Show Summary Details

Page of

PRINTED FROM OXFORD REFERENCE ( (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2013. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single entry from a reference work in OR for personal use (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 17 June 2019


A Dictionary of English Manuscript Terminology 1450–2000

Peter Beal


The typewriter is a writing machine by means of which alphabetical characters may be printed at considerable speed with the use of a keyboard. Prototypes date back at least to 1714, when Henry Mill was granted a patent for a design by Queen Anne. A series of developments by other European and American inventors after 1784 led to the first modern efficient typewriter patented in 1868 by Christopher Latham Sholes and subsequently mass-produced in the 1870s by the gunmakers E. Remington and Sons. A successful portable version was not produced until 1909. An electronic version was patented by Thomas Edison as early as 1871, although not developed until much later, before being superseded by the electronic word processor and today's personal computer. Well-known writers who used typewriters, most of which are still preserved in their houses or museums, include Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, George Bernard Shaw, T. E. Lawrence, P. G. Wodehouse, and Ian Fleming.

The term ‘typewriter’ in the late nineteenth century could also denote a typist, the person who used the machine.