comparable to the invention of letterpress printing (Scientific American 1872).
Making a copy of handwritten text in the mid-nineteenth century was usually a laborious and time-consuming task. The use of carbon paper made it relatively easy to multiply using a typewriter. Carbon paper is a thin sheet of paper, one side of which is coated with a black dye that allows printing. The Royal Typewriter Company advertised with carbon paper that it could be reused sixty times before it was due for replacement (Polt 2015, p 220). It is quite possible that this was an exaggeration: carbon paper that is used so often is generally severely damaged, although a faint print may have been possible at the sixtieth time. Today we see the term "carbon" in the e-mail when we want to send a copy to someone, a cc, which means "carbon copy".

Mechanical machines used a powerful staccato deposit to make multiple legible copies when using carbon paper. A number of ten copies with special single-sided carbon paper was possible (Clayton 2013, p 247; Officemuseum 2015). The mechanical Noiseless typewriter already had a button to adjust the force of the keystroke to the desired number of copies. Zero was for the use of one sheet of paper without carbon paper and sixteen for the use of sixteen sheets of paper with carbon paper in between (Oden 1917, p 110). The electrical machines developed in the mid-twentieth century had a special knob to set the strength of the keystroke when using carbon paper.
Carbon paper was mainly used to make one or more carbon copies of the original simultaneously. For example, a small edition of an internal publication at a company used a stencil and copy machine (Seybold 1984, p 13).


Ease of use
Working with a typewriter also has a few plus points over writing with a pen in terms of ease of use. First, the typewriting technique is easy to learn, anyone who can spell can work with it. The letters appear on the paper automatically when you press a key. A second plus is that working with a machine is cleaner than working with a pen, at least from the moment ink cartridges came on the market that were easy to change. Before the invention of the ink ribbon, some machines used an ink roller that had to be inked manually. Just as when changing an ink ribbon, this could result in dirty fingers. There were ink ribbons on the market with a special un-inked starting piece.
Manufacturers went to great lengths to promote the convenience of their typewriters. The health of the user was also emphasized. There were manufacturers who claimed that the use of typewriters prevented lung problems and a crooked spine. It would also save the eyes and stimulate brain activity (Remington 1880). In my opinion these are wonderful claims, but it is easy to imagine that the hand cramp that can be obtained when writing with a pen will not occur quickly when using a typewriter.

Ultimately, the typewriter was preferred to writing with a pen or feather. The legibility of the typed, the speed with which one could type, the possibility to make copies simultaneously and the general ease of use provided sufficient grounds for persuasion.


Adler, M.H., 1973. The Writing Machine. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.
Backes, J., 1911. Romanized Typewriter Type. In Scientific American Supplement, vol. 71, 1851, Januari-juni. p 396. New York: Munn & Co. Publishers.
Bliven, B., Junior, 1954. The Wonderful Writing Machine. New York: Random House.
Clayton, E., 2013. The Golden Thread. The Story of Writing. London: Atlantic Books.
Current, R.N., 1954. The typewriter and the men who made it. Urbana: The University of Illinois Press.
Gool, van J, 2015. The typewriter. A Graphic History of the beloved machine. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Uppercase publishing inc.
IBM History, Website: Geraadpleegd op 5 augustus 2012.
Jensen, J., 1988. Using the typewriter: Secretaries, reporters and authors, 1880–1930. In Technology in Society, vol. 10, 2. pp 255-266.
Nowotny, H., 2006. Cultures of technology and the quest for innovation (making sense of history).
Oden, C.V., 1917. Evolution of the Typewriter. New York: J.E. Hetsch.
Officemuseum, 2015. Multigraph: Website: Geraadpleegd op 27 mei 2015.
Polt, R., 2015. The Typewriter Revolution. A typist’s companion for the 21st century. New York: The Countryman Press.
Remington, 1880. The Remington standard Type-Writer (advertentie). Londen: Science Museum.
Robert, P., 2007. The Caligraph Publications. The Caligraph Quarterly: The Virtual Typewriter Museum.
Scientific American. 1867. Type Writing Machine.
Seybold, J.W., 1984. The world of digital typesetting. USA: Seybold Publications.
Walker, S., 1984. How Typewriters Changed Correspondence: an analysis of prescription and practice. In Visible Language, vol. XVIII, 2. pp 102-117. Cincinnati, USA: Visible Language.
Wheeler, G.D., World records in typing: Geraadpleegd op 2 augustus 2016.
Wilson, 1973. 100 jaar schrijfmachine: 1873-1973. Amsterdam: Kantoormachinehandel Wilson.
Wyckoff, Seamans, & Benedict, 1887. Remington Standard Typewriter Catalogue. New York: Wyckoff, Seamans & Benedict.

As the  research initially is written in Dutch the translation is done by Google Translate. Apologies for the probably crapy English.


Users of the machine
From the time the first commercial typewriter hit the market in 1878, it was increasingly used in three professional fields: office environment (notaries, insurance, banks, in telegraphy and the railway sector), journalism and book authors (Jensen 1988, pp. 263-264). A fourth can be added to these three domains, the private area, culminating in the so-called Do It Yourself movement of the 1960s. How the typewriter was used in each domain follows below.


Office environment
In the office environment domain, the typewriter was mainly used for business correspondence and official documents. A director or chef dictated to a stenographer who then rewritten the shortcut by hand into a legible text. This written dictation was then handed over to a typist who typed it out. Where necessary, a limited number of carbon copies - also known as copies - could be made simultaneously with carbon.
While the advent of the typewriter cannot be held solely responsible for the increase in office women, it may have been stimulated by this. The device was still seen as a gender-neutral instrument in the late nineteenth century, and the picture changed when it was alleged that women were better at dealing with routine work than men. Work in the office may have included routine and simple work, and women were therefore found to be better suited to operating a typewriter (Davies 1982, p 55; Strom 1992, p 45). The increase in women in the office prompted manufacturers to apply decorations to the machines in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to give them a more homely atmosphere (Schaefer 1970, p 96). Also, the images advertised by typewriters in magazines were almost without exception female, behind or near a typewriter (Figure 1) (Hoke 1979, p 84).


Figure 1: Secretary at work on a Smith Premier typewriter (The Illustrated London News 1909).


The increase in companies as a result of the Industrial Revolution created a growing demand for trained office workers who could type. The best employees were those who could type quickly and flawlessly for hours on end, without getting tired. Typists were trained to be familiar with different styles of correspondence and fully master their typewriter (Jensen 1988, p 258). The many training institutes that were set up mainly reported women. From 1890 onwards, the majority of office workers who could type consisted of women (Table 1).



Often women only had the choice between factory work - mostly assembly line work - or working in an office. The latter was cleaner, had more regular working hours and the salary was better. Typing training was usually sufficient for simple office work (Strom 1992, pp 291-292). Latham Sholes is said to have said the following before his death in 1890 (Herkimer County Historical Society 1923, p 142):
‘I feel I have done something for the women who have always had to work so hard. This will enable them more easily to earn a living. […] Whatever I may have felt in the early days of the value of the typewriter, it is obviously a blessing to mankind, and especially to womankind. I am glad I had something to do with it. I builded wiser than I knew, and the world has to benefit of it.’


A journalist in his own words reports on a current event for a news medium, such as a newspaper, which is published by the editorial staff after any correction. This report was written in the twentieth century with a typewriter, mainly for readability. Had typists been trained to use ten-finger blind typing - a journalist usually tapped two fingers and generally had no typing training - then it was not even appreciated and viewed with suspicion when a journalist could use ten fingers blind typing (Jensen 1988, p 259). According to Jensen, this was mainly due to the nature of the work. If a typist sat at a desk in a learned posture to copy someone else's text, a journalist was expected to record his story quickly and directly, if necessary on the way, without taking into account layout or possible typos.
A reporter at the court had to write down exactly what was said, which required shorthand. A much-sought-after court stenographer, James Clephane was among the first to use a typewriter to work out his shorthand report. Clephane's use of the "Type-Writer," the typewriter developed by inventor Christopher Latham Sholes (Figure 2) and his partners, has helped raise awareness of this device (Romano 1986, p. 24).


Figure 2: Grave of Sholes.(Van der Keur).


Newspaper making was an industry that only grew in size in the late nineteenth century. The typewriter played an important role in this, as it could contribute to the productivity of journalists and editors in making, reading and correcting copies. Being able to supply legible typed copy to the typesetting also improved the quality of newspapers, because mainly fewer clerical errors were taken over (Weil 2015, p 11).
The great union strike of typographers at the Chicago Daily Tribune in America in 1947 made use of the Varityper, a highly advanced typewriter that enabled interchangeable fonts and justified typesetting. This made this machine a useful alternative for the type and layout of this newspaper (Chicago Daily Tribune 1947, November 25; Chicago Daily Tribune 1947 November 26).


A third domain that gratefully used the typewriter consisted of book authors. They create a text, a story to entertain or inform a reader. After submitting the manuscript to a publisher, it is made into a book that is printed in an edition. Quite soon after its release, the typewriter became a popular tool for authors from all over the world, including Twain, Tolstoi, Nietzsche, Christie and Willem Frederik Hermans.
The American author Mark Twain was the first author in 1873 to give a manuscript - Life on the Mississippi - typed entirely to his publisher (Herkimer County Historical Society 1923, p 72). What was special at the time quickly became the norm. An 1874 letter from Twain to his brother shows that he was already in possession of a Sholes & Glidden machine (Paine 1912, p 537).
The Russian Leo Tolstoi, who was best known for his novels War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877), did not type his manuscripts herself, but usually dictated them to his daughter Alexandra Lvowna. She mainly used a Remington typewriter (Tolstoi 1911; Herkimer County Historical Society 1923, p 94).
Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the most influential philosophers of modern times, suffered from rapidly deteriorating eyesight and sought a solution to continue writing. He found this in the Skrivekugle or writing ball by Rasmus Malling-Hansen from 1870, which Nietzsche started using from 1879 (Eberwein 2005, p 11; Malling-Hansen).
The well-known female author of detective novels Agatha Christie also used a typewriter, more precisely a Corona and later a Remington Victor T, model No. 5 (Messenger 2013).
An example of a user of typewriters of Dutch descent is W.F. Hermans, known for De donkere kamer van Damocles (1958) and Nooit meer slapen (1966). His collection of machines was taken over in 2014 by the Belgian bookstore Limerick in Ghent. There is also the red electric IBM Selectric on which Hermans has written a number of books. One of the advantages that this machine had, according to Hermans, was that you could put in a strip of indefinite paper for endless typing. This was a great advantage, especially when writing in draft (Jacobs 1996, p. 7).
The above examples illustrate the versatile use of the typewriter around the world.


Given the high purchase costs, the home environment was not the most obvious domain for the typewriter, certainly not in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Ultimately, however, this device was also considered indispensable there. Advertisements from the 1930s show that the toy machine was recommended for children so that they could learn to type while playing. Parents were also encouraged in advertisements to buy a typewriter for their children when they went to college.
During the Second World War, typewriters and duplicators were used to create and distribute (illegal) texts. From the sixties, this device was also used as a means to be able to make leaflets or pamphlets in-house. An example was the periodical about cats published and published by Piet Schreuders from 1974, De poezenkrant. This publication appeared irregularly and was initially written by hand. Numbers 11 to 21 are made with an electric IBM Executive machine (Schreuders 2004, p 47). Before the arrival of the Apple Macintosh computer, Schreuders also used an IBM Composer, which had the advantage that the fonts could be easily exchanged and that justified typesetting could be made (Schreuders 2004, p. 13).
In the Netherlands, the publication Hitweek, a magazine about music for young people, was published in 1965. In the same year, Provo was also founded, a movement of young people who oppose the established authorities. With duplicators, typewriters, small offset presses, adhesive letters, felt-tip pens, copiers and other means, large quantities of printed matter were produced with political and social messages (Unger 2013, p 171). The protest movement was mainly concerned with the inexpensive and independent way of multiplying and spreading one's own ideas, whereby the message was the most important part, not the used font.
Self-made publications also enjoy popularity in the twenty-first century, as evidenced by the various online blogs and events that are organized worldwide around the self-management of magazines with often a specific area of interest in a small edition.
From information online, it seems that the typewriter is making a comeback, especially in America and England. Blog posts, for example, are regularly typed on a typewriter, scanned and posted on a blog (Munk; Polt). There are also street writers, people who write poems or letters at a table with a typewriter on request (Winter 2016).

The machine for written communication was widely used by individuals but also in business. The typewriter was one of the best-selling products of the time. In 1983 alone, there were 35 million typewriters in offices in America (Seybold 1984, p 15). After the introduction of the computer, the use and also the production of typewriters gradually decreased, until the last machine from Brother in 2012 rolled off the assembly line in England (Verkuil 2012).
In the field of communication, the typewriter was not isolated, below is a report of some other interesting inventions in this field.

Chicago Daily Tribune, 1947 november 26 Newspaper printers quit, Chicago Daily Tribune.
Chicago Daily Tribune, 1947, november 25 Newspaper printers quit, Chicago Daily Tribune.
Davies, M.W. 1982. Woman's place is at the typewriter. Office work and office workers 1870-1930. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Eberwein, D., 2005. Nietsches Schreibkugel. Dieter Eberwein.
Herkimer County Historical Society. (1923). The Story of the Typewriter, 1873-1923. New York.
Hoke, D., 1979. The woman and the typewriter: a case study in technological innovation and social change. In Business and economic history. Milwaukee: Milwaukee Public Museum.
Jacobs, S., 1996. De Liefste Machine Ooit Uitgevonden. Willem Frederik Hermans en de Typemachine. Tilburg: Scryption.
Jensen, J. 1988. Using the Typewriter. Secretaries, Reporters and Authors, 1880-1930. In Technology in Society, Vol. 100, pp 255-266. USA: Pergamon Press.
Messenger, R. (2012). How the typewriter got its platen.
Paine, A.B. 1912. Mark Twain. A Biography. Vol. II. New York and London: Harper & Brothers Publishers.
Romano, F., 1986. Machinewriting and typesetting. The story of Sholes and Mergenthaler and the invention of the typewriter and the linotype. Salem, USA: GAMA.
Schaefer, H. 1970. The roots of modern design: functional tradition in the 19th century. Londen: Studio Vista.
Schreuders, P., 2004. Het grote boek van de poezenkrant. Amsterdam: Thomas Rap.
Seybold, J. W. (1984). The world of digital typesetting. USA: Seybold Publications.
Strom, S.H. (1992). Beyond the Typewriter. Gender, Class, and the Origins of Modern American Office Work, 1900-1930. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
Tolstoi. 1911. Count Tolstoy, a Remington Patron for 20 years. In Typewriter Topics of the International Office Equipment Magazine, vol. 18, 4. New York: Business equipment Publishing Company.
Unger G.A. 2013. Alverata. Hedendaagse Europese letters met wortels in de middeleeuwen.(Proefschrift).
Verkuil, M., 2012. Laatste Britse typemachine fabriek uitgerold: Geraadpleegd op 21 oktober 2016.
Weil, P., 2015. Typewriters make the news. In ETCetera. Journal of the early typewriter collectors’ association, 110. pp 10-15. Morgantown, USA: ETCA.
Winter, L., 2016. Stories while ‘U’ wait: Geraadpleegd op 9 maart 2016.