Going old school: resurrecting the manual typewriter

Everyone has a passion. We might not be passionate about exactly the same things, but somewhere inside you, you feel really strongly about an activity. Through that passion and strong interest, we want to know everything we can about that subject. For some, we will try to trace it back to its historical roots to understand the art better. In sewing with modern electric machines, I’m coveting the Singer treadle machine table that the OH’s mum owns. With writing, the idea of a vintage manual typewriter comes to mind.

Limited edition signed art print by Ray Ferrer

Remember the print I posted about previously of Ray Ferrer’s typewriter spray paint art print? It got me thinking that I’d quite like to try and find an antique manual typewriter. We’re surrounded in a world full of modern technology and conveniences where everything is within reach of our fingertips. We rely on technology so much that when it becomes unavailable to us, we flounder in a panic. Have you ever been in a situation where there was no electricity, you can’t access the Internet through your laptop or tablet and your phone no longer works because you can’t recharge it?

Sometimes simplicity is the best policy and it is for this reason, I’m bringing manual typewriters back to the forefront! In a world full of modern conveniences, a lot of the younger generation is starting to look back on simpler times and finding there are still things worth appreciating. It seems to be the ‘cool’ thing now: everyone else you know probably has an iPhone or iPad or some sort of Android device, but what can you get that your friends don’t? Even Tom Hanks has openly talked about his interest in typewriters!

I have been scouring all possible avenues to try and find one in good condition that wasn’t going to break the bank. After obsessing about it for a while and managed to nab myself a decent (and still working!) Royal Quiet De Luxe manual typewriter from 1948!

The typewriter was clearly produced for British customers back then – it even has the £ sign that I don’t even have on my laptop!

I was quite excited when I went to collect it over the weekend, I’m like a child in a sweet shop when I find antique/vintage technology. It might sound strange, but what I’ve always appreciated about classic technological conveniences is their simplicity: it serves a function and there are no whistles and bells. I loved driving my dad’s old Volvo that had the gear stick, horn, indicators, windshield wipers and pedals; no cruise control, radio/CD player controls on the steering wheel or sensors to stop you from switching lanes when it’s not safe or brake your car when you’re getting too close to the car in front of you.

To give you an idea of how popular this typewriter was back in the day, a gold plated version of the Royal Quiet De Luxe 50th anniversary limited edition model was only gifted to golden employees.

Gold plated Royal Quiet De Luxe limited edition typewriter. Source: Collectors Weekly

Ian Fleming used his own 1947 gold plated typewriter to write Casino Royale and sold at auction for £56,250 (US$89,229) at Christie’s in London, UK, on May 5, 1995! I doubt you’ll find one on eBay though, these are coveted machines and aren’t readily available to purchase. Even then, you’d probably need quite a generous wallet to source one!

Unfortunately, my typewriter was bought at an auction and I was struggling to find a user manual that would tell me how to work this beautiful monster. Luckily I came across this site where helpful volunteers have scanned typewriter manuals for your perusal here.

The only sad truth of it all is, the surge in interest comes too late. As the use and need for typewriter repairs was declining, so did the men and women who made it their trade to conduct these repairs. Today, there aren’t many men who can repair typewriters anymore. It’s the lack interest over the years that meant the experts who have all the knowledge and experience weren’t able to pass this on to the next generation, so the skills needed haven’t survived long enough for other people to learn the trade to take up the responsibility to allow men and women to push up their sleeves and do the job.

In case anyone’s interested, The Iron Whim: A Fragmented History of Typewriting by Darren Wershler-Henry is meant to be quite a good write up on the history of these magnificent machines. I managed to located a first edition copy of the book and hope to get reading soon as well as scouring Youtube videos on how to work my black beauty!

Does anyone else have a manual typewriter? What kind do you have? Where does your interest in manual typewriters stem from?

Care to share your typewriting experiences? What do you write with it?


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