A version of the Malling-Hansen ‘writing ball’, the first commercially produced typewriter, sold by Auction Team Breker in Cologne for €100,000 (£87,000).

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

There was not one single inventor of the typewriter and many experimental models were built and used during the 18th and 19th century. However the first made in any quantity is deemed that designed by the Danish pastor Rev Rasmus Malling-Hansen (1835-90).

Principal at the Royal Institute for the Deaf in Copenhagen, he designed his uniqueergonomic typewriter in 1865 to help students to “speak with their fingers”.

The system, which Malling- Hansen refined over the years, displayed all the key elements of future writing machines including a space bar, and automatic carriage return and – most significant of all – visible writing by raising the typing mechanism. He positioned 54 keys on a hemisphere to facilitate ‘quick writing’, the vowels operated by the fingers of the left hand, the consonants by the right.

Only 180 numbered models were manufactured across more than a decade – the German phi losopher, Friedrich Nietzsche paying DKr375 for his in 1882 (he was not terribly impressed).

Today, 35 ‘writing balls’ are thought to survive although with so many museums keen to own one, just five are left in private hands.

Auction Team Breker in Cologne had sold model number 142 for €70,000 (£63,635) in 2014.

This latest example, number 103, was offered as part of the auction house’s Science & Technology sale on May 18 this year. In ‘very good working original condition’, it had been a gift from Bodenhoff, a manufacturer of off ice equipment, to a new chairman. The price of €100,000 (£87,000) was subject to a 23% buyer’s premium.