All-writing miraculous machine Writing apparatus

Friedrich von Knaus, Vienna, 1760

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© Technisches Museum Wien
© Technisches Museum Wien
© Technisches Museum Wien
Collection Area
Information & Communication
before 1800

The belief in progress that characterised the 18th century was also reflected in its enthusiasm for automata. Jacques de Vaucanson built a mechanised duck that could quack, swim, flap its wings, peck seeds, and even digest them. His contemporary Pierre Jacquet-Droz designed dolls that could write and draw, and whose inner workings consisted of clock mechanisms.

At the Imperial Court in Vienna Friedrich von Knaus held the post of Director of the Physical and Mathematical Cabinet. In 1760 he presented a writing automaton to Emperor Francis I and his consort Maria Theresa. A brass figurine holding a quill sits atop a globe. Inside the globe is a pin drum on which a sequence of letters can be set by hand. Driven by a spring mechanism the automaton is capable of writing up to 68 stored letters by itself. The control mechanism also ensures that the writing support advances after each written letter and after every completed line. Curved discs acting as templates make sure that the mechanical quill executes the correct stroke for each letter.

Inv.Nr. 14069

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