Who Uses Typewriters Anyway: Each Piece in France Pinzon’s Collection Has Its Own Story

Courtesy of France Pinzon

In a lyric in the title track of Taylor Swift’s eleventh studio album The Tortured Poets Department, the singer asks: “Who uses typewriters anyway?” In an exclusive interview with Vogue Philippines, writer France Pinzon answers: she does. 

“I think the time for typewriters is now,” France Pinzon says. The writer’s statement is merited: mechanical items of the past have been experiencing a nostalgic resurgence in the past few years, including vinyl records and record players, Polaroid cameras, and cassettes.

“Especially with Taylor Swift including it in the lyrics and aesthetic of her new album,” she says. “I think a lot of young people will be interested in them, and it will bring a lot of sales to typewriter sellers.” 

Pinzon’s journey into collecting typewriters began during the pandemic. Reflecting on her grandmother’s influence, an academic writer who frequently used a typewriter, she felt a pull toward these nostalgic devices. “One day, in the middle of 2020, I ended up buying my first typewriter,” she recalls. Her first acquisition was a pink model she discovered on Facebook Marketplace, priced modestly, and igniting what would become an enduring fascination. Currently, she is a part of a Facebook group, a growing community of typewriter collectors and enthusiasts sharing their rarest finds, tips for maintenance, and interesting anecdotes. 

Courtesy of France Pinzon

Maintaining these vintage machines is no small feat, especially in the Philippines, where resources and parts can be scarce. Pinzon relies on the expertise of local repairman Gerald Cha, who runs a small typewriter maintenance shop in Quiapo. Cha’s shop has become a sanctuary for typewriter enthusiasts, providing the essential maintenance and repairs needed to keep these machines in working order.

For Pinzon, her fascination with these vintage items interweaves with her professional and creative life. “I wanted to be able to use them from time to time, not just display them,” she says. This hands-on approach helps her connect more deeply with her craft. She is currently working on her first novel, Cache ’22, which coincidentally revolves around typewriters.

Her writing career began in 2007 with a piece about pet care for a teen magazine. Over the years, she has written for various publications, and served as the editor-in-chief of a travel magazine. Currently, Pinzon is working on launching a publishing venture in the United Kingdom, focused on providing a home for niche non-fiction books called Caret Publishing

Courtesy of France Pinzon
Courtesy of France Pinzon

Reflecting on her career, Pinzon appreciates the rich experiences and opportunities that writing and travel have afforded her. “Traveling and writing have been the best jobs because they allow you to explore new places and meet new people,” she says. Pinzon also affirms that her experience in the writing and publishing industry was instrumental in her fascination with typewriters. “As a writer, you have to process your thoughts a lot, and I’ve always been more comfortable with writing than talking,” Pinzon says. “However, there are a lot of people who collect typewriters who aren’t necessarily writers by profession. I think as a collector, you just have to be passionate about writing or communicating.” 

Fascinatingly, Pinzon’s attitude to collecting is controlled and disciplined. Instead of amassing a huge number of typewriters, she limits herself to 10. “Just for practicality, I want to make sure that I’ll be able to use them and not just hoard them,” she says. “But there are different kinds of collectors. Some people collect only certain models, or special typewriters with a different typeface.”

As someone who travels a lot, Pinzon has an affinity for portable typewriters she could bring along on her trips. “I worked it into my lifestyle,” she says. “I wanted to be able to bring at least one or two machines when I go overseas, and antique shops are the first places I look for whenever I’m in a new place to check out typewriters.”

Courtesy of France Pinzon

For Pinzon, collecting typewriters is about more than just amassing items; it’s about understanding their history and appreciating their unique designs and functionalities. “There are different types of typewriters, from portable to desktop versions, each with its own story,” she explains.

Among her favorites is the Corona 3, a foldable model that gained popularity among journalists during the First World War for its portability. Pinzon’s collection also includes rare finds like the MJ Rooy, a French typewriter from the mid-20th century, known for its thin, foldable design. “They only made about 20,000 of these, so owning one feels like holding a piece of history,” she says.

Pinzon also proudly displays a typewriter ribbon tattoo on her forearm. “It’s something that you’ll quickly recognize if you know what a typewriter ribbon looks like,” she says.

Apart from her beloved machines, she talks warmly about the community she’s found while collecting typewriters, and encourages more people to start collecting. “The moment you find your very first typewriter, reach out to the group. We’ll all be very excited,” Pinzon says. “We’re all very friendly, and we like talking about typewriters. You’re instantly welcomed in.” Through their collections, the ‘typewriter community’ preserves the legacy of these vintage machines, ensuring that their stories continue to be told and appreciated by future generations.

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