The Classic Typewriter Page


Waverley, Bernard Williams collection. Photograph from Michael Adler,
Antique Typewriters: From Creed to QWERTY

Every collector would like to run across one of these at some flea market! The Waverley is a rare British backstrike, or downstrike-from-the-rear, typewriter. It was patented by Edward Smith Higgins and Henry Charles Jenkins in 1889, and manufactured by the Waverley Typewriter Company in Clapham.

Among the remarkable features of the Waverley is differential spacing: an "m" is wider than an "i," for example. This seems to have been a relatively popular feature in Britain (it is a feature of the Maskelyne, for example). The typed work would look very nice -- but corrections could be a pain.

Another interesting characteristic of the Waverley is its method of shifting. Instead of having two characters on each typebar, the machine uses separate typebars for upper- and lower-case characters. The shift changes the set of typebars that is used. A similar mechanism can be found on Lucien Crandall's International shift-key machine of 1893.

Yet another peculiarity is the ability to make a space by hitting the space bar at the same time as you type the last letter of a word. I suppose this could have saved a few seconds in each sentence.

Any typewriter with typebars in the rear faces a cumbersome problem: where to put the paper? Like the Williams, Brooks, Fitch, and North's, the Waverley solves the problem by storing the paper in a basket. Unfortunately, writing is visible only until the paper is advanced to the next line, and then the typed matter disappears into the basket.

The Waverley was initially inked by an ink roller, but in 1890 it switched to a ribbon system. Despite this minor modification, the design was never very popular, and by 1897 the company was out of business. Typewriter historian G. C. Mares reports in 1909: "At the proceedings in connection with the winding up, it was stated that so far as the machine itself was concerned, it had proved a commercial success, but the further exploitation thereof was rendered impossible for want of sufficient capital." A paradoxical statement worthy of a politician!

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