“It may be surprising, but it is nevertheless a fact, that although you can find in a library or a bookshop a learned tome on almost anything from buttons to walking sticks, matchboxes or brass rubbings, there is as yet none at all on that most ubiquitous of all man’s creations (not excluding the motor car) – the typewriter.
If you want to acquire information about it, you must rummage about in libraries, museums, patent offices, archives, old magazines, office equipment catalogues, etc., but you will find no single and reliable source of evidence. No one seems to have known when the thing was invented: the Americans plan to celebrate the centenary in 1973, but the Italians have already done so in 1955 and the Austrians in 1964, whereas Michael Adler has found evidence that there were writing machines quite early in the nineteenth century. And in case you think the type-ball machine is a modern invention, one was in fact patented a century ago.
All this confusion led Michael Adler to investigate the history, and this has resulted in the present book. He also started collecting typewriters, because of the difficulty of discovering what these old machines looked like.
Then he found there were other collectors all over the world who supplied him with such a wealth of data that he had eventually to limit the scope of his ‘history’. There are hundreds and hundreds of makes and models of ‘conventional’ front-stroke, type-bar machines with four-row keyboards, but they are virtually all the same. It is the unconventional ones that are interesting and it is on these that the author concentrates.
The book is amusing as well as informative, and it ends with a complete catalogue of ‘unconventional’ typewriters manufactured up to the 1930s, when the ‘conventional’ machine had become universal. The book is profusely illustrated with photographs, designs, plans and even cartoons.”