learn the expert manipulation of machine parts via ARTYPING (1939)

As far as I know – and I know there are others like Marvin Sackner who do in fact know more – Julius Nelson was an instructor of “Secretarial Science” at Windber High School in Windber, Pennsylvania. In 1939, he published a how-to guide called ARTYPING in the form of a pad of paper that proceeded from front to back on one side of the paper and then from back to front on the other side – perhaps an ingenious solution to double-sided printing born of an era of deep austerity and frugality. Coming twenty years before the Swiss and Brazilian concrete poetry/media studies experiments of the 1950s and 1960s and thirty years before the typewritten dirty concrete poetry of the Canadians bpNichol, Steve McCaffery, John Riddell, Judith Copithorne, and later Robert Zend, ARTYPING is a stunning nuts-and-bolts explication of how exactly one goes about creating an apparently non-utilitarian mashup of art and writing on the typewriter. Nelson is prescient in his sense that “really tremendous possibilities lie ahead to the ambitious, to the talented, and to the patient typist.” However, Nelson is not exempt from a depression-era mentality, with its exacting need not just for frugality but for utility – for artyping is only apparently useless. Listing some of its benefits, he writes:

  1. Helps to teach more expert manipulation of machine parts
  2. Helps to create a desire to turn out neater work
  3. Fosters interest in student hobbies
  4. Relieves monotony of drill work
  5. Gives recognition to those students who are reasonably good typists, but who lack the speed necessary to qualify in typewriting contests where speed is the main objective

And then what follows is an incredible series of sections that teach anyone from the novice to the expert typist how to create a border, cut-outs, lettering, cross-stitch patterns, and even letterhead. The booklet ends with the exhortation that “like stamp collecting, ‘art typing’ may easily turn into a profitable hobby.”

With thanks to Marvin Sackner for letting me know about Julius Nelson and the intrepid staff at Interlibrary Loan, here is a pdf of this quite rare and hard-to-find publication.

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Categories: media archaeology lab, media poetics

Author:Lori Emerson

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I'm the author of Reading Writing Interfaces: From the Digital to the Bookbound and co-editor of the Johns Hopkins Guide to Digital Media.

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