Olivetti portable typewriters produced during the 30 years from the ICO MP1 of 1933 to the Lettera 32 of 1963 have been very well documented. The next 25-year period not so well.
I find I am asked frequently about the later Olivetti models, especially from that 15-year period embracing the Dora of 1965 though to the Lettera 40-42/Lettera 50/52 series of 1980 (excluding the electronic ET Personal 55 of 1990).
I will ignore here the Lettera 82, made in Brazil as a plastic version of the Hermes Baby, and not an Olivetti design at all; also the Chinese-made Olivetti MS 25 Premier Plus, which simply doesn’t warrant any sort of consideration. Neither of these machines is worthy of sitting beside the Sottsass-Bellini designs. What possibly do qualify for a later look are such models as the Lettera 92, Tropical and Roma.
All of the machines in question were designed either by Ettore Sottsass (above, 1965-71) or Mario Bellini (below, 1972-90). The full story of the Valentine’s design is told elsewhere on this blog; suffice to say here that the finished product, completed by Perry A.King, was not exactly what Sottsass originally had in mind, notwithstanding the patent drawings shown below.
I cannot supply serial numbers for the various models and in some cases the first year of production may be disputed. But to the best of my knowledge, this is the succession of post-Lettera 32 Olivetti portable typewriters:
1. Lettera DL (as in DeLuxe) (aka Lettera 33). 1965. Sottsass.
The mechanics of this survived through to the Valentine.
2. Dora (aka Lettera 27, Lettera 31, Lettera S, Underwood 310, Class, Ventura and Italia 90). 1965. Sottsass.
No other Olivetti model survived so long, and in so many different guises. Like the Ivrea river it's named after, it kept on flowing.
3. Studio 45. 1967. Sottsass.
A worthy successor to the Studio 44 of 1952.
4, Valentine. 1969. Sottsass (original concept) and King.
Sottsass politely called it a “too obvious tart”
5. Lettera 36 (electric). 1970. Sottsass.
(Later variations of this design, from Bellini, include the Lexikon 82 and Lexikon 83DL)
Olivetti’s first electric portable.
6. Lettera 25 (aka College) and Lettera 35 (aka 35I and Italia 90). 1974. Bellini.
Extremely popular “new age” Olivettis.
7. Studio 46. 1974. Bellini.
“When you’re on to a good thing”. This has the size and weight of the Royal Safari.
8. Lettera 10 and Lettera 12 (cartridge ribbon). 1979. Bellini
First manual portable typewriters to use a cartridge ribbon.
9. Lettera 40, Lettera 41 and Lettera 42 and Lettera 50, Lettera 51 and Lettera 52 (cartridge ribbon). 1980. Bellini.
Relatively rare compared to the Letteras 25 and 35.
10. ET Personal 55 (electronic). 1990. Bellini.
This starred in the Smithsonian magazine’s typewriter feature.