The Varieties and Complexities of American Handwriting and Penmanship: Library Hand

Typewriters and Library Handwriting

Excerpt from American Library Association Lake George Conference, September 8-11, 1885, pages 126-127.

The following excerpt is from Wednesday, September 9th. These discussions are both best understood in relation to each other, and the discussion about typewriters immediately precedes the conversation about library handwriting.


Mr. DEWEY. --I have been experimenting in type-writers, and have tried the Remington, the Caligraph, the Hall, the Columbia, the Sun, and the Hammond. Mr. Richardson has got some good results from the Hall. I did not get very satisfactory results on catalogue cards until I got the Hammond. I still have two Hall machines, --slow, but that is not a serious consideration ;in cataloguing, as it would be in commercial matters. The Hammond has an action somewhat like the Remington, but instead of working over a cylinder, it works against a flat surface, thus allowing the best of work on flat, stiff cards. Another peculiarity is, that the whole set of type can be changed in thirty seconds. You can have a special type cut for library purposes, and the manufacturers have now agreed to make for the Library Bureau a special form of machine, containing our special characters, etc., and called the Card Cataloguer. It is very perfect in its action, and gives excellent results. This is one of the library machines that we ought to utilize. The cost is the same as of the Remington.

Mr. MAC. --I saw the proprietor the day before I left NewYork, and he said that he had perfected an attachment by which you could write a full card, i.e., could write clear& out to the margins on all four edges.

Mr. CARR. --I was led to experiment with a type-writer,because my handwriting is very unsatisfactory. I commenced with the Remington. The first objection which arose is that you are limited to the space that the machine gives. It starts out with three methods of spacing. There are also three spaces in the Hammond. The Hall is slow, but in ordinary catalogue work, I think, will work as fast as ordinary penmanship. For correspondence the others are way ahead of it. Time is lost every time you insert a card, and to work correctly you have to figure to get each card in the place occupied by the previous one. I speak without having practical knowledge of the Hammond.

Mr. DEWEY. --In the Special Library Hammond you can throw the card right in, and it is held in the exact place by special guides, so all time of adjustment is saved.

Mr. CARR. --You cannot do that with the Remington. For good work the Hall is superior, and it will write on a continuous strip of paper, in which it has the advantage over other machines. The cost of the Hall is less than the others. I have found that from type-writers you cannot get the advantages you can from print--you get all your work in one set of type. You cannot get the smaller type. You are limited for emphasis to the caps and lower case, and must go through your work and mark it. All these machines, except the Hammond, are defective in not having the less usual points. We need, among others, the bracket.

Mr. DEWEY. --In the Hammond Library machine all these points are supplied.

Mr. CARR. --The Hall is unsatisfactory for other reasons: e.g., where it is desirable to make rapid impressions of the same character. I have seen the Caligraph, the Remington, the People's, but not the Columbia or Hammond. The Hall, so far, has answered the best of anything I have found, and I think its type is the best.

Mr. DEWEY. --The Hammond aligns more perfectly than the Remington.

Mr. CARR. --I think the Hall the best for indexing work. I think these slips show the best impression--that taken by the Hall. You do not lose any time in changing the work from one slip to another. I am purposing to try the Hammond. Perhaps that will answer better. Except in correspondence, very little type-writing comes into my hands, and never has a specimen of the Hammond come to my hands yet. I do not think it has been experimented with to any extent.

Mr. RICHARDSON. -- I have used the Caligraph for three years. The Hall does very slow work, but it is better than nothing. After seeing it at Columbia College I made up my mind to have the Hammond at once for the simple card catalogue. If you write Russian or Roumanian or Syriac, as I often do [laughter], it can be done with the Hammond. The Hammond is decidedly better for a simple card catalogue. I like it better than the Caligraph.


Mr. BORDEN. --I object to library handwriting made with a fine pen. If you are looking at a card catalogue where the lines are fine you have to get into an uncomfortable position in order to read the letters. The handwriting should be as near print as possible, and I have used lately the round writing pens. They are made in Germany, I think. They give a light up line but a very heavy down line, so that the resemblance to print is about as close as letters will admit of. I have some specimens of the writing. The usual form of letters is sufficient.

Mr. NELSON. --I saw in a recent number of "Science," (Number for August 21 ; 6 : 46) in a sketch of T. A. Edison, the inventor, the statement that Edison had "experimented to devise the best style of penmanship for telegraph operators, selecting finally a slight back- hand, with regular round letters apart from each other, and not shaded, attaining himself by its means a speed of forty-five words a minute." He thought that this hand might prove suitable for cards, by reason of its clearness, and the speed claimed for it.

Mr. DEWEY. --This question of library handwriting is an exceedingly practical one, and I am conducting a series of experiments to find out what is really most legible in catalogue drawers for the average reader in average circumstances. Some of the handwriting is very condensed, some very extended; some write too fine lines, and there is a lack of uniformity in some hands; so it becomes very hard reading. We ought to find out what is the most legible handwriting, and the Spencerian publishers have agreed to engrave such a hand if we will tell them which is best for library use.

Dr. HOMES. --There was a magnificent well- known English hand, the round hand of forty to eighty years ago. In Paris the writing-masters advertised it as "Ecriture anglaise," and it was popular. The account-books of those days are full of specimens. Spencer and modern men have introduced a pointed hand, one which allows of constant confusion of several letters, i, m, w, n, u, r, s, t, and doubtless others. The modern final s of the writing- masters is constantly liable to be mistaken for a final r or t. Why should they intrude a change?

Mr. DEWEY. --They print over one hundred different alphabets, and Dr. Homes refers to their fine and not very legible school writing-books.

Prof. POLLENS. --We want a handwriting that approaches as near to type as possible, that will do away with individual characteristics, will be legible, and will allow of a fair amount of rapidity and uniformity.

Mr. WHITNEY. --The trouble in handwriting is that there is apt to be too much flourishing, and that while the up stroke is made so light as not to be seen, the down one is apt to be as black as Erebus.

Mr. FOSTER. -- I hope that if a system is recommended it will include numerals as well as letters.

Mr. NELSON moved that the matter be referred to the Cooperation Committee. Carried.