Emblema Æonis Saturni
The typewriter was of course originally invented by Hermes Trismegistus, in the second century BC, in Hellenic Egypt. The original Emerald Typewriter had diamond types, which enabled it to write upon tablets of emerald – although little else is known of it, since it is now as lost to us as the original, typewritten copy of Hermes’ legendary Smaragdine Tablet. / The earliest hermetic typewriters wrote on papyrus scrolls, of the sort that comprised the collection of the library at Alexandria – where most of the scrolls were indeed typewritten. This first generation of hermetic typewriters tended to have just one alphabet – usually Greek or Demotic – as well as a varying selection of astrological and alchemical glyphs. Their ribbons – and indeed the ribbons of almost all hermetic typewriters for many centuries afterwards, even as late as the Renaissance – were soaked in blood-based inks. The library at Alexandria had numerous hermetic typewriters – Galen, for example, describes how all ships docking at the city were required by law to hand over all of their books to the library, in exchange for typewritten copies. Hermes himself is thought to have used this kind of first generation typewriter for the original manuscripts of the Corpus Hermeticum. / Although its use had, for several centuries, been extremely common amongst the Greek and Roman Neoplatonists of late Antiquity, knowledge of the hermetic typewriter was entirely lost in Europe for much of the Middle Ages – although the Arabic world preserved it, much as it preserved Aristotle and so much else: Geber, for example, is known to have used his prodigious knowledge of alchemy to create fireproof parchment and glow-in-the-dark ink for the typewriter of Ja’far al-Sadiq, in eighth century Persia. The first hermetic typewriter in Medieval Europe was probably that of Albertus Magnus, which ingeniously incorporated a brazen, mechanical, talking head, which could be questioned via the keyboard, and which was reputed to know the answer to every question. Many late Medieval European hermetic typewriters featured brazen heads of this sort – including, for example, those belonging to Roger Bacon and Johann Faust. This generation of typewriters wrote on parchment or vellum, and the resulting typewritings tended to be bound as codices, rather than scrolls.
The hermetic typewriter reached its fullest development during the Renaissance, by which time it had come to feature so many keyboards that it somewhat resembled a pipe organ – the more baroque examples even incorporated complex clockwork astrolabes, with ‘aetherick lenses,’ by means of which the influence of the zodiacal month, phase of the Moon, and planetary hour could be brought to bear upon one’s typing. Renaissance hermetic typewriters usually had separate keyboards for the Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Malachim, Celestial, Transitus Fluvii (these last three first added by Trithemius) and Enochian (first added, of course, by Dee) alphabets, with the astrological and alchemical glyphs – including, usually, the sigils of the Behenian fixed stars – also on their own individual keyboards. Goetic keyboards, even, with the seals of the seventy two demons of the Ars Goetia, or Solomonic keyboards, with the Key of Solomon and Lemegeton’s many sigils and signatures of archangels, demon princes, planetary intelligences, Olympic and aerial spirits, and so forth, were by no means unknown. This generation of hermetic typewriters wrote on parchment and paper – and metal, in the case of Paracelsus’ specially adapted typewriter, which he used to stamp inscriptions into electrum magicum talismans. / The modern typewriter is descended from the hermetic typewriter in much the same way as chemistry is descended from alchemy. Although hermetic typewriters continued to be used in a ritual context, amongst for example the Rosicrucians – and despite a unique and magnificent steam-powered example, created by the Golden Dawn in the late nineteenth century – secular society had come to find a single keyboard, with just one alphabet, and no occult sigils, to be rather more convenient for everyday usage than the much more elaborate hermetic typewriter. By the time computers rendered even the twentieth century typewriter obsolete, true hermetic typewriters were already exceedingly rare – and today they are almost completely unheard of.
Yet all is not lost for the modern hermetic typist. Just as chemistry incorporates certain alchemical principles and techniques, so do twentieth century typewriters – and even their descendants, computer keyboards (particularly since the advent of unicode) – still channel some lingering resonance of the powerful occult forces that their ancestor, the hermetic typewriter, once wielded with such elegance and finesse. Occultists have of course recognised the modern typewriter’s mystical proclivities since the early twentieth century, when spiritualist and Theosophical Society experiments with automatic typing, and the ouija keyboard, demonstrated that a great many typewriters are haunted – possessed, even, in some intriguing cases: hence, for example, Gurdjieff’s years spent as an itinerant typewriter-repairman, and the Universal Brotherhood’s complex rules regarding purple typewriter ribbons, and the well-documented and extensive use of typewriters by Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare, Dion Fortune, and countless other twentieth-century occultists. Despite the classic hermetic typewriter’s sad demise, then, the modern hermetic typist can still hope to practise a form of typewriter-based magic – and in this sense, the hermetic typewriter very much lives on.
Æonum (8) Emblematum (7) Iuppiter (1) Luna (1) Mars (1) Mercurius (1) Saturnus (1) Sigillorum (1) Sol (1) Tabulæ (1) Venus (1)
Copyright 2016 Thomas Jude Barclay Morrison. All rights reserved.