Old Typewriters

  • Recently, after reading Charles Dickens’ novel, Bleak House, I decided to search the Internet to learn if Dickens owned a typewriter. A patent had been awarded for a typographer (read typewriter) some 20 years earlier. Apparently, he didn’t. All references I can find point to quills and special inks.

    I must tip my hat to anyone who can churn out a novel length text using a quill.

    My information source led me to the apparent value of some old, experienced typewriters.

    Mark Twain claimed to be the first author to own a typewriter, purchasing one for $125. He disliked it so much that he traded it to a friend for a $9 saddle and felt he took advantage of his friend.

    Jack Kerouac owned a typewriter which got its most use typing letters to his agent demanding royalty payments. Still, I’ve read that his novel, On the Road, was typed on a roll of Western Union Telegraph paper. The entire novel was one long sentence (perhaps that’s why Truman Capote said: “…he’s not a writer. He’s a typist.”) The editor who charged $500 to make it readable may have shared Capote’s opinion.

    Cormac McCarthy sold his 46-year-old typewriter for $254,500 and replaced it with an $11 Olivetti.


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