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 :-)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Retro Technica 2011: Catch and Release (American edition)

I have had an awesome typewriter-hunting day today - and I didn't have to leave Geneva to do it, either. My finds were humble, but in nice condition and at fantastic bargain prices: a qwerty portable that might replace its qwertz colleague in my collection if I can bear to part with it; and another Swiss-made portable that is just the thing I needed to send to a special friend. But more on those later, perhaps, right now we have to finish up the pictures from Retro Technica and see which writing machines came out to represent the stars and stripes:

Royal Bar-Lock from approximately 1910. I think I might have seen this last year, as always shown by Stefan Beck, but it's always worth photographing.

The Chicago Typewriter (c. 1892), another gem from Stefan's collection. I believe these were more for display and advertising his museum rather than for sale, but I could be wrong.

Stefan again, with a beautifully restored New Century Caligraph typewriter. He knows what he's doing, I must say.

Bringing up the rear on American-made late 19th/ early 20th century writing machines is this Blickensderfer 7 with a DHIATENSOR keyboard. I never really bother to ask the prices on these ones; it's an "If you have to ask..." thing. You understand. Ok, so on to more "realistic" typewriters:

 Smith Premier No. 10: Not realistic in the sense that I would actually want to buy it, but it may be in a more affordable price range simply because it was not being sold by a typewriter specialist. And it hasn't been restored either, although the decals have been nicely preserved in any case.

Royal Portable, c. 1930, asking price CHF 60. I don't know if I like how boxy it is, but if it had been a different color I might have been tempted. As it was, I scrutinized the typeslugs long and hard to make sure I wasn't passing up a highly desirable "Royal Vogue" typeface, but it looked like a pretty ordinary pica. At that price, also, it wasn't hard to say no.

Remington Remette, c. 1938. It was not so long ago that I yearned for one of these. Those fanned out typebars with exposed typeslugs called out to me, and this is a beautifully-preserved example. But, since I have the Remington Junior, this would have been superfluous. And correct me if I'm wrong, but the metal body on the Remette seems flimsier... Still pretty, though!

Bringing up the rear is this Royal Quiet de Luxe. I found this intriguing because the glass tombstone keys seem far older than the rest of the machine - I believe this model is more often found with green plastic keys. Admittedly, we don't see many of these here, so my American readers would know better.

**Edited to add the best find of the day; which I was so excited to share on here I am mortified that I ended up overlooking it!** :
 This gorgeous maroon Smith Corona Sterling, with immaculate glossy paintwork and yes, really that shiny in person. No one walked by it without taking a second look! This was actually the first one I asked about, and while the CHF 100 price tag sounded steep, I would have to say it was fair given the condition and rarity of the typewriter. However, I am not in the habit of spending that much for my typewriters, so I smiled politely and walked on. Besides, I have a '40s SC Clipper which, while homely compared to this glamorous one, gets the job done just fine. I hope someone snapped this one up!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Retro Technica 2011: Catch and Release (European edition)

Let's get right to it: this is a picture post, after all. With pictures of the European-manufactured typewriters spotted for sale at Retro Technica 2011 (yes, the last post in the series will be about the Americans - a good strong showing this year). First, I will present The One That Got Away:

I really did like this Continental, and I was kicking myself for not having checked it out more thoroughly the first time around (so that if it had, say, an easily-detectable-but-hard-to-fix mechanical fault, I would have felt better about not being able to purchase it). After this one eluded me, I could have chosen either this:

... which was interesting but I don't know if I like the look of all those jagged keys in the type basket! Notice how it has a 0 key but not 1. I'm suffering from black typewriter fatigue, though, so I chose to pass it up. This was a distant third choice:

... although its "teeth" are nice and straight. So, yes, if I really wanted to go home with a Continental I could have had one, but I decided that so much pining after typewriters had to be unhealthy, and I went home to count my many (typewriter-related and otherwise) blessings.

Before I get off the subject of Continental typewriters, here is one more. A standard this time. Ok, now on to another brand:

Princess! A beautiful Princess 300 on Stefan Beck's table (he's a rather well-known collector around these parts). I like Princesses, but I have just one and it is absolutely lovely, so I only have eyes for her.

An identical Princess 300 - oh, wait, this one is blue and its ribbon cover is missing. They always look so sad that way, I find.

And even more Princess - a later one this time, the Princess 500. It looked like this was marketed and sold by the Scheidegger Typing School, and the typeface is the same distinctive print style that my own Princess-Matic has.

The Germans continued their strong showing with this Adler 30 -

As well as this Bing (no visible labels, but I believe that's what this is) -

A very nice Erika 5 that would have been tempting if I had not already received one from Georg ;-)

A rather fetching Triumph Perfekt; whose color scheme perfectly matches my '50s Tippa;

And finally, an Olympia SF. So, between these and the Hermes typewriters already shown, it can be concluded that Switzerland and Germany made a strong showing, which is to be expected, I suppose. France was left out entirely, but there were a couple of Italian contenders:

This three-bank Sabb (again from the collection of Stefan Beck) was made in Milano and is really quite rare, by all accounts.

Whereas this Olivetti Valentine is the exact opposite! Funny how that happens.

The final European was from Sweden, representing the rest of the continent with this lonely Facit:

In a couple of days, we'll see how the Americans stack up...
(Apologies for posting nothing but typewriter sightings lately; there seem to have been so many of them and I know if I don't put them up now I'll never get around to it! After they're all out of the system, I'll see if I can't think of more creative posts.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Retro Technica 2011: Catch and Release (Hermes edition)

Hermes 4 standard, circa

Hermes Media in glossy black finish, circa 1945.

Hermes Media, matte black finish, circa 1951.

Hermes 2000, matte black finish, ribbon cover missing, circa 1955.

Hermes Media 3, curvy shell, mint green, circa 1958.

Hermes Media 3, boxy shell, mint green, circa 1968.

Hermes 3000, boxy shell, mint green, circa 1968.

Hermes Baby, gray with red index keys, circa mid '40s.

Hermes Baby, gray with square keys, circa mid '50s.

Hermes Baby, mint green with square keys and ribbon color selector, circa 1960.

... and so on. There were a couple more that I didn't get good photos of, but you get the idea! It was, as expected, a Hermes extravaganza.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Typewriter Movie - Five Days Left!!! (and market sightings)

So, I have been following the progress of Gary Nicholson and Christopher Lockett's movie project The Typewriter (in the 21st century) with some interest since word of it first spread around the typosphere several months ago. And I am rather jealous that Clemens got to have his day on camera, although I guess I can (sort of) understand that ye olde Schweiz is really far from the U.S., and I will have to settle for the occasional guest spot in Georg's amateur productions :-)

I have also been meaning to donate to their Kickstarter page, which was set up to raise a humble $20,000, with fantastic prizes for all levels of giving from $10 and up. Procrastinator that I am, today was the day I made my way over, and I was shocked to see that there are only FIVE days left! And while my pockets aren't deep enough to help them leap a great deal towards their goal (progress currently at 39%), I signed up nevertheless, a process much less painful than I had anticipated (Kickstarter processes payments through Amazon, where you probably have an account already). I cannot wait to receive my free swag - including a DVD with bonus features! - once the movie is funded and made. The catch is that - as I understand it - the funding goals will need to be met before the pledges are collected. If you haven't done so already, I would encourage you to take a look at the project and think about a donation within your means.

Now, on to a few market sightings from last week - a very productive day, but nothing special enough to warrant the purchase:

Olympia Splendid 66, precursor to the angular SF - beautiful little portable in great condition and I was tempted as always (despite having one already)... but then saved from temptation by the Italian QZERTY keyboard. Whew. Close shave.

Mid-50s grey Hermes Baby typewriter - we have the mint green version of this, and it is a great little typer, so I looked at it with keen interest. Not even to keep, myself, but these days I'm in the market for a Hermes Baby to send to one of my letter-writing pals :-) This came close, but no dice. For one, there were a couple of screws missing and I wasn't sure how easy those would be to find. The worst was that the one type bar you see slightly raised above the others was extremely bent at an awkward angle - there was no way to know if we could fix it without breaking it off entirely, and we decided not to take the risk.

Just a few feet away - another Hermes Baby! An earlier one this time, also grey, but with round keys. Not such a big fan of these ones to be honest; I've always found the square keys more comfortable to write with. I considered asking about this one too, but the paint was rather worn and the whole machine had a musty feel to it. I'd much rather keep looking for a green one anyway, so I walked on.

I think I've shown this Royal Flatbed already - still in the market last week, but it was better positioned so I could grab a good picture of it.

I try not to let myself get tempted by standard typewriters, but this Underwood 5 was a real beauty! Anyone know why the numbers 6 and 10 appear on the paper table? The keys were a bit stiff, but that is to be expected and nothing a careful oiling couldn't take care of. Decals and paintwork in very nice shape.

Olivetti Lettera 12 - one of the latest models Olivetti ever made, and I've always been intrigued by the tapered design; very mod. The huge glaring flaw is that it uses a proprietary ribbon cartridge, which you can see on the right of the type basket. Once that ribbon is spent, good luck trying to find a replacement! Bad move on Olivetti's part, if you ask me.

Non-descript Olympia electric, probably from the '80s. You know, when Rob asked me the other day if anyone noticed me taking pictures of typewriters at the market, I responded that they probably didn't. As I took a picture of this Olympia, though, a nearby seller yelled at me: "Five francs for the picture!" I looked back at him, "Huh?" "Yes," he said with a straight face, "Five francs!". Of course, I just shook my head and walked away. Even if I'd been a naive tourist, I'd have had to be very stupid to fork over money for taking a picture - and truth be told, 5 francs is more than the seller can probably hope to get for the typewriter, hence his frustration. I tried to laugh it off as one of those days. I'll be back next time, of course, taking more pictures. It is harmless, legal, and free - and the day these guys start barking at their customers is the day we all stop visiting, not just me.
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