Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Hermes Baby Marbled Grey Portable Typewriter (1940s)

So, fall is here and I seem to be letting my love of US TV shows (Parenthood! The Good Wife! Community! etc...) interrupt my typewriting fervor. I started with these shows when they debuted last year, and now I feel an obligation to the shows' characters to keep watching. For someone who doesn't have an actual television, I can't even pretend to be a TV snob with all the online watching I do. This has upsides and downsides: the negative being that I am not typecasting as often as I should be; the positive being that I am now thinking about something else besides "typewriters!", and my groaning IKEA shelves can take a breather. Relentless acquisition phase over.

That said, there are a few lovely machines from this summer that I haven't yet presented on this blog, so I shall start off with a marbled grey Hermes Baby (smooth finish, not crinkly paint):

I spotted this baby at the local flea market sometime in late May, but I passed it right by because I thought I had enough typewriters (ha. There were only like, six, at the time.).  Thereafter, I saw this very machine on Mike Clemens' blog, and after encountering one depressing crinkled gray Hermes Baby after the other, I began reminiscing fondly after this one, the one that got away.

It seemed to be gone for good, though. We made cycling to the flea market part of our weekend routine, but no dice. After three months, when I was no longer looking, I happened to walk past that same seller's stall and spotted the elusive typewriter. The case was closed and partially buried under some old crockery; if I hadn't been looking out for it, it is doubtful I would have found it. 

But find it I did, and there was much rejoicing. After negotiating a fair price with the seller, I hoisted my prize into my backpack  and rode back home to clean it up. Having already decimated a couple of painted logos with my overly keen scrubbing, I was extra-cautious with this one. It still suffered a bit, though, but overall looks fairly decent. 

This is a rather interesting machine - or, to be more specific, interesting paint finish. It looks like someone scratched it with a thousand little keys, and yet it is all very deliberate. It's odd at first, but it grows on one. I've seen a few Babys with this finish up for sale here and there, but they are far outnumbered by their dull gray counterparts. Not exactly common, that's for sure. The case matches, of course:

The label from the Hermes agent in Geneva that sold it, A. Strachan on the Boulevard du Theatre, remains. It's a nice bit of ephemera. A phone book search of the exact address reveals that Monsieur Strachan is long gone, of course, and the building houses a couple of real estate agents.

Here's a font sample (pica typeface):


  1. I had the same first reaction: the case looked like it had been badly scratched up, but it turned out to be a very deliberate "marbling" effect. I like it a lot. My only complaint is that it seems to take some effort to get a good impression on the page, but that could be due to a shrunken platen, or dirt and grime, or my own lousy typing technique.

    The Baby is so tiny, I almost missed it on the shelf. It makes my Skyrtiers feel self-conscious and bloated. And it uses standard spools!

  2. Aw, I like it! It's cute. So glad you went back in search of it. Looks like this one produces nice clean type as well!

  3. Mike - I think this is a common problem for many small typewriters; they need quite a bit of force to write properly. On the other hand, all of my Hermes Babys have hardened platens, so that is probably not helping. I love how these fit on a shelf! No fretting about where to put them, that's for sure.

  4. My Mom had one that she used to write V mail to my Dad during WW II. I now have it safely stored and occasionally used when smaller type is needed. Recently I found out that Hemingway also used a Hermes Baby as a favorite.


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