Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Aarberg flea market: all talk and no typewriters

Held twice a year on the last weekends in April and August, the Aarberg flea market bills itself as "one of the largest" in Switzerland, assembling flea merchants from all corners of the country in an event that has the atmosphere of a fair, complete with food stands every few feet. Attendees hold beer and bratwurst in one hand as they peruse antique wares with the other. Rather convivial, except...

... if you're unfortunate enough to get there on the one day it rains, as happened to us on Saturday. To be fair, it cleared up fairly quickly after we arrived, but the clouds never left and the sellers glanced nervously at the sky every few minutes, shielding their wares with heavy sheets of plastic. It was coming down quite a bit when we first arrived, so I couldn't see much under the plastic and from what I could see, no one had any typewriters. I was about to turn around in despair when I spotted this, a Hermes Baby that had seen such vastly better days it cowered under my disapproving glare.

The fair was in general a bust for typewriter fans - who should really be attending this thing is doll collectors (just about every stand was overflowing with eerily realistic dollhouse furniture). There was also a lot to see for those interested in horology - watches and watch parts made up every fourth stand or so.

While typewriters were not easy to spot, I did manage to gawk at many fine pieces of antique furniture, including several secretaries like this one. Of course, there were many miniature versions too!

By a stroke of luck, I managed to recognize a familiar-looking case on a seller's table, hidden under a pile of stuff. Here, he is showing it to me. I feel bad about asking about it since I don't intend to buy (Hermes Baby fatigue has been mounting for a while now, as you can imagine), but the seller is very nice and doesn't seem to mind.

Does this count as a typewriter sighting? Do these toys even work? All questions I ask myself as I take a picture anyway, vowing not to return to this market with its hodge podge of model trains and cars, antique porcelain and glassware, and various kitsch objects - really, nothing I couldn't find in Geneva on a fine weekend. I try not to think too much about the train fare I spent to get to Aarberg.

The last typewriter sighting of the day - and the best too, as it was neither a Hermes Baby nor a toy. I seriously debated getting this one, if only as a souvenir from Aarberg, but ultimately I decided against it as I am not such a fan of this boxy form factor (the early Royal portables sport a similar aesthetic, as I recall).

An interesting writing-related find: vintage bottles of Gunther Wagner writing ink (he is the fellow who later went on to purchase and build up Pelikan AG). Authentic? Who knows.

There were many more button accordions to be seen than typewriters! They do look sort of similar, one might say...

I was keen to visit Aarberg because I remember Herr Wepf mentioning that he had found many typewriters there, although perhaps I caught them on a bad day. I was so disappointed at the poor showing that I came back home and headed for our local flea market, where even though it was late in the day and everyone was closing up shop, I promptly found this:

Score. Great price, too. I didn't pick it up though; these days I am being stingy about my limited space. While the festive color and non-Hermes-Baby-ness both appealed to me, I couldn't see myself getting very excited about this plastic, carriage-shifted, late model Remington with a half-broken latch. So I left it behind. It was only a single sighting, but it served to remind me that if I just want to take a couple of pictures of typers in the wild, I don't have to go quite as far as Aarberg*!

*A two-hour journey; not unacceptable, but not very close either.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Musings on a Sunday morning

So, a few links to the pages mentioned: Exchange Corner, Visual Typewriter Catalog, Typewriter Index

Sunday morning - the best time to get in some quality typewriter refurbishing time!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

A Dry Spell at the Markets

Incredible but true: for the past couple of weeks, there has been virtually nothing to be found, typewriter-wise, at our flea market. What happened, you may ask? Well, it's August (vacation month), and it's been pretty hot. Many of the vendors are not showing up, and those who do come cower under umbrellas and complain about how the heat is driving away their customers.

A couple of weeks ago, these stenotype machines were all we found after combing the whole market... they count as typewriters, sort of, right?

And then last week, there was this - a bright orange Triumph electric typewriter. Looks just like the Contessa I once had, but bigger.

There was also this Hermes Baby that I considered for a good while, but ultimately decided I was having Hermes Baby fatigue! It was even harder to tear myself away once I discovered the techno typeface, but willpower prevailed in the end.

Disappointed with the yield of typewriter sightings at the flea market, I resorted to the thrift store, which turned up this Adler Gabriele 3000, with Italian qzerty keyboard.

You know it's a slow news day when this is my most interesting find: an Olympia Monica, which is just like an SM-5, but without the tab function.

And that is it! Today, we're off to try our luck at one of Switzerland's largest flea markets. I don't necessarily hope to buy anything, but maybe I'll come back with lots of pictures or at the very least, an interesting story to tell...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lausanne is...

Place de la Riponne, the picturesque setting of the Lausanne flea market. 
An Adler Gabriele 35, our only typewriter discovery of the day. 
A seller's table is devoted entirely to pens, inks, and all sorts of awesome stuff.

 Letter blocks! These look like they would be fun to dip in a big vat of ink and stamp about, don't they?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Rant on Tardy Shipping

 A recent flea market discovery that would be a perfect gift for Mr. Late Shipper.

Whew! I feel much better now that I've gotten this off my chest. Does it take so much effort to send a courteous email, especially after you have received fast and full payment? I don't mind waiting for the package; I just don't appreciate not knowing about the wait. And yet, if it arrives here in relatively good condition I will probably leave positive feedback because I'm a wimp that way (I'll take off a few stars, though). More to come later.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Introducing The Secretary

The secretary at work

The Secretary in her original surroundings, before we hoisted it home at a brisk pace, much to the surprise of onlookers. It is not everyday you see a couple carting a writing desk over the Mont Blanc bridge!

The original dumpster find that started the obsession (cell phone picture, terrible lighting). Isn't it lovely? Unfortunately, I wasn't the only one who thought so. I just tell myself the glass surface wouldn't have worked well for typing, anyway.

It's been a fun couple of days of research, learning about desks! For space - and sanity - reasons, I am not going to be collecting these items, as beautiful and "retro tech" as they may be. However, if you would like to see some examples of writing desks I found interesting, take a look at the Google image search results for bonheur du jour, bureau a gradin, lady's writing desk, secretary desk, and Carlton House desk.

What is your desk like?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Currency Fluctuations and the White/ Tortoise Pelikan M400

Geneva last week was surreal - every day brought a new headline, new speculations, worries about what the overvalued franc meant for Swiss economic stability. People drove across the border to buy furniture, electronics, groceries - the prices, always better, looked infinitely more so.

Newspapers wrote that Swiss supermarkets and shops had been abandoned for French ones, and vendors that had previously accepted euro payments at a fixed rate - like the public transportation system - disabled that feature when it became clear they were pretty much giving away money. I briefly wondered whether I should go across the border to get a new MacBook Pro. It all went to my head, I admit.

Happily, I didn't get too carried away. This lovely pen - and one other item which will be unveiled here in due course provided it arrives safely - were my euro indulgences. Souvenirs, if you will, of strange times indeed. The euro is gaining ground again this week, so the temptation to shop is gone. Just as well!

Oh, and how does the pen write? Very nicely, of course. I find the squared-off gold nibs of high-end pens to be trickier to use than plain old steel nibs; you need to hold the pen *just so* for the ink to flow properly.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Festival of Badges

I never saw a typosphere meme I wasn't keen to join in on! Let's start off with Herr Baggenstos's discreet label on my army-green Hermes 2000. This undoubtedly refers to August Baggenstos, who had a well-known outfit in Zurich and distributed many Hermes typewriters, as you can see on Georg's site. There is still a Baggenstos A. & Co. office machine company near Zurich listed in the phone directory...

Peeking in between the keys of my Underwood Golden Touch, one can see the stamp from Caesar Muggli branded on the bottom of the case. It is a discreet place for the badge, and does not mar the typewriter's appearance in the least.

Muggli apparently also sold my orange Hermes Baby, and again the label is under the ribbon cover, so quite unobtrusive. The Hermes Baby was guaranteed until April '79, and I can't help but notice that the typeface used for filling in the label is none other than Hermes Epoca. (I looked up Muggli in the phone book, but there's no trace of him.)

Signore Mazzoni was not afraid of marring this Adler Tippa with his labels. This one appears on the paper table...

... and here's another one on the back of the typewriter. His aggressive marketing must have paid off, as there is still a Mazzoni Office Supplies company listed in Locarno, and they even have a website at www.mazzoni.ch.

 Moving closer to home, I would be remiss not to mention L. M. Campiche SA, an absolute giant in the distribution of Hermes typewriters in Western Switzerland, judging by the many labels of his I have come across. This warranty, which invites users to bring the typewriter in for cleaning and oiling (hey, I guess they have to make their money somehow) is to be found on my '58 Hermes Baby.

Here it is again, on the back of the same typewriter. There doesn't seem to be a Campiche office machines business in Lausanne anymore, but one wonders if this Campiche is related to the typewriter collector Philip Campiche: http://www.collection-machineaecrire-campiche-hermes.ch/

Back to Zurich, this Hermes 3000 originally came from Armin Conte's shop. However, a phone book search shows no Armin Contes in the office supplies business.

Witzig was very subtle with the label on this boxy metal Hermes 3000. I never noticed it until I went looking! Witzig the office supplies provider appears to still be around and may be visited on www.witzig.ch.

To switch it up, here's the badge on our Olivetti Valentine. We purchased it from Germany, and it seems the original shop was located in Bremen.

Finally, Willy Scheidegger. More of a typing instructor than a repair shop, but still noteworthy. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Splendid Olympia Portable

A rather plain Jane, she is. Still, I'm teaching myself to be restrained and not bust out the can of spray paint just yet. We'll just let it sit for a while and see.

There are some typewriters you bring home not because you're intensely curious about the make/ model/ mechanism, but because they are inoffensive, in working order, fairly portable, and the asking price is far too low to say no. Notagain knows what I mean; his corner of Washington state is flooded with such finds! Occasionally they find their way to Geneva too, hence this one.

If you're one of those who found the later SF to be like typing on a trampoline, I'm afraid this is not much better. How Olympia got away with it is beyond me - and one knows they are capable of better, given the rapid action of the SM-3/4 and the reputation of the SM-8/9. For all that it is well made and so forth, they could have designed the mechanism better.

This week's typosphere meme is documenting repair shops/ typewriter dealers as seen on old stickers affixed to the typewriters. Here is my entry for today. It appears this Olympia Splendid 66 was originally purchased in the Bueromaschinen (office machines) shop of Mr. Romeo Cassani in Basel. The funny thing is that Signor Cassani is very much alive and well according to the address book, and his office machines shop still exists, although they have moved from Theaterstrasse. I shall leave it to our Basel-bound typospherian to provide more details...
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