Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Of serendipity and the scarlet red 1955 Everest K2


 This was such a fortuitous find that I was on a typewriter high for the rest of the week (you know how it is!). If I had not been sitting in the front office that day, if I had not taken a break to watch the workers, if our office had not been located on the ground floor... this beauty would have been on her way to the dump. Makes one wonder how many others... eh, better not to think about it. 

Sometime last year, my mother-in-law drew us this card to commemorate the start of our typewriter obsession. (The cheerful cow is a recurring character on her cards, and she is depicted in a different activity depending on the time of year/ occasion.) At the time, she claimed the typewriter in the drawing was a Valentine, but we think the Everest is a much closer match!

For a typewriter that was so callously abandoned, this Everest K2 is in surprisingly good condition. The lipstick-red color has held up fairly well over the years, although there are a couple of rough spots that could use a touch up of paint, but I shall leave that up to Georg's discretion. 

I have been trying to make up a back story: French expatriate (explains the azerty keyboard) settles in Geneva, purchases typewriter with familiar layout (the dealer label on the case has a Geneva address), uses it for a few decades, and upon retiring to a country manor in Provence, clears out his apartment, and leaves this behind. Such is life. I haven't seen other Everest K2s in this hue and I am pleasantly surprised that they came in other colors other than drab and blah.

A shot of the inner workings - note the carriage drawstring, as thick as a shoelace! Each ribbon is enclosed in a very elegant red platter -makes even plastic spools look pretty nice.

The typeface is a crisp elite, as shown in the typecast. The keyboard has a couple of interesting characters: a degree symbol, and an "ie" character which I think might have been the French equivalent of "th", as in "5th". These days it is standard to write "5eme" as in "cinquieme", so I am not quite sure my theory holds up. 

The case that clued me in - I just knew it had to be a typewriter! It's a bit like the SM-3 case, but instead of wood, it's made entirely of metal and finished in an appealing gray hammertone.

I fear our little trash corner may have yielded its first and only typewriter, but now I take a peek every time I walk by so I won't miss anything! One never knows.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Pencast: Pelikan 120

A few smudges seem to have crept in on my Rhodia legal pad...

Well, here is the pen. There is a small scratch on the barrel, but otherwise the pen is fairly well preserved for its age.

The name of the original owner, L. Borner, is engraved on one side.

The gold plating on the steel nib has started to wear off, but I think it adds character! The dark spots are just splotches of Diamine ink. Another indication that the pen is from circa '55 is the cap band, which is perfectly straight - later versions were tapered.

The other indication is the vertical feed channels, which were used in all Pelikan pens of that era. Later versions have the horizontal ones present on modern day pens as well. I have read that the vertical channels can be fragile; these look to have held up pretty well.

The ink window is a nice clear green, although of course that is not evident here because it is full of ink! It took some effort to clear out all the old ink from behind the piston head gasket; I dared not attempt to take it apart, but some vigorous shaking seems to have gotten the job done.

The Pelikan 120 was never meant to be a high-end pen: it was sold as a student model, hence the gold-plated steel nib. I believe the "O" stands for oblique and the general appearance of the writing would indicate that this is somewhat equivalent to current OM (oblique medium) nibs. I don't care much for oblique nibs - on this one I find I have to constantly turn the pen to find an angle at which the nib does not catch on the paper and provides a relatively constant flow. There is a hint of flex, but as the nib is originally medium anyway, there isn't enough line variation for it to be useful. The disadvantage of vintage pens is that one has little choice in these matters, so I can live with it.

Not a bad day, considering I found nothing particularly exciting on the typewriter front. It is nice to have something else to keep an eye out for when I visit the market.

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 typewriters.ch.

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.***

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Visiting the Perrier Typewriter Collection, Pt. 1

I have wanted to do a photo essay on Jacques Perrier's typewriter collection since I first visited in June last year, but during that visit I only took a cell phone camera. So, when Georg told me that he had scheduled an appointment to see the museum, I was eager to come along. In addition to typewriters, and a whole wall of Hermes machines, Perrier also has an impressive collection of ephemera, and the above picture is an excerpt from a large and brilliantly colored Hermes poster.
When we arrived for the visit on Saturday (a few minutes late after traipsing up Lausanne's infamous hills), Georg and I met and shook hands with Jacques. Mind you, I had already met him, taken the tour, written to him (both email and snail mail), and yet, his expression was inscrutable, so I couldn't quite be sure if he remembered. Ah, well.

The museum itself is located in a windowless room, one floor below the ground. It is a rather small space, as Perrier points out immediately to visitors: it is only able to house 1/4 of his collection, the rest of it (about 1000 machines in total) kept in storage until such a time as he is given a grant from the Lausanne government to relocate in a bigger space. He cited 300 square meters as his ideal.

Before each tour, as ceremoniously as a priest donning his robes, Perrier shrugs off his jacket and puts on a blue overcoat with the Hermes logo stitched on the chest pocket. A laminated name tag identifies him as "Guide Jacques". We were in for the full treatment! He started off by pointing out the oldest typewriters, including a Lambert (shown here), a Blickensderfer, Edelmann, and so on.

He demonstrated the typing action of several of the more unusual machines, including this British Oliver, a Bennett typewriter, a Yost 20, and a few Braille printers.

On this Postal typewriter, he pointed out the @ sign (on the letter D), the existence of which - so many years before the advent of email - surprises and delights museum visitors.

Most of the typewriters are in working condition, despite their age, having been fully restored. For the ones in which the rubber parts (mainly type pads) have cracked or otherwise deteriorated, Perrier has had special replacements made, which he showed us.

 Like this Universal Crandall No. 3, each typewriter bears a small name plate identifying the year of production and country of origin. Many of the oldest ones have been in the collection for decades: Perrier's father sold and collected typewriters, a business which he passed on to his son and which focuses today on selling and repairing printers, photocopiers, and other business equipment. 

I have always been curious about these enormous Continental standards, which show up from time to time on local auction sites. Perrier explained that the large telephone-looking dial was used in conjunction with a special numbered sheet to move between the lines in order to fill in accounting figures. He demonstrated with the sheet inserted in the machine, but with the caveat that it was not the original one (it was marked "Ruf").

Another of his accounting typewriters was this standard Ruf - a Hermes Ambassador in all but name (it is even labeled as such). This one uses the specially-labeled sheets he had also inserted in the Continental. 

Note the boxes of dip pen nibs on the left: Perrier would not admit to being a fountain pen enthusiast, but rather a collector of "everything that has to do with writing". This explained the occasional bottle of vintage fountain pen ink that I spotted in some of his display cabinets.

Perrier's current display can be grouped into four main categories: pre-1920s typewriters (Oliver, Crandall, Postal, Yost, etc.), foreign-language typewriters (Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Japanese, Cyrillic, etc), Hermes typewriters (Baby, 2000, 3000, Ambassador, electric), and miscellaneous unusual typewriters (extra-large typeface, Demountable, Noiseless, accounting, and so on). 

The above Korean-language Smith Corona Sterling is part of the second group.

The keyboard of a Cyrillic folding Corona 3. 

Perrier is especially proud to have acquired this Hebrew-language Erika 10, manufactured in Germany in 1947 (can you guess why?).

Georg discovered the sister of his new Maritsa, a Mapuua 12 with Bulgarian letters.

A very unusual Hermes 2000, not only because of the Hindi keyboard, but also for the glass keys, which are never found on Hermes 2000s of this vintage. We pointed this out to Perrier, but he had owned this for so long that he seemed not to realize just how uncommon it was! He did concede that the keys could have been taken from a Hermes Standard 3 or 4.

An Arabic-language Hermes Standard 8. 

Well, this is plenty of pictures for one post! I shall save the rest for Part 2, in which we discover the Hermes section, explore the other unusual typewriters, and find out about Monsieur Perrier's extraordinarily generous gesture...

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

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A faithful account of the April 9 Swiss type-in


I hope you have all read the very excellent write-up from Georg. (There is even a video as well as several pictures of my very shy self.)

Well, the next post will be all about the Perrier Typewriter Museum and the grumpy but affable Jacques. There will be many pictures of his fine collection (typewriter pr0n at its best)!
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