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Books were handwritten on paper, clay, and parchment before the typewriter came to use. How authors used to spend days writing these novels with their hands still surprises the gen-z. Fortunately, the typewriter was patented in 1868.
Mark Twain was the first author to publish a book written through this newly invented machine of that time. Scholars believe that The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was the first typewriter-written novel. He published it in 1876.
Mark has mentioned in his autobiography (published in 1904) about his first novel—Tom Sawyer. He told how he used the writing machine to finish it. Let’s find out if Tom Sawyer was the first type-written novel. What is its plot? And what inspired Twain to use the machine?
The First Type-Written Novel
There is confusion about the first-ever novel written using a typewriter. Some scholars believe that “Tom Sawyer” was handwritten, and its original copy is still preserved. Although the novel failed commercially, it turned out to be one of the most successful novels of his time.
In this fictional novel, Twain talks about a boy who grew up in St. Petersburg. The book is about the adventures of Tom with his friend Huckleberry Finn in this imaginary town. Mark wrote a sequel, featuring his friend. It went on to receive more success.
It wasn’t only a successful piece, but Adventures of Tom Sawyer was Twain’s best-selling novel. This masterpiece was the first one written on the typewriter.
Twain made another submission “Life on the Mississippi”, which some scholars believe was the first typewritten novel submitted to the publishers.
A Brief on Mark Twain
Born on 30th November 1835 in Florida, Mark was an American author, journalist, and novelist. He garnered attention from readers worldwide for his famous publications, including Life on the Mississippi, The Innocents Abroad, and Roughing It.
Born in Florida, Twain suffered from physical illness for up to 10 years because of his premature birth. His father, a lawyer, ran a general store. But due to financial difficulties, the family moved to Hannibal town. After his father’s death, Twain worked at a newspaper publishing company and got a typesetting job later. He worked as a printer and moved to different cities, including New York and Iowa. By this time, he had started printing short, fun stories.
Twain was an exceptional writer, but not a good businessman. He invested his money in many bad projects until he went bankrupt. One of his investments was the automatic typesetting machine worth $200,000. It was when the average earning of American households was $1,200 annually. He also refused many well-performing investment opportunities, which became incredibly famous later, like the telephone.
In addition to writing and printing, Twain invented many products, including self-pasting scrapbooks and elastic scraps.
Mark Twain’s Typewriter
Mark Twain was not only the one to submit the first novel written on a typewriter, but he owned the device. He was enthusiastic about investing in a typewriter that helped him write neatly and faster than usual. To his surprise, the device was not up to the mark. His enthusiasm for the typewriter waned after he bought Sholes & Glidden, which was full of defects.
He was so unsatisfied with the product that he officially wrote a letter to the manufacturer stating that he didn’t want his name in the testimonials. In the letter, he wrote he didn’t want to use the defective piece to write letters, so he didn’t want to be associated with the typewriter in any way. He was the first owner of the typewriter and the first one to send a manuscript for publishing.
Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) bought Williams No. 6 Grasshopper typewriter in 1908, two years before his death. He had just moved to his house in Connecticut. The model was far better than the previous versions of typewriters, as the latest one allowed typists to view the text as they wrote it.
The First Book Written on The Typewriter
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the first type-written book by Samuel Clemens, is a fictional work. It’s a story of a young, mischievous boy who grows up in St. Petersburg. The initial part of the book shows how his Aunt Polly, whom he lives with, punishes him for his deeds, like eating jam or fighting with other boys.
Later, Tom meets a friend, Huckleberry Finn, and both go to the cemetery only to witness a murder. They decide not to reveal this to anyone, but Tom eventually testifies against the murderer. The duo becomes pirates later. In the search for treasure, they reach an abandoned house where they come across ‘Injun Joe’, the murderer. The later parts of the book describe his picnic with his classmates, including his ex-fiancee Becky.
While trying to discover the gold in the caves, Becky’s health deteriorates, leading Tom and the group outside the cave. The group suspects the murderer is inside the cave and could be trapped there. As they go inside the cave again, they find Injun Joe dead. They also discover the gold hidden in there.
The Success of The First Typewritten Novel
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was a masterpiece in American literature, as it portrayed boyhood well and in an intriguing way. The sequel Huckleberry Finn received more popularity and love from the fans. Despite overshadowing the book, Twain’s first type-written novel didn’t lose attention. That’s because the humor was on point. And the overall plot was well written.
While the first novel written on a typewriter is still unclear, one thing is certain—Mark Twain was the first author to have used a typewriter for the book. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Life on the Mississippi were both masterpieces that Americans enjoyed. Not only in America, but these type-written books gained popularity globally, making Mark Twain a famous novelist of the late 18th century.
Sadly, he faced many struggles, both financial and health-related, throughout his life. He was so passionate about writing that he bought a typewriter in his last years.
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