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.
|Year/Make/Model||1981 Typewriters Works Maritsa 22|
|Serial Number||22069755 (first two digits = model number)|
|Country of Manufacture||Bulgaria|
|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.|
|Typeface||1° AR (Rodrian) pica (10-pitch)|
|Carriage/Keyboard Lock||Yes – carriage only, located at left end of carriage|
|Carriage Release(s)||1 – right side only|
|Line Spacing||1 – 1.5 – 2|
|Paper Bail||Yes – Ruled, no rollers|
|Paper Rest||Yes – fixed length, spring-loaded|
|Ribbon Colour Selector||Yes – 3-positon (including stencil)|
|Tabulator||Yes – keyboard set, master clear on carriage|
|Touch Control||Yes – four position lever (under ribbon cover)|
|Other Features||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).