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Sunday 6 October 2013

The 'Master Class' of Portable Typewriters: The Erika Model M

Courtesy of Georg Sommeregger


Unknown said...

Such a beautiful machine, very high on my want list! Yours looks especially nice. The M is the only portable I know of that had a d o u b l e spacing option. Are you aware of any others?

Robert Messenger said...

Mo, Nick, I don't know of any other portables with that feature.

Toronto guy said...

According to the feature-spec sheet from Mr. Sommeregger, the Model M was designed to be what you could call a 'tween' machine: between a portable and a standard.

Other notable features mentioned are:

- reinforced carriage rail and levers
- ball-bearings for the carriage
- ' d o u b l e ' space writing
- when typing capital letters, only the platen is raised and not the entire carriage
- the outer shell is constructed out of one piece of sheet metal (to guarantee perfect rigidity and long-life as the marketing copy mentions)
- margin set is done via the keyboard (via the red-box left of the space bar, with the green-box key being margin-release)
- tab set is done with the red 'T' to the right of the space bar, whereas deletion of tabs is done with the green 'T' key (kind of a counterintuitive colour-scheme in my opinion)

What's also mentioned is that 'great care was taken to make this machine operate with a light and quick-response touch as well as making it capable of typing at high speed'. (That's my translation, others could word it differently.)

The Model M was available in all left-to-right carriage-movement languages. If you needed a right-to-left keyboard, such as Hebrew, Arabic or Persian, you had to get yourself a Model 5.

This machine weighs in at about 19lbs with case and accessories (14.5lbs without).

shordzi said...

My favourite, too.

Will Davis said...

Great article, Robert! I feel like I've seen it myself after having read the piece and seen the photos.

You might find the brochure I have at this blog page to be of some interest:

Richard P said...


I had a chance to try one of these, or a similar Erika, at California Typewriter in Berkeley. It just felt great, and the double spacing is a wonderful feature on a portable.

Robert Messenger said...

Thank you Nick, Toronto Guy, Georg, Will and Richard for your comment.
I still say it had all "mod cons". Not that I would get to use any of them. Thank you Will for that link, very interesting. My early Bijou four-bank remains one of my 2-3 favourite machines.

Filipa said...

I am very happy to know you are enjoying the Erika 9 I sold you, Robert. I also think these are the most enjoyable typewriters I have ever tried.
Just wanted to add that indeed an Erika 9 in black does exist. Here is one with glass keys that I sold (and I've also seen with plastic keys):
I am currently working on a Model 5, like your M, but it has an unusual burgundy color, with golden lines drawing its shape, and of course the same good old mechanics – I'm quite excited with it!

stonedeaf4ever said...

I once bought two portable typewriters for 5€ each at a flea-market. One was a red Olivetti Valentine and the other an unknown older one with the black lid locked. I took both machines home and managed to open the lid on the mysterious one. Under the cover was a pristine looking Seidel & Naumann Erika 8 with a small brush, a manual and an original Pelikan silk ribbon in a brown bakalite box. The platen looked brandnew as did the keys and everything. I just needed to insert a new nylon ribbon and paper and lightly oil the moving parts to get a stunning typing experience. I love the Erika`s font and the sound of the little bell at the end of each line. It is by far my favourite vintage portable typewriter and I use it daily. The Olivetti, on the other hand, is a primadonna with film star allures. It always has issues with screws rattling loose and moving parts getting stuck. So I can`t really recommend it to someone who needs a real workhorse. But the Erika I can recommend anytime.

Unknown said...

Hi Robert!

An interesting read. Especially because I just bought my first typewriter, and it's an Erika 9. Got it at Mauerpark flee-market in Berlin. It has even got the letter Æ-Ø-Å, which is great for me as a Norwegian.

It's fairly shabby, so now I'm in the process of cleaning it up and getting it back in shape. An I'm getting there!

Just a couple of questions though, seeing as I'm a total beginner. When I want to buy new ink ribbons, do I need a specific size or type? Most of the stuff I can find online says "Size 1, 13mm x 10m". Will these work for my Erika 9?
In addition, should I be using a special type of paper?

Thanks and all the best!
Vetle Støre

Rob said...

I enjoyed this post. I love the detail, the research and your enthusiasm.

Semidoctus said...

Forgive me for this rather belated comment. There is one possible reason that Sperrdruck (double letter-spacing) is provided on a specifically German portable typewriter meant to be ''the best'' whereas other luxury models in other countries might not.

At least as late as the grammar I learnt my elementary German from (Russon's Complete German Course for First Examinations, printed in the 1950s, though I am a child of the computer using first decade of the twentieth century, born as late as '96 and only 22 -- I had an elderly, eccentric and marvellous German teacher who realised I had an aptitude for rote memory work and taught me the complete accidence-and-syntax course abandoned for the 'romantic' or childlike acquisition method in modern texts) the German language did not use italicised font, but rather Sperrdruck or spaced type for emphasis. The Schwabacher font (Blackletter, Fraktur) had no italics, and even though Antiqua was increasingly adopted even before the first War for scientific publications and uniformly by decree of Reichsleiter Martin Bormann in '41 [though in wartime conditions I lack the knowledge to judge how far the decree was put in operation] , the typewriter, in any language, could not produce them. As such, we had underlining for emphasis and the Germans letter-spacing.

Hence it is may well be a cultural, or rather typographical-conventionally important for a German portable typewriter of very best quality to have a simpler way of emphasising than mechanically interspersing a space between each letter. The automatic process is analogous to our underlining (a very simple process as you well know, move the carriage back and use underscore repeatedly til the phrase is underlined).

However, this is amateur speculation and backed by precisely nothing! It's hardly prompt, but I shall have a good long talk with my German Aunt Rita and Uncle Wendel when I go over in September, both are close on ninety and doubtless were familiar with the old machines.

Sincerest regards,
Patrick Gray

Sam Beishline said...

Hello all- been searching for an Erika M (QWERTY) with black keys.. if anyone knows where I may find one, it’d be much appreciated. Thx!

Anonymous said...

Sam, I have an Ideal typewriter, which was, as I understand it, the American branded version of the Erika M. I just picked up an M from a Dutch relative and while I am not home to compare them they seem very similar other than qwertz v qwerty and of course all the other german character keys. Both are divine machines to type on or look at.