Saturday, March 7, 2009

From Collector to Archivist

At some point in the last year I stopped collecting typewriters and started archiving them. I've sold or donated several, trying to free space in my basement for other pursuits, not necessarily mine.

My wife is a potter who makes pots faster than I collect typewriters.

We have turf issues.

Clearing space is not easy because as I sell and donate, waif typewriters end up at my doorstep. The word's out that I love these old machines the way some people love kittens and puppies. If you give me a typewriter I'll nurse its wounds, feed it and make sure it ends up in a good home — either mine or someone else's.

Last week a friend brought by the '50s vintage Royal Quiet de Luxe to the left.

This archivist business comes with responsibilities that I'm certain I haven't fully met or even comprehended. I suppose I should be inventorying, recording serial numbers and establishing manufacturing dates. I've done some of that, but not nearly enough. This looks like a job for my dotage.

The one aspect that defines my particular bent in archiving is gathering and identifying machines that are the same models as those used by famous authors. I don't pretend to be any kind of expert in this area, but, as you will see by looking at other posts here, I have made some headway.

I really need to research what archivists in other fields do, just to see how much of the job I want to assume.

In many ways, collectors are archivists without knowing it. And I suppose that archivists are collectors, except that they don't pay for their items. To the contrary, in an ideal world, someone pays them to archive.

No one is paying me and I doubt they ever will— except in typewriters.

That's pay enough.


Monda said...

Those shelves look like heaven to me. What a lucky man you are!

John Johnston said...

Very nice collection, indeed! I can relate to the "turf issues." Part of my space problem is of my own doing. Besides my small, three-typewriter collection, I also have a closet full of post-war Lionel trains and accessories. My wife can't understand my penchant for collecting old things. Guess I need to sell off some trains to make room for (and pay for!) some more typewriters.

Anonymous said...

My name is Zach. I am a Creative Writing major living in MN. I stumbled upon your blog here and was admiring your collection. I noticed on this post that it looks like you have two, maybe three Olivetti Letteras. My heart kind of jumped because I've been spending the last few months searching for a Lettera 22 or 32 to no avail. I was hoping maybe, if those were indeed extras, that you might be willing to sell one of them. I understand completely if you aren't looking to sell and i hope I'm not out of line. It would be going to a good home as I plan to use it. You can send me an email (I think it's listed in my profile) and we can talk about it or I'll check back here. Thank you for your time.


Rick Seifert said...


Letteras are fairly common on eBay. I have three but I'm holding on to them. In my view, these machines are aesthetically gorgeous, but mechanically lame. Of the two, the 32 is superior, but slightly harder to find. Happy hunting, which is really the fun part!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Rick. I have to agree with you about the aesthetics of the Letteras. Is there another "ultra-portable" that you prefer over them mechanically? I've always heard they were the best, or at least close. A lot of it is preference, though. I've been looking for a smaller machine for more remote work. I have an Olympia SM9 here that does most of my work but it doesn't really leave my desk. You're right about the hunt. It can be frustrating at times but when you finally run into the one you're looking for, it pays off. I like finding the gems I'm not looking for.