An early typewriter historian believed the illustration above depicted Henry Mill’s writing machine, which was patented in 1714. Wrote Arthur Morton to the Phonetic Journal in 1899, “A search — extending over several months at the Patent Office Library, London — among the few fragmentary records of machines that may have been typewriters, leads me to conclude that the accompanying illustration is Mill’s machine.”
Unfortunately, Morton does not name the “old technical volume” from which he drew the illustration, so it impossible to verify his claim. Nor does the image yield any particular clues. That said, I was unable to locate it in any number of typewriter books in my collection, and a reverse image search did not yield a match. The illustration is unique.
In design, however, it resembles any number of 19th-century “typographs,” as early typewriters were then known. Consequently, the illustration might simply be an artistic rendering of what someone thought Mill’s device would look like, or else some other machine altogether.
Mill’s English patent for “Impressing Writing on Parchment” describes only “an artificial machine or method for the impressing or transcribing of letters singly or progressively one after another, as in writing, whereby all writings whatsoever may be engrossed in paper or parchment so neat and exact as not to be distinguished from print.” The physical design is not specified.
Morton certainly had access to important patent documents, and he possessed a fairly accurate history of the inventor, but documentary proof for the illustration absent. The most that can be said here is that the image depicts some unknown writing machine from the 19th century, which is yet quite intriguing. It’s not every day that one comes across a new machine!
If anyone recognizes the illustration, please email me at netadams @ gmail.
See update here.
From The Phonetic Journal, May 13, 1899 –
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