16 settembre 2022
by Guendalina Dainelli

The writing machine

Olivetti Lettera 22 
Olivetti Lettera 22 

Tom Hanks is undoubtedly one of the most authoritative amateur experts and collectors of typewriters. In an interview, he stated that he has over 250 pieces in his private collection. And in the circles of typewriter enthusiasts, it is said that if you send him a typewritten letter, he will reply.

It has accompanied famous writers and journalists, including Pier Paolo Pasolini, Günther Grass, Enzo Biagi and Indro Montanelli, who owned three. 

In the era of touch screens, “the Lettera 22 is now a pop icon,” says Gaetano di Tondo, President of the Olivetti Historical Archive Association. And you’d be hard-pushed to find a co-marketing strategy partner who better represents the history of Italian design. As demonstrated by the success of the project with Bottega Veneta. Devised among the very pure and rarefied lines of Negozio Olivetti in Piazza San Marco in Venice, designed in 1958 by Carlo Scarpa on behalf of Adriano Olivetti, today a cultural asset entrusted to the Italian Environment Fund (FAI).

It is here in Negozio Olivetti that we find on display the Le Cabat bags: limited edition inspired in form and color by Olivetti typewriters, with photos by interior photographer Francois Halard. “It was an experience that was very much enjoyed; it is an idea that could be repeated internationally,” said di Tondo. “We also did a similar project with Pigna for paper products. What our customers have in common is a love for elegance, the craftsmanship of the objects, a tactile taste for the product.”

Shell in pastel colors. Slender carriage with a feed roller. Closely-arranged and slim keyboard-operated hammers. The Lettera 22 is a small mechanical prodigy weighing less than nine pounds. Designed in 1950 by Giuseppe Beccio, with a design by Marcello Nizzoli, it has accompanied famous writers and journalists, including Pier Paolo Pasolini, Günther Grass, Enzo Biagi and Indro Montanelli, who owned three.

The Lettera 22 is a small mechanical prodigy weighing less than nine pounds

For those who are wondering, it should be noted that it is no longer in production. There is a thriving market of enthusiasts and collectors active on social networks or e-commerce platforms. There is also a hard core of admirers in Mexico and Argentina, the location of some production plants. The advent of computers with word processing software perhaps marked the end of an era. But certainly the beginning of another. Awarded the first Compasso d'Oro in 1954, chosen in 1959 by the Illinois Technology Institute as the best design product of the last 100 years, the Lettera 22 is now part of the permanent collections at MoMA in New York.

Symbol of a galaxy. The Olivetti Galaxy with its epicenter in the city of Ivrea, since four years ago a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Italian Book Capital 2022. It is forever the place where Adriano, following in the footsteps of Camillo, sought to embody the utopia of a factory on a human scale and a society centered around a sense of community. Thanks in part to the post-war expansiookn of world business, Adriano's humanism developed in the footsteps of the Catholic philosopher Jaques Maritain, into a veritable industrial city spread around the factory, with residential, recreational and social buildings today the subject of handbooks on architecture and design.

It has been a while since NASA used Olivetti's P101 computer to calculate the space orbits of the Apollo 11 mission that took man to the moon. It was the first personal computer in history. Today the new Olivetti is an integral part of the TIM Group, the company that, faithful to its mission of accompanying the country towards innovation, defines itself as the digital factory in the field of the IoT, the Internet of things.

The Olivetti Historical Archive Association, in collaboration with local institutions, is tireless in promoting the Olivetti Legacy. From online talks to the #LaMiaOlivetti podcast, which collects the unique testimonies of former employees, to the recent Podium 16 exhibition held at the ADI Design Museum, a tribute to the 16 Compasso d’Oro awarded between 1954 and 2001. Up to the first digital collector's stamp made with Bitstamps, part of the new Olivetti Collection. It will be issued on Wednesday 22 December. A limited edition of 2000 pieces dedicated to the graphics by Giovanni Pintori for the Christmas 1956 advertising campaign for the Lettera 22. Each stamp will be a “single” digital object guaranteed by Blockchain technology.

Last year, the most famous portable typewriter in the world celebrated its 70th birthday. She wore the Italian flag for the occasion. In collaboration with Rinascente, the Historical Archive undertook the conservative restoration of the mechanics of 70 historic machines to their authentic functionality. Each machine was numbered from 1 to 70 and matched to the original serial number. “They sold like hot cakes in a few days,” said Di Tondo.

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