The typewriter – remember those? — has an interesting history. Many think an Italian invented the first typewriter. The most likely contender would be Pellegrino Turri, who in 1801 invented a typing machine for his blind mistress, Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzono. Apparently Turri grasped the concept of “backing up” your documents, because he invented a variation of carbon paper, too.
Of course, as these things go, Italy may not get to claim the inventor of the typewriter entirely on its own. Turri’s contraption didn’t survive, though apparently some of his mistress’ typewritten letters did. A Viennese count, a Swiss and a French inventor each created a typewriter of their own — in the 1700s no less. And fifteen years after Turri devised his typing machine, Italian Pietro Conti came out with his ‘Tachigrafo.’
We’ll let the historians play ref on this one. Suffice it to say, Italians contributed to the advancement of the technology that changed the world. And in the 20th century, the Italian company Olivetti made some of the best typewriters in the world. Those typewriters combined elegant, clean design with superior technology that made Olivetti typewriters sought after by businesses and students. (If it sounds familiar, that’s precisely what Steve Jobs did with Apple products.) The machine’s designs were recognized by places like the Museum of Modern Art, which has a number of them as part of its permanent collection.
As the world moves away from typewriters, we’d like to suggest some Venice sightseeing off the beaten path as it were that is a must-see for anyone interested in the history of technology or Italian mid-century design. The Old Olivetti Shop right in Piazza San Marco was refurbished last year and now operates as a museum, It’s a tribute to Olivetti typewriters as well as to the Italian architect Carlo Scarpa who designed the space.
Negozio Olivetti | Piazza San Marco, 101 | Procuratie Vecchie | Venezia | +39 041 5228387