Sunday, May 8, 2011

Typecast: Discovering the collection of Herr Wepf

Yesterday, Georg of kindly took me to see Herr Alfred Wepf, a renowned Swiss typewriter collector who resides near Lucerne, smack dab in the middle of ye olde Switzerland and thus far, far away from Geneva (we are practically in France, you see). However, having struck up a correspondence with Herr Wepf and salivated over his collection from afar (he sent me actual 3x5s of a few of his display clusters, as above), I was eager to embark on the three-hour train ride that would bring us to his house of marvels. And what a day it was!

After showing us his impressive collection, comprising shelves crammed so full of rare treasures that I could barely take them all in, we retired to the dining table to engage in some actual hands-on activity. Among the typewriters I had spotted peeking out from the dimly-lit shelves were a Barlock, Gundka, Bennett, Corona 3 and 4, Rofa, Smith Premier 10, Remington Noiseless standard, Olivetti M1, Sun Standard No. 2, Bing.... well, you see where this is going. It was great that everything was available to be handled and typed on - as long as you could clear some space on a desk and set it down, you could type on it. We didn't have time to play with everything, of course, but Georg insisted I give the Williams pictured above a try to examine its famed "grasshopper" action. I was happy to oblige.

Once we had moved to the dining table, we found a good selection of typewriters to play with, including this Oliver 9 (marked Courier). Conveniently, it had a qwerty keyboard, and never one to miss an opportunity, I rolled in some paper and went about a typecast:

As you can see, after a few lines on the Oliver, I absolutely insisted on some frakturschrift, and so Alfred brought me the Olympia. Now, when I heard he had a fraktur typewriter, I had been picturing a '20s Rheinmetall or Erika or Continental - something hefty and dark and brooding, to fit in with the somber typeface. What emerged was anything but:

It wasn't until after I had finished the typecast, complaining that the small "c" looked more like a "ch", that I realized that the actual "c" was located on the "4" key. Oh, well.

A macro shot of the fabulously ornate script.

Next up was this Mignon index typewriter, fitted with an italic type wheel. Beautiful to look at and interesting mechanism, but it took me a very long time to compose a couple of sentences! I couldn't wait to move on - sure, these were very popular in their day, but I can confirm that once you go qwerty, it's very hard to look back!

This Patria, with its snappy feel and conventional keyboard, provided a welcome respite. However, after I had tired of the small 13cpi typeface, I moved on to the best of the day:

A Continental standard! An absolute luxury, this one. I was very happy to finish out the typecast on it.


  1. WOW!! I'm jealous and happy for you at the same time. What a cool day out.

  2. Yeah, trying to touch type on a three bank like the Oliver is a feat. I basically still touch type but only with three fingers of my right hand on the home row.

    Unfortunately, my Oliver's platen is pretty hard and my fingers get sore after about a page...

  3. A very enjoyable virtual tour. The Fraktur is amazing. Thanks!

  4. Thanks, I really enjoyed this post. Such beauties.

  5. Ah! So, now you know the joy that is Oliver! I bet it's ruined you for anything else ... except the frakturschrift Olympia! The fraktur is what I am truly envious of! (Pardon, OF which I am truly envious!) That's a machine I would really love to have. Might even trade an Oliver for one! A great post and a great tour!


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