“How lucky we are who have simple tastes,” declared Rob Bowker the other day, in relation to what, for the vast majority of us, are utterly unattainable items being offered for sale in a Cologne typewriter auction on November 19.
How right Rob is. Still, our simple tastes can sometimes lead to rather expensive blunders. Take my Primavera 2000 for example. Yes, take it, please do. All I wanted was an uplifting Australian spring (primavera) present for myself. What I got was the closest thing I've yet seen to Ettore Sottsass's concept of the typewriter equivalent of a Bic biro: a throwaway.
Still, I couldn’t resist it, especially when it was listed at about 10 euros on eBay Classico, the Italian eBay (http://www.ebay.it/). At the end of the day, however, to have this “typewriter” shipped to Australia from Italy proved a fairly costly folly, based upon the unfounded notion that it just might turn out to be a half-decent typing machine. For anyone else tempted to buy one of these models, be warned: they are a heap of rubbish.
They belong to the family of Italian-Chinese “typewriters” we more commonly know as Rovers, but which incredibly embrace such highly regarded typewriter brand names as Olivetti and Olympia. The Primavera 2000 is even lower down this ladder of late-model “typewriters”: it has no means of adjusting line-spacing, no right-hand margin setter, no ribbon colour switch – and no bell!
Do I hear the name “Ettore Sottsass” ring out? Yes, this Primavera 2000 is surely akin to what Sottsass had in mind when he originally proposed the Valentine to Olivetti, trying to persuade Olivetti to make a “typewriter for the people”.
The Primavera 2000, which can now be bought for under 10 euros ($US13.78, $A13.25), might be described as that, if "the people" want landfill. It types, after a fashion, but I have several cheap plastic toy typewriters which type far better. (Talking of Sottsass and his disillusionment with what the Valentine eventually became: could he possibly have had his hand in the hard-to-find Monpti? I have seen it suggested that he did. Anyone know anything about the Monpti? Maybe it will be my next folly.)
Still, for all that, I have to admit that acquiring the Primavera 2000 was a rather entertaining diversion. I’m not sure how I came across it, not being a regular visitor to eBay Classico (though I have in the past found some treasures there). I think I had probably keyed in a Google word search for “IMC+typewriter”, and up popped “MACCHINA DA SCRIVERE IMC” – “Superb Typewriter IMC model … full-functioning (sic) housing.”
Some cursory research did indicate the company, Industria Meccanica di Chiavenna S.p.A, had continued to exist until being delisted on January 27 last year (2010). And it was obvious that this IMC machine was based on the same design as the 1960s IMC portable, the relatively rare Engadine.
Nevertheless the transaction had its scary moments. No sooner had I paid for the Primavera 2000 and postage, and began to feel comfortable that all would be well, than the item was relisted! The seller ignored my demands to know what was going on.
It appears he had more than one of these machines to sell. Indeed, I suspect he might have had a small (leftover?) stock of them. Having bought one, I can now well appreciate that such a stock, no matter how small, would be quite difficult to shift.
So instead of spending any more time on the Primavera 2000, let’s look at the original, the Engadine. The name comes, I believe, from the Romansh Engiadina, meaning garden of the inn. I shall sit back in the spring sunshine and sup of this much finer (and real) typewriter.
Industria Meccanica di Chiavenna S.p.A is something of a mystery typewriter company. Chiavenna, I gather, is a small town in the province of Sondrio in the Italian region of Lombardy, about 60 miles (100km) north of Milan. The area did support some light industry, including IMC’s typewriter manufacturing, but this appears to have needed some propping up from the Italian government in the early 1990s. But by 1993 the end for such industry was in sight, with a media report stating “a number of companies [and many jobs are] already in crisis [including] IMC producing typewriters … "
Long before the end finally came early last year, IMC had, according to Will Davis on his Portable Typewriter Reference Site, “essentially” sold its tooling and designs to Chinese interests – which obviously accounts for the Engadine lookalike Primavera 2000 being a member of the Rover family of “typewriters”.
What isn’t explained anywhere is the continued production of Rover and Olympia typewriters by IMC in Italy, as well as in China - continued, that is, presumably up until the early part of the 21st century. Nor does it reveal why Olivetti wouldn’t have been made there, too. My earlier post on Italian-Chinese machines, http://oztypewriter.blogspot.com/2011/05/china-v-italy-mystery-of-origin-of.html suggested those made [assembled] in Italy were marginally superior to those coming out of China.
Will Davis was able to make the Italian-Chinese link in 2004 through an even more exact Engadine lookalike called a Presentation (below), which was made in Italy (and “a mechanical match” with the Engadine).
Will wrote that it was “very apparently related to both the Chinese-made Rover family and to the older, Italian-made Antares family. It is, mechanically, half-way between the two, including features of both, and obviously between them in age.
“It is the statement on the Shanghai Golden Bay Typewriter Company's page concerning the IMC heritage that allows the identification of this machine and its family members.” Will included among these family members Remingtons “quite common in South America”.
We may never know how all this fully fits together. But I think we can safely say my curiosity with Italian-Chinese "typewriters" is now fully, and expensively, sated. No more Rovers, no more Primaveras. They've got no "spring". From now on, Rob, my simple tastes will be more simply met (the Monpti aside).
This Rover 2000 (above and below) offered on eBay is the same model as the Primavera 2000:
Here are some Engadines which apparently sit somewhere between the original Engadine portable and the Primavera 2000: