What’s your type?

In 1808 when the typewriter was invented by Pellegrino Turri, a typed letter had the notion of a machine made product. At the time it was the exact opposite of a handwritten letter. With the establishment of electronic typewriters in the 1970s, the spectrum between handwritten and mechanically typed was extended. The mechanical link between the finger pressing a button and the letter imprinting the paper was separated and replaced by an electronic command.

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On computers, typing and printing grew further apart. The text will only be printed after the document has been finished. The writer can review and change the document before printing and since the Internet and electronic communication have become a part of our everyday life, printing has become obsolete for sending a letter to its recipient.

In effect the opposite of a handwritten letter is nowadays an electronically delivered message, often informally written, short and transmit in the blink of an eye. This allows the writer to write several messages in short sequences while not loosing too much time and thought to the single message.

In this new setup, the (mechanical) typewriter refers back to a time where there was no correction tape and the writer had to think before typing. A typewriter requires concentration and does not allow for distraction. Today, a typed letter is a sign of dedication of time and thought to the recipient. In a sense, it is hand-made again.

The perfect example for this is the Christmas card pictured below that a good friend of mine sent me in 2011 (I still remember!). With a few asterisks, circumflex accents and two brackets typed on a Hermes N°5 (1942) he created some stars arching over a Christmas tree. Brilliant!

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Since my very recent birthday, I own a mechanical typewriter myself. A dear friend that knows about my passion for beautiful writing instruments gave me a Triumph Gabriele 30 (A thank you note is should be in your mailbox today!). Gabriele is wonderful: You can choose between red and black tape, to type the number 1, you use the minuscule letter L, the exclamation mark is a combination of a dot and an apostrophe and when I arrive at the end of the line and hear the bell, I’m instantly reminded of the theme song of “Murder, She wrote” and Jessica Fletcher typing her detective stories (for actual typewriter music, listen to The Typewriter by Leroy Anderson or the soundtrack of Atonement by Dario Marianelli). I’m looking forward to hitting the letters.

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