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A Room with a Typewriter? Steve Soboroff snags EM Forster Oliver for $11,401

The Oliver typewriter used by British author E.M. Forster
The Oliver typewriter used by British author E.M. Forster

Steve Soboroff — the local businessman, space shuttle promoter and head of the Los Angeles Police Commission — has about two dozen historically significant typewriters, including ones owned by the Unabomber, Julie Andrews, Andy Rooney, Hemingway, and John Lennon. As he said to Off-Ramp in the past:

"What the typewriter symbolizes now is timelessness, and also a slower, more thoughtful way of life. What is made these days that will be used 60, 70, 80, 100 years from now? I don't think there's anything, and these typewriters have hundreds of years to go."

He brings them to charity auctions and says he's raised hundreds of thousands of dollars by letting people pay for the privilege of typing on them.

RELATED: Steve Soboroff's typewriter time machines

Now Soboroff has added yet another typewriter to his collection: one used by E.M. Forster, the British author who wrote "Where Angels Fear to Tread," "The Longest Journey," "A Room with a View," "Howards End," "A Passage to India," and the scandalous "Maurice."

(E. M. Forster by Dora Carrington)

Soboroff excitedly emailed me this morning: "I didn't let this one get away! Been working on it for months :)" According to the Bonham's auction site, Soboroff's winning bid was $11,401. Here's how Bonham's described it:

'The Oliver Standard Visible Writer No. 3', E.M. FORSTER'S TYPEWRITER, black enameled and chrome-plated metal typewriter with down strike mechanism, rubber roller platen, mounted on a wooden board, with 2 tins of spare ribbon and original metal lid lettered 'The Oliver', with a later carrying handle, overall dimensions c.370 x 370 x 300mm., The Oliver Typewriter Co., Chicago, U.S.A., patented 1 March 1898 ... It is seemingly in working order but in need of cleaning and oiling.

There's an important caveat. It doesn't look like Forster wrote his famous works on it.

Although Forster was well-known for his aversion to all things mechanical, and wrote an early short story, "The Machine Stops," describing man as he might become after the machine has finally triumphed, he certainly owned and used a typewriter. As P.N. Furbank, Forster's biographer, points out in a letter sold with the lot, King's College Archives hold two early unpublished sketches ... in typed form. And there are plenty of typed letters in the College archives.  - Bonham's