Androids capable of writing and drawing, which embodied Enlightenment ideas about links between mechanical and human action, continue to inspire poets, artists, and engineers to this day. This creation became the basis for Brian Selznick’s novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret (2007), which Martin Scorsese adapted into the award-winning film Hugo (2011). Long a mystery, the android’s maker was revealed during restoration in the twentieth century; when the clockwork motor is set in motion, the figure signs his drawing “the automaton of Maillardet.”
Maillardet hid the mechanics of his lifelike Draughtsman-Writer, a seamless blend of art and science, in a cabinet rather than in the figure. This allowed for larger machinery and greater memory than in earlier efforts: an unprecedented three poems and four drawings are translated by the action of the figure, through a technology that foretold the computer.