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Sunday 20 March 2011

'New' old Typewriters: Lagomarsino, Alba, Engadine, Atlas and Other Discoveries

It’s often both a little exciting but also quite frustrating to add a “mystery” typewriter to one’s collection. Anyone who starts off down the road of typewriter collecting pretty soon learns to look out for the very well lighted signposts: Will Davis’s Portable Typewriter Reference Site, Richard Polt’s The Classic Typewriter Page, Alan Seaver’s Machines of Loving Grace, Richard Milton’s Portable Typewriters, Paul Robert’s Virtual Typewriter Museum, Herman Price’s Chestnut Ridge Typewriter Museum, Shannon Johnson’s Tribute to Typewriters and Their Makers, Wim van Rompuy’s, Georg Sommeregger’s and Dirk Schumann’s Typewriter Database, to name but a few. If any or all of these don’t offer sufficient guidance, it’s difficult to know where to turn. But that’s a rare thing.

Take, for example, this "French" portable, an LP44 (above), which I won on the French eBay some years ago. The photos and words with the listing didn’t offer a lot of clues. I was intrigued by the brand-model-name and couldn’t resist the temptation to buy it. Once I had it in my hands, I thought, I’d be able to identify its origins. No such luck. It’s French all right, it has an AZERTY keyboard. The instruction sheet is in French (albeit in English, German, Spanish and Italian, too). The address of the “manufacturer”, Lagomarsino-France S.A., is indeed in Paris, on the Rue Chaptal, Levellois-Perret, a stone’s throw from the American Hospital.
What probably also threw me, apart from the colour scheme, was the ribbon colour selector switch on the front of the ribbon cover.
So I put the LP44 away in a safe place and pretty much forgot about it. But then a few weeks ago, writing a post for this blog about the Antares and its many guises, I went back to the machine. The name Lagomarsino was a big clue. And yes, at the calculating machines and mechanical music web museum of Australian John Wolff, I found Lagomarsino was a family-owned company established in 1896 in Milan. “For many years the company acted as the Italian distributor for several types of European calculating machines,” John explains. Ah, Milan! Antares SpA’s headquarters. The case was closing in on the LP44. And sure enough, returning to Will Davis’s Antares page, I spot (below) “a machine believed to be an Antares Compact, although this again is not certain. It is very similar to the Parva in overall profile and shape, yet clearly is also not identical. It adds two more character keys.”
So is the LP44 an Antares Compact, with a ribbon colour selector added to the front, or is the Italian Antares Compact in fact a French LP44? My bet is on the former. On the back it says, "Lagomarsino - Made in Italy". And an exhaustive search of eBays in many languages uncovered this lookalike, and it is indeed labelled Antares.
Also, the diagram on Will's Antares page (below)and the LP44 manual diagram match almost exactly:
So mystery solved, at least in large part.

Now we move on to the Alba, and nobody seems able to help me with this one. Is it a real typewriter, or merely a toy typewriter? If it’s a toy typewriter, it’s as close to a real typewriter as a toy typewriter ever gets. Alba is a town and comune of Piedmont, Italy, in the province of Cuneo. It is considered the capital of the hilly area of Langhe, and is famous for white truffle, peach and wine production. The confectionery group Ferrero is based in Alba. But typewriters? I received this from an eBay seller in Italy, who was unable to tell me anything about it. Maybe someone else out there can.

Unfortunately, the ribbon cover and some of the metal parts under it were bent in transit:
Staying in Italy, here (below) is an Engadine IMC I won on eBay from an Australian seller. Will Davis does cover IMC. He calls this model a Presentation and says the Rover family of typewriters made in China “essentially bought out the tooling and designs of a company known only as IMC SpA of Italy”. My Rover 500 is seen below the Engadine. Will also links this line with Antares, as well as with Remington. What intrigued me about the Engadine is that the seller told me she was given it as a graduation present in the 1960s by her father, who bought it new in Melbourne. Maybe my friend Tom, on Elgin Street, North Carlton, who dealt in Antares and Everest models, may have also shipped in Engadines.
Another model which very rarely (just two in more than six years) appears on Australia eBay is the Nippo GLD Atlas. Will has one he bought some years ago on eBay in this country, and I have the other. This small number, of course, suggests not many were brought to Australia at the time of manufacture in Yokohama. Will talks about his Atlas in his introduction to the Australian pages on his website, and calls the model “among the rarest modern typewriters. Only five, or perhaps six, are known to be in the hands of collectors - there are more Rooy machines, and many more Barr portables! The heritage of this design took many years to discover; it is now known that the Nippo was derived from the semi-stillborn Halberg … the body style was first used at the start of production around 1954. It is similar to the (much more common) small, flat Royal portable made in Holland, but has gull-wing ribbon cover doors, and pronounced shoulders along the side of the body.” My own experience with this portable (mine is pictured below) is that it has a surprisingly good typing action, and is quite distinctive and attractive – and very different from most Japanese typewriters. I suspect this is probably as close to a Halberg as I will ever get.


Nick Bodemer said...

If it helps, a typewriter dealer in Seattle imported Alba real typewriters. I have never seen one in person. Can it type in lowercase?

charlotte said...

Can i ask you a question! I bought the same engadine as on the picture. I was wondering what the value is of this typewriters. Thanks!
Greeting charlotte