Moby-Dick; or, The Olivetti Lexikon 80

Totally Your Type had a recent post entitled “Be Patient. Look Everywhere” that offered words of encouragement to typewriter hunters. The gist: sometimes, when and where you least expect them, typewriters happen. You just need to be patient and persistent.

My Goodwill NEVER has typewriters. It has stereos, waffle irons, sad clown figurines, acid wash jeans, golf clubs but NEVER typewriters.

I was at the auto parts store nearby picking up some Liquid Wrench and open end wrenches for my LC Smith 8 vertical type adjustment project and decided to stop in at Goodwill just in case. I was under no illusions that I would find a single typewriter, but there amidst the toasters and Igloo coolers was an Olivetti Lexikon 80.


It was like I had seen the storied Great White Whale, Moby-Dick. A very grimy Moby-Dick.  I have heard tell of great typewriters at Goodwill, but here was one in the flesh. I thought typewriters at Goodwill were a suburban legend, but lo! I quickly reached for my harpoon and brought the great beast in.

This Olivetti Lexikon 80 fits all my qualifications for a great typewriter:

  1. Very dirty (I like to clean typewriters)
  2. Not working too well (I like to tinker with typewriters)
  3. Cheap (this one was $18.99)

Plus, it looks pretty easy to strip down to the machine guts.  I got the Lexikon 80 home, researched it a bit and found Rob Bowker’s inspirational Lexikon 80 dismantling. Wowie. This typewriter will be an awful lot of fun to clean.


And: it’s got the beautiful sweeping lines of Moby-Dick. Thank you, Marcello Nizzoli.  And like a sperm whale, the Lexikon 80 weighs somewhere between 40-50 tons.

1952 Olivetti Lexikon 80

The serial number is 2246770 – which makes it a 1952? Typosphere, correct me if I am wrong about the date.

This Olivetti has a thick layer of tobacco grime – residue from what could be a “hoagie + stogie” typing habit. But hey, no judgments here! Since I got my L.C. Smith No. 8, I now understand the importance of a good cigar while typing.

Here’s a short video with a very clean Lexikon 80 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art

Beautiful, beautiful Olivetti. Let’s see how the Grimy Whale cleans up.

22 thoughts on “Moby-Dick; or, The Olivetti Lexikon 80

  1. Great catch, and love the orange whale outline! 😀
    Lexicons (and Graphikas) are fairly rare in the US, so scoring one at GW just made up for all the days of empty shelves, didn’t it? As they say “You’ll never know what you’ll find”.


  2. Great find! My Lexikon 80 is my favourite typewriter to use and was not surprisingly the most popular typewriter during a “hands-on” typewriter exhibition I held in Perth a while back. 😉


  3. Beautiful typewriter! I appreciated the link to the industrial design video. I agree with your strategy of never giving up the search. I made dozens of fruitless visits to my local ReStore thrift shop and then found a Quiet DeLuxe for $25. In fact, that was almost a year since I found the Corona Sterling for $15 that I gave my daughter at the same store. Another tip I would give is to look in different sections of your local thrift store. My QDL was sitting on top of an old table in the furniture section. The Sterling was behind the front counter. I have found other models, like a Galaxy 12 in office supplies while some machines end up near electronics. I passed on the Galaxy 12 because I felt $40 was too much to ask but I did prop its case open so the next passer-by would see what was inside.


    • The Lexikon 80 was such a nice surprise. Since I never saw typewriters there, I had assumed that most of Goodwill’s typewriters had moved to their online auction site, I was lucky that the typewriter was so dirty – its less than functional state probably turned off a lot of people too. I have a thing for typewriters in “rough” shape. It’s actually cleaning up beautifully.


  4. So nice to find this rare beast in the wild. Congratulations! The Lexicon I got on ebay awhile back was also covered in tobacco crud and the paint was beyond cleaning. It got a bit of a makeover.


  5. Shannon Foley says:

    Hi, has anyone had any experience reassembling these machines? When I put the carriage back on there is something preventing the keys from striking the platen, but when the carriage is off everything moves just fine. Any takers?


    • Hi Shannon, Rob Bowker has a good photo tutorial on taking typewriters like this apart and putting them back together:
      I don’t have my Lexikon with me in Virginia or I would take some pictures for you – it’s in California right now and I won’t see it until January. It may be that the carriage is not properly seated when you put it back on the machine body. Make sure you center the carriage on the body when placing it. Also, check your margins. If they are set too close together, they will engage the line lock and you won’t be able to type once the the carriage is back in place.
      Hope this helps!


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