Origins And Firsts In History

First Typewritten novel



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While it is nearly impossible to say what the first novel ever written, or rather typed on a typewriter was, it is commonly believed that Samuel Clemens, better known by his pen name, Mark Twain, was the first author to submit a typewritten manuscript to a publisher. It is also widely accepted that his typewritten submission is the first of its kind to be published. By his own accounts, Mark Twain admitted that he did not actually do the typing himself, but rather hired someone to type it for him. In his unpublished autobiography, the famous American author stated he believed he was the first to "apply the type-machine to literature" and even claimed that the literature in question was his novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published in 1876. However, according to typewriter historian Darryl Rehr, Mark Twain was apparently erroneous in his claim, confusing both the timeline of his submission and the novel submitted. Meticulous research on the part of literary historians support Rehr's statement, showing it was actually another of Twain's novels that he submitted as a typewritten manuscript; the actual Twain novel submitted was Life on the Mississippi published in 1882.

Due to the sad fact that Twain's publishing company was never questioned on the actual title of his first typewritten manuscript, there isn't much evidence to officially prove his claims. According to timelines of Twain's life, he did purchase a Remington No. 2 typewriter in 1874 after witnessing the shop girl's apparent ease and skill with the machine. However, he lamented the purchase afterwards and gave it away twice only to have it returned to him both times.

While Twain has unofficially received credit for being a landmark typist, there are other famous writers who are also credited with using a typewriter to write literature. One such person is author/actress Fanny Kemble, who is actually listed on several websites as the first person to submit a typewritten manuscript. The problem with this scenario, just as with Twain, is that there is little to no evidence available to substantiate this claim. Kemble is famous for having written Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation, as well many other literary works, but there appears to be no record that these writings were ever typewritten by the writer. Either author, any author for that matter, could have been the first to submit a typewritten novel, but since this bit of trivia was not very important at the time of publication, the identity of the mystery author may never be truly known. Lacking any empirical evidence, it seems that the popular vote in this literary contest has gone to Mark Twain. It seems that once speculation becomes engrained in the general mindset of a population as substantiated fact, however questionable its validity may seem, it ceases to be speculation.

 

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