When considering adjectives that best describe the Triumph Matura Super, super is a good place to start. Actually, triumph works well too, and that’s because it is both a design triumph and simply super to use.
The Olympia SG1 might be the go-to benchmark for exceptional standard-size performance, and when compared to it the Matura holds its own. In terms of type action and ease of use it runs a close second to the Olympia, and arguably surpasses it when scrutinizing its overall design. The typewriter’s organically shaped case flows nicely over its mechanical innards and is pleasing to look at, more so when you ignore the 50 cm interchangeable carriage fitted to this particular example that admittedly, like all wider carriages, makes it appear top heavy.
There’s nothing like pulling out a favorite big gun to start off the New Year with a bang. And there are few standards better suited to typing out long, pesky lists of New Year’s resolutions, even if they might include that annual promise to stop buying typewriters.
The Maritsa 22 along with its predecessor the Maritsa 11 are not well known typewriters, not even among collectors, and their manufacturer, Typewriters Works (sic) of Bulgaria even less so. This means there’s a dearth of second-hand opinions about the brand floating around the ether-web, and a Maritsa buyer’s mindset is unlikely to be tainted and first impressions of the machine likely to be honest ones; other than its appearance, and perhaps a cultural bias about products manufactured in Bulgaria, there is very little about the typewriter to base assumptions on.
My first impression of the Maritsa 22 was solely based on a visual examination of the typewriter and it was not a favourable one. The design of its case is typical of ’70s portables, its clean, non-committal lines approach being angular without appearing boxy. Similarly, its colour is non-offensive, the taupe and cream theme plays it safe and allows the typewriter to blend in with any surrounding. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with nondescript designs and uninspiring colour palates, not everyone wants a writing tool that makes an overt fashion statement, but where the Maritsa began to raise doubt was with the quality of its case: the large gaps around the keyboard shroud and poorly lined-up case halves did not impress. Equally suspect were the control levers that bordered on being anaemic, a classic sign of a typewriter built to a minimum cost.
By all outward appearances the Maritsa 22 appears to be a budget model, its one redeeming feature an all-metal construction during a time when plastic was the reality for most smaller portables (inexplicably, Typewriters Works considered this Maritsa to be a medium-sized portable despite its physical dimensions that are similar to those of the smaller Brother models).
Based on all of this my first impression and consequent expectations of the machine were quite low; the Bulgarian typewriter was an average machine – at best. However, when examined more carefully a discord between the case design and the mechanical internals it shrouds becomes apparent, much like early Commodore models that stuffed the quality workings of a Consul-made typewriter into home-brewed cases that looked like the product of amateur designers.
One of the most satisfying experiences when buying an unfamiliar typewriter is finding out – for the good – that your first impression of the machine was completely wrong. It only took a few minutes of typing with the Maritsa 22 to determine that the machine’s appearance was not a reflection of its performance. The ultra-portable typed far better than it looked; its type action provided a taught, solid feel that erred on the side of having a slightly heavier touch. This makes it a good fit for confident touch typists and heavy-fingered hunt-and-peckers, and although it does feature a four-position touch control that marginally lightens the feel, this as a machine that rewards deliberate and proficient use.
The performance of most-typewriters is typically in line with the overall quality of its build, but with the Maritsa 22 that clearly isn’t really the case. The reason for this disparity between the execution of its coachwork and the quality of its performance only begins to be understood once the case is removed and the guts of the machine examined.
Underneath the thin metal exterior is a familiar sight for collectors of German ultra-portable models, the right-side mounted draw band drum, cast aluminium frame, and components of the ribbon colour selector system are all tell-tale signs of a Keller & Knappich typewriter, more commonly known to the flocks of teenage girls who clamour after the cute little typewriter as a Princess.
A Princess in fine tune is a respectable typewriter, and when you factor in its classic ’50s design finished in two-tone paint (on the deluxe model), it’s no surprise that it often commands a high price. But how did the Princess turn into a Maritsa, and end up being manufactured in Bulgaria?
Popular speculation suggests that when Keller & Knappich ceased production of its Princess models, the company based in Augsburg, West Germany sold the rights (and perhaps the tooling too) to Typewriters Works in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, sometime between the mid ’60s and very early ’70s. Bulgaria was still in the clutches of a communist government at the time, and the state-run typewriter factory originally began producing Princess clones called the Maritsa 11, which it later on made look more modern for the renamed Maritsa 22.
The original Princess and Typewriters Works’ reboot of the Princess design were not exactly mechanically identical, but they are close enough that a Princess owner using a Maritsa will find their performance comparable. And that’s good news. In terms of features (see table below), the Maritsa 22 is a well-appointed model putting it more or less on par with a Princess 300.
I don’t usually get side-tracked by typewriter travel cases, most are functional and do their job of keeping the machine safe when it’s not being used, but the travel case for the Maritsa 22 is worth mention because it is far more flamboyant than the typewriter it houses. Its faux crackle paint exterior is lined with a vibrant black and red checkerboard material that seems uncharacteristic for a stereotypically dour, Iron Curtain product.
It would be very easy to pass on a Maritsa 22 if you saw one in an antique market or in a local ad, and it would be a mistake. Typewriters Works machines, at least the early ones (later models were actually Silver-Seiko models in disguise), are those that fly under the radar of most enthusiasts and as a result can be bought for a bargain price. If you have ever wanted to buy a Princess but balked at the prices they often command, keep your eye open for a Maritsa 22; it may not look as good, but its performance will keep you smiling, page after typed page.
1981 Typewriters Works Maritsa 22
22069755 (first two digits = model number)
Country of Manufacture
Dimensions (H x W x D)
9.0 x 32.5 x 31.5 cm – 3.5 x 12.8 x 12.4 in.
Weight (with case)
5.3 (6.4) kg – 11.6 (14.0) lb
Maximum Paper Width
24.5 cm – 9.7 in.
Useable Paper Width
22.5 cm – 8.9 in.
1° AR (Rodrian) pica (10-pitch)
Yes – carriage only, located at left end of carriage
1 – right side only
1 – 1.5 – 2
Yes – Ruled, no rollers
Yes – fixed length, spring-loaded
Ribbon Colour Selector
Yes – 3-positon (including stencil)
Yes – keyboard set, master clear on carriage
Yes – four position lever (under ribbon cover)
No other special features
Owner’s Manual (click to download), Final Quality Control Inspection sheet, and Warranty card (or in Bulglish, a warrant for your typewriter’s arrest).
Typewriters are often featured in the artwork used by film and television production companies to promote themselves, which makes sense given it is after all a natural connection: What better than a typewriter to represent screenwriters and their artistic efforts?
These animated corporate logos using a typewriter are usually run within the opening frames of a film that you’re about to watch, or during the fleeting final seconds of a television program that has just ended. And more often than not the typewriters are not literal images of a specific model, but rather a creative embodiment of a non-specific model.
Two of my more favorite typewriter adaptations are those used by Primrose Hill Productions and K/O Paper Products. The Primrose version, a skeleton clacking away at a tombstone-like machine confers the loneliness of the writing process, while K/O’s take pushes a different theme, the transfiguration of a standard typewriter by a four-handed keyboard to represent the power of collaboration in writing.
It’s the kind of machine that practically everyone shopping for a typewriter would pass on. Covered from top to bottom in cheat notes written by someone who had a particularly bad memory, or perhaps was mechanically challenged, or both, the permanent marker scribbles defacing the Royal made it resemble the tattooed skin of a Polynesian native.
Such bizarre deformations are only paint deep, and not a good enough reason to pass on a Royal Diana. Here’s why: The Dutch-made typewriter is a superb portable, and has a sublime type action that makes you want to type – all day long.
The Diana, for some inexplicable reason, is a model that seems to fly under the radar of most collectors. Perhaps it’s the machines modest appearance, which incidentally is reminiscent of earlier Olympia SM models. Or maybe it’s because lesser machines get so much hype by bloggers unfamiliar with the Diana. Whatever the reason, it selfishly suits me fine: The Diana is more than deserving of being a Typewriter of the Month, and I would never pass on an opportunity to buy one – at a reasonable price, of course.
“The world is in crisis,” the Six Degrees Citizen Space 2016 conference website warns its visitors. “We thought we were heading towards more inclusive societies. Instead, we are at risk of regressing to cruder and more exclusionary notions of belonging.”
It’s a dire message, but not one made in the absence of hope.
Organized by the Institute for Canadian Citizenship, Six Degrees Citizen Space was a two-day, three-night conference held September 19 – 21, 2016, at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Weston Family Learning Centre. Claimed to become an annual event, this year’s inaugural edition brought together “thinkers, doers, artists, politicians and civil society leaders” to question and find solutions to the challenge of developing inclusive societies globally.
Organizers promised the use of bold methods, and the recasting of failing, outdated ideas as part of the Six Degrees Citizen Space mandate to propose radical, practical solutions in its examination of the role of citizenship in the 21st century.
Included in the event was an interactive installation run by Mosaic, an ‘experimental’ marketing agency, which featured three ‘70s vintage Olympia Monica typewriters supplied by the Typewriter Factory. The typing kiosk invited Six Degrees Citizen Space 2016 attendees to contribute a message limited to five words that was a synopsis of their views on inclusion.
After the message had been completed each attendee had their portrait taken, which in turn was mounted on a wall alongside their typed thoughts. By the conclusion of the conference a dense collage of uniquely typed ideas and high-contrast photos had been created that not only made a powerful visual statement, but was also a divining rod for the mindset of conference participants.
It was more of a rescue than a carefully considered acquisition, but then again isn’t that what the majority of typewriter purchases really are?
“We bought it for our wedding,” the young woman I had met in a public parking lot explained as she handed me the typewriter. The machine was coddled in a Cheney travel case which was easy to identify by its shape, simulated snakeskin finish, and the ‘auto-tension’ lock that held it shut. Inside the travel case was a victim of pre-wedding hysteria, a garishly repainted Oliver Courier that definitely was in need of a reassignment.
It’s a crime that most collectors are familiar with, the intentionally disfigured typewriter that has been altered to make it ‘trendy’ and ‘shabby chic’. The Oliver was an example of such a machine, one that had been degraded from being a precision writing instrument to an ornamental prop used to dress up an otherwise barren guestbook table, perhaps even used as the guestbook itself.
The woman still radiated a postnuptial glow and seemed genuinely happy that the machine was going to a more permanent home. And I was happy too: aside from a missing model badge, and chromium plating flaking off the paper release lever, the Courier was in very good condition.
“My husband repainted it himself to match our decor,” she continued as I began to examine the typewriter. She was clearly proud of his efforts and still excited by the novelty of being able to describe him as her hubby.
In truth the paint job was terrible, but it was not my place to criticize his handiwork; I imagined the pre-wedding jitters he must have been dealing with at the time, and how he must have beseeched the heavens for a reason why he had been tasked with painting a 1950s typewriter. I actually wanted to give him credit for not painting over the case screws, but then noticed the plated trim pieces that were now covered by the terrible teal-coloured paint.
All things considered, the terrible paint job was the least of my concerns, even if it was completely out of step with the Oliver’s design and the era that it was manufactured during. Paint is something that is relatively easy to fix and it provides an opportunity to enrich the Oliver’s design with a more suitable paint scheme. Of real importance the machine was not missing any components and it was mechanically sound.
I handed the newlywed her asking price and we both parted satisfied with the deal: She had unloaded a wedding accoutrement that most likely would never have been put to practical use, and a collector added another Patria-based typewriter to his collection for a very modest sum.
It wasn’t until I had returned home with the machine and ran a few pages through it that I realised just how good a deal it was. Typical of Swiss design – albeit manufactured in England – the Oliver had a light, concise action which is what makes it such a good portable to use. It’s so good that it would tempt many a collector into crashing wedding to find another one to rescue.
Not postage stamps, but stamps none-the-less, these colourful little oddities are but a few of their kind that are found when such paraphernalia happens to be on your radar. Decorative stamps with zero postage value are curious little things: you lick ’em and stick ’em, and off they go on whatever you’ve affixed them to.
Presumably, the majority of such stamps would have found their way onto envelopes, but were they promotional items produced by each respective manufacturer to embellish their correspondence with, or were they sold by a third party to typewriter retailers or perhaps even enthusiasts? Looking at them now, I also have to question if they were period pieces that reflected contemporary models, or commemorative products that were made decades after the fact.
About the only thing that I do know is they’re fun to look at, and I’m sure for some aficionados also fun to collect. They are in themselves little works of typewriter art, but that doesn’t mean I would go so far as to stick them on the living room walls.
It’s easy in today’s computer-centric world to take for granted the flexibility and creative power the average person has when preparing written documents. Aside from the apparently endless selection of typeface options that are somewhat erroneously referred to as fonts, there’s also a large number of special characters that can be easily accessed and printed. Contemporary writers are spoiled for choice – ironically, that’s something that can easily turn out to be a detriment – and those too young to remember the typewriter as the mainstay of mass communication often find it amusing that previous generations were hamstrung by such lowly machines.
It’s true that type writers (the people, not the machines) were limited to what had been fitted to their typewriter by its manufacturer; in other words, they only had a single typeface and a very limited number of special characters to work with. By today’s standards it may seem to be an obvious constraint, but despite this limitation typewriters produced good-looking, highly legible documents, and those using them managed just fine with the tools at hand.
In terms of typeface and character choice, the typewriter century wasn’t entirely a doom and gloom story. Those who designed the machines did dream of greater flexibility, and a few models appeared (and disappeared) that offered interchangeable typefaces. Some machines, for example, used a drum instead of typebars. This allowed typists to quickly change a typeface, but those models were never produced in significant numbers and the vast majority of typewriters featured permanently fixed type slugs, something that couldn’t be easily replaced. It wasn’t until electro-mechanical and electronic typewriters became the norm that true typeface freedom became a reality for the majority of typewriter buyers.
Around 1959 Smith-Corona began to retail its new 6-series portable models, and a few years later, once the new model line had been firmly established, the company introduced what it called Changeable Type. The new feature gave typewriter buyers during the ’60s the opportunity to change, quickly and easily, a few of the special characters that their machines could type.
The idea behind Changeable Type was not to swap a typeface, but to provide access to a large library of special characters. It may not have been a revolutionary concept, but it was something not offered at the time by any of the other manufacturers, and for the writers of the hyperbole contained in Smith-Corona ads, Changeable Type was a plausible selling feature. It’s worth mentioning that IBM was already selling its first Selectric model at the time, the game-changing typewriter that used a golf ball element to allow for rapid typeface changes, but Smith-Corona’s Changeable Type machines were marketed toward a different buyer, one who was looking for a portable, and more affordable typewriter than the business-oriented IBM.
In practice Changeable Type was easy to use: The type slug was removed by pressing it against the typebar and simultaneously pulling it off. Equally simple was the swapping of its corresponding type key legends that were a part of each specially ordered Changeable Type kit which were sold in single units by Smith-Corona.
The Changeable Type library consisted of 91 different ‘snap on’ characters that were sorted into five groups that included: Language Accents and Symbols; Math, Engineering, and Greek Symbols; Medical and Druggist Symbols; Library and Legal Symbols; and Miscellaneous Symbols. It was the Miscellaneous group that contained some of the more unusual and entertaining characters such as unit #73, a type slug that had a sad face (uppercase) and a smiley face (lowercase) emoticon. Changeable Type Unit #69 (don’t laugh) featured gender symbols – “male over female” in Smith-Corona parlance – that are based on the astrological symbols for Mars and Venus (and also used in alchemy for iron and copper).
The corresponding key legend cap design was changed a few years after the introduction of Changeable Type which meant there were two different caps available and was important that you ordered the correct one for your particular typewriter. The red caps (left) are the earlier ones, and the black version the updated version. Although most Smith-Corona portables that featured Changeable Type came with two typebars that could accept the special slugs, some models only had one. In either case, the optional characters were designed to be used with any of the typefaces that were sold with a Changeable Type equipped model, the exception being they would not work with a script typeface.Students and professionals who needed to use a number of special characters in their written documents would have been the obvious buyers of Changeable Type kits and they were the targets of Smith-Corona ads at the time. However, in the absence of actual sales figures one can only speculate as to how many owners of Smith-Corona portables actually took advantage of the feature. Given that they were reasonably priced ($2 USD including shipping in the early ‘70s, the equivalent of $11 USD today) you would think that the kits would have sold reasonably well, but based on the many dozens of these machines that I’ve examined, most had the standard character set (typically the 1/! and +/= slugs) and it would seem that relatively few kits were sold.
One thing is certain: It’s very uncommon fifty years after the introduction of Changeable Type to find these kits being sold individually. It’s also somewhat unusual to find a machine that has any of the optional characters installed, so special characters are something collectors should keep their eyes open for. All of this leads one to wonder if Smith-Corona’s Changeable Type was a success or a failure. Was Changeable Type an experiment to test the feature for expansion to other model lines? My own theory is that it had arrived too late, and with all the dramatic changes taking place within the typewriter industry during the late ’60s and ’70s, Smith-Corona probably already saw the writing on the wall: just being able to swap a few characters was simply a feature that was too little, and too late.
A 1965 Smith-Corona space-age ad for Changeable Type. Apparently Smith-Corona believed its customers would be over the moon with the feature.
Mail-in order form for Changeable Type; that’s right kids, a billion years ago snail-mail was actually used to buy things – it worked too.
Apothecary Changeable Type
3 = dram (teaspoon) and Double 3 = ounce (tablespoon)
Unless you have extensive experience with every single typewriter that was ever manufactured, it’s rather pointless to label any one model as being the best. And even if you’ve had use of a wide range of makes and models, and analyzed them with a commitment to objectivity, the best typewriter will always end up being a reflection of your subjectivity and bias; there’s no escaping the reality that different typewriters suit people differently, which makes it impossible for an absolute best typewriter to be crowned.
Respecting this, I won’t pretend to know which model is the best typewriter, but of the many hundreds of different models that I’ve typed with, I can state that the Olympia SG1 is my absolute favorite.
It’s reliable, robust, feature-rich, boasts top-notch performance, and it was built to make maintenance less of a chore. The Olympia SG1 checks off more items on my personal wish list than any other model, and although there are other typewriters that come close to it, nothing makes me want to roll up the sleeves and get to work like the big Olympia. It’s a willing workhorse and consummate companion for writers, and it’s also the current Typewriter of the Month.
As absurd as the concept is for a rodeo rider to use a portable typewriter on the back of a bucking bronco, imagine how foreign it must have all seemed for Swiss typewriter buyers who faced the localized version of Remington’s American ad.
Selling typewriters internationally no doubt posed many challenges for manufacturers, and it’s easy to imagine how many of the ads created using culturally skewed themes ended up being lost in translation. Was it a cost-saving measure for Remington to re-use the same artwork the world over, or just simple ignorance to global diversity?
This example of the artwork used to promote the Remington Portable by a typewriter retailer in Lausanne, Switzerland, (it’s now the site of a chocolate store), loudly praises the ultra-portable model, and lists its virtues as robustness, speed, compactness, and it being well-featured. Of course it would have to be all these things – and more – to be effective on the back of a wild animal, not to mention to be able to survive such a stunt.