No down-time visitor can fail to be amazed by the libraries of Grantville. In 1633, Maestro Giacomo Carissimi, writes that the high school has "a library that seems to come out of long-forgotten myths. A fabulous place for the number and for the stunning quality of many of the books." (Toro, "Euterpe, Episode 3," Grantville Gazette, Volume 5). That library, by the way, was open twenty four hours a day, a testament to the level of interest in its holdings. (1632, Chap. 24).

Even the book collections of individual up-timers should impress. At least one large personal library is mentioned in canon; the "Congden library": "The room was practically a library in its own right. Outside of a narrow bed, every wall except one was covered with shelving. Cheap shelving, naturally—Freddie wouldn't have allowed anything else. But the books resting on those shelves weren't particularly cheap. No fancy first editions, of course, and only a few of them were hardcovers. But every shelf was packed with paperbacks of all kinds, ranging from children's books George must have gotten as a little boy all the way through dog-eared copies of a history of the American civil war by someone named Foote and a thick volume on the principles of astronomy." (1633, Chap. 17) Another noteworthy collection is the set of military history and wargaming literature assembled by the "Four Musketeers" (Eddie Cantrell and company) (Weber, "In the Navy," Ring of Fire). George Blanton has his son Dave's survival books (Jones, "Anna's Story," Grantville Gazette, Volume 1).

While the printing press greatly increased the affordability of books, and the number of copies in circulation, that didn't mean that large private libraries were commonplace in the early seventeenth century. Book ownership varied greatly, of course, depending on wealth, occupation, religion and location. Generalization is dangerous, but I would guess that about half of the European down-timers own no books at all. (A substantial percentage of artisans and even merchants lack a library.) Most of the rest own just two or three books, one being the Bible. Less than one in ten will have more than five or ten books (Hall; McCraig, Maxted).

Naturally, the down-timers are interested in history. William Wettin has "checked out—usually several times over—every single book relevant to early American history and political theory there is. And British." (1633, Chap. 12) King Charles knows about Cromwell; Richelieu, about Turenne and Mazarini.

Science, too. Doctor Gribbleflotz learned how to construct a wet cell battery from an unidentified up-time science book. (Probably a children's book, since it has "large printing and colorful pictures".) (Offord, "Dr. Phil Zinkens A Bundle," Grantville Gazette, Volume 7) In 1633, John George of Saxony is trying to capitalize on the revelation of the secret of porcelain manufacture in some Grantville text. (Pedersen, "A Question of Faith," Grantville Gazette, Volume 8.)

But the down-timers aren't just reading the encyclopedias, the histories and the science books. Clearly, the "Ram" has read "Doc" Smith's Galactic Patrol ("Helmut, speaking for Boskone"). Wallenstein likes mysteries.

The down-timers who have money will commission copies of books of interest to them, to the extent their budget allows. By Spring, 1633, Cardinal Richelieu has already acquired books from Grantville, and "had printed copies made and more securely bound . . . ." He explains to Mazarini, "Hand-copying would have engaged every stationer and monk in Paris for weeks and the originals were too fragile to pass around. So I ordered them typeset and the illustrations carefully cut by the best engravers I could find."

Not everyone can send agents to Grantville. But down-time printers are going to be looking for books which might have a large enough audience to be money-makers if published. And up-timers have had works printed for reasons of their own. Canon reveals some of what has been copied and printed . . .

an abbreviated German translation of Robert's Rules of Order (1634: The Ram Rebellion Chap 32).

three Agatha Christie mysteries (Robison, "Mightier Than the Sword," Grantville Gazette, Volume 6)

the Shorter Catechism in English (DeMarce, "Pastor Kastenmayer's Revenge," Grantville Gazette, Volume 3)

Paine's Common Sense (1634: The Ram Rebellion)

The Book of Mormon (1634: The Ram Rebellion)

Narrow Gauge at War (Lutz and Zeek, "Elizabeth," Grantville Gazette, Volume 8)

RN- and MD-level training materials (Ewing, "An Invisible War," Grantville Gazette, Volume 2).

Duplicating the Books of Grantville

What would be involved in making one copy of every distinct title in Grantville? We will start by determining the "copying power" of the would-be copyists, which is a function of

1) the speed with which the book can be copied (in words or pages an hour)

2) how much time can the copyist devote (in hours/year) and maintain that speed

3) the number of copyists employed.

We will then compare it with the “wordage” of those distinct titles. To estimate that, we need to know:

4) how many books are there in Grantville? (counting the public library, the three school libraries, the books owned by the various businesses and churches, and the personal libraries of the residents)

5) how many of those books are distinct titles

6) what is the average length of the books (in words)

Copying Methods

We need to distinguish how quickly a single copyist can make the first copy (transcription speed), versus making each of a large number of additional copies (publication speed). A computer-cum-laser printer has the same transcription speed as an electric typewriter, but a higher publication speed. Manual typesetting is slow, even compared to handcopying, but once the type is set, you can rapidly print a large number of copies. So conventional printing has a very slow transcription speed, but a high publication speed. For speed comparisons, see table 1 below.

The fundamental equation is

Effective Copying Speed = Individual Copying Speed X Number of Copyists

In other words, brute force (increasing the number of copyists) can compensate for a low individual copying (transcription or publication) speed. Contrariwise, if a copying method has a limited number of copyists or copying equipment (e.g., typing is limited by the number of typists and typewriters), it may not be as effective as an intrinsically slower method.

There are two ways in which machines can improve the duplication process:

–directly, by increasing transcription speed (typing vs. hand copying); and

–indirectly, in that if they are used to make multiple copies (whether that be by mimeograph, letterpress, photo-offset, dot matrix, laser, or inkjet printing), then the cost of copying the original work can be spread over more purchasers, which means that you can afford to hire more copyists and split the work so it goes faster. Indeed, the ability to generate multiple copies cheaply may determine whether the work is copied in the first place.

If a particular book is in high demand, then it is likely that it will be copied by a method with a high publication speed, even if that method is costly or has a slow transcription speed.

Machines can be divided into three categories: the up-time typewriters, computer systems, mimeographs, etc. which made it through the RoF; the down-time, possibly geared down, equivalents; and machines which already existed in the early seventeenth century (printing presses, pantographs).

Particularly for the first category, we have the following issues:

1) Does it make economic sense for the owner to devote his/her equipment to this use? (for example, the owners of the Pentium IIIs might think they can get a higher price/rental for them for use for say, running an airplane simulator, or for engineering design, or for massive database management, than so their printers can be used to make copies of books. This is a comparative advantage argument.)

2) Regardless of economic sense, will the owner allow it? (I am not sure that my son would give up his computer, and thus his ability to play computer games, even if he would be given a lot of money. Since he would want to spend the money on computer games.)

3) How soon will the up-time machines run out of supplies, or break down? Can we duplicate the supplies and spare parts?

4) Will we be rate-limited by the number of trained operators or machines available?

Cost, of course, is important. If you aren't copying the work yourself, then you must hire a copyist, whether that be a scribe or a typist. In theory, it shouldn't cost more to hire ten typists than one, since the work should be completed ten times more quickly, but because there is a limited pool of typists, you could end up paying a premium for speed.

Machines increase transcription or publication speed, but they too have a price. If you have to buy a mimeograph or a typewriter in order to use it, then you have to be able to justify the capital cost. Cost is less of a factor if you can rent the equipment. (Gorg's "Sewing Circle" says that by October 1631, all the sewing machines in Grantville had been rented out. That's a good precedent.) Note that in the early days of typewriting, if you hired a typist, he or she supplied the typewriter. (That is still true, of course, for students hiring freelance typists to type their dissertations.) If a machine is used to duplicate more than one book, its purchase price can be spread over all the books.


I am going to start my analysis with hand copying. Some visitors to Grantville will not be able to afford buying or renting a typewriter or computer system, or hiring a typist, and will be interested in books which haven't yet been (and perhaps never will be) reprinted. And even a few years after RoF, there will be far more people in seventeenth-century Germany who can write than who can type at a typewriter. There is also only a limited supply of typewriters, etc., and those who can't wait for the equipment to become available may find it necessary to copy the books with quill and ink.

The good news is that hand-copying doesn't require anything more than pen, ink and paper, and basic reading and writing skills. The bad news, of course, is that hand-copying is slow.

The alleged handwriting speed record, set in 1853, was 30 wpm. (Topik, 212).

Allcock found an average handwriting speed of 16.9 words per minute in high school students, year 11. A 2001 literature review reported these findings: "average writing speed of young workers who left school at 16 was around 20-21 wpm", a Scottish Examination Board considers 16 wpm to be the minimum writing speed for candidates, writing speeds of 10-20 wpm are "normal at age 15"; and "the average speed . . . for a secondary modern pupil is about 10-12 wpm." (Bishop) It also reported new results; an average speed of 13 wpm for ninth graders.

Hilz (p. 379) says the handwriting speed of 1000 professionals (presumably normal or above-normal adults) was, on average, 15 words per minute. Another recent study says text can be copied at 22 wpm (WikiWPM).

If we assume 40 hours of copying per week, 50 weeks a year, that would be 2000 hours a year, per copyist. At 17 wpm, that is 2,040,000 words per year, per copyist. Compare this to an interesting real-world test of sustained handwriting speed. A news article (BBC) said that a Moldovan girl hand-copied Harry and the Half-Blood Prince (607 pages, official word count 168,923) in just over a month because she couldn't afford to have a copy shipped from the UK. So one person should be able to copy about two million words/year.


Shorthand is likely to be used only for personal notes, or as an intermediate copy for those who are reprinting a book outside of Grantville.


The pantograph is a mechanical device used for duplicating the movements of a hand when writing, so as to generate one or more copies. In 1630, Christoph Scheiner (its alleged inventor) used a pantograph to duplicate drawings. This was a two-arm pantograph, with a pointer on one arm and a pen on the other. The pointer is moved to trace over the drawing, and the pen reproduces it on paper. In the 1632 Universe, Scheiner is sent in 1634 to Grantville, to be the resident astronomer, so it is safe to assume that if pantographs are of any value in the copying project, he will say something about it.

Another kind of pantograph has a pen on each arm, so the scribe is making two hand copies of the book simultaneously. Thomas Jefferson used one to produce file copies of the letters he wrote. This could be a good deal for a scholar of limited means; with no additional labor, two copies are produced instead of one, and the extra copy can be sold.

In theory, it is possible to increase the number of arms, and thus the number of copies made simultaneously. (The term "polygraph" originally referred to a pantograph with additional arms.) The catch, of course, is that more effort is required to move the control pen, because of the mechanical resistance of the more complex and more massive mechanism. Still, giant pantographs, armed with ten fountain pens, were used by late nineteenth century paymasters (Schwarz 228).

An interesting strategy is to forgo the pens, and use a pointer on one arm and a stylus on the other. The stylus could inscribe a copperplate, which can then be used as a template for printing. Pantographs were used at the end of the eighteenth century to make portrait prints (

Pantographs increase publication speed, but not transcription speed. If anything, transcription will be a bit slower than normal hand writing, because of the effort needed to move all the hardware. Moreover, despite Jefferson's enthusiasm, pantographs were commercially unsuccessful because of their "constant need for repair and adjustment" (

The Lecture Trick

Medieval students obtained copies of their textbooks by having it read aloud by a lecturer, and copying down what was said. The same technique could be used to make multiple copies of any Grantville book. Dictating speed is not likely to be a limiting factor; the lecturer will have to speak slowly so the copyists can keep up.

Unfortunately, all participants must be able to read and write English, which isn't a common skill in the Germanies. And the copies probably won't be identical.

Up-Time Typewriter Inventory

I wasn't able to find any published data on how many people, or households, still owned manual or electric typewriters in 2000 (or any other year). Consequently, I conducted two admittedly unscientific surveys.

Surveying my wife's email correspondents, I got responses from 57 households, mostly in the DC/Baltimore area. There were 30 households with typewriters, owning, collectively, 17 electrics and 25 manuals (total 42). There were a total of 164 people in the 57 households polled. Of those, 88 have access to at least one typewriter within their household. That's 0.1 electrics and 0.15 manuals per person, or 0.3 electrics and 0.44 manuals per household.

On Baen's Bar, I received responses for 24 households, 16 of which have typewriters. They collectively owned 13 electrics and 19 manuals (0.54 electrics and 0.8 manuals per household).

If my email survey results were typical of Grantville, then we could expect its 3500 people to own 350 electric and 525 manual typewriters. And of course the Bar survey would paint an even rosier picture.

Canon makes it clear that some manual typewriters passed through the RoF. Musch, "On Ye Saints," says, "Willard returned to hunting and pecking on the old manual typewriter that he had gotten back when he was in high school." (1634: The Ram Rebellion). And Clavell, "Magdeburg Marines: The Few and the Proud," includes this passage: "You know, I remember seeing two manual typewriters in my dad's junk. I bet we can use them in Magdeburg." (Grantville Gazette, Volume 4). Both manual and electric typewriters are mentioned in 1634: The Galileo Affair.

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