John Updike’s Olivetti Linea 88—”the only manual typewriter he used regularly from 1969-2009,” according to his son, David Updike—is now on display at The John Updike Childhood Home, 117 Philadelphia Ave., Shillington, Pa.
The Childhood Home museum is owned by The John Updike Society, a 501c3 organization devoted to promoting Updike’s works. With Dr. Maria Lester as director, the museum is staffed by dedicated Updike lovers who live in the area.
The typewriter, acquired from Elizabeth Updike Cobblah and David, Michael and Miranda Updike, instantly became the crown jewel of the museum’s holdings. According to David, his father had bought/brought a white Adler typewriter to London in September 1968, but it “seemed inadequate—not sturdy enough. . . . A typewriter salesman came to the house, sold him on this Olivetti Linea 88, which he then bought and used for the rest of the year there.”
“It was big and heavy,” David said. “At the end of the school year, the green Citroen was being shipped across the ocean to us, and he had the idea to put the typewriter in the car too: thus, it made the voyage back to America, and my father used it for the rest of his life: Ipswich, Georgetown, Beverly Farms, and typed tens of thousands (I would guess) poems, short stories, letters, postcards, notes, many of which will soon be in the collection edited by Jim Schiff.
“At some point, he started to write longer letters on a word processor, but continued to use this one for shorter communications, all the way until January, 2009. It was in fine working order, and as you see it was serviced by a fellow in Beverly, Mass.”
Next to the typewriter is Updike’s dictionary, which he kept near his typewriter—a habit, no doubt, picked up from his mother. Linda Updike’s dictionary is also on display at the house.