Those who long for the days when Hemingway would eke out novels at his desk with the aid of a cigar and whiskey should flock to Northeastern University, where a collection of typewriters belonging to famous writers is currently on display at the 360 Gallery.
The exhibition includes machines formerly belonging to John Lennon and Ernest Hemingway and was donated by a Northeastern parent, Steve Soboroff. Says Soboroff about his collection, “The idea that geniuses sat there and accomplished what they accomplished on these typewriters… it gives me the chills.” Invented in the 1860s, the typewriter became among the first means by which the general public could quickly draft documents and became commonplace from professional settings to the home. With the transition to computer word processing in the 1970s and 1980s, the typewriter became a bygone relic of a sharply receding past.
In the wake of digital interface, the typewriter has become a fetish object. Ernest Hemingway’s Haldawas up for auction earlier this summer and Jack Kerouac’s Hermes 3000 was sold by Christie’s for $25,000. A few years earlier, Cormac McCarthy’s was also sold by Christie’s to an unnamed collector for a staggering $254,500. Perhaps for the collectors, the sticker price is mere pittance compared to the inspiration these machines invoke, each rusty key offering sage council from its previous owner.