Sunday, October 21, 2012

Highlights of the Year, and a Teeny Tiny Souvenir

The seller claimed it was 70 years old, and I think he might be right: this exact printers' block seems to have been used for Paillard ads like this one

For scale, here it is next to J's discovery: a yellow Victorinox Alox First Mate (Swiss Army Knife with marlinspike).

If you are wondering what the actual Hermes 2000 that this die was modeled on looks like, Richard has one on his site photographed from a remarkably similar angle: 

And here is the engraving, a very close mirror image of Richard's picture. Anyone know how best I can get a good print from this? Obviously naively treating it like a rubber stamp is yielding suboptimal results...

Thursday, October 18, 2012

An Enchanting Find: Olivetti Lettera 22 (Pink)

Yikes, *celebrate* is what I meant to type.

Here is the Lettera 22 as spotted in the wild; the blue board bears the name of the flea market seller I purchased it from. (Behind it you can catch a little glimpse of an Elna Grasshopper I left behind; I have one already that I will show off soon.)

Thank you all for your guesses, by the way - some very interesting choices! I think an Olympia SF would have been more likely to find overall (since it's European-made and generally more common here). But a Royal QDL, as lovely as that may have been, would have been too large for me to carry home (while stopping to grocery shop on the way) - not that it would have stopped me from trying!
Here is the case, still very well preserved. Is it just me, or is the zipper pink as well? Talk about attention to detail!

When I brought this home, I immediately looked up "pink Lettera 22" to see how many there were out there. Turns out: not very many, at least in this shade of pink. There have been a few sold on eBay UK in the past few years, and Robert Messenger also has one that he sold earlier this year.

The thing about all those eBay UK and Robert's pink Letteras, is that they were made in the Glasgow factory (by British Olivetti). Now, it seems they had a vat of paint that was significantly darker than what their colleagues in Ivrea were using. As you can see, Robert's Lettera is a dark salmon pink, too different to be merely a change in lighting conditions.

It's been a while since we found an Olivetti made in Ivrea; a lot of Barcelona makes have passed through our hands more recently. Nothing against Spain, of course, but I like to be authentic and so this was a welcome bonus.

A closer look at the bubblegum-pink color (more of a dusky rose, actually) and classic round keys ( I have noticed that the Lettera 22s made in Glasgow had square keys for some reason).

In the interest of full disclosure, these pictures have been over-exposed ever so slightly, as the light was rapidly fading when I had time for a photoshoot. Still, the end result shows the color of the typewriter as it would be in full daylight (take a look at the market picture for comparison).

The original guarantee dated 30 June 1960, showing the serial number (it matches up) and the place of purchase: Grands Magasins Innovation SA. I looked up the store and found out it was in the center of Geneva on the Rue du Rhône (present day Globus) and went bankrupt after a fire ravaged the premises in December 1995.

Instructions for first use: "How to free the machine from the cardboard and paper packing."

Front page of the brochure that came with it, showing two other colors of the Lettera 22. This makes four that I know of: pistachio green, blue, pale pink, and taupe/ tan. However, the Glasgow factory also produced salmon pink and teal Letteras, which I will take to be variations of the pale pink and pale blue.

Another page of the brochure shows an ad for the Lettera 22.

And the last page shows the typewriter's special features, as well as the list price (I think) of CHF 328.- The 198 written in pencil is - I believe - referring to the list price of the Skyriter (written on the brochure I found in the case, which I shall post later), and so the buyer probably made the note in order to compare the two.

A couple of pages from the manual here -

No need to post the whole thing since it is in French and the English version can be found easily online (for example on this site).

Whew! And now that she has made her debut, little Miss Lettera is packed safely off to rest. As you may have noticed from the typecast, she came with an ordinary pica typeface and I have fitted a blue cotton ribbon. It would have been just too perfect to find a portable that was both pink and script, but as I have other lovely script machines to use, I don't mind too much.

It has been a while since I came across a find this thrilling - well worth breaking my vows of typewriter chastity! Now fingers crossed that Retro Technica this weekend will not test my resolve any further...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Market Sightings: The Importance of Lying Fallow

As I said in my previous post, it has been a while since I visited the Geneva market. In fact, I have not been there in an entire month, since before leaving for Milan. With the sun out this morning and - finally - a few hours with which to explore, I headed off with high expectations. And it did not disappoint; I even BOUGHT something. Yes, me. BOUGHT. A new typewriter. Breaking nearly a year's fast. So naughty, and yet... so exciting!!!

But, more on that later. For now, here is the run-down:

In this post on the blog back in July, I wrote about a Mignon typewriter that has been appearing at the market on and off, from the same seller, for at least the past two years. Well, it was back today! This time accompanied by a Gundka typewriter...

The nice thing about staying away for a month, even inadvertently, is that almost everything is new, not the same old thing dragged out over and over again (well, except for the Mignon). Here, a Facit portable with an impossibly cheery original brochure. Now I'm curious as to what was in it; I should have flipped through the pages at least. Maybe next time.

This was the second-best sighting of the day (I bought the first one :P). An absolutely pristine, teal / turquoise Olivetti Studio 45. Techno typeface, complete with brushes, cover, manual, all the works... ten bucks. Yep, you read that right. I almost wept.

Just a closer look to rub it in - by the way, the case also had its key intact. I justify leaving this behind for three reasons: 1. plastic 2. quite large 3. techno... meh. But that color! It is just brilliant, really; I can't stop looking at it. So pretty. Of course, the design aesthetic is superb as well... but you'll have heard that from Ton already.

A QWERTY keyboard Hermes Baby! These do not come along often, I can assure you. I looked at it for a good, long while, but walked away for three reasons: 1) I was already carrying my purchase and could not possibly get another; 2) gray, and pretty drab at that; 3) Hermeses are rather common around these parts... It looked pretty well-used, but not too bad; and of course there was that comfortingly familiar English keyboard. Sigh.

A yellow "topless" (ribbon cover missing) M-Office typewriter (originally a Brother) hangs out with a couple of sewing machines.

Before I get on to sewing machines, and while we are on the subject of typewriters, we were briefly in Zurich last Saturday and made a point of visiting the flea market at Bümpliplatz. Somewhere on this crowded table, there is a typewriter... do you see it?

Here it is - a shiny, beautiful, Remington No. 3. Prices were rather high, so I was happy just to look. I have to say, after my luck in Geneva these past years, I have found that it is just not worth typewriter hunting anywhere else. We have the variety, the reasonable prices, the odd languages... it's not called Typewriter Paradise for nothing!

It was a fairly large market, but there was only one other typewriter to be spotted: a yawn-worthy Royal 10. Back to Geneva, I say! We put on a much better show. Or perhaps I just caught Zurich at the wrong time; now that we have Florian as a regular "correspondent" from that city, we should get more accurate updates on the availability of typewriters in the wild there.

A little detour - in the market today there was this jumble of upholstery fabric scraps, being offered for awfully high prices. I looked through a bit, but what caught my eye was this:

I can just imagine the proprietor of the store where this came from carefully typing those tags all those years ago... perhaps on a Hermes typewriter, too. Lovely thought!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Annotated Miscellany - Typewriters Here and There

Forgive me for not writing a proper typecast. For all my love of retro tech, I found myself awfully put out last week when our internet connection died; and I am overjoyed that the techs at Swisscom restored it before the weekend so I did not have to spend my time off work hunting for public wifi access spots. The funny thing was when I called the help line and they asked me if my telephone was working - what telephone? Yes, there is a connection for a land line included in our monthly bill, but we have never owned an actual phone and I don't even have one around the house for testing purposes. It even has a number! Which I found myself scrambling to retrieve when I needed to call the phone company...

 These pages are from a book I was delighted to discover in an Italian bookshop last month. "Techno Vintage" did not disappoint; the very first chapter is on typewriters! However, these black and white pictures are not doing justice to their subjects.

The gorgeous eggshell blue of the Lettera 22, and the bright red of the Valentine are completely lost in these pictures. Pity.

A bit of redemption here, with the red Valentine poster displayed in all its monochromatic glory. Still, it could have been a stunning book but falls rather short.

Moving on to actual typewriters spotted in the actual wilderness - I came upon this SG-3 last month on a very rainy day, lying in the midst of bushes by the side of the street. The paper rolled around the platen had "Gratuit" (Free) written on it, but that was washing off fast and it was obvious no one had taken the bait.

I leaned down to pet it a bit and look wistfully; it occurs to me that this is the first SG-3 I have come across in the wild, and I do wish we had met under better conditions. Then I saw a few slugs and snails had sought shelter under it and I scurried off with a shriek...

Yes, in Geneva it (almost) literally rains typewriters... a shame, as I know this SG-3 is highly-regarded by many writers. My friend Deek over at Type Clack comes to mind...

A day after the first sighting, I saw it again. This time, moved into a more sheltered spot where it waited for the removal truck in the company of some stained couches. I can only save so many typewriters from the trash, you know.

Speaking of one man's trash and all that - here is a look in the shop window of a printer store in downtown Geneva, offering an Olympia Traveller C (far inferior in quality to the SG-3) for a whopping 200 francs. To be fair, I cannot imagine they are moving many of these units in any case; this is the only store I have come across in Geneva actually claiming to sell (at least one) new manual typewriter.

At a garage sale, a lady was keen to offer me a good price on this late '70s Royal when she noticed my interest. "Oh, no, Ma'am", I waved her off, "I do not find my life at present devoid of typewriters. You have no idea." She backed down graciously.

And here's one for the "should-have-got-it-just-because-but-successfully-resisted" archives: this pretty nice-looking orange Hermes Baby. Still kicking myself, but only half-heartedly. No special typeface, but still, these don't turn up so often. And from the looks of that shiny white space bar, it had seen limited use. Oh, well.

Looking forward to returning to the flea market this weekend; it has been ages what with travel, and bad weather, etc. Fingers crossed for clear skies on Saturday! I think this has been the longest stretch (six weeks?) without hunting; I do hope to spot something intriguing after the long wait.

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