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The Replica

Alexander von Humboldt’s desk was thought to be lost before it was rediscovered in the Observatoire de Paris (Paris Observatory) in 2016. On the occasion of the great exhibition celebrating Humboldt’s 250th birthday at the German Historical Museum in Berlin, the desk was exhibited for the first time in 2019.

Now – another three years later – Sebastian Windisch is making the timeless beauty and inspirational power of the object accessible to enthusiasts. The trained carpenter and architect from Berlin has precisely replicated Humboldt’s desk in meticulous detail. The first replicas became available for purchase in autumn 2022.

The Survey

The production of the replica was preceded by a trip to the Observatoire de Paris to take the exact measurements of Humboldt’s original table. To this end Windisch was accompanied by his business partner Stefan Nietzky and also by Mark Praus from, who specialize in 3D-Object scans for museums and other organisations.

Using a strip-light scanner, a 360-degree scan of the desk was utilised to transfer every detail into depth images. These were collated to create an overall 3-D-image of the object, which could then be processed further with CAD software.

The Craft

Back in Germany the plans and precise production specifications were created based on the exact measurements obtained in Paris. The task of recreating the brass parts was taken on by Johann Dudek Maschinen- und Metallbau GmbH Berlin, who produced feet and drawer knobs accurate to the hundredth of a millimetre. The carpentry work was carried out by the renowned Berlin cabinetmaker Artis Engineering GmbH.

The table is made of solid birch and measures 1436 mm in length, is 790 mm deep and has a height of 897 mm. It took great skill on the part of the master craftsmen to adopt the working methods of 1820 for the Humboldt desk. The use of machines was avoided as far as possible when working on the solid wood.