ONE GRANVILLE AND HIS
ONE DEMENTED DESIGNERAt last we find in this series a typewriter inventor with some (albeit tenuous) Australian association.
Not only that, but Austyn W. Granville was - like the great typewriter inventor Byron Alden Brooks - the author of an early example of the science-fiction “utopian” novel.
Unlike Brooks, however, Granville seems to have been singularly unsuccessful in both pursuits: his typewriter designs do not appear to have gone into production, and one of his novels, The Fallen Race, set in Australia, was described by one reviewer as a “story [which] limps badly. A feeble imitation of H. Rider Haggard, with a dash of Robinson Crusoe.”
It has even been suggested Granville was related to Haggard, but not Crusoe. Nonetheless, he was a man alone, stranded in his style of writing.
The Fallen Race was also called “A particularly bizarre [story] … about a strange spheroidal race evidently descended from kangaroo-human hybrids. These creatures speak the Aboriginal language and Granville refers to them as the Anono.”
One less biting review described The Fallen Race thus: “A doctor-scientist [Dr Paul Gifford] and his faithful bushman companion [Jacky-Jacky] discover a new race in an Australian desert - a cross between a lost tribe of bushmen and some pugnacious kangaroos! These four-foot balls are ruled by a white woman who had been stranded among them as a child. Like Mark Twain's Hank Morgan, the doctor revolutionizes the native culture with mechanical wonders. The final result is a technologically sophisticated land where governments, judges, lawyers, and police are unnecessary because of the new morality inspired by the doctor's explosives and ideals.”
Many reviews of this work, published by F. Tennyson Neely in New York in 1892 (as part of Neely’s “library of choice literature”, for “railway reading”), make the repeated claim that Granville had at one time in the early 1890s lived in Melbourne, Australia.
Given its bad reviews, The Fallen Race these days, ironically, fetches prices of around $6500, far more than any Austyn Granville typewriter might. Perhaps there’s value in the illustrations by Edward Mason (see below) or the preface written by Opie Percival Read (below), the noted Chicago journalist and humorist, who no doubt would have to have had his humorist cap on to write anything positive about The Fallen Race.
The exceedingly rare copies of Granville’s “early example of a science fiction novel” which do these days sell for this elevated price are, of course, first editions, though it’s difficult to imagine such an outrageously far-fetched work going into a second print.
Granville also wrote murder-mystery novels:
Granville was based in Chicago when he worked closely on designs for typewriters and printing devices with another citizen of the “Windy City”, the tenacious Merritt Henry Dement.
Dement was also a writer, best known today for his Workers and Idlers of 1883 (above). Some wag at one time borrowed this book from the University of California Library and, in a neat matching style, pencilled in the letters “ED” after the name “DEMENT”. That cruel judgement of Workers and Idlers may well also have summed up Dement’s demented yet vain drive to built a typewriter.
But back to Austyn W. Granville for the time being. Typewriter historians will naturally be wondering if Austyn Granville was in any way related to Bernard Granville, who invented the thrust-action Rapid and Granville Automatic typewriters of the 1890-1896 period (see below).
Sadly, although Bernard Granville was also based in Chicago when he started designing typewriters in 1888, there appears to be no evidence of a connection between him and Austyn W. Granville. In fact, it seems less is known about the life of Bernard Granville than Austyn Granville.
Austyn Granville was born in Greater London, England, on February 10, 1854. His main occupation in Chicago appears to have been as a chemist.
It’s possible a knowledge of chemistry may have helped Granville as he and Dement worked together during a concentrated period between 1882 and 1884 on designs for various devices associated with typewriting and printing, such as matrixes and stereotypes.
Before going into these, some definitions of various printing terms would be in order:
A mold used in stereotyping and designed to receive positive impressions of type or illustrations from which metal plates can be cast (Also called mat). Also, a metal plate used for casting typefaces.
A metal printing plate cast from a matrix molded from a raised printing surface, such as type.
Form (or forme):
Printing type matter, blocks, etc, assembled in a chase and ready for printing.
Austyn Granville died on September 29, 1922.
As for Merrick Henry Dement, much less is known. After his burst of activity in typewriter and printing device designing in the mid-1880s, Dement formed a postal service partnership with one Homer Buckley (who apparently coined the term “direct mail”) in 1895 and obtained the first two Chicago postal permits. Dement retired in 1944. The company is now known as Dahlberg Buckley Dement.
Dement was issued with patents in 1882-83 for methods of preparing matrix forms for stereotyping. He also designed an apparatus for justifying stereotyped line strips and securing them in column or page forms. With Austyn Granville, he designed an apparatus for stereotyping matrix strips.
In July 1883, Dement patented two designs for typewriter-printing machines (above), and one for a telegraphic transmitter.
In 1884, Dement was issued with a number of patents for typewriters (five in July and another in November, the last jointly with Austyn Granville). He also patented matrix making machines and an apparatus for putting matrix strips in form and preparing them, for stereotyping.
It is the three typewriter patents with which Dement was issued on this day in 1884 that we look at today.
Michael Adler describes this as being a machine “featuring type sliding in grooves cut longitudinally in a cylinder”.
Three weeks later, Dement was issued with two further patents:And another, with Austyn Granville, in November 1884:
Thereafter, the demented Dement appears to have fallen off the typewriter-inventing firmament.
On this day last year, someone promoted the good idea to use typewriters at weddings. It's highly recommended:
If you are getting married today, happy typing ...
great idea to use typewriters at weddings.
Agreed, Georg. I've supplied typewriters to one or two weddings myself!
Very, very strange stuff -- both the Granville book with its spherical creatures (shades of Aristophane's speech in Plato's "Symposium") and the Dement device.
I mean Aristophanes'.
Of course you do. I'll overlook it just this once ... (here's me talking!)
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