Friday, April 15, 2011

Visiting the Perrier Typewriter Collection Pt. 2

In Part 1, we went through Perrier's collection of pre-1920s typewriters and foreign language typewriters. In this part, we shall be taking a look at his collection of Hermes typewriters and other unusual machines. I shall preface this by saying that as a distributor for Paillard SA during that company's years of active typewriter innovation and manufacture, Perrier SA has a close connection with Hermes typewriters and Jacques devotes a good part of his museum display and lecture to talking about the Swiss maker.

The whole range of Hermes Baby variations, from 1935 to circa 1980, is represented in Paillard's collection, and an excellent expose on the whole line, even including some pictures on the very first Baby Empire depicted in the advertisement above, may be found on Georg's website. I photographed the 60s-70s Hermes Babys here because I found the colors intriguing; I've seen the orange version before, but the lime-green lurking in the back is a looker; I've never seen another, even online.

 There were many Hermes 2000s and 3000s, none of which were new to us, but this particular Hermes 2000 was special - the engraved logo is something neither of us had seen before. Perrier told us that it came from the earlier years of the crinkle-paint model's production, and he pointed out that it was the exact style depicted in the large poster mounted on the wall behind the typewriter.

Did you know that after IBM's patent for the Selectric golf ball expired, Hermes also produced their own golf ball electric typewriter? Well, they did, and here is one example - the inner workings will look familiar to Selectric owners.

A few wall displays are interspersed throughout the collection to illustrate different aspects of typewriters: here, Perrier has mounted the "skeleton" of a Mignon index typewriter as well as the mechanism of a golf ball typewriter to show how the evolution from a type wheel to a golf ball; the latter being a mechanized and advanced version of the former.

From the Hermes collection, we move on to the miscellaneous unusual typewriters. Here, we have a Remington 50 with an unusually large font - so large, in fact, that it is all in capital letters; there is not even space for a lower case letter on each type slug, let alone a dual-color ribbon! Add to that the wide carriage and the general imposing girth of the machine, and one wonders what it might have been used for.

A better look at the type slugs on the extra-large font Remington 50.

This is an interesting one - it is a Hermes Baby modified by the Baggenstos company in Zurich to this strange contraption you see here. Its purpose? To type directly onto documents that could not be rolled around the platen, such as passports, drivers' licenses, and all manner of official little booklets. Rather ingenious, isn't it? (As Richard writes in the comments, this Baggenstos Vertiplana types in all caps - note the absence of a shift key!)

Another unusual machine, although in a totally different way, is this Barbie electric typewriter, which is no doubt how Perrier hopes to hook the younger generation, a plan of which I wholly approve. Indeed, it almost seems like a natural fit if one was looking to present various iterations of typewriters over the decades. Georg has also featured a couple of Barbies on

At the end of the tour, Perrier presents visitors with two typewriters that have been provided for "typing practice". This is very popular with children especially, he told us, as they are always delighted to see their words published instantaneously. This is one of the typewriters, a Siemag standard with display typeface, which I tried and rather liked, except that it has a bad habit of double spacing after some letters, a shortcoming I remember well from a couple of Hermes 2000s with troubled escapements.

The second "guest typewriter" is rather interesting... does it look familiar? You are looking at a Hermes 3000 (curvy body type) in the nude! Of course, it still works just fine. Whether it was disrobed by accident or design, I cannot quite be sure, but it certainly looks unique. And surprisingly small, in fact. Which begs the question - why was the complete typewriter so large? Sound-proofing? Aesthetics? Just because? Olivetti managed to perfect cramming their basket shifts into a rather small package (Lettera 32 and family); I wish Hermes had attempted the same!

Once the tour was over, Georg and I spoke with Perrier about participating in the second annual Speed Typing Championship, and we sat at the guest typewriters to type out our names and addresses for the registration. Apparently the first contest went well... with only two contestants! That will not do, and we are looking forward to representing the typosphere next time. I shall do my best, but I fear that I am a bit intimidated after witnessing Georg's speed on my little Rooy... time to practice!

Before leaving the museum, we peeked around the display to take a look at Perrier's workspace, where he keeps an assortment of standard typewriters on sturdy bookshelves. I don't know what all of them are and there were too many to go through at any length, but I did insist on taking a look at the...

Olivetti Graphika! I am so sorry about the blurry photo - taking pictures indoors was tricky the whole time, and for most of the other typewriters I took a couple to make sure I had at least one good shot, but I neglected to do that in this instance. Anyway, the Graphika has the usual Swiss QWERTZ keyboard, and it also had a rounded typeface which might just be the Imre Reiner designed style sampled on Writing Ball.

After this, we each asked Perrier our typewriter related questions. Georg came very well prepared, with a whole list of scholarly queries based on the lengthy catalog he downloaded from the Perrier Museum website. J asked where he might find a spare carriage return lever for an Olivetti Lettera 22 I had damaged (sigh. Long story. Don't ask). I inquired whether Perrier had, perhaps, the ribbon cover of a white plastic Hermes Baby just, uh, lying around. He grumbled at that. He had received my email, he remembered me very well, and he was keeping my request in mind. However, the odds were not good: he had many many grey '40s Babys, but even he did not come across the white plastic ones so often. I was crestfallen, but besought him to keep me in mind anyway.

We accompanied Perrier into his actual workshop, which had, in addition to a few printers and photocopiers, many electric and manual typewriters, and we tried to guess at the identities of the latter by scrutinizing the cases. There were too many of them - and it certainly would not have been very polite! - to go poking and prodding. Optimas, Olivettis including a Valentine, Swissas, and of course Hermes of all kinds - many grey Babys, as he had mentioned, but also 2000s and 3000s.

Perrier disappeared into another corner of his workshop and returned with a surprise gift - a ribbon cover for a white Hermes Baby. "No!", I gasped. After my initial shock, I quickly started worrying - what about the donor machine? How would he get another ribbon cover if he ever wanted to sell it? What if... He waved off my protests. I was grateful, speechless, vowing to myself that if I ever found another Baby, it would be headed straight for Lausanne. In the meantime, though, the first thing I did upon arriving home was to fit the new cover and make sure it was fine - and it was! Sneak peek above; proper post to follow eventually.

After a very successful day of typing and typewriter observation, we all retreated to the lakeside for a picnic and to let the typewriters in Georg's bag out for some fresh air and sunshine, which was much appreciated by all.

I have to say that in the past few days since the meet-up, and starting with my newly complete Hermes Baby (looks so much better with hair!), I have had a couple of strokes of typewriter-finding fortune. Maybe some of Peter's luck is starting to rub off? Very interesting, either way. More details to come!

***All photos courtesy of the Perrier Typewriter Collection in Lausanne; photographed by Georg Sommeregger and myself.***


  1. Wow - amazing post and collection.

    That Remington was used for SHOUTING.

  2. Another fascinating report!

    I think maybe all the Graphikas were produced in that green.

    I see the Baggenstos Vertiplana is another ALL CAPS device.

    (Psst ... This is anathema -- don't tell M. Perrier -- but I don't like Hermes Babies. I have an early Featherweight and a '50s Empire Aristocrat. They are cute, but the feel and look of the typing is just acceptable, IMHO.)

  3. @Richard - I should make another list of questions for M. Perrier so I don't forget them when we go for our typing test (the prize is a diploma!). Of course, this time we should ask about his own typewriter preferences - what does he use when he is on his own time? The answer should be quite revealing...

    Then again, I think I remember a conversation from our first meeting in which he revealed that he doesn't type much, not being a writer himself. (Psst... Don't quote me on this, but I don't think he touch types...) So, looking at it from a purely mechanical standpoint, he expressed admiration for the Graphika (but said it was a pain to repair) and reminisced fondly about having an Olivetti M20 stashed away someplace.

    I know how you feel about the Hermes Baby, although I myself am currently in the throes of an obsession with the late 70s plastic model (having quickly discarded three in the past year without a second thought, I might add).

    Anyway, I'm not sure what Perrier's opinion of the Hermes Baby is - it is covered so thoroughly in his collection because it is a typewriter many of the Swiss visitors will be familiar with; from what I gather, it sold very well here. That also explains why so many of them have ended up in his workshop - people bring them in for service/ for him to sell (I think), as happens with Tom Furrier's shop. Perrier told me once that he has not actively purchased a typewriter in many, many years, having long run out of display and storage room - it is thus fair to say that what ends up in his workshop is a good representation of bestselling typewriters at least in the Lausanne area.

    It is hard to say what Perrier thinks of anything without asking outright (I couldn't even tell whether he remembered me!). Sure, he looks kindly on all typewriters in a very general manner, and I will say he's always seemed a bit baffled at my constant blathering about cursive typewriters (he smiled wryly when he uncovered the Maritsa Georg was lugging about), but in general he's hard to read - the gift of a sacrificed Hermes Baby ribbon cover seriously came out of nowhere! This is a man with his poker face down.

  4. I really liked the juxtaposition of the old and new writing ball. And happy to hear the Hermes Baby cover fit!
    It's true that in Switzerland, Hermes Baby, 2000, 3000, Ambassador & the other standard machines turn up in abundance (well, apart from the Hermes 1, which is another mystery). Most of them are fitted with Swiss keyboards. But it was the first time I saw a Hermes 2000 with the original logo from the poster (photo above). And I had never seen some of the late Hermes production, and was happy to see them in Jacques Perrier's collection.

  5. P.S: Why are we all up at this early hour on a Saturday?? I guess we could pass the torch from Friday night in the U.S. to Saturday morning in Helvetia - typosphere never sleeps.

  6. many thanks for the excellent report and the very nice photos. I am very happy that you have now the cover for the Hermes Baby :)!!

    I think that Richard has a point about the Hermes baby but the 70's model in the red and white color are really nice !
    The cursive is really excellent for cards, personal letters etc.

  7. Excellent writeup of an amazing meetup! M. Perrier sounds like a fascinating and generous fellow.

    Man, that skinned H3000 is making me wish I knew how to design and cast aluminum typewriter bodies. I'm envisioning a wide-mouth, low-slung body similar to a '55 Ford Thunderbird, complete with fins... in jet glossy black.


Thanks for your comment! Please note that comments are moderated; so this will be posted as soon as I have read it :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...