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Friday, 13 January 2012

The Hermes Featherweight and the Baby Typewriters it Spawned

In my book The Magnificent Five, I rated the Hermes Featherweight one of the five greatest portable typewriters ever made.After receiving a Hermes Featherweight advertising leaflet from the US yesterday, I got my Featherweight out, put a fresh ribbon in, and … WOW!!!
I knew immediately the claim I had made in my book was far from exaggerated.
The Featherweight, I am happy to accept, is the work of Giuseppe Prezioso (above), who was born in 1897 in Taverna, a small village in the Abruzzi. He studied mechanical engineering in Milan and worked at Marelli, a large electrical appliance factory.
After the First World War, Prezioso began to specialise on typewriters and became technical director at the Oliver typewriter factory. In 1932 he joined E. Paillard and Co in Yverdon, Switzerland. He died in 1962 in Yverdon.
There were as many as 4.5 million of the small Hermes portable typewriter made, a number that embraces the Featherweight, the Baby in its very many guises, and the Rocket. And it covers a period of close to half a century - yet, incredibly, in that time the machine virtually remained mechanically unchanged. Paillard had every right to make this claim -
As well as in Switzerland, Babys were made under various model names in Britain, Germany, Poland, France, Italy and Brazil (in the last named by Olivetti, its last gasp).
In many ways, the story of this brilliant little typewriter, from the Featherweight of 1935 through to the Brazilian-made Baby (which doubled as the Olivetti Lettera 82) is like that of the Tippa, the demise of which I covered in a previous post. The Tippa started as a magnificent little typewriter being made in Germany but ended its day less than impressively, being made by Nakajima in Japan for Litton Industries.
For the full story of the Hermes Baby, I thoroughly recommend Georg Sommeregger’s hugely detailed page at http://typewriters.ch/collection/hermes_baby.html



14 comments:

maschinengeschrieben said...
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maschinengeschrieben said...

Interesting: On both your Featherweight ads, there are chrome keys shown, but actually, no (serial) Hermes Baby was ever built with them.

Cameron said...

Now you've helped add yet another typewriter to my "Wish List"! ;-)

Is that a cigarette in his fingers in the last picture?

Bill M said...

Very informative post. Thank you. I also have to add the green Baby to my wish list and perhaps a Featherweight if I ever find one. They both look like wonderful machines.

Richard P said...

Yes, I think that's a cigarette, and a very elaborate letterhead. Great photo!

Crystal said...

I like that last photo as well.

Very good post. I want a Featherweight now, ahaha.

shordzi said...

@ maschinengeschrieben: we cannot know for sure. This is historical evidence, albeit on paper only. It is Popper's story with the swans: although we only ever find white swans, one day a black swan might swim by. At this point, we have to adapt our hypothesis accordingly.

Anonymous said...

How about the Baby Hermes that types in cursive letters? It's a beauty. Brazilian also. Have one, love it.

Sebastián L. Puerto said...

Good morning.

You what model of typewriter prefer? Hermes Baby or Olivetti lettera 32?

Thank you.

Debbie said...

Hi, Is there someway of finding out when our Hermes Baby Rocket was made. I have been looking for one the same on the net & haven't seen one. I still have the operating instructions in excellent condition as well. Is there somewhere I can send a photo to find out.
Debbie

Robert Messenger said...

Debbie - Try http://typewriterdatabase.com/hermes.82.typewriter-serial-number-database

Donald Lampert said...

Just traded a white 1964 Singer 221 Featherweight sewing machine (they aren't as well built as the older ones) tune up and repair, for a 1949 Hermes Rocket in great condition! Wow, you're right they are little gems - changes my thoughts about Hermes! I've only used a 1970's plastic 3000 though, and wasn't real impressed.
Thanks for the great history!

Zapdaba said...

I have a 1955 Hermes Rocket which is a utilitarian grey-green throughout. I spent money getting it restored with new rubber on the platen and a complete cleaning and adjustment. It is an amazing blend of big typewriter performance in a tightly packed architecture. The only other typewriter I own is a 1966 Olympia SM9, also restored. Both are surely among the best ever built.

dashn64 said...
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