Sunday, 2 March 2014

Typewriter Fonts Are Everywhere - Part II

Hmm, I've already done two posts along these lines;

And it would seem that this could become a semi-regular series, based on how much typewriter font I keep seeing. I think I'll include it under the banner of 'Cutting & Pasting' in the chapters/contents section of this blog.

Anyway, here's an obvious one, given the title of the book itself. I had already seen Suzanne Rindell's book "The Other Typist" in bookstores nearby, but by the time I'd decided to purchase, nobody had it in stock.
So, I got onto and purchased this one instead. 

Even though I preferred the artwork of the other version...

picture courtesy of

...I figured I was buying the book primarily for its content rather than its packaging. The back cover of my copy shows review snippets done with further examples of typed font;

I'm looking forward to reading this book, too. Not so much for any mention of typewriters, although the first paragraph is very well written, with the opening line "They said the typewriter would unsex us", but because it's set in New York in the 1920s and I have a special fondness for that era between the Wars.

Next up is this collection of short stories by the late, great Patricia Highsmith.

Picture borrowed from

This book was being weeded out from a library collection. I find it disheartening to see the work of an influential and talented writer removed from a library's database. Probably to make room for the latest Dan Brown or 100 Shades of Grey.
Anyway, the book I have is called Nothing That Meets The Eye.

I like the layout of this cover with its 'hand-written-with-paintbrush' author's name. Those of you who know your typewriters would recognise the drawing of a Royal K series standard. Which I suppose has nothing to do with various photos of Ms Highsmith at her own typewriter, an Olympia SM model;

picture borrowed from (a fantastic post showing various writers and their workspaces.)

It would appear to me that the two photos of Highsmith at her typewriter could have been taken ten years apart. Routine is the hallmark of a good and consistent writer, methinks. 

I sat down to watch "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"  a couple of weeks ago. It's a coming-of-age story about a kid named Charlie who goes to a new high school and meets Patrick, a senior, and his step-sister Sam (played by Emma Watson, who succeeds in distancing herself from the Hermione persona of the Harry Potter films)  who nurture and show him how to live life rather than watch it go by. 
Later in the film, Sam gives Charlie a vintage typewriter for Christmas. It's a 1920s Royal Portable and he uses it to write letters to an unseen person. The title artwork of the film's poster shows a font from a fairly worn typewriter ribbon, which we assume is the vintage Royal;

And a closer inspection shows how the same letters print out  differently (due to varying levels of ink on the ribbon, I imagine), which I thought was a nice touch. Notice the lower-case 'l', for example;

While I'm not part of the demographic that this film is aimed at, I thought it a thoughtful and well-made film.

Next one is odd;

I tore this off a box of Weet-Bix Bites, my kids' current favourite breakfast cereal. Don't ask me what a typewriter font is doing explaining all the wholesome goodness of this stuff. Perhaps it's there to lend literary gravitas to statements such as 'a great fruity taste' or 'infused with wild berry pieces'. 
Or maybe this cereal is being pitched to typospherians.

Finally, this last one's a bit of a cheat. Whenever you look at books on writing, and screenwriting in particular, you are bound to find a typewriter or courier font in the artwork sooner or later. This title's layout mimics another rather worn-out typewriter ribbon;

And this motif is continued on the back page;

As long as there are books published about the craft of writing, there will be typewriter fonts used to help lend literary authenticity. 
At least until the typewriter generation dies out completely and we start seeing book covers showing computer screens and associated true-type fonts instead.
Right now, however, it makes sense to show typewritten font on the cover of a short story collection by Dashiell Hammett or Roald Dahl since we know that they themselves used typewriters to write these stories. 
It won't work so well the works of authors who began writing in the computer age.

Thanks for reading!


  1. Having studied what a typewriter's print looks like up very closely when I was making my Hermes Epoca font, an average inexpensive ribbon can look like that even when new depending on the paper. I'm impressed that they actually typed it, and for that matter, they actually used a Royal! (It's definitely Royal Pica) Usually films and shows are really bad with that. (Not sure if you're familiar with Fringe but they have a wonderful Olympia SM3 with a Congress typeface they use and you can see it typing, and then you see the paper it "typed" which has an ordinary typewriter font and they don't match at all.)

    Anyway, it's always the details for me. XD Nice post.

  2. Shopping Newsflash: Bitesize shredded wheat and "Mini-wheat" have disappeared from Perth supermarket shelves. Has the same happened over east? Nice typeface on the Weet-Bix Bites but they're just not as good! :(

  3. Nice to see typewriter font used. Not as good as the real thing as Nick points out, but nice just the same.

    I've always wondered why libraries get rid of books unless the book is so damaged it cannot be read. Sad, but true, here the libraries have annual spring sell-offs of fine books that will no longer be on their shelves or the titles in their inventory. I like the big old libraries that got to be big and huge by keeping books rather than unloading them.

  4. It's fun to see the various ways in which typewriter fonts are used. I noticed such a font on a chocolate bar recently.

  5. @ Nick, I'm currently working slowly through Season 1 of "Fringe". No typewriters sighted as yet. I'll have to keep my eyes peeled for it.

    @ writelephant, I couldn't say for certain about the mini-wheats. Lately, cereals all taste like shredded wood-chips in milk to me. Especially the muesli that I bought last week. Friggin' balsa wood with sultanas!

    @ Bill, libraries periodically go through a process called 'weeding' whereby they remove books that haven't been borrowed for some time and delete them from the database. Basically, you can't find a copy of Eric Ambler's classic "The Mask of Dimitrios" (which you could pretty much find in any library's fiction shelf in the '40s through to the '90s), but you CAN find two copies of "50 Shades of Grey". It's a 'hell-in-a-handbasket' situation.
    Libraries justify this weeding process by saying that they can't keep everything on the shelves and in order to remain relevant and busy, they cull titles from time to time.

    @ Richard, when typewriter fonts appear on cereal and chocolate packaging, you know that the 'alphabet piano' (thank-you, Mr. Amis for coining the phrase and Mr. Writelephant for alerting us to it) has positioned itself firmly in the zeitgeist.