Going public (Part 4)

by | Mar 12, 2013 | exhibit | 16 comments

The final installment in my display at the Xavier University library is intended to introduce viewers to modern portables, unusual keyboards and typefaces, and last but not least, pretty colors.

Corona Four (USA, 1928): The successor to the Corona 3, which had a folding carriage, this model has a four-row keyboard and non-folding carriage but is still quite compact. Corona merged with L.C. Smith, a maker of office typewriters, to form Smith-Corona in 1926. The company manufactured typewriters into the twenty-first century, but today produces only thermal labels and tape.

Remington Noiseless Portable (USA, 1933): “Noiseless” typewriters, which soften the impact of the typebars against the platen, were popular in the 1930s and 1940s. This two-tone green model was a deluxe version that sold in small numbers during the Depression.

Groma Kolibri (East Germany, ca. 1960): The Kolibri (“Hummingbird”) is a well-made East German ultraportable. This one has a Greek keyboard and is also capable of typing in capital Roman letters. A Groma Kolibri plays a prominent role in the 2006 film “The Lives of Others.”

Merz no. 2 (Germany, ca. 1927): This portable from a smaller German manufacturer features a Bulgarian keyboard.

Olivetti MP1 (Italy, 1938): The leading Italian typewriter manufacturer, Olivetti was known for its innovative styling. Its first portable model is a good example of Art Deco design.

Adler Favorit no. 2 (Germany, 1939): This large portable uses a thrust-action system in which typebars slide horizontally to the platen. [When I installed this typewriter I realized it was a poor choice. It is hard to appreciate on a top shelf with poor lighting. No going back, though — my selections had to be listed in advance so they could be insured specifically by make, model, and serial number. If I could pick a new one it might be the little Junior 58 from Spain.]

Rooy portable (France, 1953): This ingenious, ultrathin “laptop” typewriter is permanently attached to a case that serves as a base when the machine is in use.

Continental (East Germany, ca. 1955): Usually labeled Erika 10, this socialist product was named Continental when it was sold with an Arabic keyboard. In order to write Arabic, the machine types from right to left and uses proportional spacing.

Olivetti Graphika (Italy, 1958): This machine employs proportional spacing, assigning different widths to different characters (an M takes up more width than an i, for example). A special typeface was created for it by designer A. M. Cassandre. Relatively slow and difficult to use, the Graphika was not a market success.


  1. Ton S.

    Perfect eye candy finale. Red Ico and Graphika, this is my kind of exhibit!

    I sure hope they invite you again next schoolyear, they ain't seen nothing yet.

  2. Richard P

    That would be fun. This exhibit also encouraged me to approach the Cincinnati Art Museum and see whether they'd be interested. It doesn't hurt to ask!

  3. Ton S.

    I think the Cincy Art Museum is exactly where your exhibit should be. Wish you success with that!

  4. rn

    Beautiful display, Richard. Yes, the Junior is a jewel and would have made great eye-candy in the case–but all your machines are fabu. I'm curious to know more about why the Graphika is so slow and what makes it difficult. Is it slower or more difficult than the Continental, which you mention is also a proportional-spacing machine?

    Onward to the Art Museum!

  5. Robert Messenger

    Wonderful display, great mix of colours and models. There's not a living soul who could stroll past this without stopping and having a lingering look at all the typewriters.

  6. Scott K

    Great selection! However, I can never get past how a Rooy looks like a typewriter that has been run over by a truck.

  7. Richard P

    Yes, the Continental is about as easy in its feel as any Erika, but the Graphika is relatively stiff in its action. I don't have the vocabulary or precise knowledge to describe why — I can just tell you that it has a funny-looking escapement. Aside from having a stiff keyboard, its spacing is not always reliable, so you need to watch the text very carefully. And if you make a mistake, you need to remember the width assigned to every character so that you can backspace to the correct place to fix the problem (this is, of course, a difficulty with any proportional typewriter).

  8. Bill M

    Great typewriters! I hope the students and faculty (as well as visitors) enjoy the display.

    Wouldn't it be nice to have glass cabinets in your house to display typewriters?

  9. Dwayne F.

    That's it. I'm breaking into those cases!

    Seriously, the eye candy is stunning and functional. Besides, I'm slow and difficult, the Graphika and I are a match made in Heaven!

  10. notagain

    These top the "most likely to by stolen by a typospherian" list. Love the Olivettis and the Kolibri especially.

  11. shordzi

    Yet another beautiful selection. Wunderbar!

  12. Ping A

    Wonderful display. Must have taken you a while to finalize your choices!

  13. michaeliany

    i agree with peter – those are some deliciious typers, grabworthy!

  14. Steve Snow

    Woweeee… Owning a (far less exciting) blue Corona 4 and inexplicably two-toned green and beige Lexikon 80, I absolutely love your choice of red Corona and green Graphika!! Very nice work indeed.

  15. John

    The slowness of the Graphika is explained by the escapement set up. It employs, I think, three escapement dogs and the selecting and "searching" for the spacing involves a time delay in the execution which the experienced typist find irritating. A two finger typist can get by,just. All other proportional typewriters like IBM and Olympia SGE60 suffered simularly but being electric they operated a little quicker but it was still too easy to over-type.

  16. Richard P

    Thanks for these insights.


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