Handwritten, Typewriter, Type

Quantity Survey: scanned blueprint date unknown © Catherine Rutgers

Detail from “Design No. 6-G-4: Quantity Survey,” a blueprint that belonged to my grandfather, date unknown. The paper is strong and flexible, the blue is waxy. I can see that the text has somehow been created by removing the color but have no idea how the process actually worked.

What tools do we use for writing? Until you get to computer-generated type, everything is potentially messy, sometimes smelly, and always ready for appropriation into an art project. Used typewriter ribbons? Exquisite. Outtakes from the mimeograph? Fabulous.

I had a manual typewriter in college and wasn’t all that skilled at creating neat pages. Now, however, I am crazy about the way the red bleeds out of the black and how the paper yellowed but the whiteout stayed white. Although the IBM Selectric was introduced in 1961, they were expensive, big, and heavy. I can’t remember anyone who had one at home.

Photo by Etan J. Tal: IBM Selectric II dual Latin-Hebrew Hadar typeball, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported

Typeball. Photograph by Etan J. Tal, November 12, 2009 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:SelectricII_Hadar.jpg

As described at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Typewriter,
“The Selectric used a system of latches, metal tapes, and pulleys driven by an electric motor to rotate the ball into the correct position and then strike it against the ribbon and platen. The typeball moved laterally in front of the paper instead of the former platen-carrying carriage moving the paper across a stationary print position.”

There was no doubt you were using a machine: awkward,
noisy, busy in and of itself. Office procedures as the frame
for analyzing change over time will reappear in future posts.
For now, the essay’s visual.

Endnotes Detail 1976 © Catherine RutgersHandwritten on paper circa 1991 © Catherine RutgersScanned from printout: font is Courier New - CatRutgers4art 2011Dada-Surrealism: handwritten in pencil 1976 © Catherine RutgersTime Machine: handwriting inverted © Catherine RutgersText and images by Catherine Rutgers © 2011.


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7 Responses to Handwritten, Typewriter, Type

  1. re: Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)
    If you’re a subscriber or WordPress blogger (I’m going to need a better word for that!) and are logged in, when you visit a particular post, you see these links. There is an option to hide them, but I like the idea of random connections. The first few were either wildly off the mark, missing pages, or not so interesting. But they’re definitely getting better! Three links from the links appear in the following comments.

  2. “My Writing Tools” from Sky Writings, by Kara “Sky” McGinty, has great pix.
    http://skywritings.wordpress.com/2010/01/02/my-writing-tools/

  3. Sky Writings includes a link to Mary Amato’s site. Great stuff on writing from this “children’s book author, poet, playwright, and songwriter” can be found at http://www.maryamato.com/category/writers-blog

  4. And, for typewriter aficionados, “The Classic Typewriter Page” is just fabulous:
    http://site.xavier.edu/polt/typewriters/index.html

  5. Though I’ve decided not to automatically link CatRutgers4art to Facebook, individual posts are occasionally shared there. Glad it was for this one, because JM provided a link that helps solve the mysteries of the blueprint process — which originated in 1861.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blueprints

  6. tony says:

    Great piece.
    Check out this wonderful story from the Sunday Morning on CBS

    Farewell to Handwriting:
    http://www.veoh.com/collection/CBS-Sunday-Morning/watch/v20745407t2NmbGZ3

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