Friedrich Von Knauss

In their book "The automaton by the Jaquet-Droz" Alfred Chapuis and Edmond Droz assert that : "Among the automatons representing writers, the only one which was created before the Pierre Jaquet-Droz's automaton (14 years before - see "the Jaquet-Droz's three androids" part) is the one made by Friedrich Von Knauss (it still exists in the "Gewerbe Museum", Vienna). Extremely remarkable, Von Knauss's writer is able to write a long text. However, we can notice that its mechanism is not situated in the body of the character, but in a quite bulky sphere, and this system suppressed several difficulties of those that Pierre Jaquet-Droz had to overcome."

The writer automaton by Friedrich von Knauss - The website of automatons, automata and androids.

The writer automaton
by Friedrich von Knauss

In "Le monde des automates", the same authors insisted on the fact that von Knauss built four automatons representing writers and that the "last work was, this time, a real writer." "Born in 1724 in Stuttgart, von Knauss learnt the practice of mechanics. His skill got him to be appointed "Stagehand at the Court". After various journeys in France, Holland and Belgium, von Knauss came on duty of the Prince Charles of Lorraine in Bruxelles, whose line of watchmaking pieces was one of the most precious that existed. He was taken to the service of the Prince-voter Clément Auguste of Cologne that he left the following year to go to the Court of the Emperor François Ist of Germany as a technician."

They add that "at the time of his show in front of François Ist, on the fourth of October 1760, the writer by von Knauss filled the emperor and the entire Court with wonder, by writing under his eyes the following headwork in French :

Dear Sir, do me the honour of listening to me and to what I am writing for you. The world thought that I would never be perfected by my maker, he was even so persecuted, that it was possible : but now, he put me into such a state that I write all languages, despite all his envious people, and I am truly, Dear Lord, the most loyal secretary."

"Von Knauss's masterpiece is composed of a globe, supported by two bronze eagles, resting on a 3 inch high wood pedestal. The 3-inch diameter globe, with six opening sectors, contains the mechanism. Originally, it was gold-coloured and the meridian circles were showed by meshes of silver. Over the sphere, on a platform imitating a cloud, on the right side, is sat a goddess, from who a little genius is getting inspired.

The writer automaton by Von Knauss - The website of automatons, automata and androids.

The writer automaton
by von Knauss

In the centre, a little shelf is erecting a vertical little table, which supports the sheet of paper on which the automaton, with its quite long arm, writes the characters previously printed on a cylinder. At each end of line, the goddess puts up her hand and the sheet of paper moves, thus ensuring to start again a new line. The entire sheet of paper is covered in fifteen minutes."

"After having written several characters, the writer automatically dips its quill into the ink pot which is in front of him. A special mechanism situated at the rear side moves the little table to the left after each letter. When a line is finished, the little table is pushed both to the horizontal and vertical directions.

If the cylinder is taken out of the mechanism, we can manually operate the levers register, thus "dictating" to the writer what we want him to write".

von Knauss was also probably the maker of a flageolet player and of four talking machines of which no trace is left.

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