The Olivetti Lettera 22 Typewriter – Lightweight and Compact

The hands of American writer, Gay Talese, typing on an Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter
The hands of American writer, Gay Talese, typing on an Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter, New York City, 2015. (Photo by Steve Pyke/Getty Images)

In the world of vintage typewriters, the Olivetti Lettera 22 holds a special place. Designed and manufactured by Olivetti, an Italian company renowned for its innovative office equipment, the Lettera 22 typewriter gained popularity for its lightweight and compact design. This blog post explores the unique features and enduring appeal of the Olivetti Lettera 22, highlighting its impact on the typewriter industry.

Portable and Lightweight Design

One of the standout features of the Olivetti Lettera 22 is its portability. Introduced in 1950, this typewriter was specifically designed to be lightweight and compact, making it ideal for individuals on the go. With a weight of approximately 9 pounds (4 kilograms), the Lettera 22 offered unparalleled mobility compared to its bulkier predecessors (Bodoni & Matassa, 2013). The typewriter’s compact size allowed writers, journalists, and students to carry it easily, enabling them to work outside of their traditional office settings.

Ergonomic and User-Friendly Features

The Olivetti Lettera 22 was designed with a focus on user experience. Its sleek design incorporated a comfortable keyboard layout, ensuring smooth and efficient typing. The keys provided a satisfying tactile response, allowing typists to effortlessly produce their work. Additionally, Lettera 22 incorporated a unique “Magic Margin” system, which allowed users to set margins quickly and easily (Bodoni & Matassa, 2013). These ergonomic features made the typewriter intuitive and user-friendly, enhancing the overall writing experience.

Durability and Reliability

Despite its lightweight construction, the Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter boasted impressive durability and reliability. The machine’s solid build and high-quality materials ensured that it could withstand regular use without compromising its performance. This durability made the Lettera 22 a trusted companion for countless writers, journalists, and professionals who relied on its consistent functionality (Bodoni & Matassa, 2013).

Enduring Cultural Impact

The Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter became an iconic symbol of mid-20th-century design and craftsmanship. Its stylish appearance, featuring clean lines and a distinctive round platen knob, captured the essence of Italian design sensibility (Dormer, 1993). The Lettera 22’s aesthetic appeal and functionality made it a favorite among famous writers such as Tennessee Williams and Cormac McCarthy, who valued its portability and reliability (Kovarsky, 2017).

The Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter remains a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of its time. Its lightweight and compact design, coupled with user-friendly features, made it a game-changer in the typewriter industry. With enduring durability and an iconic design, the Lettera 22 left a lasting cultural impact and continues to be revered by collectors and typewriter enthusiasts worldwide.

A vintage 1950s Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter on display in a store in Santa Fe, New Mexico. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)


Bodoni, F., & Matassa, S. (2013). Olivetti: A technological pioneer and the golden age of Italian industrial design. In R. Sassatelli (Ed.), Italy: Love it or Leave it: An International Debate on Italian Contemporary Society (pp. 97-112). Routledge.

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

Dormer, P. (1993). The Culture of Craft. Manchester University Press.

Kovarsky, R. (2017). The Olivetti Lettera 22. Smithsonian Design Museum. Retrieved from

Pearce, C. (1991). Twentieth Century Design Classics.


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