The Bilingual Typewriter, Max Klaczko, Polyglots and Esperanto
- From Ancient Greek πολύγλωττος (poluglōttos,
from πολύς (polus, “many”) + γλῶττα
“tongue, language”) [Attic
variant of γλῶσσα (glōssa)].
Versed in, or speaking, many languages; 2.
Containing, or made up of, several languages.
on the bilingual Erika Model 5 portable typewriter resulted in me receiving a
very helpful email this morning from German typewriter collector Frank Werle.
detailed email enabled me to make the link between this unusual typewriter and
Esperanto – through the typewriter’s inventor, Max Klaczko, who
sponsored Esperanto in his native Latvia.
1911 Ideal Polyglott, from the collection of the late Tilman Elster, per The European Typewriter Project, with Will Davis
first, let’s look at the useful information Frank was able to provide:
read your entry about the Erika 5 with Latin /Cyrillic keyboard, I thought that
maybe I could contribute a few bits and pieces of information.
I had not heard of the Erika 5 being built as a bilingual typewriter before,
Seidel & Naumann were among the first manufacturers of bilingual
typewriters, and to my knowledge the first ones that built a bilingual typebar
machine, starting with the very first typewriter they made. As you probably
know, this was the Ideal A, which was also offered as the bilingual ‘Ideal
who devised this machine was Max Klaczko, a chap with quite an interesting
Wim Van Rompuy Collection
attached my sources to this email, which are two different editions of Ernst
Martin’s Die Schreibmaschine und ihre Entwicklungsgeschichte (The Typewriter
and the History of its Development). The scans include the articles about the
Ideal typewriter and the paragraph about Klaczko. I’ve also included a
(typewritten) translation of the part concerning the Ideal Polyglott in
particular, and of Klaczko.
the interesting things about your machine is, in my opinion, that the layout of
the Cyrillic letters doesn’t confirm to other standard Cyrillic layouts. (It is
quite similar to a Bulgarian layout, though).”
have since added to the post about the bilingual Erika 5, with information
about the Bulgarian keyboard, based on Richard Polt’s comment.]
continues, “Another unusual feature I’ve noticed are the strange figs that are
installed on your machine, for example the No. on the key of the 6.
Additionally, the machine seems to be able to write more than one language
using Cyrillic letters, as far as I can see, Russian as well as Ukrainian,
Bulgarian and Rusyn might be possible.
as you’ll read in the attachment, was also very active in the keyboard design
department, I suppose your machine features a Klaczko keyboard."
let’s look at Esperanto, the most widely-spoken constructed international
auxiliary language. Its name derives from Doktoro Esperanto (Esperanto
translates as "one who hopes"), the name under which Ludwig Lazarus
Zamenhof (below), from Białystok in the then Russian Empire
(now part of Poland), published the first book detailing Esperanto, the Unua
Libro, in 1887.
Zamenhof's goal was to create an easy-to-learn and politically neutral language
that transcends nationality and would foster peace and international
understanding between people with different regional and/or national languages.
tells us, based on the Encyclopedia of Esperanto, that Klaczko sponsored the
movement in Latvia. “Before the First World War Latvia belonged to Tsarist
Russia … personal rights were limited. In the cities, many spoke three
languages: Latvian, German and Russian. In addition, we studied in school
English and French languages.
in Riga, a subsidiary of the Petersburg Esperanto Society ‘Hope’ was founded.
At the time, the movement was greatly helped by Max Klaczko giving support and
Klaczko family history tells us that Max Klaczko was born in Vilna in 1863. At
age 23 he graduated from the Polytechnical University College in Riga, Russian
Letonia, as a certified accountant. That year, 1886, Klaczko founded a school
of accountants and in 1896 an accounting company in Riga, at Scheunenstrasse
This is the address given on Klaczko’s patent applications in the US
between 1906-1914 – for typewriters (1907 and
1911), a duplicating device (1906), a flat mimeograph (1907), a cash register
(1912-14) and an adding
family history continues, “Then he begun to improve commercial typewriting
machines in order to make them usable bilingual, both in German and Russian,
with their respective alphabets. In 1902 he patented this machine and begun to
“A lot of
following inventions made him known and in 1907 he was awarded a medal at the
the Boston Exhibition and in 1908 at the World Exhibition in Brussels, as well
as at the Business Machines Exhibition of 1908 in Berlin.
invented the additional typewriter options 'CTRL' and 'ALT' which IBM introduced 70 years later in its personal computers, and he succeeded
in generating with 42 typewriter keys as much as 210 different signs, including
at least two languages in one typewriter.
invented a switch to change the direction of writing from left-right to
right-left, appropriate for Arab, Persian and Hebrew. He also invented a
exchangeable typing cylinder, much like the IBM electric typewriter of the 60s,
in order to type texts in New Chinese, Japanese and other alphabets.
must astonishing success was the development of mechanical calculators,
printing calculators, cash registering machines, mimeographing machines and
other office equipment.
headquarters were in Riga, but he had an outlet in Berlin and at least one
calculator was manufactured in Glashuetten, Saxonia, Germany.”