Voices from the 18th Century: Jacques de Vaucanson and His Machines

6

July
2010

In 1746, self-professed “Inventor and Maker” Jacques de Vaucanson was admitted into the membership of the French  Académie Royale de Sciences.

By that time, Vaucanson was known for three remarkable “machines” (pictured below)—a statue of a seated figure that played the transverse flute, a mechanical duck that behaved like the real thing, and a statue of a standing pipe and tabor player.

The inventions were a big hit wherever they were put on exhibit.

Years before his admittance into the Académie, Vaucanson presented a memoir about the inner workings of the three inventions to its members. He published it in French under the title Le Méchanisme de flûteur automate (1738), which was followed by translations in English (1742) and German (1747).

The following is the title page from the English version.

An ACCOUNT of the MECHANISM of an AUTOMATON or Image playing on the German-Flute.

As it was presented in a Memoire, to the Gentlemen of the Royal-Academy of Sciences at PARIS.

By M. VAUCANSON, Inventor and Maker of the said Machine.

TOGETHER WITH

A Description of an artificial DUCK, eating, drinking, macerating food, and voiding Excrements, pluming her Wings, picking her Feathers, and performing several Operations in Imitation of a living Duck: Contrived by the same person.

AS ALSO

That of another Image, no less wonderful than the first, playing on the Tabor and Pipe; as he has given an Account of the since the Memoire was written.

In 1746, self-professed “Inventor and Maker” Jacques de Vaucanson was admitted into the membership of the Académie Royal de Sciences.

By that time, Vaucanson was known for three remarkable “machines” (pictured)—a statue of a seated figure that played the transverse flute, a mechanical duck that behaved like the real thing, and a statue of a standing pipe and tabor player.

The inventions were a bit hit wherever they were put on exhibit.

Years before his admittance into the Académie, Vaucanson presented a memoir about the inner workings of the three inventions to its members. He published the memoir in French under the title Le Méchanisme de flûteur automate (1738), which was followed by translations in English (1742), and German (1747).

The following is a transcription of the title page.

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