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Saturday, 17 December 2011

Dear Santa: May I have a Vasanta Typewriter for Christmas?

Arnold Betzwieser Collection
One week out from Christmas Eve and I’ve typed out my Christmas wish list, and posted it to the North Pole with a Meteor stamp (see below). On it, I've asked Santa for a Vasanta portable typewriter. And here is the reason why:
This Albert Rehfeld typewriter caught my eye when it came up in one of Uwe Breker’s auctions not so long ago. It sold for 550 euros ($US717).
On further investigation into the Albert Rehfeld, I found it was part of a sizeable family of similar typewriters, which apparently have the 1911 Meteor as a shared parent. Most if not all were made in Dresden.
Among them is the vivacious Vasanta. And what a great name for a typewriter! It means spring in Sanskrit, and a lovely late spring is what we are enjoying right now here in Canberra, Australia (though it's officially summer). Note the spring theme of the Vasanta poster below, which comes from the Peter Weil collection of typewriter ephemera and is contained in The Typewriter Sketchbook (2007), edited by Paul Robert.
Collection of the late Tilman Elster, from the European Typewriter Project website put together with Will Davis
The Meteor (above) was made by the Sächsische Strickmaschinen-Fabik Meteor GmbH. This could possibly be the same overarching company which made the Vasanta, as it also made knitting machines.
Albert Rehfeld was a Dresden publishing house which is perhaps best remembered these days for its scenic postcards.
Richard Polt Collection
Along with the Albert Rehfeld, perhaps one of the rarest variations in this group is the Adji Såkå, which that arch spotter-of-all-good-things Richard Polt has in his collection (above). Richard dates this machine to 1920, and says it is a “name variant of the Meteor”.
Arnold Betzwieser Collection
While the name Vasanta comes from the subcontinent, Adji Såkå was also from India, but better known further south-east in Asia, in Indonesia (I believe he was a Brahman teacher who became a knight-king).
Kama with bow and arrow (left) and Krishna (right) enjoying vasanta with the gopis (cowgirls)
Dewata Cengkar and Adji Såkå
Uwe also auctioned a lot of four typewriters which included a 1922 Vasanta (above), “modeled after the Meteor”, along with a 1934 Erfurt (“Rarer model name [for the] Olympia Mod 8" [AEG made its machines in Erfurt]), a 1926 Concordia and an Oliver No 3. I gather this lot sold for a staggeringly low 360 euros ($US470).
I can merely lust after such typewriters, but I do have a Diamant (above) and a Perkeo, and this Meteor-Vasanta family almost looks like a cross between the Diamant and the Perkeo.
The Diamant and Perkeo were, as I pointed out in an earlier post, both designed by Jakob Heil, an Austrian-German engineer. This family started with the Albus, a folding portable, which was made by Maschinenfabrik Carl Engler GmbH in Vienna and launched in 1910. The design was “improved and strengthened” as the Perkeo (as well as the Galliette and the Emka) by Clemens Müller GmbH in Dresden – providing another possible link with the Meteor. However, the Diamant was made in Frankfurt.
Arnold Betzwieser Collection
Arnold Betzwieser tells us on his typewriter website that the Vasanta was made by the Schreib und Strickmaschinenfabrik Aktiengesellschaft, a writing and knitting machine factory in Dresden. “The machine was sold most frequently under the name Meteor, which has been built [from] 1911. The Meteor was also sold under other names such as Berolina, Doropa, Forte Type, Janus, Melior, Pagina [Page] and Wilson … Around 1925 their production was stopped.”
Michael Adler's Antique Typewriters (1997)
Arnold Betzwieser Collection
Just over two years ago, another German typewriter collector-historian, Thomas Fürtig, sought help on the Yahoo! online typewriter forum for a survey he was carrying out on the Meteor family of machines.
Collection of the late Tilman Elster. Note a similarly-styled decal to Richard Polt's Adji Såkå. Also on the poster below.
Apart from the Meteor, he included the Adji Såkå, Forte-Type, Pagina, Rehfeld and Vasanta. Thomas wrote, “There are some machines that do not correspondent with the known model specifications … The escapement wheel is mostly very small and hidden, you must have a close look from the backside.”
Later, Thomas wrote, “The Meteor was made in Dresden from 1911 to 1925. Four different models are described in literature, but this classification seems not to fit exactly.”
He pointed out that in Thomas A.Russo’s Mechanical Typewriters (2002), the Meteor is described as a folding typewriter (it does look like one), but that it is not. “It is … much bigger and heavier than the Standard Folding.”
Thomas A.Russo Collection
Nonetheless, mention of folding typewriters does also align the look of the Meteor with the Perkeo (which is folding) as well as the Bijou-Erika folding portables made by Seidel & Naumann, also in Dresden. I also have a Bijou, seen here below with the Perkeo:
I'm also wondering how Thomas Fürtig's Carmen fits into all this. A Condensed History of the Writing Machine (1923), from which the entries on the Meteor and Vasanta above are taken, says the Carmen came out in 1920 and in was "half way" between a portable and standard-size machine. It was made in Stuttgart.


Richard P said...

I didn't know the meaning of the word Vasanta, that's neat!

Adji Saka, in legend, was the creator of the Javanese alphabet (story here). Some versions of the Adji Saka, meant to be used in Java (then part of the Dutch East Indies), actually type in Javanese. I really wish I had one like that, but instead mine is a QWERTY.

I also have a Carmen, which is not a little portable like the Meteor, but a mid-sized, rather chunky three-bank.

Small correction: the city where the Olympia was made was Erfurt, with a T.

Robert Messenger said...

Thanks, Richard. I have corrected Erfurt. I was going to blame ACHWM, but it was my own silly mistake, sorry. Also for clearing up about the Carmen: it just looker smaller in the photo.

Bill M said...

Very nice and interesting machines. I learn something new each visit to your blog. Thanks for all the great posts.

Rob Bowker said...

Exotic stuff. I remember seeing the Rose Standard folding on eBay a few years back from the collection of Richard Milton (at least, it used the same photo as is on his site). The original silver surfer? Your post has also reminded me to dig out my Bijou and fettle its action some more!

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you Bill and Rob. The Bijou is definitely one of my most prized possessions, it was given to me by a very kind gentleman who lived in Kiama, where DH Lawrence wrote Kangaroo. Not on the Bijou, mind you, as the original owner was a vicar! Rob, talking of "same photos", I have just had a big bitch about "buying" an Alan Seaver typewriter from a seller in Melbourne!

Cameron said...

I hope that Santa responds positively to your Christmas request.

How could he refuse, as the typewriter in question contains his name?

HAPPY HOLIDAYS to you, Robert!

Thank you so much for both educating and entertaining me so thoroughly in the subject of typewriters! Your posts are greatly appreciated by *ALL* of us in the Typosphere, and beyond.