Monday, October 31, 2011

A Highly Unusual Keyboard (and Other Scary Tales)

Oh, alright. There aren't really any tales of horror, but it seemed apt to threaten some on Halloween. There is, however, a rather unusual keyboard on a Princess typewriter that I came across over the weekend (and if it appears that I do little lately but hunt here and there for typewriters in the wild... mea culpa). I occasionally do other things too, but unless you would be interested in a lengthy discussion on how to make your own soymilk, there's no point in going into that here. (Now that's a scary tale...). But, I digress. The unusual keyboard in question:

What we have here is an AIERTY keyboard. The letters Q and X are on the number row, and there is a umlaut U, all adding to the mystery of the thing. This must have been branded Princess at some point (as opposed to Maritsa), because you can just barely make out the outline of the golden crown logo. I think this might have been a Czech or Polish keyboard, but I'm basing that solely on the fact that WJZCV (bottom row) might appear in a lot of words/ names in those countries. I can't find any trace of an AIERTY keyboard in Beeching or on Google - perhaps one of my readers has some idea?

This was a handsome little machine; all metal including the top cover. I believe it's the Princess 100. I liked the color too and rushed to get a closer look when I first spotted it (I thought it might even be an Antares Parva). It would have been tempting if not for the odd keyboard.

A brief rundown of the other Saturday sightings: this white plastic '70s Hermes Baby with techno pica typeface;

A cute orange Silver Reed (rebranded Brother?);

A shiny black Hermes 2000, that another passerby seemed rather interested in;

A Lettera 32 at the thrift store; (I should also add that I have officially been recognized by at least one of the staff at this store - as we were examining this Lettera he came over and asked, "What? The other one's broken already?" Apparently he remembered that we had already purchased a typewriter from him - more than one, in fact - and was wondering if we were destroying them at a steady pace. I didn't really want to get into the whole collecting bit... I don't know if not being anonymous is a good thing. Sigh.)

Yet another Lettera 32 at the same thrift store, mere inches away. Identical down to the keyboard layout and elite typeface, only this one didn't have a case.

Hermes 2000 in just about pristine condition - you should have seen the case on this thing; it still had the original Hermes tags dangling from it.

Hermes Ambassador in a bit of a sorry state;

Hermes Baby in fantastic condition that came home with us - it was too beautifully-kept to leave behind!

Oh, and another that we did bring back from the market, and that I will write more about later, but I wanted to show a picture in situ:

Not often that you find a qwerty keyboard around here, I can tell you that! So, it looks like I have been more than compensated for last week's minor disappointments... nothing but good typewriter karma this time around :-)


  1. Ooh, that Splendid looks...well, splendid, of course. I don't think I've seen one with that color scheme before.

    And now I'm curious about that AIERTY keyboard! Hopefully someone is able to unravel the mystery for you.

  2. You've got excellent karma, what a fine selection of finds to photograph! I would have been sorely tempted by all of them (except maybe the Silver Reed).

    I sometimes wonder if my recognition by Deseret staff led to their upping the prices of typewriters and stashing them in a locked case. I know they had taken to identifying me as "that guy that looks like one of the Doobie Brothers", and when I got my hair cut, they noticed immediately and commented on it often. I can imagine they also made the connection of my fairly frequent typewriter purchases.

    I wonder if we should be doing our typewriter runs in disguise, switching our appearance often, like spies in enemy territory?

  3. Wow, that is a bizarre keyboard arrangement. It's like running across a car crash - impossible to not look at it.

    I still can't get over how many typewriters you encounter in the wild!

    The black Hermes is pretty in a very functional way. The tiny plastic keys remind me of the 1936 Olympia Simplex I worked on before leaving town. Turns out there is no carriage lock. It should not be that surprising when 30-40 years of inactivity would lead to some seized lubricants. Blog coming...

    The Splendid looks like a cross of the Socialite body with the exact same hammer black that is on my daughter's 1959 SF. Compact and pretty and a very nice find.

  4. Love that black splendid - I'll trade you either the spencerian Royal or the groovy-script Galaxie for it!
    I see it has a 1 key - is it script also?

  5. Hi to all!
    Great blog, nice writing too!
    It could be a Turkish keyboard,
    not a 100% certain though...
    Keep the spirit up!

  6. @LFP: I dithered for a while before getting the Splendid, but the color scheme was what sold me too. I've seen a few of these (I spend waaay too much time on eBay UK), but you are right, they are not common.

    @Ted: I used to pride myself on being easy to spot in a crowd of the usual Swiss folk (so J doesn't lose track of me in a busy place), but now I see that being distinctive has disadvantages! Including the fact that there is no disguise that could possibly help...:( At least no one's stashing typewriters in a locked case here... yet. That's rather drastic!

    @Dwayne: Glad you got your Simplex unlocked! I had no ideas at all on that front, but now that you mention what the problem turned out to be, I remember a similar experience that led to my decision to use WD-40 (knowing fully well it's frowned upon). Hey, it worked.

    I've never seen hammer black on an SF - do you have pictures?

    @notagain: Now you have me in a pickle as I seriously consider your offer :) Maybe let's discuss in a few months? I've barely had time to play with this one; I like to get familiar with typewriters before letting them go. Besides, I will need to make space for either the Royal or Galaxie since neither is super-compact. And sadly, no, this Olympia isn't script - I wouldn't have had to think twice about getting it in that case! Glad I did anyway, though.

    @Kostas: Thanks for your nice comments and for guessing that this might be a Turkish keyboard. Makes sense given the umlauts and cedillas, but I haven't seen another like it to confirm your guess! In the Beeching book, the Turkish layout is given as FGGIOD... yet another baffling arrangement for us qwerty-iers, of course!

  7. The keyboard is very special, indeed: Ü and Ö, but no Ä. I might ask a polish friend.

  8. I agree on the Turkish guess. Notice the keys for i with a dot and without a dot, both used frequently in Turkish.

  9. Hermes Babys ... what's the serial numbers thanks!


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