Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Curiously Awesome Early Olivetti Lettera 22

Greetings members of the Typosphere and denizens of the Cult of Olivetti! I'm pleased to introduce our newest traveling companion. It is a Lettera 22 of a slightly different stripe.

You like the ribbon? This is one of many festive colors offered by FJA Products on their ebay store. I bought a pack of seven colors and love them all! The bright pink is on a script Olympia SM-9. My wife suggested putting on the machine most likely to be used by the Tooth Fairy.

So much spiffier looking than the inset logo.

Ted Munk, proprietor of The Typewriter Database, has commented that Olivetti serial numbers remain a mystery. This machine is S621119. What year? Anyone? Anyone?

The typeslugs were beyond filthy! This is after three cycles with mineral spirits and a toothbrush.

The color of this machine is...interesting. It is classic Olivetti. The strange thing is that it looks different under different light sources. Getting the photo color balance right is tricky. This machine is close to the original color of my Lexikon 80, the difference being that it wasn't totally covered in nicotine and cleaning scratches. Ton: Not to worry. I'm not touching the color on this delightful rarity.

I've said it before and I will say it again: I am absolute sucker for embossed paper tables. They are a totally superfluous and would have added to the cost of a machine. That is precisely what makes them desirable design details. To an extent, the embossed table is an element of industrial design from a long gone era. Its like the logo embedded in the back an iPad. I am not an iDevice fanboy, but I do appreciate design.

I've contemplated getting a L22 for a year or so. This one popped up on ebay and I knew it was just what I wanted. There was even a typing sample that verified function and typeface awesomeness.

Here is the Lettera 22 with its office sized cousin, the Lexikon 80. Now that I have each model, I can see the design integration so often discussed by Ton at I dream lo-tech. The body styles resonate, but the similarities go deeper with a shrink ray being applied to carriage controls and the carriage bearing and margin stop system.


It is a happy coincidence that I happen to own machines made at almost the same time, in the same factory and with the same typeface. The Lettera 22 is a common machine having been made for decades. I'm glad I waited for just the right one come along. It will be a wonderful companion for our family summer vacation.

Experimental hashtags: I'm curious to see if these get picked up directly by Google+. Have any of you tried integrating Blogger with G+? Comment and search integration could be awesome, but I want to see how it is working for others before committing. For those of you already on Blogger, I recommend trying out G+. The hashtag functionality is helping make it less of a digital ghost town and the Communities are awesome. Having exposure increased through Google search is a plus. G+ is now number 2 in social traffic behind Facebook.

#typewriter #Olivetti #typecast #vintagetechnlogy #Lettera22

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  1. Great find, Dwayne! Lettera 22 definitely ranks high on my favorite typewriters list. Love the font and Olivetti chrome label on that Glasgow machine. The Ivrea specimen doesn't have a "1' either. I agree, there are clearly more resonances between L22 and Lexikon 80 in terms of mechanism, and you can include Studio as well. They're not the Nizzoli trinity for nothing.

    The serial number of my Ivrea L22 is 345533 (1954) if that's any help.

    Not jealous at all, Dwayne, I'm mighty proud of you for expanding your Olivetti family. An enlightened choice, man. ( :

  2. Spiffy indeed! Love the logo.

    I quit G+ and Fb, I feel I have too much else to do.

  3. Now you only need to find a sutiable bluish-green Studio 44 from the same era to complete the mid-50s Olivetti collection.

    I wouldn't know for sure when your machine was built, but I do know it dates prior to 1960, and I assume the embossed paper table and round Lexikon-like keytops would put it more towards the early 1950s.

    I agree with you, the Lettera 22 is a fantastic typer. I would even go on to say that it is probably a better machine than my favorite portable, the Lettera 32. The cast-metal chassis gives the 22 a much more solid feel, though I'm told by my mechanic that the ball-bearings in the carriage tend to cause slight problems with age. Other than that, he agrees that the 22 is a very good machine.

  4. You're right about the Olivetti serial numbers. The two main sources are woefully incomplete and appear to contradict each other, and if you add in the Hispano Olivettis, you find they have a completely different series. It's a mess that is unlikely to be resolved anytime soon unless a better source list turns up, or we deduce an age list from a thousand or so examples (when we get that many olivettis into the database). :D

  5. That's a gorgeous little machine. I think the L22 would have to be my favorite of the Olivetti line.

    Nice work on cleaning it up.

  6. I have one in that color from Scotland also, S701136, acquired about a year ago. On mine the logo is the more recent "bar" type (olivetti only, pre-underwood), which may be a clue to the age of both. I am sooo jealous of that typeface!

  7. I have one with that typeface. Its serial number is 346730. It is the exact same color. Could anyone tell me when it was made?

    1. Check the Typewriter Database maintained by Ted Munk. My Lettera 22 was made in Glasgow and the serial numbers seem to be outside the norm.


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