Monday, February 8, 2016

The Gnom typewriter

The Gnom is a toy index typewriter made around 1907-1909 in Germany. It hardly seems like a practical writing machine, but it's more substantial than most toys, with a cast iron base.

I recently came into possession of a Gnom, and I'm turning right around and selling it on eBay. Why? (a) Index typewriters are charming, but they don't excite great passion in me, because I can't imagine writing great things on them. Does anyone else feel this way? (b) I need a new car. No, this isn't going to buy me a Bugatti, but it will help with the down payment on a used Ford.

Here's some more information, from my eBay auction description:

The Liliput circular index typewriter was made by J. W. Bamberger in Munich, Germany and advertised between 1907 and 1909. Liliputs were produced in several models. The simplest was the Model B, meant as a children's toy. This model was also sold under the name Gnom. The device for sale here is a Gnom (Model B) — a rare name variant of an already rare typewriter. This very attractive toy is more substantial than it looks at first, because it has a cast iron base.

The circular index plate is decorated with a charming image of a girl with a pigtail, a boy with a toy horse, a monk (?), a dog, and a rooster who are chasing each other in a circle.

The nickeled parts are in very nice condition. The base is painted dark green with pinstripes. There are some ink stains and small chips in the paint, but in general it is in very good condition.

The metal tube that holds the paper is loose, as I think it is meant to be.

A small leather strap came with the typewriter. I am not sure what its function is, or whether it really belongs with the typewriter.

The hard rubber (?) type wheel beneath the index plate is complete, but has several cracks that can be seen in the photo. It should be treated delicately.

I do not see a mechanism for ringing the bell, so it may be missing.

A small peg can be moved to three different holes to set the left margin.

The space lever works well to advance the carriage.

The ink roller is dry, of course.

This typewriter comes in its original cardboard box, with handle and a ribbon to keep the top closed. The box is in poor condition and its hinge has been repaired with modern tape. The typewriter was originally sold in Spain, and the box is marked with a selling price, 25 pesetas. Interestingly, it is also marked "Liliput" even though that name does not appear on the typewriter itself. The seller evidently knew who the manufacturer was.

All in all, this is a delightful and rare item for a typewriter collector or toy collector.

PS: Here's the complete 1937 ad in which Mickey Mouse uses a Remington Noiseless Portable, which Robert G discusses in a comment below.


  1. Beautiful little typewriter. I saw it on Ebay. I've never given thought to any toy typewriters. Mrs. M is probably very happy.

  2. Off-topic (or perhaps not), but what a great background image of Mickey at the keys! Where do you find this?
    For advertising aimed at kids, that's a very grown-up and expensive typewriter to pitch. Though also the Gnom would have been quite an expensive toy to give back then, I suspect. Interesting little contraption.

    1. I found it on Flickr. It dates from 1937, according to the person who uploaded it, but I don't know where it appeared. Very unusual, and I agree that this is not what the typical Depression consumer would buy for a child! I'm uploading the complete ad to the end of this post.

    2. Thank you for the ad! Nice one that.
      (Now we know what typewriter Mickey used; one for the writer's page ;-)

  3. hhmn, no Gnom in TWDB. should I make a category? :D

    1. You could certainly make one for Liliput. Maybe a separate one for Gnom (Liliput).

  4. Mickey Mouse is quite the celebrity endorsement for Remington! Hard to top that. Great background indeed.
    I feel the same way about index typewriters. I think the main appeal to me in typewriters is the writing function so I tend to only get much enjoyment from ones which could be used more than a few sentences.

  5. A toy typewriter with a cast iron base?!! What were the manufacturers thinking? And how many children got brained with these things? And as for writing novels, it's best to stick with something with a 4-bank keyboard rather than trying to hack it out with one of these little dialers.