1931

The Melotyp music typewriter was invented by Gustave Rundstatler in Berlin Germany. There is speculation, however, that Carl Winterling was the actual inventor in Frankfurt, Germany, but the the patent filed in the United States bears the name of Gust Rundstatler with an application date of September 24, 1936. Rundstatler apparantley had applied for a German patent in 1933 and was also patented in Britain.

The earliest attributed date to the Melotyp is September 9, 1931 from the Algemeen Handelsblad, an Amsterdam-based daily newspaper. The entry is as follows (translated to English):

Gust Rundstatler

From the Algemeen Handelsblad, September 9, 1931
MUSICAL NOTES BY TYPEWRITER - The inventor and engineer Gust Rundstatler from Frankfurt-on-the-Main, after long years of labor managed to write musical notes on paper using a music typewriter. The inventor (standing) with his technical assistant.

The Melotyp, however, was the predecessor of the Nototyp which also designed by Gustave Rundstatler. The name Carl Winterling worked for the German typewriter manufacturer, Triumph Adler, and it is possible that Rundstatler sold his design in order for the Melotyp to be built by Otto Rechnitz and Alfred Bernstein in Berlin.

In 1937, the Melotyp won the grand prize in the International Exhibition in Paris. It has been speculated that only ten of these machines were made and five were exported to the United States in 1938. Four of these machines are now in museums or other musical institutions, and only one is in private hands. Nothing more is known of the other five machines. In 1939, Germany invaded Poland which was the beginning of World War II. As a result, production of many products stopped including the Melotyp, and there is no evidence that any more were made before the war. Production never resumed after the war.

Nototyp

The patent filed in the United States bears the name Nototyp. As mentioned above, the Melotyp was developed from the Nototyp. Below are images of the Nototyp.

Nototyp

This image of Rundstatler's machine is from a July 1937 Hungarian publication.

Nototyp

Using the Nototyp

Nototyp

The 1937 image is from the German National Archives and shows a woman typing on a Nototyp.

An Article from The Literary Digest

Further proof suggests that Rundstatler was the actual inventor of the Melotyp. On May 21, 1932, the US magazine The Literary Digest (Fig. 5a & Fig. 5b) published an article from La Nature of Paris about Rundstatler's invention. The same article was also published in Sign of the Times, an Australian publication, on August 8, 1932 (Fig 6).

A Musical Typewriter

Not one that plays tunes, but one with which a musical score can be written, just as one prints words with an ordinary typewriter.

Attempts at something of the kind have been made, we learn from an article in La Nature (Paris), but none has been successful until the invention of the machine described below. We read:

Hitherto, little progress has been made in printing music, and even in writing it. While the process employed in printing and reproducing written languages have been continually improved, the reproduction of music, either by typography or by hand, has remained as it has been for years.

Attempts to construct a machine to write music have met with insurmountable difficulties, especially in effecting the necessary combination of the notes and the musical signs, on the one hand, and the lines of the staff on the other.

It has been thought to solve the problem by using sheets of "music paper" or by writing the lines of the staff, at the outset, by a special machine, but this process was difficult and necessitated too great watchfulness. Machines based on this principle were therefore quickly abandoned.

A music-writing machine invented by Gustave Rundstatter, an engineer of Frankfort-on-the-Main, works on an entirely different principle. Outwardly, it exactly resembles an ordinary typewriter, except that the common keyboard is replaced by one of special design, and that the carriage, instead of advancing every time a key is touched, stays quiet until the assemblage of notes and signs is complete. The difficulty of adjusting the signs with reference to the staff is avoided by an organic connection of each note with the corresponding part of the staff. The latter is formed automatically by the junction of notes and signs on the blank paper, at each impression.

The notes are written as easily, as quickly, and as exactly as one would play them on the keyboard of a piano. The copyist is never fatigued, and the typewritten score is quite as neat and clear as a printed sheet.

Melotyp Music

Typewritten Music - The notes are written easily, as quickly, and as exactly as one would play them on the keyboard of a piano. The copyist is never fatigued, and the typewritten score is quite as neat and clear as a printed sheet.

Melotyp: How It Works

The information below comes from a set of papers about the Melotyp that I have acquired.

The Melotyp has 44 keys and can print 88 notes or music symbols by using the shift key. Blank paper was used to type the symbols as the typewriter was capable of printing the staff. Notes and chords were formed by printing the note and then the stem and flags or beams. The typewriter has transporting keys (yellow keys) which transport the carriage, and non-transporting keys (white keys). Each key has two symbols. Three keys are green (keys 8 and 9 of the 2nd key-line and key 3 of the 3rd key-line which are not shown in Fig. 13). These keys are also non-transporting keys and serve, besides their normal task, to print notes on ledger lines.

Some keys have red and black symbols. When typing, only the black signs are printed. The red symbols serve only for better reading of the symbols on the keys. For example, by showing the red staff lines, the copyist could see which note would be printed.

The typewriter had a "scale" or a pointer that denoted where the symbol was to be printed. The carriage could be adjusted up and down to move the paper to the necessary position for printing. This was done by two black keys (roller turn keys) to the left and right of the keyboard. By pressing the left roller turn key, the carriage moved up; and by pressing the right roller key, the carriage moved down. Clefs, sharps, flats, stems, and beams, for example, were set to the middle staff line.

Contents of the original pamphlet that accompanied the Melotyp. (Pamphlet in the private collection of the author.)

The Melotyp Music Typewriter, c.1937

The Melotyp Music Typewriter, c.1937

Melotyp pamphlet

Melotyp pamphlet (cover)

Melotyp pamphlet

Melotyp pamphlet (inside)

Melotyp pamphlet

Melotyp pamphlet (leaflet in pamphlet)

Melotyp pamphlet

Melotyp pamphlet (inside)

Melotyp pamphlet

Melotyp pamphlet (back)

Sheet music printed with the Melotyp

Sheet music printed with the Melotyp

Sheet music printed with the Melotyp

Sheet music printed with the Melotyp

Sheet music printed with the Melotyp

Sheet music printed with the Melotyp

A drawing of the Melotyp keyboard

A drawing of the Melotyp keyboard

Melotyp image sent to Music Printing History

Melotyp image sent to Music Printing History

Melotyp image sent to Music Printing History

Melotyp image sent to Music Printing History

Melotyp

Melotyp