If you’ve ever used a high-end typewriter, such as an Olympia, Hermes or the versatile Smith-Corona and thought a typewriter couldn’t get much better, think again. The Erika 10 takes the best these manufacturers have to offer and puts them into one of the finest typewriters ever made. It has the precise German engineering of an Olympia, the design flair of the Swiss Hermes and the simplicity of the All-American Smith-Corona. You’d think something produced in Soviet controlled Eastern Germany would lack the refinement of its Western counterparts, but whoever was responsible for the Erika typewriter might have taken that as a challenge to beat the best that capitalism had to offer. Perhaps being behind the Iron Curtain afforded them a kind of free market exemption, allowing them to craft the ultimate weapon of words. For these workers, engineers and designers, the one allowed act of artistic expression in a life of grey oppression was when they stepped into the Erika factory. While other companies fretted over profit margins, Erika was under no such pressure and it seems they escaped the demands of Soviet-style quotas, where quantity trumped quality. Human appetite for luxury exists in all societies and for the privileged nomenklatura in the Eastern Bloc that apparently extended to typewriters and Erika was there to fill that need.
This Erika was brought to the USA via the American European Typewriter Exchange, the name sounding like a student foreign exchange. You send us your best and brightest and we’ll send ours. However, before coming to America, she needed to be outfitted with a QWERTY keyboard. There’s a raft of Erikas floating around with the more common QWERTZ German layout or some other Euro variant. But if you’re a writer using English, the QWERTY layout is a must. And that’s what this Erika is designed for, writing. Lots of writing. Putting it on a shelf and looking at it would feel like an insult to this thoroughbred.
The keys seem to float on the wings of angels, where the merest whiff of thought moves your fingers to rapture. If a typewriter could be a muse, Erika would be her name. And if writing is your desire, she will inspire you to new highs. She’s a beauty to look at, for sure, but not to the point of distraction. After all, she’s there to work. And in the case of Erika, beauty runs in her bones. Besides the typebars, a few levers and springs, every internal part is coated in an anti-corrosion black. I’m not a metallurgical engineer, but something tells me this coating didn’t come cheap. The frame itself is not a thin piece of metal stamped out of a machine, but feels like forged steel with several layers of oven hardened enamel paint.
There’s nothing wrong with most other typewriters, they work, they get the job done, but when it comes to that elusive feel, the Erika has no equal. I’ve used dozens of typewriters, all in the quest for “The One.” That journey just ended. If you’re serious about writing and typewriters, stop looking. Get an Erika 10.