Typing in triplicate! Pretty scary stuff! From Chapter 17 of Dracula (1897).
Dracula consists of documents. Diaries and letters, with the occasional newspaper clipping thrown in, strung together in chronological order. One clever result is that the reader always knows more than the characters, for most of the book, at least. Until heroic Mina Harker, exemplar of modern womanhood, master of the sciences of shorthand and typing, gathers together all of the relevant materials and - sensitive readers should look away - types them up. In triplicate. And then she collates them. Stoker neglects to mention her use of color-coded mini-PostIt notes, or what binderization system she employs. Then the vampire-hunters have a meeting in a conference room. Mina takes minutes, which she later types and distributes.
For many readers, this will be the most terrifying scene in Dracula. Look at that primitive technology. Only three copies for six characters. They do not each get their own takeaway. They have to share.
So the next thing that happens in the actual plot of the book about vampires is that everyone reads the big pile of documents, the same documents that the reader has already gone through, Chapters 1 through 16 of Dracula. By lining up the dates of the different diaries, various discoveries (which the reader already knows) are made which help move the plot forward. Count Dracula, understanding that this paperwork is a wood-pulp stake aimed directly at his heart, invades the office and throws it all into the fire.
Here I interrupted. "Thank God there is the other copy in the safe!" (Ch. 21)
Sometimes Dracula is kind of a stupid book. I haven't even mentioned the scene where the heroes hire a locksmith. I promise, kids, next week's movie will be really scary.
By the time Stoker wrote Dracula, the novel-of-documents was an old device. Rarely, though, do the documents themselves play such a direct role in the story. Samuel Richardson got caught up in the same thing in Pamela (1740), where poor kidnapped Pamela often seems more worried about her supply of paper and pens than escaping her kidnapper. And I now remember that Robinson Crusoe "could not make any ink by any means that I could devise" (Ch. 4). Mostly, though, authors set up the "actual document" premise and then discreetly ignore it. Not Bram Stoker.
Tomorrow, I'll take a useless stab at figuring out what this book is good for.