Sunday, September 4, 2011

Senta 3-Bank Portable Typewriter (c. 1926): Frakturschrift

I have been reading much more about frakturschrift and blackletter fonts in general than about the Senta in particular; in fact, I can't say I would have gotten a Senta if it were not for this one's intriguing typeface! Nevertheless, I'm glad she's in such good shape, with intact rubber feet and no rust to speak of. Early Senta 3-bank portables came in a large molded wood case; fortunately this one arrived in a much more practical square suitcase.

There is also a German website devoted to nothing but blackletter: I read through this thread on their forum about the elusive search for fraktur typewriters, helpfully - if a bit clumsily - translated by Google.

I found out that the definitive book on blackletter was written by Judith Schalansky in 2008; the Amazon reviewers seem to like Fraktur Mon Amour too. Something to put on my wishlist, if just to leaf through - it is more about digital fraktur typefaces, though I'm sure she must mention typewriters at some point.

Speaking of digital fraktur, you can download a font made from a fraktur typewriter's typeface at this link:


  1. Oh. My. Gosh. Eye-popping!! Congratulations!

  2. Wauw, that's a really nice and special font! Not so easy to read, but who cares! :)

  3. That's a real collector's piece for so many reasons. Unfair, I know, but I can't look at that font without thinking about WW2 German graphics and the way they are appropriated as a visual short cut for any book or film with a specifically WW2 theme. And I'd wondered if Frister and Rossman made typewriters like Seidel & Naumann did - and now I know. The factory drawing on the table looks great, I don't think I remember seeing that on other makes.

  4. Wow, that is a shiny new toy. Some of the curves on that machine look surprisingly modern!

  5. To follow up with a more intelligent comment: I am really impressed with the fine condition of the machine and the beauty of the type.

    Some of the unusual characters are combinations of letters: tz, sz (ß), ck, st, ch.

    I don't yet have a Fraktur machine. I suppose my dream would be a proportional Fraktur typewriter that I hear Ideal produced in the '30s.

  6. That's a worthwhile splurge especially at a favorable exchange rate! I love the sculptural design.

  7. Thanks for the nice comments. Part of the reason I am always so keen to get my hands on the unusual stuff is so I can put up good pictures and a clear (and extensive) type sample which others can later find via Google. There are a few frakturschrift schreibmaschinen out there, I'm sure, but it's awfully hard to find high-resolution pictures of them or their type samples.

    @schrijfmachine: Indeed, not so easy to read! I'm working on cleaning up the ligatures and all the other typeslugs too, but it does take some getting used to.

    @Rob: In fact, the German authorities outlawed fraktur in 1941, denouncing it as "Jewish letters". The recent resurgence in its use has been attributed to digitalization, and you can read the abstract of an article written on the subject here:

    @Winston: Yes, on the other hand it also reminds me of the folding Corona 3 and the folding Erika too... I keep expecting the carriage to fold down!

    @Richard: That Ideal proportional Fraktur typewriter is quite a dream! I have never heard of it, but I'm finding it fascinating learning about all the German typewriter brands and their versions of fraktur machines.

    @notagain: I got lucky with the timing, I must admit! I don't mind spending more on collectables that will keep their value, and (hopefully) this will for a while.

  8. The question of the political connotations of typefaces is very interesting. Thanks for the reference, Adwoa. I have been reading a little about the "Frakturstreit." According to German Wikipedia, Hitler criticized Fraktur in the name of his imperialist vision as early as 1934:

    "In a hundred years, our language will be the language of Europe. The lands of the East, the North, and the West will study our language in order to understand us. The precondition is that our so-called Gothic type will be replaced by the type that we have so far called Latin."

  9. Thanks for the additional information, Richard! It is ironic that what some now think of as the quintessential German typeface was so reviled there only a few years ago. History can be funny that way sometimes...

  10. Wow, not only a fetching machine, but a great font and a surprising history lesson (seriously, at least in the States, Fraktur is just about synonymous with Germany circa WW2 - to find out that the Nazis considered it to be a "Jewish" typeface is baffling). So shiny and in such nice shape too! (:

  11. Thanks for all the info and photos about this amazing machine. A quick question about the frakturschrift: do you have any idea why, with the letters so mind-blowingly baroque, the numbers, plus the percent sign and ampersand, are not similarly inclined? Rob

  12. Simply another 'thank you' for the fascinating history from you all. The machine is just mind-blowing, so lovely. I am a new collector and particularly interested in both German machines and typeface variance. This made my day!

  13. @rn: Your guess is as good as mine on this point! Perhaps a (belated) attempt at legibility? Some of the letters are hard enough to tell apart as it is, I can only imagine what an ampersand would look like rendered in real frakturschrift :)

    @danishchair: It is always an honor to enlighten a newcomer, and I am glad I could show you something interesting. I am a big fan of typefaces as well and you'll find a few intriguing ones if you poke around the blog a bit. Thank you, you made my day as well!

  14. I am so insanely jealous of this typewriter! If the typeface is rare in Europe, it is probably nonexistent in the U.S.

    My fourteen year old agrees that this would be the perfect typeface for horror stories.

  15. I got a machine with a suitcase but often not so nice printing

  16. This specimen must be worth a pretty penny and it beats hands down my Erikas 5 and 8. What I would like to know though is how come Geneva is this hot bed of interesting typewriters?? It makes the offerings in England and Sweden seems really humdrum. I guess that what’s currently available in Europe and America hasn’t been stirred around by the collectors yet… …which is nice in a way but also frustrating.

    I think it’s time you compiled a book on typewriter collecting! Collecting typewriters, like we see it today, is a fairly new occurrence. Would you agree? I mean, apart from the very early typewriters, probably?

    1. Oh, I definitely did not find this in Geneva! It came all the way from Berlin, won in a hotly-contested auction for a pretty penny, as you say :) These aren't very easy to find.

      I'm sure there's a book somewhere in this typewriter collecting adventure, I'm just not sure what form it should take or if I'm the one to write it...

  17. For auctions, never ever enter into a bidding war; just use (n.b this is not an ad, ha!)

    For me, a book should perhaps untangle the unwieldy typewriting family tree, explain what’s collectable and what’s not (although that would be giving the game away). A big boon would be if it was entertaining, well-written and had plenty of eye candy - like your blog. You can definitely do it! And you’ve got your first customer right here; tell me when I can pre-order!

  18. Just beautiful.

  19. that type certainly has a haunting presence. i think i might be afraid to type late at night with that font - it stares back at you.
    And that keyboard sure would require a lot of practice getting used to.
    Its still something to behold.
    Then the machine itself.
    first time ive heard and seen of a senta.
    i find its styling quite eyepleasing. it reminds me of those 1930s mercedes benz ssk.
    very unique. Thanks for sharing!

  20. I had to come look at this again tonight. Holy Sh*t mn beautiful.

  21. Can I say I am very very envious!!!! I love this machine and the awesome font!!! I can imagine writing a children's book with this!!! Darn!! Now I need to hunt for one cos I really really love it.

    Thanks for sharing this beauty

  22. Wow... Just, wow! I found this post through google, looking for information about the Senta I just say on our local Ebay. But this is amazing! Now I must definitely have it!

  23. Love your Senta! So much more beautiful than my continental and Adler which are also in Fraktur font

  24. I would like buy a Manual Typewriter, having a FRAKTUR/Old German
    Script Font, llike the one above.
    Any make and price considered.
    Thank you.


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