Poetic justice

Underwood5Czech

This Underwood No. 5 is my rarest typewriter. It’s in exceptional condition, and I dated it to the ’30s at the earliest judging from its cosmetic shape. The serial number, however, dates it to 1915. The body and chrome is the best I’ve seen on a No. 5, and the platen is good, with slight indentations on the backup sheets. The basket and other parts are shiny and devoid of rust, unlike my other Underwood 5s. It only needed a cursory cleaning, since none of the keys stuck, and a new ribbon. It used to belong to an elderly lady in the apartment building of the seller.

Underwood5CzechkeysI did a double-take when I looked at the keyboard: it had keys that I mistook for Czech symbols. Baffled, I consulted forum members at Typewriter Talk and a sharp-eyed contributor declared them–get this–scansion marks, or symbols that denote stresses and caesuras in poetry. I never imagined such a thing existed.

Underwood5Czechkeyboard

What endears it to me is that I am a poet and have turned more to classical forms such as sonnets and rhymed syllabic verse, all which are decidedly unpopular these days, at least with publishers. Not one for words poured into a formless mold, I have gone ahead with my penchant for rhymed structures, publishers be damned.

 

Underwood5poetryScansion marks are most useful to a teacher, since contemporary don’t usually mark the stresses in verse. That, however, would have been useful to a poet writing in the rhymed verse of earlier period. Adhering to classical meters was an essential part of the challenge of poetry at the time. Some things never get old.

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L..C. Smith No. 8 (elite type)

lcsmith8elite

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This one was in good shape when I bought it, though I wondered why it didn’t have the L.C. Smith name on the back metal paper plate. It also didn’t have the model number in front. Closer inspection revealed that it had been painted over (quite well, I admit), though I could still read “L.C. Smith & Bros.” in the metal plate and “No.8” in front, which retained the “L.C. Smith & Bros. Typewriter” script under the type bars.

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lcsmith8elite2Hell of a machine, and even more exciting because of the elite pitch, which is the first I have seen on an L.C. Smith of this period. This one, according to my research, dates to the ’20s, and is my second-oldest No. 8. It types beautifully, and the elite typeface looks great on linen paper. It seems that it’s smaller than regular elite. Is there such a thing as 13- or 14-pitch? Regardless, it’s an exceptional machine that will stay in my lineup for some time.

L.C. Smith Silent

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I fell in love with this when I saw it at the shop: I have never seen an L.C. Smith in such good cosmetic shape. It has replaced the Corona Four as my most beautiful machine. I like to sit in the atrium, where I often work, and ogle it: it’s that type of machine.

But it’s deeply flawed: it’s misaligned, and the shop wasn’t able to fix it. That, however, gave me more leverage  and I got it for a far lower price.

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I ordinarily don’t buy typewriters with misaligned type or jumping letters, but I knew I had to have it–there was no denying that. I knew that if I passed, I would regret it. It spoke to me, it beckoned, and I have learned to listen to these instincts.

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The capitals print high and the “a” prints either high or low; at best, the machine is  inconsistent. I typed a few pages and, to my surprise, found that the misaligned print didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. I realized that, at least in this instance, feel trumps print precision.

I am sometimes a perfectionist when it comes to machines, but that quality vanishes when I type on this beauty. To paraphrase Dylan Thomas, we learn to love them for their faults.

Olympia SG3

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This machine’s bulk and weight astonishes me: if dropped from a plane, it would create a sinkhole that would swallow a small city. It’s not a scorcher in the looks department: the SG1 is far easier on the eyes, whereas the SG3 is all business. It has a no-frills appearance that exudes German efficiency. It’s a hulking beast made for heavyweight writing: You could till a small plot with the carriage return lever.

Though often downplayed when compared to the SG1, I find it very similar in feel. It doesn’t have as many features, but has equally beautiful elite type and authority. I have trouble putting it down (no pun intended).

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This one arrived with a few frozen tab keys, something which matters little to me because I only use five spaces for indentations. One of the keys jammed in the slot and wouldn’t improve despite gentle bending. On a whim, I lubed the slot, reasoning it would jam less and, with repeated use, align itself. It worked with this machine and a Royal KMG.

It also had an odd malfunction. When I returned the carriage, the carriage would drop slightly while typing, creating misaligned text at the beginning of the line. The line spacing would also sometimes revert from one space to a half. I lightly sanded the feed rollers and carriage, which didn’t improve matters.

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Then I noticed that it had two paper-feed levers. Both were facing toward the  back. I brought the left one forward, and it worked flawlessly, though now and then the lever will disengage. Later, when I used the SG1, I noticed both levers were in opposing directions.

This is an astounding machine. It’s made to last, and will laugh at your puny 600-page novel. Then again, it may inspire that bildungsroman.