Tucked away in one of the basement shops on Haddington Place, Typewronger Books is an Aladin's cave full of new books and zines. We're home to a vibrant community of readers, writers, artists and musicians. Typewronger is open every day of the week from 11am-9pm with the exception of Saturdays when we are open from 10am-10pm. We're the latest open bookshop in town!
Tee worked for Heywood Hill in London, Shakespeare and Company in Paris and Desperate Literature in Madrid before starting Typewronger Books at the Leith Walk Police Box in 2017. They enjoy all sorts of books, but have a deep love of scifi and fantasy, antiquity, the occult and of course poetry. Alongside working in the bookshop Tee also runs our risograph print shop at St Margarets House. They teach our risograph workshops and also, when they can get a minute, repair Typewriters.
Elsa van der Wal
Prior to working at Typewronger, Elsa worked at Labyrinth Books in Princeton, though they're now fully settled here in Scotland! Elsa began working at Typewronger in 2019 and for the first couple of years was our only member of staff. They also run Type-CAST! - our monthly play-reading group, and in their spare time manage incredible feats of acrobatics on the trapeze!
Senior Bookseller (she/her)
In 2020 Viv started hanging around the bookshop after finding us on Instagram whilst she was still on a gap year in Dinotopia. She'd pop in most days, and got into the habit of recommending books to customers. It got to the point where she'd sold so many books it would have been embarassing not to hire her. Viv is our translations geek (she has strong opinions here!) and is a former President of WOLS (the student whisky society!)
Bookselling on Leith Walk! All the scifi books were stashed inside the police box itself!
When Tee was working at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, they started repairing the old typewriters in the Shakes & Co library and wrote a little article for the shop blog which they titled "Typewrongers." As a result of this and various other typographical exploits word got out that they could repair these machines. Tee typed up business cards that read "Typewronger - Paris's Only Typewriter Mechanic" and registered typewronger.com so if folk asked them about typewriters at work they could give out their contact details easily. When the time came for Tee to return to Scotland to start their own shop they kept the name (it's a good name!)
Booksellers are not typically very wealthy people, so to start the shop Tee had to find a space that wasn't too pricey. After doing some voluntary work at St Margaret's House (a wonderful Edinburgh arts centre with over 200 studios) Tee discovered the Leith Walk Police Box. They set up shop there on the 5th of November 2017 selling a selection of second hand books. Within two weeks they had an account with the UK's main book wholesaler and could offer new books and even offered customer ordering. Typewronger would pop up every Sunday, with Tee and their friends transporting boxes of books, a carpet, folding bookshelves, a table and even an armchair from Tee's flat so that customers would have a place to browse the books in comfort en plein air.
The pop-up was a great success, in part because though it was done with very little money it was done with a lot of energy and attention to detail. Harriet Bruce, an artist Tee knew from their time in Paris, made a lino-cut stamp which customers could have put in their book to remind them where they got it. Local artist Jo Robson created the artwork for bookmarks that would be included in each purchase, and the shop even offered free wrapping (with brown paper and string) and little origami animals Tee would fold at home in advance. Today the shop stamp is a rubberised version of that first linocut, the bookmarks, and even the shoestring brown paper giftwrapping is still on the go and everybody who works at Typewronger has to learn to make our four origami animals: the frog, shark, dragon and elephant!
Though the pop-up shop was tremendous fun, Tee still had to work the other six days in the week to keep going. Five of those were spent in a call center, but one day a week they worked for McNaughtans, Scotland's oldest antiquarian bookshop. Established in 1957, Major McNaughtan and his wife occupied number 3a Haddington place, furnishing the shop with various bits of 19th century shelving bought from other bookshops that were closing down at the time. The Major died soon after, but his wife Marjorie continued to run the shop with her assistand, Elizabeth Strong. Elizabeth bought the shop, and subsequently bought the shop next door, number 4a. After knocking through an archway between the two premises she used it for a number of purposes before eventually settling on creating an art gallery, which it remained until it was bought by Derek Walker and Anna Fomicheva. Derek and Anna kept the gallery for a couple of years, but when they realised Tee was looking for their own premises they offered to rent out the gallery space. The deal was struck - Tee would stick to new books, McNaughtans would stick to old books, and between the two of them create a bibliographical offering unique in Edinburgh!
An early pop-up at a studio in St Margaret's House
This was our start-up stock! About 1,200 books, under half what the shop typically carries today!
When the shop first opened the back part was curtained off as we still couldn't afford enough books to fill all the shelves! For the first year Tee worked every shift, with the shop open 11am-9pm Tuesday-Sunday. On Mondays Tee could often be spotted nipping into the closed bookshop to take in deliveries/do cleaning and suchlike.
The shop began to grow, as more and more folk found out about us and our comunity expanded. Eventually we got to the point at which we could afford to hire more staff, and McNaughtans were at that stage too! We advertised a position working for both shops, and one applicant stood out from the start. Elsa presented us with an origami elephant they'd made (the most difficult of the Typewronger origami) and a CV typed up on a typewriter they'd bought from the shop a few months previously. With Elsa on staff the shop was finally able to open every day and Tee could take a full two days off a week (in theory!) Not only that, it was finaly time to bring down the curtains to open up more room for our poetry and zine sections (which were already beginning to take over the rest of the shop!)
In 2020 there was a global pandemic. The world shut down, and during lockdown Elsa was furloughed and Tee grabbed the shop's computer, the plants, and most essentially the shop gong (an open mic essential) and ran the shop from their bedroom across town. Our wholesaler was able to send out book orders on our behalf, we ran online open mic nights through our YouTube channel, and fielded Skype calls from our regular customers who missed coming in for a chat. Tee would bike across to the shop once a week to write things on the windows and sweep the steps so that passers by knew we were still in business. Eventually we were able to start opperating a pickup service from the shop, and Tee moved the desk and computer into the doorway. Occasionally we made an outdoor shop on the steps outside where customers could browse safetly, and it was around this time we started working with Farr Out, a local cycle courier, sending books all over Edinburgh. We still use them to this day and offer free Edinburgh delivery on any order of £8.99 or above. Eventually we were able to reopen, masked up and limiting numbers coming in to the shop. Around this time a student called Viv took to swinging by. She sold so many books chatting to customers that of course we had to hire her, and she's still working in the shop to this day.
Tee should've got the contract for providing PPE
And now the shop has even more staff, more books, more customers, more friends! This year we started renting a studio at St Margaret's House again (where it all began in 2017) this time for our risograph print machine. This wee essay is only a glimpse of what the shop's done in the last five years - I've hardly touched on our publishing projects, our events program, I haven't even mentioned that time Tom Hanks wrote us a letter describing Tee as his "hero"! Perhaps I shall add to this account, but for now, alas, I have to go do some shelving. Rock on by the shop, you might get into it's history too...