Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Marc Zegans writes

The Emergence of Craft Typewriters 

Salters, Merritts, Munsons, Crandells and Fords;
Keystones, Franklins, Granvilles, and Doughertys
Chicagos, American Visibles,
Adlers, Blickensderfers, Densmores, Empires
Edlands, Edelmanns, Graphikas and Voss;
Letteras, Olympias and Hermes;
Sterling silver Smith Coronas, and
The ever-elusive Fontana Baby

Lit the wick of the collecting typist
Brighter than a twenty-nine D’Yquem.
Their passion for vintage originals
soon captured all available supply,
leaving the elbow-patched tweed Underground
with barn finds in need of restoration.

Enter the dippers and the re-keyers
Bringing back the glass, the gloss, the strike
The promising clatter of the new
Manual lifted from its unclasped case
And placed on a desk for the first time
As if the owner were transported back
To the age of mechanical goodness
When novels rose with the sound of keys.

Ian Fleming’s Gold Royal was legend
and customizing by the Underground
bonding in dark corners with their machines
followed as naturally as a sheet roll—
initially a modest monogram,
pinstriping, or perhaps a small cartouche

then the fitting of hand to carriage,
keyboard cutting, stretching and channeling,
short-throw shifting and feather light touch 
for the performance driven hot-rodder
who joined clandestine typewriter speed trials,
text-races, page sprints, scroll-rallies, chickie-runs
and the infamous ten days of Simenon
which destroyed the bodies, psyches and hands
of many a typist unprepared for
the manic determination required
to complete the rigors of the course
and to emerge with a witty novel 
polished, fulfilled and ready for release
at the moment of day ten’s midnight hour.

The extreme is driven by progression
The artisan becoming inventor
when customizing loses romance,
and so it was that D.H. Spittingly 
(nee Arthur Tremble) made a craft machine
in his East Peoria machine shop.

A novelty, a cheap gimmick, a fraud
Declared the curators and collectors
Apostasy claimed the purists and the priests
Who lived by the law of the custom-mod,
But Spittingly had made a machine fraiche
a bold, clear and effective design
graced with swooping curves and garnet keys,
and before year’s end, he was not alone.
 -- Glen Robinson


  1. Château d'Yquem was the only Sauternes wine to be recognized as a Premier Cru Supérieur (Superior First Growth) wine in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, compiled by brokers from the wine industry according to a château's reputation and trading price. It is often described as the greatest sweet wine in the world, and a Chateau d'Yquem 1787 is the most expensive at $100,000. Yquem is on the highest hill in Sauternes, Gironde, and its 110-hectare vineyard is planted with 80% Sémillon and 20% Sauvignon Blanc. Botrytis cinerea (“grapes like ashes”), the “noble rot,” is a necrotrophic fungus that dehydrates grapes and leaves behind a higher percent of solids such as sugars, fruit acids and minerals. This results in a more intense, concentrated final product, though it complicates winemaking by making fermentation more complex. Only fully botrytized fruit is picked, and yields are so low that each vine produces only 1 glass of wine. The grapes are pressed 3 times and transferred to 100% new oak barrels for maturation over a period of about 3 years. On average, 65,000 bottles are produced each year, but in a poor vintage the entire crop is sold anonymously. The site has been home to a vineyard since at least 1711.
    When commander Ian Fleming (the son of a member of Parliament and grandson of the financier who founded the Scottish American Investment Trust and the merchant bank Robert Fleming & Co.) left the Royal Navy’s intelligence office in 1945 he became the foreign manager in the Kemsley newspaper group, which owned “The Sunday Times,” and his contract allowed him to take 3 months’ holiday every winter, which he took in Jamaica. In 1946 he bought 15 acres on Oracabessa bay and built his vacation home Goldeneye (named after his 1940 operation to monitor Spanish activity and undertake possible sabotage operations). On 17 February 1952 he began writing “Casino Royale” there, and he wrote his James Bond novels there between January and March every year until his death in 1964. After finishing the first draft of “Casino Royale,” he rewarded himself with a Royal Quiet Deluxe Portable gold-plated typewriter, which he bought for $174. (The Royal Quiet was also the typewriter of choice for Ernest Hemingway.) The machine was manufactured by the Royal Typewriter Co. of New York from 1939 to 1948, although later models were made until 1957; the gold-plated limited-quantity version was introduced in 1947. In 1995 Fleming’s was auctioned by Christie’s to an anonymous bidder for £56,250 ($89,229). It was rumored that it had been bought by Pierce Brosnan, who began playing James Bond in the “GoldenEye” film of that year, but Brosnan denied the story.

  2. Capable of writing 60 to 80 pages per day, Georges Simenon was a Belgian writer who published nearly 500 novels, over 150 novellas, numerous articles, and several autobiographical works including “Je me souviens” (1945), “Pedigree” (1948), and “Mémoires intimes” (1981) under more than 2 dozen pseudonyms. About 550 million copies of his works have been printed. He began writing as 15-year-old reporter for Joseph Demarteau’s “Gazette de Liège,” for which he contributed more than 150 articles as “G. Sim” until he left the paper in 1922. During the same period, as "Monsieur Le Coq," he also published more than 800 humorous pieces. As G. Sim he wrote hi 1st novel, “Au Pont des Arches,” in June 1919. From 1921 to 1934 he used 17 pen names for 358 novels and short stories. In 1930 he introduced commissaire Jules Amedée François Maigret in the “Pietr-le-Letton”serial in “Detective,” which was published in book form in 1931. The character starred in 28 short stories and 75 novels, ending with “Maigret et Monsieur Charles” in 1972. He was also a noted author of "romans durs" (psychological novels) including “The Strangers in the House” (1940), “La neige était sale” (1948), and “Le fils” (1957). He was investigated at the end of World War II because he had negotiated with German movie studios for film rights to his books during the occupation of France and in 1950 was sentenced to a 5-year publishing ban, but he had already moved to North America by then and did not return to Europe until 1955. His "American period" is regarded as the highlight of his creative powers, with novels such as “Trois chambres à Manhattan” (1946), “Maigret à New York” (1947), and “Maigret se fâche” (1947). His work has been adapted to at least 171 films and TV productions.

  3. Duane, thank you so much for your erudite commentary on references in my piece, "The Emergence of Craft Typewriters." It has been my hope from the start that writers like you would amplify and annotate the text with notes on references and allusions that would enrich the material for readers. I'm more than grateful for your taking the time to so richly open the history behind the text.


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