Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Olivetti Lettera 35 Taupe Portable Typewriter (1970s)


This is a tale of two Lettera 35 typewriters. Here is the one we purchased in Switzerland, with a QWERTZ keyboard, and proudly added to our Olivetti stable. A few weeks later, we spent a weekend in Paris, and what did we discover in the thrift store, neglected and abandoned and incredibly dusty, but another Lettera 35? In the land of azerty keyboards, that one was a qwerty - a Spanish qwerty too, no less, which had somehow made its way to Paris by way of the Venezuelan consulate. What a story! So, we brought it back with us, and that remains our souvenir of the City of Lights.


And so, we now have two identical machines. This notwithstanding, the Lettera 35 is a fine Olivetti specimen - the taupe/ beige body is built entirely of solid cast aluminum. The features are fairly standard for Olivetti-made machines of that period: basket-shifted, tab functionality, and square white keys that are reminiscent of the Underwood 319.


The "rabbit ear" paper support is also classic Olivetti. In addition to the 35, Olivetti would later manufacture a 35L which was the same machine but in a slightly smaller shell.


This is not a light ultra-portable by any means, but it is well-made, solid, and a pleasure to use.


The font is a 10 character per inch pitch serif typeface that I would describe as Roman. The machine writes very well indeed.


In keeping with the rugged nature of the machine in general, the case is also very utilitarian. It reminds me of those shock-proof iPhone cases, only on a much larger scale. Only problem is that it's hard to tell which way is up! Fortunately, Olivetti has etched in a handy little arrow.

18 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing this. I have one much like this, but with a plastic body, made in Mexico, which I got for my daughter. Good typer.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is one of the Spanish-made ones, I believe from 1972. I was surprised when we disassembled it to find out just how small the mechanism is compared to the huge body. Interesting design, that's for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mine didn't come with a case. Nice to see it, tho. Was wondering how someone was supposed to cart it around.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I bought a great Olivetti Lettera 35L today at an estate sale in Dallas. It is in perfect condition, taupe, but without a case. It cost me $6.50. I saw one on ebay today for $149.99.

    Mine types very well. I really found a treasure.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I have this exact model a good friend passed down to me. It was given to him as a gift from his father over twenty years ago. It's been used only once, but it has collected dirt over the years. Does anyone have any advice on cleaning?

    ReplyDelete
  6. Usually cotton swabs and rags moistened with mild soap work well for the exterior.
    Brushes, compressed air and a final touch of light oil are safe for the mechanism.
    To see how I disassembled and cleaned this machine, please see the pictures at the following link: http://picasaweb.google.com/jacopo.bagalini/L35#

    ReplyDelete
  7. HI! I am interested in buying the Lettera (beatiful paint job)! How much is it and do you ship to Denmark?

    Best, Caroline

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello Caroline,

    The Lettera 35 has just been sold, unfortunately. I might have some others for sale, though - if you would like a list, please email me at genevatypewriters@gmail.com. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I have an Olivetti 25 made in Mexico, that I bought about two years ago..new. Doesn't look like the 35, but it's basket shift, comes with a plastic tote style bag. Re: the widely circulated story about the Indian company with the last typewriters in the world, new ones, that is...I wonder if this Senor Olivetti 25 is still being made...DAVE KINCHEN

    ReplyDelete
  10. I just bought one of these and I am wondering what the lever on the left side of the keyboard is for. (I'm afraid to press it and find out myself.)

    ReplyDelete
  11. @Kayleigh - go right ahead! I promise it won't bite. According to the manual, it is the tab clearing lever. The annotation reads:

    "To clear individual [tab] stops, move the carriage to the stop that is to be cleared, then depress the tabulator setting and clearing lever. To clear all stops, hold down the tabulator setting and clearing lever and move the carriage left and right to the full extent of its run."

    The tabulator setting lever is the bright red button.

    Hope this helps!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I just bought this model at an estate sale, and it has a very unusual type font. It almost looks like cursive lettering. Do you know anything about this font or whether it was standard on this model or an option? It does not look like the page you have published above.

    Brock

    ReplyDelete
  13. como pongo el numero 1.!
    Me urge!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Well. I bought my original Olivetti Lettera 35 way back in 1981/82 when I was in Hong Kong. Believe with the sturdy black case the machine is even now brand new with its plastic cover still on. I have used very sparingly and I am sure one day it would become a 'collector's' 'genuine' item. And I am proud of my OL35!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Got mine from my granddad. I don't even know if it still works. I only keep it for sentimental value. My one was made in Spain.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Got mine from my granddad. I don't even know if it still works. I only keep it for sentimental value. My one was made in Spain.

    ReplyDelete
  17. finally fixed up my Olivetti Lettera 35l that i found in a thrift shop in Chicago, IL USA. is it weird that it doesn't have a 1 or ! key? haha! i love it either way! mine was made in Mexico.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I have an Olivetti 35l that I bought new I don't know how long ago from a mail order house. It has the aluminum body and is a really tough little machine. I used to use it at work (a machine shop) to write notes to my day shift opposite and the thing has lived through a greasy and oily atmosphere and never let me down. I've retired it to the house and replaced it with an awful Chinese made Royal that does the job, but without the savior-fare. I still use the 35l more than my other machines.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...