Writing ball patent in Sachsen 2nd of June 1870.

The famous German teacher of the deaf-mute Johann Friedrich Jencke, 1812-1893, who was the founder of the Dresden ‘Taubstummenanstalt’.

Research, transcription and comments by Jørgen Malling Christensen.

Illustrations and publication by Sverre Avnskog.


As a result of the research since 2006, our society has discovered quite a number of Rasmus Malling-Hansen’s patents. This research is ongoing, and we are happy to present the finding of an early patent in the German kingdom of Saxony. This patent was announced in the official gazette by the name of “Dresdner Journal: königlich sächsicher Staatsanzeiger; Verordnungsblatt der Ministerium under der Ober- und Mittelbehörden“, issue of June 28, 1870 on page 5.


We must keep in mind, that the Germany we know today was divided into several parts at the time. Before the foundation of the German Empire in January 18, 1871, there were 4 kingdoms – Prussia, Bavaria, Saxony and Württemberg – in addition to 6 grand duchies, 5 duchies, 7 principalities, some free cities and the imperial state of Alsace-Lorraine. The implication was, for Rasmus Malling-Hansen, that he could not apply for a “German” patent in 1870 – inventors had to resort to many different authorities for their patency applications.


As from January 1871 and until 1918 Germany was unified in the ‘German Empire’ (see the map), but I assume that even during this unification period there were probably still administrative divisions in relation to patents; in other words: when we search for Malling-Hansen’s patents the search must cover alle the various administrative parts of the German Empire.


The Kingdom of Saxony existed from 1806 until 1918. From 1867 Saxony was a ‘Bundesstaat’ in the North German federation, and as from  1871 until 1918 it was a part of the German Empire. The capital city was Dresden.


Below is the transcript in German of the notice about Malling-Hansen’s patent:

Königl. Sächs. Erfindungspatente.

Auf 5 Jahre ertheilt: am 2.Juni 1870 dem Herrn Johann Friedrich Jencke, Direktor der Taubstummenanstalt zu Dresden, für Herrn R. Malling Hansen, Vorsteher und Prediger am kgl. Taubstummeninstitute zu Kopenhagen, auf einen Apparat zum Schnellscreiben (Schreibkugel).


In other words, this is an early patent, awarded for 5 years, on Malling-Hansen’s box model of the writing ball, the same as the one for which he was awarded the Danish patent in March of 1870.


The patency application was presented, as we can see, by a colleague of Malling-Hansen: the famous German teacher of the deaf-mute Johann Friedrich Jencke, 1812-1893, who was the founder of the Dresden ‘Taubstummenanstalt’, founded in 1833 and led by him as the director until 1890. For his services he was also awarded the title of “Hofrat” (councillor).


My guess is, that Rasmus Malling-Hansen met and befriended Jencke when Rasmus undertook his European tour of institutes for the deaf and dumb in 1868 (we are yet to find the report of his educational tour, so we cannot know for sure that his journey included the institute in Dresden). The German Wikipedia has an article on Jencke.

A postcard from 1902, showing the deaf-mutes institute in Dresten. It is very likely that Malling-Hansen visited this institute during his study tour in Europe in 1868. Unfortunately, the building was completely destroyed in a bomb attack in 1945. Image from the internet.
The drawing from Malling-Hansen's first patent application in Denmark in January 1870. Here you can see the principles for several of the models Malling-Hansen had in mind at an early stage. We reckon that the table model with a pedal was the first to be built, but eventually Malling-Hansens moved away from the mechanical advance of the paper, replacing it with batteries.
The actual page from Dresdner Journals i 1870.
Map showing the "Deutsches Reich" as it was in the period 1871-1918. Illustration from internett.