I’ll say up front that my review of Mr. Anderson’s work will be a bit biased, as I’ve seen firsthand his dedication to uncovering the history of the Fox Typewriter when we worked on the Fox serial number page at TWDB, where I depended pretty much entirely on his research work to build out the timeline.
Tyler Anderson’s dedication to the subject clearly did not dim after that initial work, and this book is the culmination. Where the TWDB is all about distilling the history of a typewriter manufacturer into a one-page timeline to help you put a date and learn a bit of history on your machine, Tyler’s “The Fox Typewriter Company” gives you absolutely everything known about the company, the major figures in the company’s rise and fall, the patents, the lawsuits, pages of period ads and even a solid 13 pages of useful tips and care procedures unique to the Fox machines. It’s what Paul Harvey would call “The Rest of the Story”.
Anderson writes in a plain, “just the facts, ma’am” style, without excessive embellishments or distracting technical jargon that is refreshing in a reference work and makes for a quick read. I sat down last night expecting to get a few chapters in, and ended up burning through the whole book in about 45 minutes. Partly this is because more than half the book is composed of patent drawings and explanations, tables of data and period ads, which you’ll skim over on first read. Conveniently, these are placed after the first third of the book, after you’ve quickly digested the whole story. This is the supporting evidence for Anderson’s conclusions, and it’s very nice (and often unusual) for a typewriter reference to also contain every scrap of supporting evidence, and means that if you’re the sort who likes to “follow along” the evidence trail, you’ll be pleased to know you won’t need to dig up the sources yourself. It’s kind of a pet peeve of mine when historical reference works don’t adequately (or sometimes at all) provide source references, and Anderson’s work more than adequately covers those bases, while remaining a very easily digested read.
“The Fox Typewriter Company” is a print-on-demand book, which has advantages over other publication methods in that newly updated editions can be easily uploaded and offered if new research turns up more interesting information. I’m inclined to think that this method of publication is ideal for works that admittedly have a small audience that might not justify a full-blown print run of a thousand or more units. I have hopes that print-on-demand publication will encourage more titles like this, focusing on a given brand in full detail. It’s an excellent format for the subject.
2016 has been a great year for books about typewriters and their mystique and history, and I have a stack of such newly-published tomes which I’ll review as I finish them. Tyler’s book got in first because it was a surprisingly quick and interesting read (not usually true of deep-delving reference works), so if that (or the Robocop references that pop up occasionally) appeals to you, give it a try!