Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Museo della Macchina da Scrivere, Milan

** Apologies for the typecast quality; looks like the no-scanner experiment is a bit less than ideal. Situation to be rectified shortly :-)**

This Mercedes Addelectra greeted us at the entrance, next to an assortment of pamphlets and (not pictured) copies of Di Donato's autobiographical works.

The reception desk is barely visible, surrounded as it is by typewriters.

A shot of the main room, featuring an impressive collection of Olivettis. Di Donato did not seem to mind duplicates much: there were several Studio 42s, Lexikon 80s, M40s, and M20s. We asked him about the Graphika and he drew a blank - he had never heard of it!

Another view of the main room, with the Hermes section straight ahead.

The Everest corner.

I know; I gasped when I saw her too. Yikes!

A Yost with teaching keys - interesting.

Another colorful keyboard, this time on a Lexikon 80.

This is an ordinary Olympia standard that was refurbished in a rather extraordinary way. I found it fascinating, but Di Donato was rather nonchalant... familiarity breeding contempt, I guess.

Optima Arabic typewriter, with beautiful glass keys. 

This post ends on a bit of a grim note. The typewriter in question is not all that special - in fact, it is downright plain; one of those wedge-shaped plastic electronic typewriters. However, in keeping with the theme of the collection, its owner was newsworthy: Greg Summers, a death row prisoner executed by lethal injection in Texas in 2006. You can read more about him here, and also about his friendship with an Italian schoolteacher and her students in this article from TIME magazine. Here is the typewriter:

Like I did with the typecast at the beginning of this post, Greg chose to write his last letter in script.


  1. Wonderful post as usual, Adwoa!

    It's amazing how you stumble upon a typewriter museum when you least expect it. There seems to be a lot of unique and interesting machines over there. In fact, you already got me with the first photo. Nice. Mod.90 seems to be similar to Royal QDL. And that Yost looks very interesting.

    The mannequin is straight out of a horror movie!

  2. What a wonderful museum. Very nice typewriters, and photographer. The typecast worked fine. Typeface is really nice. The only thing with a typecast by camera is some variation in lighting and perhaps focus or distortion at the edges depending on the lens and whether or not the document and camera can be parallel. Yours shows very little lighting variation and no noticeable optical distortion. Nice work.

  3. Very interesting museum!

    That mannequin looks like she has writer's block, and is also in desperate need of a hair salon.

    From your description, Di Donato is even more fascinating than the machines he displays.

    Altogether a rather "other-worldly" post. Enjoyed!

  4. Some neat stuff! One quick comment for now: that weird-looking Olympia was meant to fit into a special sound-absorbing cabinet. Recently discussed in HBw-Aktuell, the German-language collectors' magazine.

  5. Thanks for sharing the photos and commentary! It looks like a nice place to spend an afternoon. It's sad that none of those typewriters get any exercise.

    I'll have to read Robert Messenger's piece about Everest. Did any them catch your eye?

    When the machines rise up to take over the world, I am pretty sure that Mercedes will be at the head of the pack. That is one impressive hunk of metal.

  6. That sure looks like a great museum. i like the first pic where you can be seen taking it.

  7. Wow! I am surprised and glad you discovered this nice museum just next door! It's rare to see a Mercedes Addelectra in the flesh. And it must be a great source for research on Everests (naturally, Italy) and Hermes. Good to see that one more collector is interested in Hermes, which are usually shunned by "black typewriter collectors", which I have the impression are the majority in Europe. By this I mean collectors who would not touch anything post World War II, because it's not "valuable". The Greg Summers piece shows a great deal of political awareness and dedication to human rights - typewriters can also be that! It reminds me of the Remington portable used by the Scholl siblings.

  8. PS: I just discovered this nice youtube coverage of the museo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40a6b1ODGl4

  9. @lo-tech: There is so much that it is hard to know where to look! I am glad to be able to give you some sense of the place with these pictures. A thorough documentation of all the typewriters in the museo would take up the rest of my blogging career, I'm afraid. Thank goodness Robert Messenger is doing it so I don't have to :-) (Di Donato's collection is different from Messenger's, of course, but it is a difference in focus, not variety or volume...)

    @Bill: Indeed, I'm trying several tricks to get the typecasts at least reasonably readable, if not outstanding in image quality, until a new scanner arrives. This was not my best effort, but I have a few ideas up my sleeve for next time.

    @Cameron: The mannequins were definitely unexpected, although I found it amusing how Di Donato wove intricate stories around them: this shaggy blonde was meant to represent the daughter of a typewriter inventor, who reached an impressive typing speed on her father's invention... or something. It was hard to keep track! And I should say having the back story made the figure even more frightening... wouldn't want to be stuck in that room when the lights go out!

    @Richard: Thanks for the information! What a coincidence that you should have seen this in a collector's magazine; it looked quite peculiar to me and I was sure there was more to the story than Di Donato was letting on.

    @Dwayne: I would have loved nothing better than to peer under the hoods of all the typewriters - including the Everests - to make out their typefaces, but the prospect was daunting with so many of them!

    @notagain: Thank you, I was wondering whether to post it but now I'm glad I did :-)

    @shordzi: Milan is next door, isn't it? You should stop by to visit Di Donato when you are there next; you two would get along well and your good Italian will come in handy! I think Di Donato collects everything without discrimination (within space constraints, of course) - there were very many plastic typewriters to be seen. (At first I read it as "black" typewriter collectors - i.e. me - instead of "black typewriter" collectors. So my first thought was there couldn't be very many of the former, certainly not "the majority in Europe"! But then it became clear :-))

    Thanks for the youtube link; I shall include it in Part II of the museo coverage.

  10. Great! Very interesting, the collection centered around stories. If you're still looking for a scanner, I could recommend the Canon Lide 110, available from Fr. 63.05. Link. Since I stopped photographing my typecasts, it's been working without any problems. Plus, it is powered via USB, means only one cable.

    1. Are you reading my mind, Florian? That is the exact model I ordered a couple of days ago! Waiting for Microspot to deliver... :-)

      I like this nifty new reply feature, by the way!

  11. Another fantastic post! The museum seems to have a good collection (though clearly dominated by the Italian typewriters) and Di Donato seems to be a very interesting person. I've just adored the Olympia that was refurbished in wood.Very handy for reducing the noise! But the mannequin... Creepy :s


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