Interactive visualization and computer images of the Writing Ball

Felix Herbst holding a lecture at the General Assembly of the Malling-Hansen Society in Køln in 2012. Photo: Dieter Eberwein

One of our German members, the very talented student, Felix Herbst, has made an interactive visualization of the Writing Ball, that Friedrich Nietzsche bought directly from Rasmus Malling-Hansen in 1882 - an 1878 model with colour ribbon. RMH sent the Writing Ball to Nietzsche in Genoa, but unfortunately the machine was slightly damaged during the transport, so it didn’t work properly. Nietzsche who was almost blind at this time turned to a bicycle repairer to get help to mend the Writing Ball, but he wasn’t of much help - as a fact he made the problems even worse. Unfortunately this led to Nietzsche giving up the machine after a relatively short while. But several samples of Nietzsche’s writings still exist, and the old machine has been repaired and restored by Malling-Hansen Society vice-president Dieter Eberwein. Just based on the patent drawings and some pictures of the Nietzsche Writing Ball, Mr. Herbst has made his brilliant visualization, and he has kindly given us the permission to publish some still photos.



You can also install the necessary software to explore Felix Herbst's wonderful interactive vizualisation on your computer. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, click the programme icon, Unity Media Player, and choose "run", it will install on your computer, and you can check out all the exciting possibillities - like changing the angles and the distance, tipping up the writing ball "head", turning the pages that lies on the table and much more. And what is almost unbelieveable: You can actually type on this virtual machine! For an admirer of the Writing Ball it's almost breathtaking! Just try yourself! I promise you will be impressed!


If you want to see more of Felix Herbst's work, please visit his website:



Nietzsche's Writing Ball. Photo taken by Dieter Eberwein. Copyright: The Goethe and Schiller Archive, Weimar, Germany
Computer Image from Felix Herbst's interactive visualization. Copyright: Felix Herbst. Mail:
All photos copyright Felix Herbst

Interactive Visualization