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.


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