Does anyone remember the Gestetner?
It was a copying machine, invented before computers and printers by Robert Gestetner (1854-1935). I actually used one though I don’t remember how it worked. Rollers were involved, and ink; my fingers were always purple. I looked it up and learned that you could get 99 copies on one run - which was not automatic but needed to be ground out by the operator. When i was in Grade Nine and at loose ends (that’s another story), I wrote and designed and printed and sold a school newspaper.
Of course, before that there was carbon paper that with sufficient pressure might get you three dim copies, and onion skin which gave you one flimsy clear copy. Louisa May Alcott developed a painful writer’s cramp from her use of carbon paper . She tried electric shock therapy on it but it didn’t help. Henry James also suffered writer’s cramp - everyone wrote longhand in those days - and he hired a secretary to write down what he dictated. I still remember the name of one of the amanuenses - Theodora Bosanquet - how could one forget?
This is about Christmas cards. Stay with me. Long ago in the days of the 3-cent stamp and prompt mail delivery, everyone sent Christmas cards or season’s greeting cards almost indiscriminately. It was an inexpensive way of saying hi and acknowledging good will but no no time or too much distance between friends and acquaintances, nice people met on one’s travels (if you can remember their names), fellow members of a book club (if you can remember their names), other parents in a car pool you shared the driving with for your kids (if you can remember their names). I could go on but I haven’t reached my point yet.
It seemed too casual or too unfeeling to send a card with a printed message, so people started writing something personal, most frequently family news, a summary of the year that was. Writer’s cramp again but this time there was a remedy; it’s called a printer. Thus, with duplication easy and possible, the Christmas card became a Christmas newsy letter. What a good idea! I started doing that, too. But once a year didn’t seem enough to catch up with most of the people on my list so I started writing what I called a generic letter three or four times a year. I guess that was the beginning of what is now my blog.
Now I write a blog some time close to Christmas and I send it to my family and friends (and acquaintances though I am not in a book club or a car pool). Very few of my friends or family read my blog so it’s not really duplication. It’s new to them, too. Besides, some of them are so old, they don’t have computers or printers. Can you believe, they still write letters - longhand??!! But not very often.
A lot of thought has to go into my Christmas generic blog. This, now, is just a preamble to my 2018 generic. Some time over the next few days I will write it.