Tuesday, February 15, 2011

ITAM Typewriter Sightings in Geneva

As though to make me feel better about not having any type-ins to attend nearby, and also to commemorate International Typewriter Appreciation Month, there has been an astounding number of typewriter sightings in Geneva in the past couple of weeks. So many, in fact, that I shall put up pictures now instead of waiting for the end of the month, as I had intended. The above is a lovely yellow Brother that was spotted in a thrift store. It has been relabeled M-Office because it was carried by Migros, Switzerland's largest retailer.

From the same thrift store, a very pale blue Royal Signet. I had never seen this model before and was very intrigued when I spotted its ultra-slim profile in the case, which proved very difficult to take off because it had been broken at some point and the lock was jammed. But pry it open we did - I had to find out what typewriter it was, at least! Very nice, although it's almost wholly plastic. 

Facit TP-1: unremarkable gray color, but reputed to be a good writer. Facits are not all that rare in Geneva, suprisingly, and I see many more of them around than Japys or Olympias, although France and Germany are our neighbors.

This Saturday, the flea market yielded a bumper crop of new sightings. The very first was this hard-to-miss sunny yellow Beaucourt 441, another rebranded Brother typewriter. The name Beaucourt comes from the town where the Japy factory was located in France, and it seems their later machines carry this label - although it is doubtful whether Japy was still making its own machines by the time this one would have been released sometime in the '70s. In fact, as Paillard (the manufacturer of Hermes typewriters) bought out Japy in '71, who released this machine, a direct competitor to the '70s Hermes Baby? Hmm... *strokes chin*. 

Well, I'll leave that up to a more accomplished historian (hi, Will!). Next up on the list of sightings is a Mercedes portable from Germany, probably made in the '20s. It was in fine condition, and had a Swiss-German keyboard which is not apparent from my picture (taken in very strong sunlight).

A few feet away, another Mercedes! This time a standard typewriter which looks to be from the turn of the century (or 1910-ish at the latest), with a French keyboard. Not in great condition, but certainly not unsalvageable either. 

First Hermes sighting! I was beginning to worry... This one was in excellent condition, with a large elite typeface (11 characters per inch, which I deduced from looking at the ruler). 

Cutest find of the day: this Underwood 315, pica typeface, with a pretty color scheme and accompanying typing instruction book published by Payot, a Swiss bookstore. For the most part, I no longer bother to ask about the prices of typewriters, since I have a general idea what the response will be ($10 to $30) and I don't want to give the sellers false hope that I might be buying. However, J was already talking with the seller about a Tivoli Audio PAL radio, so I snuck in a question anyway and the answer was within the range I had envisioned: $15.

Here's an Adler Primus that looked - externally - like it had been sitting in a damp basement for 50 years. Once I opened the case it seemed decent, but still quite musty.

Next to the Primus was this poor old Continental Standard that I am positive was fished out of the depths of Lake Geneva just that morning. Look at this thing! You'll find this picture in the dictionary right under "rust bucket".

There are some days I wish I was the curator of a typewriter museum - one where everyday is a type-in and visitors can use all the machines as they wish. In this fantasy, I would also be given permission to acquire the best typewriters I find while out and about, like this Underwood Noiseless Portable which I could barely tear myself away from. It looked to be in immaculate condition! In fact, given the absence of any logos on the front of the typewriter, I was not sure what it was, but recalled that my friend Georg had a similar machine on his website. Sure enough, here are some pictures of his identical Underwood Noiseless.

I was not the only one entranced by the gleaming typewriter - this little boy kept calling out loudly to his mother to come and take a look. Sadly, she ignored him. Ah, well. 

This Remington Standard 12 was the last typewriter sighted on Saturday. A rather handsome end to a very fine morning!


  1. That Underwood was beautiful! I don't know if I could have come home without it.

  2. What's that next to the Mercedes portable, with the scalloped paper tray and open frame?

  3. Gosh, that Underwood Noiseless is haunting me, Adwoa! You shouldn't have posted that close-up photo... I once found one in the wild, but it was in a much less satisfactory condition. This one looks like it came straight out of the factory!... Amazing find.

  4. Poor little boy! He deserves that Underwood (or Remington!) Noiseless.

  5. Is dactylographie how you say "typing" in French? That's such a cool word!

    I continue to be amazed by just how many typewriters you see while out and about. Granted, not all inspire envy. That poor Continental!

  6. I was struck by "dactylographie" too. great set of pics. I would have picked up the little Mercedes myself.

  7. Deek - You have no idea! So this is what celibacy feels like... I'm a bit consoled knowing that what with its beautiful condition and the other art objects the seller was offering, he would not have parted with this one for less than $100. Not an unfair price, but I'm afraid I've been spoiled.

    Alan - The open frame typewriter is a Japy that I already documented in my December round-up of Geneva typewriter sightings (you should come by often, I do one of these at least once a month! So much fun...) Just scroll down this post: http://genevatypewriters.blogspot.com/2010/12/2010-my-year-in-typewriters.html

    Ruy - Why must I be tortured alone? I like to spread the wealth...

    Richard - Perhaps what we're witnessing here is a young Mr. Polt in the making? He might remember this moment and grow up to be a prolific typewriter collector... one would hope!

    LFP - Indeed, dactylographie is the French word for typing. I was sort of tempted by the book, but the only picture was the front cover - the rest of it was a bunch of dreary business typing exercises, and all in French. Yawn...

    As for all the typewriters, they haunt me too - why is no one else interested??? Some of them return week after week... although I think the worst fate is met by the standard typewriters and overpriced portables; eventually most of them do disappear from the market, so they were hopefully sold while I wasn't looking.

    Peter - Thanks! The Mercedes is nice, but not nearly as pretty as Alan's Underwood portable (http://machinesoflovinggrace.com/large/UwoodPort31.jpg), which it shares a design with.

  8. ... and here is a promise: we shall have a type-in in Plainpalais, or even better, the Bains des Pâquis, no later than Spring!

  9. Wow! My vote is for the Bains des Paquis, it has better views. Although the flea market is in Plainpalais... hmm. Let me know how we can make this happen :)

  10. The Portuguese word for typing is similar – dactilografia - even though I prefer the Spanish mecanografía.

  11. Japy stopped typewriter production around 1976.

  12. I have the Signet, pale blue and all, and I just checked it with a magnet. It's steel. Flimsy as it is, the magnet stuck. And I got a Royal Mercury, built along the same lines. That cheeky model flouts a 1 and ! key as well as a + and = key! Also steel.

  13. I have the Signet, pale blue and all, and I just checked it with a magnet. It's steel. Flimsy as it is, the magnet stuck. And I got a Royal Mercury, built along the same lines. That cheeky model flouts a 1 and ! key as well as a + and = key! Also steel.

  14. I had the Signet Royal Portable Typewriter back in the Philippines and that was the typewriter I used to write my manuscripts with! The cover is made of hard, durable plastic but the typewriter itself is made of metal and quite heavy. Seeing it again in pictures, I wish I had brought it to Colorado with me instead of leaving it behind.


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