Franz Kafka and the Oliver 5
Erich Kästner and a Tippa

Authors and their typewriters

Even a small portable typewriter can be used to produce great literature. But only if it is operated by an author of the stature of Erich Kästner. This point is demonstrated by a small exhibition in the museum shop of the Heinz Nixdorf MuseumsForum which is devoted to authors and their typewriters. 

Hans Fallada

It documents the relationship between selected authors and their tool of choice. 18 typewriter models used by famous authors are on show, including one original exhibit: the Columbia Bar-Lock belonging to Hans Fallada, whose frequently used letters E, R and S are now almost unrecognisable, while the letter Q remains virtually untouched.

Bertolt Brecht

The machines are presented alongside a photo of the respective author, specimen of his typing and example of his work. It can be seen that Bertolt Brecht was a fan of “Erika”, while Hermann Hesse used a Smith Premier No. 4 with standard keypad for many years and Franz Kafka typed on an Oliver 5.

The HNF has over 550 typewriters in its collection and permanent exhibition, and over recent years has made a concerted effort to acquire models used by authors. These machines are frequently rather exotic and difficult to identify. Often the HNF team has had to ascertain the respective typewriter model by means of a photograph of the rear of the machine. 

Friedrich Nietzsche

Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the first people to use a typewriter, said in 1882: "Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts." Arno Schmidt is quoted as saying: “He who desires literature must also desire the typewriter.”

The exhibition is on show in the HNF museum shop.