Thursday, December 23, 2010

Olivetti Valentine Portable Typewriter Sottsass Design

Hello !
Here is my pre-Christmas post. Given the festivity I think that this typewriter fits well with the theme :-)

This year I have added to my Christmas Gifts "Wishlist" some typewriters. I was very happy to receive what I think is one of the best looking typewriters ever made: the Olivetti Valentine designed by Ettore Sottsass. This typewriter, produced from 1969, became so popular in terms of industrial design that is among the few displayed at the  Moma Museum of Modern Arts in New York City. 

The one I received has a Swiss-German Keyboard layout (QWERTZ with öä vs ÖÄ in the Germany layout) and, as you can see from the pictures, it is in excellent conditions:

Lovely decorations that came along with the gift :)

Detail of keyboard layout

a bit on contrast with the new macbook air 11" ;)

The typeface is pica 10 very crisp and flawless. Sure It is a fairly average typeface but the beauty of this typewriter and the fact that it is a xmas gift makes it very valuable to me.  It is not easy to find a relatively special typewriter in these conditions and it always takes some manual work to bring them back to life. In this case the typewriter has been oiled (by the way I highly recommend this  this oil available on ebay it is fairly inexpensive and as a synthetic oil it does a good job) and cleaned throughout. 

I have personally seen several Olivetti Valentine on Ebay Germany for 300-400 Euro (even in not so good conditions) but Switzerland, being a very small country hence a small selling market, finding one here it is not that easy. 

In terms of typing it is simply excellent. The basket shift makes writing a pleasure and the action is as fast as other more famous olivetti like the lettera. 

Yesterday I did manage to reorganize my collection so here are 
some ideas to avoid ending up with the house / flat full of typewriters: 

a) Be realistic with your space possibilities: try to understand how many typewriters you can really host. In my case I live in a fairly big flat and my basement was pretty much empty. Now it is not as I did switch many typewriter downstairs. Not for lack of love but because they arrived in a status that makes them unsuitable to my needs - for now. 

b) To be successful in point a) you should try to understand which typewriters you like more, would like to have and how many. My mistake was jumping from one to the other losing focus. It is not always a bad idea but you should try. To some it is very old pre 70's typewriters. To others it is metal only (in this case the Valentine wouldn't fit as it is mostly made of plastic) etc. 

c) Be organized: even with limited space you can probably host 10-15 typewriters if you do have a well organized space to store/display them. This was another mistake I did and I recently rectified with some Xmas cleaning. I have now been able to organize the collection in a more usable format where I do keep outside the typewriters I am more likely to use on a regular basis.

d) Last but not least: transgression to self imposed rules are a fact of life so while you can't always stick to self imposed limits, try to succeed most of the time !

Obviously these rules are not universally applicable to everyone but in my opinion if space is an issue focus is important.  What I am also trying to do is to give away (for free or almost) typewriters I don't plan to use or are not likely to be part of my permanent collection. This helps in making space for some more interesting typewriters !

Oh...this is not the only typewriter I received for Xmas so feel free to check back in a few days for further updates. Till then have some great and relaxing holidays !
David @


  1. I'd say, it also helps to be willing to sell what isn't in your top list, even if its for a slight loss. I know that at the beginning, I grabbed a bunch of different typewriters because I wanted to experience them first hand (or because I found them really cheap locally).

    They started to sit around and gather dust because after I spent some time cleaning, repairing, adjusting and getting to know a typewriter, I found that I wasn't really interested in it.

    But others may be, especially one that is cleaned and ready to type out of the box. Don't be afraid to resell!