Waverley typewriter,

Waverley typewriter, £23,000 at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood.

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Just two years later the company behind this British-made typewriter reached the end of its chapter because of financial difficulties.

In collecting terms, that tiny window of production means surviving examples are scarce - maybe fewer than 10 are known, including one in London’s Science Museum - and so are auction records.

So when a Waverley typewriter emerged during the Sporting & Collectors sale at Bearnes Hampton & Littlewood of Exeter on November 21-22 it was always likely to catch the eye and soar beyond the £6000- 8000 estimate. The hammer fell at £23,000 (plus 25% buyer’s premium).

Inventors Edward Smith Higgins and Henry Charles Jenkins had begun work on the Waverley in 1889 and they applied for a patent. The Waverley Typewriter Company was registered in early 1894.

Higgins and Jenkins patent

Inventors Edward Smith Higgins and Henry Charles Jenkins had begun work on the Waverley in 1889.

It was a model with vertical rear-downstrike type bars behind the platen (where the metal key heads hit the paper to print the characters). This innovative design meant the writing could be seen when in use - many others required lifting of the carriage to inspect the work.

However, it also made the paper carriage complicated. More conventional typewriters expelled sheets towards the rear because the typebars struck the platen from the front.

Brian Goodison-Blanks of BHL said the Waverley came in via an online valuation and was subsequently brought to a valuation day. “The lady’s father was a journalist who worked for the The Evening News for most of his career. He fell in love with typewriters, purchasing this one many years ago. She can remember it as a child.”

Amid interest from Germany, on sale day a Spanish underbidder was beaten by a US collector (but not actor Tom Hanks, a renowned typewriter fan).

Goodison-Blanks added: “It was highly desirable and the rarity factor trumped the condition, because it had shown signs of damp storage and had pitting to the enamelling, but the action and mechanism worked, it wasn’t seized or rusted solid, just had some cosmetic issues.”

The serial number could be read still: I3.

Similar designs

The Waverley was one of four typewriter brands to use this peculiar rear type bar arrangement. Two were made in the US, the Brooks and Fitch, and two in the UK, North’s and Waverley. Fitch production eventually transferred to the UK.

An 1887 Brooks model sold in May last year at German firm Auction Team Breker for €16,000 (£13,600), while an 1891 Fitch version struck €24,000 (£20,400) in the same sale.