Item #13439 Babbage's Calculating Engine [running Title]. Charles Babbage, Dionysius Lardner.
Babbage's Calculating Engine [running Title]
Babbage's Calculating Engine [running Title]
Most extensive contemporary account of Babbage's Difference Engine, American edition

Babbage's Calculating Engine [running Title]

Boston: Lilly, Wait, Colman, and Holden 1834. First American Edition. [2], [263]-545 pages. 8vo. Cancel title page (?) with Boston imprint (published originally in Edinburgh). We offer the entire Volume LIX, April-July 1934, a quarterly issue of "The Edinburgh Review, Or Critical Journal" containing the Lardner/Babbage article on pages 263-327. The article includes 5 engravings in the text of calculator dials. Front and rear volume wrappers are lacking, remnants of the spine label and paper remain. Occasional light foxing. The whole housed in a custom cloth clamshell case with gold spine lettering "Charles Babbage Difference Engine No 1 | Boston 1834" Very Good. Disbound. [13439]

The Edinburgh Review was published in Edinburgh and reprinted in London, New York, and as here in Boston. Of the four, the Boston imprint is by far the rarest with less than 5 institutional holdings in OCLC (versus over 500 for the others). As such, it is the hardest printing of this article to obtain, and can be considered an early American computing imprint. It is undoubtedly the first American printing of this article.

This article by Lardner reviews and comments on the following articles: 'Letter to Sir Humphrey Davy..on the application of Machinery to Calculate and Print Mathematical Tables by Charles Babbage', 'On the Application of Machinery to the Calculation of Astronomical and Mathematical Tables' by Charles Babbage (1822), 'Address to the Astronomical Society by Henry Thomas Colebrooke on presenting the first gold Medal of the Society to Charles Babbage Esq. For the invention of the Calculating Machine' (1822), 'On the determination of the General Term of a new Class of Infinite Series' by Charles Babbage (1824), 'On Errors common to many Tables of Logarithms' by Charles Babbage (1827), 'On a Method of Expressing by Signs the Action of Machinery' by Charles Babbage (1826), and 'Report by the Committee appointed by the Council of the Royal Society to consider the subject referred to in a Communication received by them from the Treasury, respecting Mr. Babbage's Calculating Engine and to report thereupon.'' (1829)

This 60+ page article provides an extensive commentary and historical perspective on Babbage's work. 'The most extensive contemporary account of the Difference Engine No. 1, written by Dionysius Lardner, a prolific popularizer of science. ''From the technical detail that it contains, much of which can be directly linked to the drawings of the machine, it is evident that Babbage was directly involved with and played a substantial hand in its preparation'' (Bromley 1989, 24) From this article Georg Scheutz first obtained detailed information about Babbage's Difference Engine, enabling him to design and eventually construct his own calculating machine twenty years later' (Origins of Cyberspace 51 referring to the London edition).


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