Phonozoic Text Archive, Document 122

The Speaking Automaton

London Times, August 12, 1846, p. 3.

The exhibition of this extraordinary piece of mechanism has been recently opened at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly.  It is called, also, the "Euphonia," a name to which it has very just claims; and is the product of 20 years study and labor of the inventor, Professor Faber, a gentleman who, as a mechanician, has surpassed all who have gone before him in the construction of this figure, and whose ingenuity it will be most difficult for future competitors to rival.  Mr. Faber, it may be as well to say, is now at the mature age of 60; is by birth a German, was educated at the Royal Polytechnic Institution at Vienna, is a professor of mathematics, and was for some years premier calculator and land surveyor to the Emperor of Austria; according to his own statement he has devoted more than 25 years to the discovery and construction of a mechanical instrument which should possess all the powers of articulation.  From caoutchouc, or Indian rubber, he has formed the various organs by which the sounds are produced, which resemble most marvellously those of the human voice, and by means of keys, something similar to those used for organs and the pianoforte, and bellows, which are the lungs of the automaton, he certainly has succeeded in creating an instrument which speaks plainly, intelligibly, and distinctly words and sentences in English, Italian, French, German, &c.; which sings, "God save the Queen" with the precision of a human vocalist, a German hymn or song, and which laughs with the merriment of good humour, and whispers as though the words issued sotto voce from natural lips.  The instrument or apparatus by which all this is effected is not very bulky; on the contrary, the space occupied is much smaller than would be imagined, and what is to be seen is apparently simple in construction.  The figure is a half-length one, and has none of the common appliances to excite wonder; indeed such appliances are not requisite, and as the exhibition is one illustrating mechanical science, and not the rareeshow of a mountebank, Mr. Faber has done wisely in avoiding the quackery generally displayed to attract admiration.  There is no concealment; the professor plays the keys and moves the bellows, and the company can, through him, require the automaton to pronounce any words or sentences, with which it forthwith complies, the agency of the professor being open to all present.  As most people will, as they certainly ought to do, visit this most interesting figure, and by hearing and seeing convince themselves of its powers, it is unnecessary to say more of it.  The inventor has spent many valuable years of his life in its construction, and is in a great measure dependent on the patronage of the public for his support and remuneration; it is, therefore, almost a duty of all who can afford to see it, to gratify at once their curiosity, and show their encouragement to genius.