Published: May 21, 2019
KÖLN, GERMANY — Designed by Danish pastor Rasmus Malling-Hansen (1835–1890), a circa 1867 Malling-Hansen Writing Ball typewriter was the top lot of Auction Team Breker’s May 18 sale, as it sold above estimate for $140,643. The sale marked the firm’s 150th Science & Technology auction.
In an interview with Auction Central News, the firm’s UK representative Nick Hawkins said Malling-Hansen “was a Danish pastor and also the director of the Royal Institute for the Deaf and Dumb in Copenhagen. He didn’t have an inventor’s background. He designed it with his students in mind, to help them ‘speak with their fingers.’ That was the objective of making the Writing Ball.”
As far as the auction house knows, the Writing Ball had descended in its original family since its purchase. It was also in original condition.
Friedrich Nitezsche was a famous purchaser of the Writing Ball, though Hawkins said he was “not a satisfied customer. There’s an article about how his was damaged on a trip to Geneva. He blamed the machine, but it was probably the roads or rails of the time.”
Nietzsche went on to write a sonnet about the machine: “The writing ball is a thing like me: / Made of iron yet easily twisted on journeys / Patience and tact are required in abundance / As well as fine fingers to use us.”
Watch for a full review in a future issue.
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