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Sunday, April 28, 2013
"Demise of the Typewriter - Recollections of the Queensland Era"
"Demise of the Typewriter - Recollections of the Queensland Era." John C. Hay with Colin and Mary Jones. A Typewriter Heritage Publication. Published 2002. Printed by Bolton Inprint, Cairns.
From the rear cover:
"This is a story of many stories about the typewriter trade in Queensland. From the hardships of the Depression years in the 1930s to the boom period of the 1960s and 1970s, typewriters became a way of life for the tradespeople and business houses that served the industry.
But the writing was on the wall! Within a few short years computers virtually made the typewriter redundant as digital technology took over.
The atmosphere and the characters of the trade disappeared along with the countless memories of a bygone era. This is a story about that era and the demise of the typewriter."
This book was mailed to me by Brian Stevenson, of Australia, a friend who I met through membership in Nancy Sinatra's forum and with whom I've conversed many times. Brian discovered this volume for a pittance in some resale shop or some other place and sent it to me as a surprise. And what a surprise it was - a printed typewriter reference I'd never heard of until he sent it (which was over a year ago.)
This book is simply fantastic. The authors decided some years back that, after the advent of the personal computer, the typewriter was doomed; having been in the typewriter business for many years, they made the decision with great foresight to collect as much information as was humanly possible before it was lost and assemble it into a book. Thus, this book is filled with their first person accounts of decades in the office machine business, as well as the accounts of many others.
The accounts are amazing. The rough and rugged stories of typewriter sales and repair almost literally on the old frontiers of Australia, and the transitional stories to modern times when assembled into this book provide a completely unparalleled narrative. There simply are not words to describe how deeply inside the business this book's stories let the reader.
A late chapter in the book describes the transition of the typewriter from working tool and viable business product to odd interest and hobby. A glossary, a large number of historic illustrations both of men and facilities in the Australian typewriter business plus advertisements, a reading list, and informational appendices round out this most worthwhile volume.
In this writer's opinion, this volume ranks among the top five most desirable books for collectors. However, unfortunately, it appears that publication and sale was exceedingly limited. I have not conducted a search in any meaningful way for further copies - but readers of this blog who have time and opportunity will surely want to track down other copies. The book itself appears scarce.
I'm very grateful to Brian Stevenson for providing me this copy. I would rate it a ten out of ten, and would suggest that the dedicated typewriter collector / researcher pay any widely reasonable price for a decent copy of the book.
4/28/2013 - Will Davis
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Sounds like a wonderful book. I wonder if Robert Messenger has a copy or if he knows about the book.ReplyDelete
Hi Will. Colin Jones and his wife Mary put together a very nice typewriter museum up in North Queensland a few years ago. I posted some images of it on my blog on January 27 this year, to mark Australia Day. I haven't heard from them in a while - I used to have to communicate through their daughter, as Colin didn't like using a computer for emails. Colin is well into his 80s now, I think. John Hay has also been in contact.ReplyDelete
Richard Amery was very helpful in distributing copies of the book. There were hundreds of copies left unsold and Richard moved quite a few through eBay and elsewhere, so it got out a bit further than it had done when first published. Copies of thje book still appear on eBay from time to time.
I should have added that Colin very kindly gave Richard Amery and I stacks and stacks of typewriter promotional material, manuals and brochures etc, most of it for European machines such as Olympia and Hermes.ReplyDelete
Thank you for the information Robert. I remember photos of the museum. I did not recall you ever mentioned the book. I need to look for a copy if they are not too expensive.Delete
Thanks for the update, Robert; it's a shame that when the book was first published, we weren't made aware of it here in the States at all. It would certainly have sold to collectors and word of mouth would have spread it. Is there a stock remaining for sale to collectors? If so, please let us know how to get hold of them and I'll amend the blog post with that information.ReplyDelete
Hi Will. Richard Amery may have some left, I will check with him and at the same time point him in the direction of your blog. Richard doesn't blog himself but is an avid reader of typewriter blogs. Neither of us have heard from Colin and Mary in a while, so I just hope they are still OK. Colin is a really generous guy. He worked long and hard to get that museum up and running, and I think that was the fulfillment of a long-held dream for him.ReplyDelete
One of the reasons you guys weren't made aware of the book in 2002, or even later, is that Colin doesn't use the internet at all.
Ah, good show! Thanks so much, Robert! Say "hello" to Richard for me, and let him know that from time to time I wonder how he's doing.ReplyDelete
Richard is still amused by the fact that every time he sells a typewriter (the last one was a Portuguese ABC) he is given 2-3 more by friends, so he can't keep his collection in check. The gifts, however, are mostly Brothers.Delete
This sure is a strong endorsement; sounds like a fine book.ReplyDelete
There are currently two copies for sale on abebooks.com.
Get yourself one! You won't regret it!Delete
They are both listed as new, also.Delete
Shipping's a bit salty, but they are in Australia.
Just got my copy ordered from Abe Books. Looking forward to it! (:ReplyDelete
I have a copy, I have read it, and I concur... it is worth reading, and keeping. It is a great book that is full of some great stories.ReplyDelete
Some reflections; It's too bad that "hundreds of copies" went unsold, but I'm glad that they're back in the spotlight right now and that maybe we can get this book the status it deserves.ReplyDelete
Our Australian friends have provided some very important efforts to typewriter collecting over all the years. Bob Moran's "Typewriters Down Under Connection" website was up and running (now LONG gone) when I got in, and had an open forum in which anyone could post; I began posting there very early on. At that same time, the late "Bruce of Oz" got in contact with me and (as happened a different way to Robert) mailed me a fairly large amount of operator manuals, brochures, and an OMEF serial number list book that I use to this day.
And then of course let's not forget the move to the contemporary - not only has the effort of Robert Messenger and Richard Amery punched the Australian wing of typewriter collectors squarely into the center of the entire typewriter collecting world, they've also either or both contributed to much work that's appeared variously on the internet or in print, which has, and continues to have, a positive effect on the collecting world as a whole. Of course, Robert's book set a whole new direction for printed material in the typewriter collectors' world. I felt so strongly about that assertion that I reviewed it for ETCetera when it came out, even though I believe I'd already retired from writing regularly for that magazine by then.
This of course is just one aspect of the broader opening of borders made possible by the internet. It's a change long in coming, very welcome, and very stimulating.
What to me is of perhaps pointed interest relative to our specific topic here of the "Demise of the Typewriter" book is that the individual experiences of the men and women in that book aren't incredibly different from many of the stories I've been told, or read about, in the typewriter business here. While the machines sold there differed at the time (and later did much more widely) and the territory differed fairly greatly, the HUMAN EXPERIENCE did not vary so significantly as to not be immediately conjoinable in memory with those of other persons in other nations, near or far, in the same business. As we see now, borders are less significant than one might be led to believe.
I think your last point helps me confirm that, for today's loose community of collectors and users, the people rather than the machines are the epicentre of our interest. Thanks for pointing out the book. I wonder if I could track down a copy in the UK...Delete