It was a letter from February 26, 1884
, and at the beginning of second paragraph, there it was, a proof of typewritten life. It indeed looked different that standalone “r” followed by a full stop, and it was a confirmation that those few documents we started with actually portrayed a typewriter that once existed. I could finally go to sleep.
Even better? This document is in public domain, and I can put it in my book.
I really want to do that. Not just because this is a very nice looking ligature (the standalone full stop needed to be huge so the force of a key press wouldn’t puncture the paper… but this here could remain small and typographically correct).
Not even just because this was fun, like reaching back in time and shaking someone’s hand in appreciation (I love those moments
). Not even because it proved me wrong – it turned out a key to becoming a good historian is to use both books and
the internet in creative ways.
But also because this would otherwise be one more forgotten keyboard. The key ultimately was a frivolity, and it disappeared already in mid-1880s, replaced by more practical symbols: %, £, #. And yet, it’s nice to know that even the creators of typewriters fought for better typography, and just like with every creative process, there were some dead ends, blind alleys, and different ideas early on. It’s nice to know that already in 1880s, someone was thinking about keyboard shortcuts.
I know there’s at least one person out there who has the Remington Perfected I saw on eBay. But I don’t know if even they understand the importance of that key. Perhaps to save a keyboard, you need to tell its story: shine a light on one forgotten keyboard from 1880s, and nod towards another one, exactly a century later, in a building that taught me to care more about history.