Unfortunately there is virtually no information available about this item, but is inscribed with "O.A. Ericsson, Patent No.5" on the brass index, which yields some clues. O.A. Ericsson was a manufacturer located in Gothenburg, Sweden during the 2nd half of the 19th century. The word "Patent" simply means that this item was actually patented. The "No.5" designation refers to the model. I should mention that there is no apparent relationship between O.A. Ericsson and the Ericssons that made the telephones and sewing machines.
Though I couldn't locate the original patent paperwork for the No.5, I was able to locate another Ericsson model, the No.80, which has been dated to ca.1880. I don't believe the two were produced concurrently so the No.5 is probably dated earlier.
The first thing one notices about the No.5 is its aesthetic. It has a japanned, cast iron, claw-foot frame that is embellished with gold pinstripes and a hand painted floral motif. The levers are steel, the knobs are wood and the index and carriage are brass. The second thing one notices is the size. At about 15-1/2" long, 9" tall, 8" wide and weighing more than 26 lbs., it is one of the heaviest checkwriters known.
To operate, simply place a check on the carriage under the holddown bar and slide it between the round discs. Select the digit from the index and depress the top lever. The digit will get perforated by pins into the check and the carriage will advance. The small brass lever sticking out from the front of the machine is the carriage return lever.
The term "checkwriter" is the generic label assigned to any physical device that prevents the fraudulent manipulation of a check. These devices could be synonymously referred to as check protectors. Sub-categories, based on how a checkwriter works, include check punches and check perforators. Since the Ericsson No.5 pierces the check with a set of pins that form each character, it would be correct to call it a check perforator. And if you're from Sweden, you would call it a växelperforeringsapparat.
See other check protectors I'm interested in here...