Midsummer miscellany

by | Jul 20, 2020 | Burroughs, Cold Hard Type, Sholes Visible, Underwood | 12 comments

I don’t have a well-developed topic for a post, but thought I would publish a few notes on my recent activities.

I continue to bike around Cincinnati in the early morning, before it gets too hot. Here’s a view from Mt. Storm Park just after sunrise today. My new bike doesn’t currently have the wherewithal to strap a typewriter onto it, but I’ll work on that …

Although Urban Legend Typewriters is officially on hold, some people in need find their way to me. I just finished restoring this Burroughs, which was very dusty and had a couple of mechanical issues. The main problem was that one cam that’s crucial to reversing the ribbon was missing, and the other was damaged. Tyler Elliott on Facebook came to my rescue, and sent me the parts. As I’ve noted before, in general Burroughs are very robust machines—at least on this one, even the paper table is cast, not sheet metal! But their ribbon reverse system is finicky, and if it fails, it will put tension on a plastic (!) gear at the base of the ribbon shaft, which will break and render the typewriter inoperable. Every typewriter has an Achilles’ heel, and this is a classic example.

I’ve also recently cleaned up an Olivetti Studio 45 and this 1929 Underwood no. 5.

This morning I discovered a review on Amazon that gives me hope that sometimes I can manage to be the person and the writer I aspire to be. It was posted years ago, but it’s fresh to me and I very much appreciate it.

I received an advance reader’s copy of the forthcoming, mostly typewritten novel by Lee Siegel, Typerotica. Eventually I’ll publish a book review here.

Cold Hard Type III: Backspaces is proceeding well. I’ve received typescripts from most contributors and am lightly photoshopping them into publishable form. We may be able to publish around September 1. Here’s a sneak peek at the cover, featuring a photo by Fred Durbin.

Finally, after a three months’ wait, I received a historic typewriter that was shipped to me from Romania.

This 1932 Urania-Piccola is signed on the back, in a place normally hidden by the folded paper supports, “M. Heidegger.” Martin Heidegger is the philosopher to whom I’ve devoted most of my research for over three decades. He didn’t like using a typewriter, but in 1932, his assistant’s Torpedo portable was stolen. Evidently Heidegger bought a replacement, and signed it in case of theft. The typewriter was sold by Strangfeld, a dealer in Berlin.

There is much more to say about this machine, and eventually I think I’ll write an article about it. [2022 note: I did.]

In order to afford this typewriter, I sold this Sholes Visible which was a duplicate in my collection. It’s shown here with the shifting portion of the carriage removed (an easy thing to do—you just unhook it and lift it out).

I guess it’s been a pretty eventful midsummer. I won’t even get into my professional news (in brief, I’m starting a three-year term as associate dean in the midst of the turmoil of the pandemic).

I hope my readers are doing well and putting in some good, healthy time at their typewriters.


  1. Ted

    Looks like you've been busy too! :D
    Congrats on obtaining Heidegger's typewriter – I'm certain that it has a lot of meaning to you, and you will be appreciating it more than many could. Certainly can't think of a more deserving caretaker for such an artifact.
    Also, also – Yay – new Loose Dog publication! :D

  2. Bill M

    Excellent find on the Urania-Piccola!

  3. Greg L

    That Heidegger-signed Urania is amazing! Did you know of its existence before it was for sale? I can only imagine what was going through your mind when it crossed your path. Congratulations!

  4. John Cooper

    The Amazon review expresses the opinion of many of us – thank you, Richard! And congratulations on the find of a lifetime in Heidegger's Urania-Piccola. Such an authentically historic find would be a thrill for anyone, but for it to come to you is ideally befitting. The understatement with which you announced suggests you doubt anyone could care or share your joy. It's not true! I look forward to your article.

  5. Richard P

    I did not know anything about it until a typospherian friend alerted me that it was being listed on eBay. It didn't take me long to convince myelf (and even my wife!) that I should pounce on it.

  6. C.M. Mayo

    Double congratulations! Heidegger's typewriter!!!!!!!!!!!! As for the amazon review, I concur. I keep your book in the drawer directly under my Hermes 3000.

  7. The Philosophy Teacher

    "Semnatura acestei ma?ini a fost dovedit? autentic? datorita unor dovezi documentare propor?ionate de un important profesor american de filosofie specializat în Heidegger."

    How did you authenticate it?

  8. Richard P

    The authenticity of the typewriter is not something that can be proved definitively; it's a matter of circumstancial evidence combined with my sense of the seller as a person, after extensive correspondence in English and Spanish (he is a Chilean academic living in Romania).

  9. Richard P

    Thanks for the tip. I'll have to make the pilgrimage someday. I admire Dewey, and a colleague of mine is an expert on him.

  10. Richard P

    (In addition to convincing my wife and my elf, I convinced myself.)


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