I started earnestly writing when I was 15 years old. I wrote with a Parker 75 fountain pen filled with Sheaffer’s Skrip Peacock Blue writing fluid. (I was a pretentious little twit, and I liked the vibrant—near neon—blue.)
After a couple of my teachers complained to my parents about my flamboyant choice of ink color, my grandmother gave me the typewriter that I’d seen on TV and had asked for for Christmas—a Remington Streamliner.
I continue to have a fondness for manual typewriters. There’s the heft of the machine, the feel of your fingers on keys, the distinctive sound of the keystrokes and the ring of the carriage return bell, the specific tempo and rhythm you have to learn, and each machine’s personality that intrigues me. (Every manual typewriter has its own quirks.)
I no longer have a typewriter, but when I notice one for sale, I always take a look. They bring back nice memories. This week I saw two that made my eyes widen.
The first is Jack Kerouac’s personal Smith-Corona. It’s the one he used to compose and type Vanity of Duluoz—written in 1967—published in 1968. University Auctions (UA) notes that “the machine is in good, used condition with the 1) original typewriter cover, 2) the original typewriter handbook, 3) the original purchase receipt, 4) the original typewriter ribbon and even the original coffee stains.” They say that while Christie’s auction house sold a typewriter in 2010—formerly the claimant to being the last typewriter Kerouac bought, their paperwork clearly disputes Christie’s claim.
The second, my favorite, is a Royal HH model. It’s bigger, clunkier, and has—according to UA—an impeccable provenance. It also has, in my opinion, one of the best feeling carriage return bars ever made. The auction house says that Hemingway’s Royal carries Serial number HHP-4938968 is circa the mid-1950s and was used by him to write A Moveable Feast—his tale of early days spent among writing giants the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and James Joyce. It comes with the original typewriter ribbon.
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