Throwback Thursday: The Automatic Writer

The Automatic Writer featured a rectangular
wooden board with a metal frame pinned to it
that guided a pen or pencil.
Our object this week is a handwriting guide.  Before—and after really—the invention of the typewriter, there were a lot of attempts to create the perfect writing guide.  This is the “Automatic Writer” from around 1897.  But it has a better story than most.  It was invented by Edith Ferguson Black (1857-1936) the Canadian born author of A Beautiful Possibility and A Princess in Calico. "During an illness when weakened eyes hampered her literary work, she circumvented her doctor's prohibition against writing by inventing a writing machine for the blind which she then patented." (Simon Fraser University Library, Canada's Early Women Writer's Project.)  The spring loaded leaf on the top of the guide allowed the writing instrument to dip below the main line for cursive forms of letters like y and g.  Typewriting and computer printing pretty much eliminated writing guides except for simple devices to write checks or sign autographs.

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