Total Pageviews

Saturday, 24 May 2014


I needed these like a hole in the head.
I have absolutely no room left to properly store these typewriters. What free space I had has long since gone down the gurgler.

Hence these 25 machines sitting on the gutter outside the garage and front gate of my town house. They are:
4 Imperial standards (wide carriage 50, 65, 70, 80), 3 Imperial Good Companion portables (including an early Model T?), assortment of 4 Hermes Baby/Empire Aristocrat portables, 3 Royal standards (including Model 10 with two bevelled windows each side), 3 Olivetti portables (Studios 42 and 46, Lettera 32), 2 Brother portables, 2 Underwood standards, Remington 16 standard, Remington 5 portable (Glasgow), Royal portable, Silver-Seiko portable.
I most certainly already have more than enough standard-size typewriters to last me for the rest of my lifetime.
Still, beggars can't be choosers, as they say. And if I may throw in yet another phrase or idiom to this heady mix, I never look a gift horse in the mouth.
I once swore I would never say "No" to the offer of a free typewriter, and I continue, for better or for worse, to stick to that dictum.
But that generally applies to "a" typewriter.
Not 30 ...
It happened like this:
Last evening, while out shopping, I got a call:
"Hello, is this Robert Messenger?"
"The typewriter man?"

"Err ... yes."
"Do you still collect typewriters?"
"Well, yes, but not so many these days."
"I have 30 I want to give you."
I've had many, many offers to give typewriters "a good home" during the past 12 years, but never as many as 30 in one go.
Indeed, I'd say no more than two or three at a time, at the very outside.
The lady explained her husband had passed away last September. He had been a collector, she said, "though not on your scale".  And he collected many other things apart from typewriters.
The widow had put all his collections, including the typewriters, in a storage unit outside Canberra, but needed to sort out what was locked away and thus reduce storage costs.
All of these are problems with which I am very familiar, except - for the time being at least - the bit about the collector dying.
I couldn't help laughing out loud.
"I hope you don't think me insensitive,"I said, "but this is exactly the situation I often envisage leaving my sons in."
She saw the black humour in that. In truth, I wouldn't wish such a task on anyone, especially not my sons.
At midday I met the widow at the storage facility. She lifted the roller door of her unit to reveal a dark and (very) dusty typewriter tomb.
All but one of the portable typewriters were in their cases, but the standards - of which they were 12 - were either in plastic bags or exposed. Either way, they were all covered in very heavy grime - bought at some bric-a-brac store or recycling centre and put away without so much as even a quick wipe over. I guess these were projects the collectors had planned to get to one day.  I for one could never pack away a typewriter without first cleaning it up.

Precisely two and a half hours later, I had packed 25 of the typewriters into the typewriter mobile (I was impressed it held that many - but the old typewriter mobile could hold more than 30) and was back home, unpacking the car.
On the way home, I bought some cans of a light lubricant spray and, once I'd unloaded them, I gave the 25 typewriters a quick clean. It was truly remarkable how much better they all started to look, in such a very short time.
I have brought one upstairs for a more thorough clean - the Imperial 80, which especially interested me for a number of reasons, and which I will use for a typecast for my next blog post. I knew of the existence of the 80, but had never previously seen one in the metal (and plastic).  I noted that though produced under Litton ownership, it was made in England.  Wikipedia claims it is a Royal design, but I can find no Royal quite like it. It's a damned fine typer, too. More on it in my next post.
I will eventually get to cleaning them all up, but it may take some time ... like many months! Then and only then will I decide what to do with them. I will probably keep the Royal 10 and some of the portables. We'll see ...
Why did I bring home 25 and not 30 typewriters? Well, I'm no poker player. I couldn't help myself, and enthused rather too much about five of the typewriters. The widow and her daughter decided to keep those five. I should have kept my mouth shut. To be perfectly honest, I would have gladly given up the 25 for the five. The five are all in excellent condition, cleaned up and looking great.
Indeed, I would have given up 29 for just one - an Underwood 5. A good condition Underwood 5 is the only standard I still want for my collection. When I started collecting, I determined not to keep standards, for reasons of space and shipping costs, and I have given away a great many. Later I decided to keep just the most significant standards, and the one I don't have is the Underwood 5. This one would have done me, I think.
The other four typewriters I wasn't given (yet) are two Corona 3s (naturally), an Underwood Model F portable and an enormous Hermes electric - an Ambassador B1-C (at least I think that is what it is). I cringed as I thought of what Georg Sommeregger may say to me for not taking that one - even if just to test it out once. But, Georg, I did try my best. In the circumstances, I just couldn't bring myself to be too pushy or more pressing about it - I was grateful, as I said, for what I did receive, for these 25 small mercies. Any pushiness, or selectiveness, of my part would have seemed nothing more than plain impoliteness, to say the least.
Anyone interested in old calculating and adding machines would have been far more cross with me than Georg about the Ambassador. There are many of them in this collection, almost all of them truly impressive, even to someone like me. I have no real idea about such machines, and absolutely no interest in collecting them. The late collector was a statistician, and while he may not have been too discerning when it came to typewriters, he certainly seemed to know what he was collecting when it came to old calculators and adding machines. I don't know where these machines will finish up, but they definitely won't be with me.


Ted said...

Can't beat that deal :D
You, sir, are a typewriter MAGNET!

RobertG said...

You may have reached critical typewriter mass - they then start to self-attract exponentially :)
But many impressive machines there (gorgeous Royal portable), best of luck on what must be like 'stevedoring' almost.

Duffy Moon said...

I can't be the only one dying for a peek in those cases. Some I recognize, some I don't (what on EARTH could be in that big, red case?!).

ZetiX said...

That is an avalanche... :)

@Duffy - I've seen Olivetti Studio 44 in these though it wasn't on the list Robert posted so i would venture a guess: Studio 42?

Donald Lampert said...

Nice! What's the powder blue monster on the right end with the carbon ribbon pods on the sides?? I love big office models - they usually type like "buttah"
Have fun!

Bill M said...

What a find! I have no idea what I would do were I offered 25 typewriters. You sound like me where you stated not to keep standards for lack of room, but always wanted an Underwood No. 5 which you still do not have. I vowed no standards and presently have 5, and still no Underwood 5 -- the only standard I ever wanted.

Those are all mighty nice looking typewriters. I know a connoisseur like you will find a place for all of them.

Rob Bowker said...

I hear there's a west coast elephant in the market for an old Imperial standard! That's an amazing haul. said...

Its true I have been looking for an Imperial local pickup. :) Imagine picking up 30 though!!!

Richard P said...

Oh my God!

Well, that's a nice little brown Royal, and many of the others are good too, I'm sure.

You need to start WordPlay Canberra and donate some of these to get the kids typing!