A Brief History of My Typewriters (part 5)

Hermes: The Last Gasp

After my Olympia phase, I thought I would just go back to my Royal KMM to finish up the manuscript I was working on, but another brand that was fondly spoken of was the Hermes. (I thought I remembered one being up for auction a while ago used by Cormac McCarthy, but that was an Olivetti. However, Kerouac did use a Hermes 3000.) Unable to be content, I went on the lookout for Hermes typewriters.

Hermes 2000

Hermes 2000-reporting from the front.

The first reasonably priced one I came across on eBay was the Hermes 2000. It has some fans in the online typosphere, but isn’t as sexy and therefore as popular as the 3000. It is, in fact, a rather bland looking machine. Yet interesting in its own way, like it could have been used in a bunker somewhere during WWII. It’s supposed to have a ribbon spool cover of some sort, but I wasn’t that concerned with the aesthetics. Honestly, I haven’t used it to type at any great length, but what little I have used it, the 2000 seems sharp and responsive. Unfortunately, it has a carriage shift. Maybe someday I’ll pull it out of the closet and write a war story on it.

Hermes 3000

Hermes 3000 – on the road, or not.

Soon after, I found a reasonably priced Hermes 3000 on eBay as well. In fact, considering the outrageous prices they sometimes go for, this one was a steal. It does indeed look nice, with its gentle curves. However, I never typed much with it either. The keys feel decent but not as responsive as I’d hoped, and the spacebar is a little sticky. I could fiddle with it to try to get these issues fixed, but for some reason I didn’t fall in love enough with it to put in the effort.

Hermes 3000 blue

Hermes 3000 – Darth Vader approved.

A few months later, I was again browsing eBay and found another Hermes 3000 that was relatively cheap, and again put in a bid expecting to be outbid shortly. And “won” again. This one, it’s less of a surprise, since it is the later, probably 70s, body style. Their popularity correlates to their age: the curvy 50s & 60s ones are most desired, the boxy late 60s ones less so, and the 70s boxy plastic ones least of all. Funny thing is, I think it types better than my curvy 3000. And frankly, it looks cooler. This is a typewriter that belongs on the bridge of a Star Destroyer. It is so wonderfully 70s sci-fi. And that blue! In an era when office equipment was going beige (for two decades!), bold move Hermes.

Again, never really used it at all, but I’d love to pull it out and write a short story or something on it, to see what kind of disco sci-fi vibe I might get from it.

The last one was the mother of all Hermes. Perhaps the mother of all typewriters.

Hermes Ambassador

Big mother

Hermes Ambassador

Full figured.

And of course it was a son of a bitch to actually get. When you buy standards cheaply from eBay, they tend to be sold by non-experts. On this one, I don’t think the bid went as high as the seller had hoped, so he was in no hurry to get it shipped to me. But I did finally get it, about three months after I’d bought it. Not packed well, of course, and not working undoubtedly due to shipping damage, but I was fairly confident in my ability to tinker with manual typewriters at this point. I’m no expert, but with a little patience, it’s not too hard to figure out basic problems. The drawstring was the biggest. It still won’t backspace, which is the only complaint I have now. The paper holder has snapped in half. And the right paper advance knob is broken, which is a common problem for all Hermes typewriters of this era, so who knows if it was like that or damaged in transit.

Hermes Ambassador

The one typewriter to rule them all.

The beast is known as the Hermes Ambassador, and it is certainly in my top three typewriters, if not the very top. Like the Olympia SG-1, it has the full complement of tab stops, line spacing, not to mention the useful and fun paper loading lever. You set the number of lines down you want each page to start, then simply pull the lever and presto, the paper is ready to go. There is certainly very little movement as you type and carriage return. It also has a feature that I’ve never seen on another typewriter–if the typebars ever get jammed (and boy, will they, if you are a novice manual typist used to typing on computer keyboards), there is a simple button that will unstick them. Ingenious.

It should have been the last typewriter I ever bought, but it wasn’t. One more part to wrap up the odds and ends…

6 responses to “ A Brief History of My Typewriters (part 5) ”

  1. William L. Burton says:

    Dear Daryl,
    I very much enjoyed reading your part Five comments about the Hermes Ambassador. I just purchased on 2 days ago and am anxiously awaiting its arrival. I’ve been a devotee of the Olympia SG-1 and have used one for years. It is my favorite typewriter (of the 9 that I own).

    But this Hermes Ambassador could well replace it! Everything I’ve read about them is that they are as well engineered or better engineered than the big Olympia SG-1 (which I call the Otto von Bismark) and have even more features than its German cousin!

    I pray that this heavy (45 lbs.!) machine arrives safely and unharmed from the west coast to me, down here in Florida. I own two Hermes – one the 300 and the other the Media 3. And I like them both very much. My thinking, prior to purchasing the Ambassador if this is what Swiss engineering can do when restricted in the size and weight of the 3000 or the Media 3, what could they do without such weight and size restrictions! I understand that “bigger” is NOT necessarily “better” however, in this case I expect BIGGER to be BETTER!

    Thanks for your post about the Hermes machines!


    • Daryl Nash says:

      With typewriters, bigger usually is better. 😉 Shipping such monster machines is tricky–even when you try to tell the shipper how to pack them. Hope it arrives in perfect condition and you enjoy your Ambassador as much as I do mine.

  2. tasmin says:

    I own a Hermes Ambassador, do you know the value of it? Im very curious.

    • Daryl Nash says:

      A quick search on eBay turned up two selling for $100 and $150. Of course that doesn’t mean yours is worth that much. With very few exceptions, typewriters are not worth a lot of money. Most of the time, when someone pays a lot of money for one, they’re buying it from someone who is experienced in restoring and handling typewriters. Someone who has restored an Ambassador might sell it for as much as $500… in which case the buyer should be getting a machine that is as close to new as possible for a 50 year old machine.

      The other downside to selling typewriters is shipping. Especially for heavy desktops like the Ambassador, it costs as much to ship the typewriter as the machine sells for. Also, look for packing instructions for typewriters online before mailing one. Badly packed typewriters get beat up in transit. Here are some good suggestions: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~msc/typewriter/shipping.html

      Craigslist is another option for selling if you don’t want to have to deal with shipping.

      The Ambassador is probably my favorite typewriter. Good luck, whatever you decide to do with it!

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