Wednesday - 23 July 2014

Lewis Carroll's typewriter takes £6500

05 March 2012Written by Roland Arkell

A WELL-PRESERVED James Hammond typewriter from the 1880s is itself a rare item, but the example offered for sale by Gildings in Market Harborough in Leicestershire on February 21 attracted greater interest on account of its first owner, Lewis Carroll (1832-98).

It appears Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) had acquired his Hammond No.1 on May 3, 1888. A diary entry the following day records: May 4, (F). Chandler came across to show me how to work the 'Hammond Type-Writer',which arrived yesterday.

Inside the attractively shaped plywood cover, at the top of the manufacturer's instructions, it is inscribed in clear, spidery, black ink handwriting Rev. C.L. Dodgson, Ch.Ch. Oxford.

Although it is clear from the dates that Dodgson wrote none of his famous books on this machine, it is thought that he used it to complete a mathematics treatise and a small number of items of correspondence. The writer of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland  (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1871) worked primarily in the fields of geometry, matrix algebra, mathematical logic and recreational mathematics, producing nearly a dozen books on the subject under his given name Dodgson.

Curiosa Mathematica I  (1888) and Curiosa Mathematica II  (1892) could well have been written on this machine and certainly the Hammond, a cutting-edge American striking machine with several features that would survive for many decades, would doubtless have appealed to Dodgson as one of the very first office typewriters.

While a lecturer on mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford, Dodgson (who had taken up photography in 1856) displayed a keen interest in writing and duplicating devices.

Among his many inventions was a writing tablet called the nyctograph  that allowed for note-taking in the dark (when one wakes with a good idea but cannot be pained to strike a light), while a means for justifying right margins was his own contribution to the development of the modern typewriter.

At his death this machine passed to his brother W.L. Dodgson, and was later given to a descendant of the vendor.

A Hammond No.1 in such fine condition, complete in its original box and with the curved keyboard that denotes it as an early version made prior to 1889, would have brought perhaps £800-1200 on its own, so Mark Gilding's estimate of £2000-3000 for this one was hardly pushing the envelope.

In fact, bidding between Lewis Carroll enthusiasts saw it reach £6500 (plus 15% buyer's premium), at which point it was knocked down to an American collector.

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