Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Underwood 19 Ivory Portable Manual Typewriter (1970s)

This is an interesting one. The label may say Underwood, but it was manufactured by the Antares company in Italy who were operating under license from Olivetti. This Underwood 19 is an Antares machine through and through, and despite the label, the form factor and mechanism betray its origins. The four markers behind the margin sets are for setting tabs, and while it may seem crude to have them so visibly on display, I find they are much easier to use, especially for beginners. I would need several hours to figure out and set tabs on my Hermes 2000.

While it may bear some passing resemblance - particularly on the side profile - to a Lettera 32, the Underwood 19 is quite flat (7 cm or 2.75 inches at the thickest part). Like other Antares machines, it is carriage-shifted, in contrast to the Lettera's basket shift. The ribbon-color selection is by means of a very discreet lever next to the ribbon vibrator, in the style of the Japy/ Patria machines. This machine is also very lightweight, as the body is made wholly of plastic. The matte finish on the exterior means that it is scratch-resistant and quite easy to clean.

You don't often find the country of manufacture stamped into the plastic! But this Underwood/ Olivetti/ Antares wants to stand out.

The font is a crisp pica, 10 characters per inch. Typing action is great - no complaints on that front. The square keys are peculiar, but you get used to them quickly.  What you have here is essentially a solid, no-frills machine that may look plain but gets the job done.

 My favorite part, though, is the case. While Olivetti's vinyl constructions weaken with time - and this is no different - the shape of it clearly says "stylish and portable!". The dark brown case with gold-colored accents is really quite aesthetically pleasing and very subtle as well. Not bad at all.


  1. i bought myself an Underwood 19 yesterday on e-bay for $44 shipped. it kinda called to me and ink ribbons are cheaper than ink cartridges for printers :P i found a stationary shop that sells some lovely typing paper and am brimming with excitement for my machine to arrive :) im not sure if it's the perfect place to ask but are there any things i should know about the particular model?

  2. Antares! What's the serial number? Thanks!

  3. I'm not the same Chris as above. :)

    My 19 seems to be made mostly of metal with pebbled/textured paint (U-908412-014). The keyboard is dark grey and doesn't have any red keys. The margin guides and tab stops are all black.

  4. what is about the serial number? i have one also...


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