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Monday 11 March 2013

Mystery Typewriter: Urania Piccola?

I am pleased to have piqued Richard Polt's interest in this "mystery typewriter". I feel confident Richard will be able to pick it in a minute.
I, meanwhile, remain mystified. The closest thing I can find to it on the European Typewriter Project web pages put together by Will Davis and the late Tilman Elster is a Urania Piccola. It has the same type of paper supports and ribbon colour selector on the left side, the same steeply positioned escapement rack. Note also the carriage lever on the right.
Collection of the late Tilman Elster
Georg Sommeregger has posted many images of his Urania Piccola, both on and flickr.
Georg Sommeregger Collection
But this model has a crinkle paint finish on the top section and paper plate and a smooth shiny black finish on the bottom section. 
There is no a trace of a decal as far as I can see. The serial number is 116594. Unfortunately I haven't been able get it off the base of its case yet, to look underneath it. I apologise for the plastic ribbon spools, but they were all I could lay my hands on tonight. Still, it was a ribbonless wreck when I picked it up in Oxley in Brisbane yesterday morning, and now it looks and works fine - if decal-less.
I have been promising to post on this machine for a couple of days now, and in doing so I may have misled some readers. It is NOT a German keyboard, it is a QWERTY keyboard with some strange symbols and umlauted vowels, the double S (ß), e-acute and an italicised M above the figure 3 (Mass?). It may even be a bilingual keyboard for all I know.
I said I would take some photos when I got to Hervey Bay and had cleaned up the typewriter. By the time I got here, I just had enough daylight left to buy and apply some degreaser and reconnect the drawband after resetting the main spring. That got the machine working beautifully and I was very impressed with its typing.
I'm not, however, impressed with my images, which were taken with what light I could find. I apologise for this and will attempt to photograph the machine again in better light in the morning.


Ray said...

It's a wonderful looking machine. So you think the top section was a later addition to replace a top section with a matching finish? Thanks for all the posts from the type in. I wish I could have attended but your posts made it feel as if I were there.

maschinengeschrieben said...

This is an Urania piccola, at least technically. I also have one in a white/black-"police"-color scheme, which seems to be a later repaint.

Ray said...

That should have read 'do' and not 'so'. Sorry.

Rob Bowker said...

I recently had an enquiry via the blog about a 'mystery' typewriter. When I got to see the photos, it was obviously an early Underwood 4 bank but there was no trace of a maker's decal - just acres of expertly applied crinkle finish red paint. On top of the paint was applied an old-ish looking dealer's decal. Everything pointed to a dealer-refurbished machine as it was 1920s model with a 1930s + paint job. Bill has some insight into achieving that crinkle finish if you are interested.

rn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rn said...

Might the 'ℳ' key be for the currency: the German Mark, as it existed before World War II? See:

Richard P said...

Ha, I'm impressed with rn's ability to find a digital version of the cursive M! Yes, it's surely the symbol for Mark, and the shape of the machine seems to leave no doubt that it's a Urania Piccola. Presumably repainted/reconditioned at some point. The keyboard is interesting; some Germans did prefer QWERTY, but the shift keys marked SHIFT KEY suggest that this was made for English speakers -- for typing in German!

Bill M said...

I do not know what brand it is, but it sure is nice.

Perhaps sometime in its life someone repainted it and did a very good job of painting.

shordzi said...

Serial number also fits for production in 1933. the M is for mark, a common Symbol on German machines of this period. I think Richard is right, probably some German exile keyboard, i.e. Made for German speakers living in an english speaking country.

michaeliany said...

perhaps one of a kind?

definitely a keeper!

beautiful machine!

Toronto guy said...

It has currency symbols for the old German mark, the dollar, and the pound/lira. You can type German with it, although oddly missing is the umlauted 'o' (ö). That, however, can be compensated for by typing 'oe' instead. You can also type in French with this keyboard layout, although missing is the 'c' with cedilla (ç). You can also write in Italian with it... not to mention English.

My guess is that this was a custom-order job for a multilingual individual or company.