4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

Economics Timeline


8,000 BCE – 1,000 BCE

The Earliest Prehistoric Town in Europe Circa 4,700 BCE – 4,200 BCE

The remains of the settlement made of two-story houses near the town of Provadia. (Click on image to view larger.)

Solnitsata, a prehistoric town unearthed in eastern Bulgaria near the town of Provadia, has been estimated to date between 4,700 and 4,200 B.C. The town walls, 3 meters (6 feet) high and 2 meters (4 ½ feet) thick, are believed to be the earliest and most massive fortifications surviving from prehistoric Europe.

The inhabitants of the town boiled brine from salt springs in kilns, then baked it into bricks and used it for trading. The high value of salt may explain why ancient caches of gold jewellery and ritual objects have been unearthed in the region.

"A collection of 3,000 gold objects found 40 years ago at a necropolis near Varna represented the oldest trove of ancient gold treasure in the world.

" 'At a time when people did not know the wheel and cart, these people hauled huge rocks and built massive walls. Why? What did they hide behind them? The answer was salt,' Vasil Nikolov, a researcher with Bulgaria's National Institute of Archeology, told AFP. 'Salt was an extremely valued commodity in ancient times, as it was both necessary for people's lives and was used as a method of trade and currency starting from the sixth millennium BC up to 600 BC,' he said.

"The 'town', known as Provadia-Solnitsata, was small by modern standards and would have had around 350 inhabitants" (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/bulgaria/9646541/Bulgaria-archaeologists-find-Europes-most-prehistoric-town-Provadia-Solnitsata.html, accessed 11-2-2012).

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Cuneiform Writing in Mesopotomia Begins at Uruk in Association with the Development of Urban Life Circa 3,200 BCE – 2,900 BCE

Cuneiform writing in Mesopotamia began as a system of pictographs written with styli on clay tablets. The earliest cuneiform tablets. written in proto-cuneiform, were discovered in excavations of periods IV-III of the Eanna (Eana) district of Uruk (Warka) an ancient city of Sumer and later Babylonia, situated east of the present bed of the Euphrates river, some 30 km east of modern As-Samawah, Al-Muthannā, Iraq.

Between 1928 and 1976 approximately 5000 proto-cuneiform tablets were excavated at Uruk by the German Archaeological Institute.

"But these are not the only witnesses to the archaic script. Proto-cuneiform texts corresponding to the Uruk III [circa 3100 BCE] tablets have been found in the northern Babylonian sites of Jemdet Nasr, Khafajah, and Tell Uquair, testifying to the fact that the new technology spread quickly throughout Babylonia soon after its invention (in ancient Iran proto-cuneiform possibly inspired the proto-Elamite script ca. 3100 BC.) Illicit excavations since the 1990s account for several hundred additional texts, which possibly originate from the ancient Babylonian cities of Umma, Adab, and Kish. These texts have the advantage of being generally in better condition than those from Uruk, which, . . . represented discarded rubbish and thus are frequently fragmentary. To date the proto-cuneiform corpus numbers approximately six thousand tablets and fragments" (Christopher Woods, "The Earliest Mespotamian Writing," Chapter 2 of Woods, Teeter, Emberling (eds) Visible Language. Inventions of Writing in the Ancient Middle East and Beyond [2010] 35-36).

"The formation of an urban society and the innovations that came with it and which occurred for the first time in Uruk – a regional and supraregional centre – had an enormous impact on the entire Near-Eastern world. Very quickly, impressive temples and palaces sprung up, overshadowing the early grand architectural monuments in Uruk’s centre. A striking feature of these new buildings was their form, the ziggurat or stepped tower, which went on to become a defining element of ancient Near-Eastern temple architecture. The use of writing as an administrative tool also laid the foundations for science and learning in the ancient Near East. Very early on, lexical lists of terms and objects began to emerge – the first of their kind – and these were passed down the generations. Some of these records contain lists of city officials and specialist terms for occupations that provide an insight into a highly stratified society. Other records bear lexical lists of everyday objects, providing an insight into material culture. Particular importance was given very early on to observing the stars as a means to read the future. The ancient Babylonian palace of the ruler Sin-Kashid, built in the 2nd millennium BCE, exemplifies Uruk’s role as part of the ancient Near-Eastern empire. The palace served as both the seat of the ruler and as a commercial and administrative centre. It was here that diplomatic correspondence, legal contracts, surety bonds, and various court documents were set in writing. The site also served as a lively trading centre. Deliveries of raw materials were processed into valuable goods that denoted the owner’s status. The palace was also a place where writers were educated. The writers played a vital role in everyday life, as they compiled the correspondence and contractual agreements on behalf of the largely illiterate population" (http://www.uruk-megacity.de/index.php?page_id=6, accessed 01-13-2013).

"Writing emerged in the context of temple bureaucracy in the cities of the southern Iraqi marshes some time in the late fourth millennium BC. A tiny number of accountants used word signs (usually pictograms) and number signs to account for institutional assets — land, labor, animals — and their secondary products. They wrote on refined clay tablets, about the size of a credit card but around 1 cm thick, incising the signs for the objects they were recording with a pointed stylus and impressing the numbers with a cylindrical one. The front surface of the tablet was marked out into boxes, each one containing a single unit of accounting, logically ordered, with the results of calculations (total wages, predicted harvests, and so on) shown on the back. This writing was barely language-specific — it represented concrete nouns, numbers and little else, with only occasional clues to pronunciation and none at all to word order — and was known only to a handful of expert users. Its functionality was as yet so limited that it was used only to keep accounts, or to practice writing the words, numbers, and calculations needed for accountancy" (Robson, "The Clay Tablet Book in Sumer, Assyria, and Babylonia," Elliot & Rose [eds.] A Companion to the History of the Book [2007] 67-68.)

"Indeed that the vast majority of the earliest texts [discovered at Uruk and elsewhere in Mesopotamia] are administrative in nature suggests that the invention of writing was a response to practical social pressures—simply put, writing faciliated complex bureaucracy. It is important to stress in this connection that literature plays no role in the origins of writing in Mesopotomia. Religious texts, historical documents and letters are not included among the archaic text corpus either. Rather, these text genres arise relatively late, beginning in the middle of the third millennium, some seven hundred or more years after the first written evidence" (Woods, op. cit, 34). 

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The Garsana Archive of Cuneiform Tablets is Returned to Iraq 2,031 BCE – 2,024 BCE

On November 2, 2013 it was announced that Cornell University planned to forfeit and return to Iraq the archive of about 1400 cuneiform tablets known as the Garšana archive (Garsana), which was donated to Cornell beginning in the year 2000. The archive was returned under the assumption that the tablets were looted in Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War

The Garšana archive represents the records of a rural estate at or near the town of Garšana located somewhere in the territory of the Sumerian city of Umma, probably in the vicinity of ancient Zabalam (Zabala) and Karkar. The tablets date from an eight year period, 2031-2024 BCE, during the Third Dynasty of Ur.  

"The estate was owned by Šu-Kabta, a physician and general, and his wife, the princess Simat-Ištaran. These documents record many of the daily functions of the estate and provide for the first time a comprehensive picture of life on such an estate. Detailed information on the construction and maintenance of the many buildings on the estate that included a brewery, textile and flour mills, leather working shop, and kitchen; the hiring and supervision of builders and laborers coming from various towns near and far; management of orchards; canal travel and trade between the estate and the cities of Sumer; and numerous other details of daily life. Particularly noteworthy are the funerary records of the family and the role of the princess Simat-Ištaran who assumed the control of the estate upon the death of her husband" (http://cuneiform.library.cornell.edu/collections/garsana, accessed 11-03-2013).

"Among the tablets is the private archive of a 21st century BC Sumerian princess in the city of Garsana that has made scholars rethink the role of women in the ancient kingdom of Ur. The administrative records show Simat-Ishtaran ruled the estate after her husband died.

"During her reign, women attained remarkably high status. They supervised men, received salaries equal to their male counterparts' and worked in construction, the clay tablets reveal.

" 'It's our first real archival discovery of an institution run by a woman,' said David Owen, the Cornell researcher who has led the study of the tablets. Because scholars do not know precisely where the tablets were found, however, the site of ancient Garsana cannot be excavated for further information.

"Other tablets provide detailed administrative records of ancient life, including the procedures for temple rituals, the resettlement of refugees and the output of agricultural lands.

"The source of the Garsana tablets was the subject of a 2001 investigation by the Department of Homeland Security, according to records obtained by Harvard researcher Benjamin Studevent-Hickman under the Freedom of Information Act. Buying and possessing antiquities illegally removed from countries such as Iraq, which claim them as government property, can be a violation of U.S. law" (http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/culture/la-et-cm-iraq-tablets-cornell-university-20131103,0,7036026.story#axzz2jav6tYSE, accessed 11-03-2013).

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Analysis of Pollen Grains Proves that Drought Caused the Collapse of Civilization in the Soutern Levant 1,250 BCE – 1,100 BCE

In the October 2013 issue of Tel Aviv: Journal of the Institute of Archaeology of Tel Aviv University palynologist (pollen researcher) Dafna Langgut and archaeologist Israel Finkelstein published "Climate and the Late Bronze Collapse: New Evidence from the Southern Levant." Using cores drilled from the Dead Sea, the researchers were able to study pollen counts an intervals of 40 years--the highest resolution yet in the region. From this evidence they were able to demonstate that a devastating drought from 1250 to 1100 BCE caused the collapse of civilization in the Southern Levant during the Late Bronze Age.

"A core drilled from the Sea of Galilee was subjected to high resolution pollen analysis for the Bronze and Iron Ages. The detailed pollen diagram (sample/~40 yrs) was used to reconstruct past climate changes and human impact on the vegetation of the Mediterranean zone of the southern Levant. The chronological framework is based on radiocarbon dating of short-lived terrestrial organic material. The results indicate that the driest event throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages occurred ~1250–1100 BCE—at the end of the Late Bronze Age. This arid phase was identified based on a significant decrease in Mediterranean tree values, denoting a reduction in precipitation and the shrinkage of the Mediterranean forest/maquis. The Late Bronze dry event was followed by dramatic recovery in the Iron I, evident in the increased percentages of both Mediterranean trees and cultivated olive trees.

"Archaeology indicates that the crisis in the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Late Bronze Age took place during the same period—from the mid-13th century to ca. 1100 BCE. In the Levant the crisis years are represented by destruction of a large number of urban centres, shrinkage of other major sites, hoarding activities and changes in settlement patterns. Textual evidence from several places in the Ancient Near East attests to drought and famine starting in the mid-13th and continuing until the second half of the 12th century. All this helps to better understand the 'Crisis Years' in the eastern Mediterranean at the end of the Late Bronze Age and the quick settlement recovery in the Iron I, especially in the highlands of the Levant" (http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/maney/tav/2013/00000040/00000002/art00002, accessed 10-22-2013). 

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1,000 BCE – 300 BCE

The Roman Census Circa 500 BCE

Servius Tullius. the sixth legendary king of ancient Rome, and the second king of the Etruscan dynasty, introduced the Roman census to determine taxes. Conducted every five years, it provided a register of citizens and their property.

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300 BCE – 30 CE

The Terra Cotta Army, An Early Example of Assembly Line Production 215 BCE – 210 BCE

One of three excavation pits of the Terracotta Army. (View Larger)

About 215 BCE Qin Shi Huang (秦始皇; pinyin: Qín Shǐhuáng; Wade-Giles: Ch'in Shih-huang) (Ying Zheng) the first Emperor of China, who ruled a unified China from 221 BCE to his death in 210 BCE at the age of 50, ordered construction of the Terracotta Warriers and Horses, otherwise known as the Terracotta Army, near Xi'an, Shaanxi province, ostensibly to help him rule in the afterlife from his vast mausoleum. Varying in height from 183 to 195 cm (6ft–6ft 5in), according to their role, with generals being tallest, the terracotta figures include warriors, chariots, horses, officials, acrobats, strongmen, and musicians. It has been estimated that in the three pits containing the Terracotta Army there were over 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots with 520 horses and 150 cavalry horses, the majority of which are still buried in the pits.

Creation of this vast collection of painted statuary involved one of the earliest implementations of assembly line production:

"The terracotta figures were manufactured both in workshops by government laborers and also by local craftsmen. The head, arms, legs and torsos were created separately and then assembled. Studies show that eight face moulds were most likely used, and then clay was added to provide individual facial features. Once assembled, intricate features such as facial expressions were added. It is believed that their legs were made in much the same way that terracotta drainage pipes were manufactured at the time. This would make it an assembly line production, with specific parts manufactured and assembled after being fired, as opposed to crafting one solid piece of terracotta and subsequently firing it. In those days, each workshop was required to inscribe its name on items produced to ensure quality control. This has aided modern historians in verifying that workshops that once made tiles and other mundane items were commandeered to work on the terracotta army. Upon completion, the terracotta figures were placed in the pits in precise military formation according to rank and duty" (Wikipedia article on Terracotta Army, accessed 06-01-2009).

"Qin Shi Huang remains a controversial figure in Chinese history. After unifying China, he and his chief adviser Li Si passed a series of major economic and political reforms. He undertook gigantic projects, including the first version of the Great Wall of China, the now famous city-sized mausoleum guarded by a life-sized Terracotta Army, and a massive national road system, all at the expense of numerous lives. To ensure stability, Qin Shi Huang outlawed and burned many books. Despite the tyranny of his autocratic rule, Qin Shi Huang is regarded as a pivotal figure" (Wikipedia article on Qin Shi Huang, accessed 12-30-2009).

The Emperor and the Assassin, a Chinese film directed by Chen Kaige based on a screenplay by Wang Peigong and Chen Kaige, depicted the life of Ying Zheng. 

(This entry was last revised on 11-11-2014.)

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The First Income Tax 10 CE

Emperor Wang Mang.

In 10 CE Chinese Emperor Wang Mang instituted an unprecedented tax— the income tax —at the rate of 10 percent of profits, for professionals and skilled labor. Previously, all Chinese taxes were either head taxes (poll taxes) or property taxes.

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30 CE – 500 CE

The Invention of Paper in China 105 CE

Ts'ai Lun

In 105 CE Ts’ai Lun, an official of the Chinese Imperial Court, reported to the Emperor of China that paper had been invented. Twentieth century discoveries of ancient paper fragments in North and Northwest China have pushed the date of the invention of paper back about two hundred years earlier. By the second century China was producing paper made from rags.

♦ Paper was not invented specifically for writing. “It was extensively used in China in the fine and decorative arts, at ceremonies and festivals, for business transactions and records, monetary credit and exchange, personal attire, household furnishings, sanitary and medical purposes, recreations and entertainments and so on” (Tsien Tsuen-Hsuin, Science and Civilisation in China, V, pt. 1: Paper and Printing [1985] 2).

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Costs of Professional Writing Measured by the Normal Length of a Line in a Verse of Virgil 303 CE

Piece of the edict in Pergamonmuseum Berlin.

Bust of Diocletian, Roman emperor at the end of the third century AD.  In 301, in an effort to control inflation, he implemented the Edict on Maximum Prices.

"At the time of the conversion to Christianity, Rome had twenty-eight libraries within its walls and book production was so well established a line of business that Diocletian, in his price edict [Edict on Maximum Prices (also known as the Edict on Prices or the Edict of Diocletian; in Latin Edictum De Pretiis Rerum Venalium)] set rates for various qualities of script: for one hundred lines in 'scriptura optima', twenty-five denarii; for somewhat lesser script, twenty denarii, and for functional script ('scriptura libelii bel tabularum'), ten denarii. The unit of valuation was the normal length of line in a verse of Virgil [Vergil]. The extent of a work is given in these units at the end of some manuscripts (stichometry), and stichometric lists survive for biblical books and for the writings of Cyprian" (Bischoff, Latin Palaeography: Antiquity and the Middle Ages [1990] 182).

Laufer, Diokletians Preisedikt (1971).

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The Decline of Literacy in the Byzantine Empire 330 CE – 1453

"The Byzantine empire is often thought of as an age of decline. Such a view does not do justice to its distinctive qualities as the home of a new style of art and as a civilising influence in eastern Europe. But there is a sense in which it was obviously inferior to the empire that had once controlled the whole Mediterranean area. In economic terms it was not able to provide for the inhabitants of its towns and villages the standard of living and amenities that had been enjoyed by the vast majority of the citizens of the Roman empire. We may infer that one of the direct consequences of the decline in standards was a reduction the number of people able to acquire an education. Although there is some evidence, principally from lives of saints, that elementary education was widely available, the impression must remain that literacy was less widespread and the average level of culture less high than had been the case in the ancient world. It is hard to imagine, for instance, a Byzantine province producing evidence of readers with such diverse and learned interests as those provded by the finds of papyri from the country districts of Greco-Roman Egypt. From the reduced economic circumstances of the Byzantine empire it would be tempting to infer that the prospects for the survival of ancient Greek literature were poor, and that there would be little chance of it being the object of scholarly study. Certainly a great deal was lost, and it is impossible to deny that the Byzantines failed to save many texts that had come down to them. Publishing and the book trade in general were so much less well organised than they had been in antiquity that the use of these terms in a Byzantine context is scarcely legitimate. Photius in the ninth century, to name only the most obvious example, read many texts that ceased to be copied soon after. But although some blame must attach to the Byzantines, care should be taken not to allocate them too large a share of the responsibility. At least some of the texts read by Photius will have been lost in 1204 when Constantinople was destroyed by the Fourth Crusade, and there were almost certainly many other books that Photius had not been able to read because even the resources of the richer society of antiquity had failed to guarantee production in sufficient numbers of copies for them to survive the hazards of war and accidental destruction.

"In view of their limited resources the Byzantines made a creditable effort to preseve a high standard of literary culture. As will become clear, they achieved what may be their greatest success at a time of economic and political decline in the late thirteen and early fourteenth centuries. By at all times they maintained, even if only in a small section of their society, an intense interest in liteature. One might suggest that though their cultural activies were confined to the few by economic circumstances, the intensity of activity was greater than at almost any time in antiquity itself. The Byzantines struggled against great odds to uphold their ideals, and these can be seen in various distinctive features of their society. The government required of its chief functionaries a good grounding in classical literature, and they attempted to display their culture in the documents drafted for public circulation by the excellence of their prose style and sometimes even by literary allusions. The government's expectations of candidates for employment in the top ranks of the civil service are made clear by an order of the emperor Constantius and his junior colleague Julian in 360 (Theodosian Code 14.1.1): 'No person shall obtain a post of the first rank unless it shall be proved that he excels in long practice of liberal studies, and that he is so polished in literary matters that words flow from his pen faultlessly.' Although this order may soon have been forgotten and does not appear to have been renewed by later emperors, in practice successive governments behaved as if it were still in force. . . ." (Wilson, Scholars of Byzantium [1983] 1-2).

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De rebus bellicis, Including Images of War Machines Circa 337 CE – 378 CE

Detail of image from De rebus bellicis showing fanciful ox-powered wheel boat.  Please click to view entire image.

The anonymous illustrated pamphlet De rebus bellicis, which survived in the late ninth century Codex Spirensis, consists of a series of suggestions for reforming the Roman Empire. It was written after the reign of Constantine, which ended with his death on May 22, 337, but before the battle of Adrianople fought on August 9, 378 between an army of the Eastern Roman Emperor Valens and Gothic rebels.

"Reforms of Imperial financial policy, of the currency, of provincial administration, of the army, and of the law are proposed in turn. The writer describes a number of new mechanical contrivances which in his opinion ought to form part of the equipment of the Roman army. To facilitate the task of constructing them he included in his treatise coloured drawings of what these contrivances should look like when completed. More or less faithful copies of his drawings have survived in several of the manuscripts" (Thompson, A Roman Reformer and Inventor. Being a New Text of the Treatise De Rebus Bellicis with a Translation and Introduction [1952] 1).

A brief work which would have had small chance of survival on its own, De rebus bellicis survived in the Codex Spirensis, a collection of thirteen different texts, which was noticed by scholars in the early 15th century, and copied several times. Though the "original" Codex Spirensis was later lost, De rebus bellicis, and some of the other texts in the codex which did not exist elsewhere, including the Notitia dignitatum, survived through the copies made at that time. These copies appear to have included faithful renditions of the numerous colored illustrations.

Thompson cited above includes black and white reproductions of the images of imaginative machines in De rebus bellicis. The images, some of which are available on the web, are especially notable because they are copies of late Roman book illustrations, very few of which survived.

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At the Beginning of the Dark Ages Production of New Manuscripts Essentially Ceased Circa 400 CE – 600

"There is a tendency to write about ancient literature and late antique manuscripts as if they vanished, all at once, in the chaotic centuries often called the Dark Ages—to see the history of transmission in this period largely in terms of large-scale physical destruction. Such a picture is slightly out of focus. Yes, the period AD 400-600 saw a great deal of destruction; but then, destruction from fire and the elements was not new to Roman history. The exceptional element was that the production of new manuscripts ceased; the market for new books rapidly diminished and, once the market dried up, the means of production disappeared. This was not so much a result of the physical destruction of either the readers or the bookshops, but rather because the traditional audience, namely the Roman senatorial class, within a couple of centuries dwindled in size and recycled itself as an ecclesiastical class with its own, albeit small, means of producing manuscripts.

"Lack of production, of course, does not equal lack of use—in many respects, quite the opposite. The newly emerging societies cherished Roman coins, and clipped them to make the smaller denominations appropriate to their greatly reduced money economy, since they did not mint large quantities of precious metals of their own. In similar fashion, Roman books whether papyrus or parchment continued to serve the needs of the shrinking literate class—not new books, but the enormous residue of the antique book trade that reposed in public and private libraries. These slowly gravitated to ecclesiastical libraries (locus of the new literate class), to be sent north with the missionaries. Benedict Biscop, for example, had no difficulty finding books to carry north to Norhumbria when he visited Rome in the 670s; but these were old books, already a century or two older than he.

"What is remarkable is the length of time that Christian Rome and its infrastructure endured. As we have suggested, Roman civilization, centred on the city, the forum, and the public baths, which was once thought to have been destroyed by the Visigoths and Ostrogoths who sacked Rome in the course of the fifth century, is now generally recognized as having remained, though undeniably altered, reasonably intact until the middle of the sixth century; indeed, the external trappings of this civilization were gladly appropriated by the Ostrogothic kindom of Theodoric (475-527), whom both Boethius and Cassiodorus served. The physical devastation of Roman Italy occurred, ironically, through the reassertion of imperial power—the reappearance in 540 of Byzantine armies in Italy under the emperor Justinian's general Belisarius. Rome changed hands five times in these campaigns.

"What survived Belisarius' legions fell to the Lombards, the last of the tribal groups to move into Italy. Any city, such as Milan, that opposed the Lombard advance was razed; those like Verona that opened their gates survived unharmed. It is no wonder, then, that little of ancient Milan, city of Ambrose, survived—or, conversely, that Petrarch in the fourteenth century could find what was probably a late antique manuscript of Cicero's letters to Atticus in Verona. Remarkably, the Roman aqueducts still functioned in the time of Pope Gregory I (pope 590-604); but gradually the Roman ruling class was replaced or absorbed by Lombard (or, in Gaul, by Frankish) peoples who had little need, or even less ability, to maintain the physical infrastructure of Roman civilization: the forum, public baths, roads, libraries, temples. As they became unnecessary, they were increasingly neglected. Eventually they served the only useful purpose left to them, becoming the quarries that provided the cut stone from which early medieval basilicas and royal palaces were built" (Rouse," The Transmission of the Texts," Jenkyns (ed) The Legacy of Rome: A New Appraisal [1992] 44-45). [As usual, the links are my addition.]

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500 CE – 600

"A Public Popularity for Books Never Existed in Antiquity" Circa 550

In the Byzantine world, and also in Europe of the sixth century, book ownership was primarily limited to the elite.

"This social restriction was not a novelty. Although in the second century, Gellius had been offered some Greek books for sale at the harbour of Brundisium, which he found 'full of wonders and tales', a public popularity for books never existed in Antiquity. What we would term 'popular literature' was in fact intended for the entertainment of the well-to-do. Furthermore, in the sixth century, if the circulation of books was limited by social factors in the East, in the West, an additional barrier was formed by the presence of large groups, in some cases militarily and politcally dominant, for whom Latin was a foreign language, while the number of people who were able to read Greek was rapidly decreasing. As Cassiodorus put, 'Other people have arms, the Romans only eloquence.' " (Bertelli, "The Production and Distribution of Books in Late Antiquity," IN: Hodges & Bowden (eds) The Sixth Century: Production, Distribution and Demand [1998] 41-42).

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600 – 700

Arab Conquest of Egypt Resulted in Smaller Exports of Papyrus-- A Probable Cause of the Eventual Adoption of Greek Minuscule in Byzantine Book Production 641

Canon 22 of the Council of Nicea II (British Museum, MS Barocci 26, fol. 140b), where the top is written in minuscule and the bottom in unical.(View Larger)

Having conquered Egypt the previous year, in 641 General 'Amr ibn al-'As founded the city of Fustat, later to named Cairo. This was the first city on the continent of Africa founded by Muslims.

Since the only supply of papyrus came from Egypt, it is thought that the conquest of Egypt by the Arabs may have coincided with a reduced supply of papyrus in Constantinople. The reduction might have been caused either by the exhaustion of the papyrus plantations or because the Arabs retained the available supply for their own use. As a result of the lack of papyrus Byzantine writers were dependent on the more expensive medium of parchment, and this may have contributed to the eventual adoption in Byzantine book production of the more economical Greek minuscule hand, which had previously mainly been employed for letters, documents, accounts, etc. "It occupied far less space on the page and could be written at high speed by a practised scribe" (Reynolds & Wilson, Scribes and Scholars, 3rd ed [1991] 59).

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Introduction of Paper Money in China Circa 650 – 960

A jiaozi from the Song Dynasty. (View Larger)

"In the 600s there were local issues of paper currency in China and by 960 the Song Dynasty, short of copper for striking coins, issued the first generally circulating notes. A note is a promise to redeem later for some other object of value, usually specie. The issue of credit notes is often for a limited duration, and at some discount to the promised amount later. The jiaozi nevertheless did not replace coins during the Song Dynasty; paper money was used alongside the coins" (Wikipedia article on Banknote, accessed 08-13-2009).

Carter, Invention of Printing in China 2nd ed [1955]103-04.

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The Codex Amiatinus: the Earliest Surviving Complete Bible in the Latin Vulgate, Containing One of the Earliest Surviving Images of Bookbindings and a Bookcase Circa 688 – 716

Folio 5r of Codex Amiatinus, showing Ezra. (View Larger)

About 688 Abbot Ceolfrid (Ceolfrith) of Wearmouth-Jarrow, teacher of Bede, commissioned three complete Bibles of the "new translation" (tres pandectes novae translationis) to be copied at the Wearmouth-Jarrow scriptorium. These pandects resulted from intensive study of the biblical texts directed by Ceolfrid based on the library of Wearmouth-Jarrow, including a pandect of the "old translation" (Jerome's Latin Vulgate) which Ceolfrid had brought back from Rome after one of his two visits there, or which had been brought to Northmbria from Rome in 678 by the founder of the two monasteries, Benedict Biscop. That manuscript is thought to have been a "lost Vivarium manuscript" (M. Davies, "Medieval Libraries" in D. Stam (ed.) International Dictionary of Library Histories, I [2001] 105). This lost manuscript was most probably one of Cassiodorus's Bibles from the Vivarium at Squillace— probably the Codex grandior littera clariore conscriptus. "For centuries it [the Codex Amiatinus] was considered an Italo-Byzantine manuscript, and it was only recognized for its English production about a century ago" (Browne, Painted Labyrinth. The World of the Lindisfarne Gospels [2004] 9).

Two of Ceolfrid's new pandects were placed in each of the twin churches of Wearmouth-Jarrow. However, apart from a fragment known as the Ceolfrid Bible, only the third copy of the huge Bible, which Ceolfrid intended as a gift to the Pope, survived. This huge codex, later known as the Codex Amiatinus, completed by seven (some say nine) different scribes, is the earliest surviving manuscript of the complete Bible in the Latin Vulgate version, and is considered the most accurate copy of St. Jerome's text. It contains "a spectrum of scripts"—formal Uncial, Capituilar Uncial and Rustic Capital. These "furnish paleographical criteria for identifying other manuscripts produced in the scriptorium in the time of Abbot Ceolfrid and his successor Abbot Hwaetberht" (Parkes, The Scriptorium of Wearmouth-Jarrow. Jarrow Lecture,1982, p. 3). (Other manuscripts produced at the scriptorium include the St. Petersburg Bede.)

The frontispiece of the Codex Amiatinus illustrated here shows a saintly figure, presumably the Old Testament prophet Ezra, or possibly Cassiodorus himself characterized as Ezra, writing a manuscript on his lap, and seated before an open book cupboard or armarium which contains a Bible in nine volumes, like the Codex grandior known to have been owned by Cassiodorus. This is one of the earliest surviving images of bookbindings, and also one of the earliest surviving images of an early form of bookcase. Clasps holding the covers of the bindings closed are clearly visible on the fore-edges of the bound manuscripts lying on the shelves—one of the earliest images of this binding feature. In Twelve Centuries of Bookbindings 400-1600 (1979; 57) Paul Needham suggested that the designs on the bookbindings as they are represented in the miniature bear similarities to the designs of early Coptic bookbindings.

To offer the Codex Amiatinus as a present to Pope Gregory II, Abbot Ceolfrid, made the long journey from England to Rome in old age, departing in 716. Though Ceolfrid died on the journey, his associates brought the volume to the Pope as a cultural "ambassador of the English nation." It was used in the revision of the Vulgate by Pope Sixtus V in 1585-90. 

One of the largest and heaviest of all medieval manuscripts, the single volume of the Codex Amiatinus weighs 75 pounds. The costs involved in its production were discussed by Richard Gameson in "The Cost of the Codex Amiatinus," Notes & Queries, 39, No. 1 (March 1992) 2-9. I quote from pp. 4-8 (excluding the many valuable footnotes, as usual):

"Measuring c. 505 x 340 mm. (with a written area of 360-75 x 260) and consisting of 1,030 folios, the Codex Amiatinus is a truly gigantic book. Its text, in which the hands of some seven scribes have been distinguished, is written through in stately uncial, two columns to the page, per cola et commata, and must been very time-consuming to produce, even given the efficient subdivision of labour that is apparent in it. Of the other seven extant bible or biblical codex fragments which are of early Anglo-Saxon origin one is written in half uncial, four in minuscule (generally cursive), one in hybrid minuscule, and one partly in hybrid minuscule, partly in half uncial - in each case their writing would have proceeded more quickly than that of Ceolfrith's volumes. The Codex Amiatinus is enhanced with a limited amount of decoration, including as a pictorial frontispiece to the Old Testament the much-reproduced image of the scribe Ezra at work, painstakingly copied from a mediterranean model. The inclusion of purple-stained pages futher underlines the care that was taken over the production and the opulence of its conception, an opulence that was entirely consonant with the exalted functions envisaged for all three volumes. The fact that the appearance and dimensions (480 x 355 mm; written area 360 x 255) of the leaves which remain from the companion volumes are closely comparable to those of Amiatinus suggests that they were in no way inferior to their extant sister.

"What then were the 'overheads' of this project? In the particular circumstances of the Wearmouth-Jarrow scriptorium (wherever that was and however it be construed) during the late seventh and early eighth century, time was always free - in the sense that no one was being paid per hour or per stint - and often of no great consequence: assuming there was no fixed deadline for a project, if the work were not finished this year then there was always next year, and if for some reason a stint could not be accomplished by one scribe, then there was always another. Consequently the manpower required to compile and write the three giant bibles, labour-intensive tasks though they undoubtedly were, cost nothing in real terms. It is the fabric alone that represents quantifiable expense and it is to this that attention has previously been directed and to which we must now turn. In his seminal study of the Codex Amiatinus published in 1967, Rupert Bruce-Mitford set out some basic data concerning the material that was required to make Ceolfrith's three bibles - data which has been quoted in suitably awed tones ever since - and there seems no reason to quibble with his statistics. Altogether the three volumes are likely to have consisted of some 1,545 bifolia of calf-skin. Now, since in order to obtain unblemished parchment sheets of c. 1010 x 680 mm one would require a new animal skin for each, making no allowance for wastage this represents the pelts of 1,545 calves. This is indeed a large number of animals and Bruce-Mitford rightly concluded that 'only rich and well-run communities could afford to produce books of this calibre'. Yet whether it necessarily implies the existence of great herds of cattle as he also surmised is not so clear, as we shall see; and it is worth pondering in more detail what sort of expense, and hence what sort of riches, it actually represented.

"Before addressing this question directly, however, we should consider the case of Ceolfrith's bibles in a broader historical perspective. It is worth pointing out that, although as has been emphasized, the creation of the three pandects was an exceptionally ambitious undertaking, it is unlikely that the twin foundation's need of skins for parchment dropped substantially during the following century; indeed given the obligation to meet the international demand for copies of the numerous works of their prolific house author, Bede, quite the reverse may well have been the case. In comparison with the Codex Amiatinus, the eighth-century Wearmouth-Jarrow copies of Bede's Historia Eccleiastica which are now in Leningrad and London are small and modestly conceived. Both are economically written in Anglo-Saxon minscule, decoration being confined to a minimum; the former consists of 162 folios, 270 x 190 mm. in size, the latter (in its fire-damaged shrunken state) of 200 folios, measuring 236 x 170 mm. In both these cases at least two and possibly more bifolia could be obtained from a single skin; but even so it is unlikely that fewer than thirty animals would have been needed to make each book. Not much less would have been required for the eighth-century Wearmouth-Jarrow copy of Bede, In Proverbia Salomonis, which is preserved in the Bodleian Library. Clearly to transcribe even a single copy of each of the nearly forty items on the list of works composed by Bede which he appended to the final book of his Historia Ecclesiastica would presuppose the pelt of several substantial herds; and far from confining themselves to single copies, the community seems to have been beleagured with requests for these texts from home and abroad. We may safely conclude that the Codex Amiatinus does not represent the peak of Wearmouth-Jarrow's parchment needs; rather it stands at the beginning of a period of consistently high if not higher consumption. The crucial point is that whatever the cost of the material of Ceolfrith's great project, the community continued to bear equivalent, if not greater 'publishing' expensives in the following generation.

"As our ignorance concerning the actual number of books written at a given Anglo-Saxon foundation in a particular year is equalled by our lack of knowledge about contemporary herd sizes, it is impossible to assess the economic implications of the need for skins for making books except in very general terms. It is evident that by 700 there must have been a much greater demand for this commodity in certain areas of the country than had been the case a century earlier; on the other hand, the imposition that this new use of skins represented (and hence its relative cost) should not be overestimated. In the case of Ceolfrith's bibles there are five considerations which suggest that the outlay reflected in the 1,545 calf-skins was not actually as formidable as the naked statistic of their number alone might seem to suggest.

"In the first place, the fact that Benedict Biscop had managed to equip his twin foundation with a large book collection acquired en masse from Rome, meant that at the end of the seventh century Wearmouth-Jarrow had less need than other ascendant or aspirant intellectual centres to copy texts for its library. Consequently it could more readily afford to deploy its resources in the production of monumental, and newly edited, deluxe volumes elegantly written in uncial letters. The cost of the Codex Amiatinus must be considered in relation to the singular circumstances of a house whose foundation endowment favoured the growth of a scriptorium which was specifically geared to the production of a modest number of high quality books.

"The use of a time-consuming script and the fact that the Codex Amiatinus as a whole was patently the product of painstaking workmanship alerts us to the second point, namely that progress on the project is likely to have been slow. Consequently, the slaughter of the 1,545 calves whose hides became the parchment of the three bibles was not a single act of preparation: on the contrary it represents the accumulation of an uncertain but undoubtedly considerable number of years. if as is not impossible, the project were initiated soon after Ceolfrith became sole abbot of the twin community in 688, while his decision to depart for Rome in 716 reflects the final completion of the presentation volume, then we have a potential working period of some twenty-eight years. Dividing the total of skins accordingly, we are left with an average annual requirement of fifty-five or so - hardly large herd. Now of course we do not know over how many seasons the project actually stretched and this is probably the maximum extreme; yet even if the work were accomplished from start to finish within a decade, which perhaps a not unreasonable estimate, the average annual requirement of skins is still only one hundred and sixty five.

"Thirdly, we should remember that these slaughtered calves did not just provide vellum: they also represented a very considerable number of hot dinners for someone! And once the flesh had been eaten and the hide taken for vellum, the carcasses could still make many other contributions to society -  the horns might be used as receptacles (to hold ink amongst other things) or be carved into spoons, the hooves and head could be boiled to make glue, the bones might be worked into any number of items such as combs and pins, or could be ground, mixed with dried blood and used as fertilizer, and so on. As each slaughtered animal provided very much more than just a pelt, the value of the parchment cannot simply be equated with the bare number of beasts it represents. The number of animals that were required for a book can of course be used to indicate its relative expense (showing that the Codex Amiatinus consumed at least seventeen times more resources than the Leningrad Bede for example), but it must be stressed that the absolute cost of the parchment in question was considerably less than the value of this total of animals.

"Fourthly, there is no reason to assume that Wearmouth-Jarrow itself (or any other young Christian establishment for that matter) was solely responsible for raising a sufficient number of animals to supply its parchment needs. Monastic animal husbandry, such as is alluded to in Bede's account of the Abbot Eosterwine of Wearmouth, no doubt accounted for some of the skins that were used, but equally many, if not the majority, were probably acquired as tithes from the surrounding lands. When kings and nobles granted estates to the new communities, in many cases they were simply tranferring to the religious house the ownership of, and hence the right to tithes of produce from, farmsteads that continued to be run by their existing tenants. The traditional occupants now merely owed their dues to the church rather than to a secular lord. The Laws of Ine (688 x 94) c. 70.1 enumerates a lengthy list of produce and livestock as the 'food rent' which is due from an estate of ten hides. We are ill informed about the details of such arrangements, but clearly organizing the annual supply of payments in kind from rent-owning properties was crucially important for the economic well-being of religious foundations. Equally clearly if these rights were to be used to underwrite the production of parchment, a purpose for which they were surely invaluable, measures must have been taken first to commute the dues to a relevant form and then to ensure the delivery of young beasts with suitable pelts. The latter is an issue to which we shall return. The key point to stress here is that the parchment consumption of Wearmouth-Jarrow should be considered in relation to the fact that by 716 the joint community had acquired the right to use the resources of an estate which consisted of at least 150 hides of land (the living of 150 families) - a considerable amount and undoubtedly a very useful and versatile resource.

"Finally, we should remember that is likely to have been standard farming practice at the time to reduce stock at the approach of winter rather than to try to carry all the herd or flock through (a point indirectly reflected in the Old English name for November, blothmonao, and one which receives pictorial commemoration in the scenes of slaughter that habitually illustrate this month in the calendars of later medieval manuscripts). Thus many calves were probably killed at this time, if not shortly after birth. Sucessful Anglo-Saxon animal husbandry implied, quite simply, a high annual slaughter rate. Clearly, then, the need to secure skins to make parchment could easily be integrated into the existing patterns of livestock farming and extensive usage of animal products. This is an important point; and as England's climate is and was generally well-suited to successful animal husbandry, it is unlikely that the need for parchment in the quantities in question placed any strain upon livestock and farming resources (or for that matter represented inconvenient competiton for raw materials to the tanning 'industry'). The fact that not one of the extant Anglo-Saxon manuscripts or fragments produced before c.800 is a palimpsest, although principally to be seen in relation to the circumstance that the leaves which are likely to have been available for re-cycling at this time would themselves have belonged to relevant, modern acquisitions in the Christian period, still perhaps provides some limited independent confirmation of the ready availability of skins for parchment in seventh- and eighth-century England. Parchment, we may conclude is likely to have been a valued and valuable but not essentially expensive commodity (a crucial distinction) in early Christian Anglo-Saxon England, and was certainly not one that would have been difficult to obtain. The amout of it that was actually required year by year to make Ceolfrith's three bibles was not especially great, as we have seen, particularly when considered in relation to Wearmouth-Jarrow's extensive resources. . . . "

The manuscript, long kept in the abbey of Monte AmiataAbbadia San Salvatore in Tuscany, from which its name is derived, is preserved in the Laurentian Library (Bibliotheca Medicea Laurenziana) in Florence.

Alexander, Insular Manuscripts 6th to 9th Century (1978) No. 7.

ABBOTS OF WEARMOUTH AND JARROW. Bede's Homily i. 13 on Benedict Biscop. Bede's History of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow. The Anonymous Life of Ceolfrith. Bede's Letter to Ecgbert, Bishop of York. Edited and Translated by Christopher Grocock and I. N. Wood (2013).

(This entry was last revised on 08-24-2014.)

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700 – 800

Traversing the Mediterranean in Twenty Days 700

"Water is to all primitive systems of transport what railways have been in modern times: the one, indispensable artery for heavy freight. Once a cargo left the waters of the Mediterranean or of a great river, its brisk and inexpensive progress changed to a ruinous slow motion. It cost less to bring a cargo of grain from one end of the Mediterranean to another than to carry it another seventy-five miles inland.

"So the Roman empire always consisted of two, overlapping worlds. Up to A D 700, great towns by the sea remained close to each other: twenty days of clear sailing would take the traveller from one end of the Mediterranean, the core of the Roman world, to the other. Inland, however, Roman life had always tended to coagulate in little oases, like drops of water on a drying surface. The Romans are renowned for the roads that ran through their empire; but the roads passed through towns where the inhabitants gained all that they ate and most of what they used, from within a radius of only thirty miles" (Brown, The World of Late Antiquity AD 150-750 [1989] 12-13).

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800 – 900

The Only Surviving Major Architectural Drawing from the Fall of the Roman Empire to Circa 1250 820 – 830

The Plan of Saint Gall. (View Larger)

Codex Sangallensis 1092, The Plan of Saint Gall (St. Gall), "the only surviving major architectural drawing from the roughly 700-year period between the fall of the Roman Empire and the 13th century," was created between 820 and 830 CE.

The plan, which includes a library, probably depicts an ideal Benedictine monastic compound,

"including churches, houses, stables, kitchens, workshops, brewery, infirmary, and even a special house for bloodletting. . . . much has been learned about medieval life from the Plan. The absence of heating in the dining hall, for instance, was not an oversight but was meant to discourage excessive enjoyment of meals. In the quarters for the 120-150 monks, their guests, and visitors, the ratio of toilet seats was better than what modern hygenic codes would prescribe." 

In 1979 the University of California Press published a monumental three-volume study in folio format by Walter Horn and Ernest Born entitled The Plan of St. Gall. A Study of the Architecture & Economy of, & Life in a Paradigmatic Carolinian Monastery.  From the standpoint of book design and production this work with more than 1000 pages was one of the most spectacular scholarly publications of the late 20th century. Three years later, in 1982 to accompany an exhibition concerning the plan, the U.C. Press issued another spectacular, but much thinner volume of 100 pages, The Plan of St. Gall in Brief: An overview based on the 3-volume work. . . including selected facsimile illustrations color and black and white, and also a Note on Architectural Scale Models, with illustrations in color of the Reconstruction Scale Model of the Monastery of the Pllan of St. Gall, as interpreted by Horn and Born, and crafted in bassword by Carl Bertil Lund.

By 2012 a website at www.stgallplan.org was built to place the Plan of St. Gall in its widest cultural context. Aspects of this website were summarized by Richard Matthew Pollard and Julian Hendrix in "Digital Devotion from Carolingian Reichenau and St. Gall," Digital Philology: A Journal of Medieval Cultures I (2012) 292-302. | 10.1353/dph.2012.0021, from which I quote:

"A long-term digitization project ( www.stgallplan.org) to bring the Carolingian plan for the monastery of St. Gall in Switzerland to life has earned justified praise for its impact. The project calls attention to and increases understanding of Carolingian monastic life at one of the great houses of the time. Whether the library was ever intended to be constructed or whether it was an imaginative conceptualization of an ideal library is immaterial to the light the project has shed on Carolingian spirituality. This article both introduces the project and demonstrates how digitization of manuscripts can increase the data available for studying devotion and the religious emotions that it entailed.

"There are few single documents more important for the history of medieval art, architecture, monasticism, and, as we hope to show in this essay, devotional emotions, than the famous drawing known as the Plan of St. Gall. This document, now preserved at the monastery Stiftsbibliothek in Switzerland, was drawn up for abbot Gosbert of St. Gall by two scribes of the sister monastery of Reichenau, on Lake Constance, around 820. An early and accomplished piece of technical drawing, the Plan measures 112 by 77.5 cm (slightly smaller than A0 paper, for those keeping track) and is made of five pieces of parchment sewn together. It depicts a large monastery complex, centred around an elaborate church, with cloister and refectories, scriptorium and library, alongside breweries, bakeries, a mill, and even a shoemaker'€™s shop. We do not know why exactly it was drawn up, but the dedication, probably written by Haito, abbot of Reichenau, indicates that it was given to Gosbert so that he might 'exercise your ingenuity and recognize my devotion.'€  Gosbert was undertaking building projects at the time, and so the plan may have been prompted by Gosbert'€™s desire to begin construction at St. Gall. It is clear, however, that St. Gall was not built from this plan, though some of the buildings there might have been inspired by it (Jacobsen). It is perhaps better to think of the Plan as a very detailed sketch of '€œthe ideal monastery' in the Carolingian imagination, where the whole world is reordered to the service of God (Dey 1940).  

"It is an unfailing axiom of medieval history that the ease of access to a document declines in proportion to its importance. This, and the Plan'€™s unwieldy size, has made it a difficult resource to use. Several years ago, therefore, Patrick Geary, of UCLA, and Bernard Frischer, of the University of Virginia, conceived of a project to make the Plan, and ancillary bibliography and analysis of it, accessible in virtual form. With the cooperation of the St. Gall librarians, extremely high-resolution pictures were taken of the Plan, and displayed using a special java applet, allowing the images to be panned, rotated, and zoomed. The result is actually much more useful and detailed than what one could experience with the large and unwieldy Plan.  In this first phase of the project, ancillary documents were added alongside to help contextualize the monastic environment that produced the Plan. Initially this focused on material culture: for instance, images of hundreds of Carolingian objects (pots, brooches, carvings, etc.) were put online to give a sense of the things used and produced in a monastery like that represented in the Plan. The second phase of the project aims to give a sense of the intellectual environment that produced the Plan by giving access to the books that were present at Reichenau (and St. Gall) when the Plan was produced. The project has acquired digital reproductions of 168 manuscripts present at Carolingian Reichenau and St. Gall. These are being presented in the same, high-resolution, zoomable form as the Plan, and are paired with updated descriptions."

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900 – 1000

The First Printing Encountered by European Travelers 994

Song Dynasty Jiaozi, the world's earliest paper money.

"Paper money was the first form of Chinese printing met with by European travelers, was independently discussed by at least eight pre-Renaissance European writers [beginning with Marco Polo], and, so far as is known, the only form of Chinese printing described in European writings of the pre-Gutenberg days" (Carter, Invention of Printing in China 2nd ed [1955] 108-9).

Bank notes from the Song Dynasty, which issued the notes because of a shortage of copper for coinage, are essentially woodcuts with captions, representing some of the earliest woodcuts that survived.

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1000 – 1100

More than One Million Charters Survive from the Period of Norman Rule in England 1066 – 1307

More than one million charters survive, either as originals or early copies, from the period of Norman rule in Britain, from 1066 to 1307. Many of these documents are records of property and land transactions written in Latin and recorded by religious or royal institutions. They are fundamental source material for historical research in medieval politics, economics and society.

Through these charters historians can study the rise and fall of military and religious organizations, among many other topics. For example, charters show how the Knights Hospitallers, or the Order of Saint John, a religious organization founded around 1023 to provide care for poor, sick or injured pilgrims to the Holy Land, became a religious and military organization after the Western Christian conquest of Jerusalem in 1099 during the First Crusade, when it was charged with the care and defense of the Holy Land.

In the late seventeeth and early eighteenth centuries dating medieval charters was one of the problems which motivated Mabillon and Montfaucon to pioneer the science of palaeography. However, at least one million of the Norman charters remain undated, largely due to adminstrative changes introduced by William the Conqueror in 1066. To solve problem of dating the huge number of undated charters Gelila Tilahun and colleagues at the University of Toronto are applying computer-automated statistical techniques with the goal of reducing the time and effort to date them manually, and to improve the accuracy of assigned dates.

"Their approach is to use a subset of some 10,000 charters that are dated and to look for changes in language over time that could be used to date other documents. For example, Tilahun and co say that the phrase “amicorum meorum vivorum et mortuorum”, which means 'of my friends living and dead', was popular between the years 1150 and 1240 but not at other times. And the phrase 'Francis et Anglicis', which is a form of address meaning 'to French and English', was phased out when England lost Normandy to the French in 1204. However, the statistical approach is much more rigorous than simply looking for common phrases. Tilahun and co’s computer search looks for patterns in the distribution of words occurring once, twice, three times and so on. 'Our goal is to develop algorithms to help automate the process of estimating the dates of undated charters through purely computational means,' they say.  

"This approach reveals various patterns which they then test by attempting to date individual documents in this set. They say the best approach is one known as the maximum prevalence technique. This is a statistical technique that gives a most probable date by comparing the set of words in the document with the distribution in the training set.  

"Tilahun and co say their approach also has other applications. For example, the same technique could be used to work out authorship and to weed out forgeries, of which there are known to be a substantial number.  

"So how well does it work in practice? These guys finish their paper with a fascinating anecdote about a medieval English charter that was discovered in a drawer at the library of Brock University near Niagara Falls.  T

"The charter lacked a data so various historians attempted to work out when it was written. The first estimates pointed to the 14th century but these were later revised to the 13th century. Eventually, by comparing the charter to other records, one academic pinned it down to a date between 1235 and 1245.  

"Inspired by the media interest in this charter, Tilahun and co ran the document through their automated maximum prevalence procedure. 'The date estimate we obtained was 1246,' they say, with just a little hint of pride. Not bad!" (MIT Technology Review, 01-16-2013, accessed 01-16-2013).

Gelila Tilahun, Andrey Feuerverger, and Michael Gervers, "Dating medieval English charters," Annals of Applied Statistics VI (2012) 1615-1640.


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The Domesday Book, Recording the First English Census December 1085 – August 1086

The Domesday Book. (View Larger) /></p></a>  <p>William I of England, better known as <a href=In 1085 William I, the first Norman King of England (better known as William the Conqueror, and less well known as William the Bastard), commissioned the Domesday Bookwhich recorded the first English census. (The name is pronounced like "doomsday.")

The first draft of the Domesday Book was completed in August 1086 and contained records for 13,418 settlements in the English counties south of the rivers Ribble and Tees (the border with Scotland at the time). William commissioned the book to assess the extent of the land owned in England, and the extent of the taxes he could raise. The information collected was recorded in two huge books in around one year, but William died in 1087 before the Domeday Book was completed. It is preserved in The National Archives of Britain in Richmond, Greater London.

A page of the Domesday Book on Warwickshire. (View Larger)

The work was called the Domesday Book because:

"It was written by an observer of the survey that 'there was no single hide nor a yard of land, nor indeed one ox nor one cow nor one pig which was left out.' The grand and comprehensive scale on which the Domesday survey took place, and the irreversible nature of the information collected led people to compare it to the Last Judgement, or 'Doomsday', described in the Bible, when the deeds of Christians written in the Book of Life were to be placed before God for judgment. This name was not adopted until the late 12th Century."

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1200 – 1300

First Recorded Issue of Paper Money in the Mongol Empire 1224 – 1227

The first recorded issue of paper money in the Mongol Empire. "From 1260, when Kublai Khan completed the conquest of China and took the title of emperor, the issue of paper money became a settled and permanent feature of the Mongol government's financial policy. . . . Records have been preserved showing year by year the amount of notes issued through Kublai's reign and that of his successors for ninety-seventy years (1260-1356)" (Carter, Invention of Printing in China 2nd ed [1955] 107).

"Paper money was the first form of Chinese printing met with by European travelers, was independently discussed by at least eight pre-Renaissance European writers, and, so far as is known, is the only form of Chinese printing described in European writings of pre-Gutenberg days. Marco Polo's description is the most detailed" (Carter, op. cit., 109).

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Possibly the First Joint-Stock Company Circa 1250

In 1190, with the permission of comte Raymond V of Toulouse, a sort of dam (chaussée) and adjacent mills were built in and on the banks of the River Garonne in Toulouse, France. 

Around 1250 96 shares of the Société des moulins du Bazacle, or Bazacle Milling Company, were traded in Toulouse at a value that depended on the profitability of the mills the society owned. The name Bazacle derived from the Latin vadaculum, or "little ford." The original stock offering was underwritten by a group of local seigneurs who shared the profits according to the number of shares they possessed. The shares of this society came to be traded on the open market in Toulouse, and their value fluctuated according to the profitability of the mills. In the sixteenth century Rabelais stated that the Bazacle mills were the most powerful in the world. The company, which survived until 1946, is sometimes claimed as the earliest example of a joint-stock company.

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Edward I's Statute of the Jewry 1275

Edward I, portrayed in the stained glass of Westminster Abbey.

In 1275 Edward I of England (Longshanks) promulgated the Statute of the Jewry.

"Since the time of the Norman Conquest, Jews had been filling a small but vital role in the English economy. Usury by Christians was banned by the church at the time, but Jews were permitted to act as moneylenders and bankers. That position enabled some Jews to amass tremendous wealth, but also earned them the enmity of the English populace, which added to the increasing antisemitic sentiments of the time, due to widespread indebtedness and financial ruin among the Gentile population.

"When Edward returned from the Crusades in 1274, two years after his accession as King of England, he found that land had become a commodity, and that many of his subjects had become dispossessed and w ere in danger of destitution. Jews traded land for money, and land was often mortgaged to Jewish moneylenders.

"As special direct subjects of the monarch, Jews could be taxed indiscriminately by the King. Some have described the situation as indirect usury: the monarch permitting and encouraging Jews to practice usury and then 'taxing' or expropriating some of the profit. In the years leading up to the Statute, Edward taxed them heavily to help finance his forthcoming military campaigns in Wales, which commenced in 1277. One theory holds that he had exhausted the financial resources of the Jewish community when the Statute was passed in 1275.


* Usury was outlawed in every form.

* Creditors of Jews were no longer liable for certain debts.

* Jews were not allowed to live outside certain cities and towns.

* Any Jew above the age of seven had to wear a yellow badge of felt on his or her outer clothing, six inches by three inches.

* All Jews from the age of 12 on had to pay a special tax of three pence annually.

* Christians were forbidden to live among Jews.

* Jews were licensed to buy farmland to make their living for the next 15 years.

* Jews could thenceforth make a living in England only as merchants, farmers, craftsmen or soldiers.

"The license to buy land was included so that farming, along with trading, could give Jews an opportunity to earn a living with the abolition of usury. Unfortunately, other provisions along with widespread prejudice made this difficult for many. When the 15 years passed, and it was widely discovered that their practice of usury had been secretly continued, Jews were finally presented with the Edict of Expulsion of 1290" (Wikipedia article on Statute of the Jewry, accessed 02-13-2009).

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Edward I Expells the Jews from England 1290

The infamous Edward I. (View Larger)

In 1290 King Edward I of England (Longshanks) issued an edict expelling all Jews from England.

"Lasting for the rest of the Middle Ages, it would be over 350 years until it was formally overturned in 1656. The edict was not an isolated incident but the culmination of over 200 years of conflict on the matters of usury. The first Jewish communities of significant size came to England with William the Conqueror in 1066. On the conquest of England, William instituted a feudal system in the country, whereby all estates formally belonged to the king, who appointed lords over vast estates, subject to duties and obligations (financial and knights) to the king. Under the lords were further subjects such as serfs, which were bound and obligated to their lords. Merchants had a special status in the system as did Jews. Jews were declared to be direct subjects of the King, unlike the rest of the population. This had advantages for Jews, in that they were not tied to any particular lord, but were subject to the whims of the king. Every successive King formally reviewed a royal charter granting Jews the right to remain in England. Jews did not enjoy any of the guarantees of Magna Carta of 1215.

"Economically, Jews played a key role in the country. The church at the time strictly forbade usury, or the lending of money for profit. This left a hole in the heart of the European economy that Jews quickly filled (canon law was not considered to apply to Jews, and Judaism permits loans with interest between Jews and non-Jews).  As a consequence, some Jews made large amounts of money. However, taking advantage of their unique status as his direct subjects, the King could expropriate Jewish assets in the form of taxation. He levied heavy taxes on Jews at will without having to summon Parliament.  The Jewish community acted as a kind of giant monetary filter: Jews collected interest on money loaned to the people which the King could take at his pleasure.

"Jews acquired a reputation as extortionate money lenders which made them extremely unpopular with both the Church and the general public. While antisemitism was widespread in Europe, medieval England was particularly antisemitic. An image of the Jew as a diabolical figure who hated Christ started to become widespread, and antisemitic myths such as the Wandering Jew and ritual murders originated and spread throughout England; as well as Scotland and Wales.  Jews were said to hunt for children to murder before Passover so they could use their blood to make matzah. Antisemitism on a number of occasions sparked riots where many Jews were murdered, most famously in 1190 when over a hundred Jews were massacred in the city of York.

"The situation only got worse for Jews as the 13th century progressed. In 1218, England became the first European nation to require Jews to wear a marking badge. Taxation grew increasingly intense. Between 1219 and 1272, 49 levies were imposed on Jews for a total of 200,000 marks, a huge amount of money.  The first major step towards expulsion took place in 1275, with the Statute of Jewry. The statute outlawed all usury and gave Jews fifteen years to readjust. However, guilds as well as popular prejudice made Jewish movement into mercantile or agricultural pursuits almost impossible.

"While in Gascony in 1287, Edward ordered English Jews expelled. All their property was seized by the crown and all outstanding debts payable to Jews were transferred to the King’s name. It was a bleak sign of things to come. Edward’s personal views on Jews are something of a mystery. In the glimpses we have of his dealings with them, he seems interested but unsympathetic. His mother, however, does seem to have been anti-semitic. Whatever his personal feelings, by the time he returned to England in 1289 Edward was deeply in debt. The next summer he summoned his knights to impose a steep tax. To make the tax more palatable, Edward in exchange essentially offered to expel all Jews. The heavy tax was passed, and three days later, on July 18, the Edict of Expulsion was issued. One official reason for the expulsion was that Jews had neglected to follow the Statute of Jewry. The edict of expulsion was widely popular and met with little resistance, and the expulsion was quickly carried out.

"The Jewish population in England at the time was relatively small. While population estimates vary, probably less than 1% of England was Jewish; perhaps 3,000 people.  The expulsion process went fairly smoothly, although there were a few horrific stories. One story told of a captain taking a ship full of Jews to the Thames while the tide was going out and convincing them to go out for a walk with him. He then lost them and made it back to his ship before the tide came back in, leaving them all to drown. Other stories exist of Jews being robbed or killed, but the majority of the Jews seem to have crossed the channel in safety" (Wikipedia article on Edict of Expulsion, accessed 02-15-2009).

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A Clear Record of Early Block Printing in Tabriz 1294

Tabriz, Iran, as seen through Google Earth. (View Larger)

"Tabriz is the only place in the Islamic world where there is a clear record of early block printing. In the year 1294 at this Mongol capital of Persia there was an issue of paper money with text in Chinese and Arabic.. . . . The notes. . .were direct copies of Kublai's, even the Chinese character being imitated as part of the device upon them. . .There was an Arabic inscription on each note to the effect that the notes were issued in the year 693 of the Moslem era (A.D. 1294), that all who issued false notes should be summarily punished, and that 'when these auspicious notes were put in circulation, poverty would vanish, provisions become cheap, and rich and poor be equal.' The prophecy was not fulfilled. After the constrained use of the new ch-ao for two or three days, Tabriz was in an uproar; the markets were closed; Izzudin, the minister who had proposed the issue, became the object of intense hatred and according to some accounts was murdered; and the whole project had to be abandoned.

"This dramatic issue of a printing project a century and a half before Gutenberg in a great comsopolitan community near the confines of Europe could have not gone unobserved in the commercial republics of Italy" (Carter, Invention of Printing in China 2nd ed [1955] 170-71).

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The Lure and Romance of Travel to the East 1298 – 1299

Folio 54r from a facsimile of 'Le divisament dou monde,' preserved at the University of Graz, in Germany. (View Larger)

While in prison in Genoa from 1298 to 1299 Marco Polo supposedly dictated a book to a romance writer, Rustichello da Pisa. His work, which was very frequently copied, was a rare popular success in the period before printing. 

"The impact of Polo's book on cartography was delayed: the first map in which some names mentioned by Polo appear was in the Catalan Atlas of Charles V (1375), which included thirty names in China and a number of other Asian toponyms. In the mid-fifteenth century the cartographer of Murano, Fra Mauro, meticulously included all of Polo's toponyms in his map of the world. Marco Polo's description of the Far East and its riches inspired Christopher Columbus's decision to try to reach Asia by sea, in a westward route. A heavily annotated copy of Polo's book was among the belongings of Columbus. Polo's writings included descriptions of cannibals and spice growers" (Wikipedia article on The Travels of Marco Polo, accessed 04-04-2010).

"His book, Il Milione (the title comes from either 'The Million', then considered a gigantic number, or from Polo's family nickname Emilione), was written in the Old French and entitled Le divisament dou monde ('The description of the world'). The book was soon translated into many European languages and is known in English as The Travels of Marco Polo. The original is lost, and we have several often-conflicting versions of the translations. The book became an instant success — quite an achievement in a time when printing was not known in Europe."

Christopher Columbus's annotated copy of 'Il Milione.' (View Larger)

"An authoritative version of Marco Polo's book does not exist, and the early manuscripts differ significantly. The published versions of his book either rely on single scripts, blend multiple versions together or add notes to clarify, for example in the English translation by Henry Yule. Another English translation by A.C. Moule and Paul Pelliot, published in 1938, is based on the Latin manuscript which was found in the library of the Cathedral of Toledo in 1932, and is 50% longer than other versions. Approximately 150 variants in various languages are known to exist, and without the availability of a printing press many errors were made during copying and translation, resulting in many discrepancies" (Wikipedia article on Marco Polo, accessed 01-29-2010).

Marco Polo's work was first published in print in a German translation issued by printer Friedrich Creussner of Nuremberg in 1475 under the title of Hie hebt sich an das puch des edeln Ritters vnd landtfarers Marcho Polo, in dem er schreibt die grossen wunderlichen ding dieser welt Übers. aus dem Ital ISTC No.: ip00901000. A Latin edition followed in 1483-84. Two editions in Italian appeared in 1496 and 1500. In December 2012 a digital facsimile of the first German edition was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link. The title page consists of a full-page woodcut surrounded by the verbose title.

♦ From the standpoint of printing before its invention in the West, Polo's work contained the earliest detailed account of Chinese printed paper money that was widely available in Europe. It was through Polo's account, and possibly by seeing actual examples of Chinese paper money, that Europeans may have first learned about printing. Carter, Invention of Printing in China 2nd ed (1955) 109-11.

In spite of its wide fame, recent scholars question whether Marco Polo actually went to China.

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1300 – 1400

The Earliest Use of Paper Money in Japan 1319 – 1327

"Earliest use of paper money in Japan. The Japanese notes were smaller than those of China, being about 2 by 6 inches. This paper money was secured by a gold or silver or other metallic reserve" (Hunter, Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft 2nd ed [1947] 474).

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The Relative Costs of the Components of Medieval Manuscripts 1374 – 1375

"To give us an idea of the costs of making manuscript books in the Middle Ages we have an example of the costs incurred in making a copy of Henri Bohic's voluminous Commentaires, which Etienne de Conty had made in 1374 and 1375 by the copyist Guillaume du Breuil. It is a work of two large in-folio volumes, one with 370 leaves and the other with 388. A note on the inside of each volume tells us that the work cost 62 livres and 11 sous in Parisian money. This sum was made up of the following:

- The copyist's salary: 31 livres 5 sous
- The purchase and preparation of the parchment, including the mending of holes: 18 livres 18 sous
- Six initial letters with gold: 1 livre 10 sous
- Other illuminations, in red and blue: 3 livres 6 sous
- The hiring of an exemplar for the copyist provided by Martin, Carmelite clerk: 4 livres
- Repairs to holes in the margins, and stretching: 2 livres
- Binding: 1 livre 12 sous

These manuscripts are now kept in the Bibliothèque municipale d’Amiens, shelfmark 365" (blog.Pecia: Le manuscrit medieval, 5 novembre 2007).

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Earliest European Document on the Production of Paper 1390

A view of Nuremberg--folio 99v/100r of the Nuremberg Chronicles--showing Stromer's paper mill, bordering the city on the bottom right. (View Larger)

In 1390 Ulman Stromer, a member of the Senate governing the city of Nuremberg, recorded in a manuscript that he was converting a mill on the Pegnitz river just outside the western wall of the city to the production of paper.

The manager of a trading company which had been importing paper from Italy, Stromer established his paper mill to meet the growing demand for paper in his country. To produce paper he hired Italian workers with technical experience in the trade. Stromer's diary, preserved in the Germanisches National Museum in Nuremberg, is the earliest European document on the production of paper. It also includes an account of the earliest known labor strike in the history of papermaking.

Dard Hunter, The Literature of Papermaking 1390-1800 [1925] 9-11.

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1450 – 1500

Printing Decreased the Costs of Books by 80% 1468

Portrait of Pope Paul II by Cristofano dell'Atissimo (1525-1605).

A painting of Saint Jerome by Bartolomeo Cavarozzi in the early 17th century entitled St. Jerome Visited by Angels.

Portrait of Pope Sixtus IV by Justus van Gent and Pedro Berruguete circa 1473-1475 in the Louvre.

In 1468 humanist Giovanni Andrea Bussi (Joannes Andreae de Bussis), bishop of Aléria, and the chief editor for the printing house of Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz after it moved from Subiaco to Rome, wrote to Pope Paul II:

"In our time God gave Christendom a gift which enables even the pauper to acquire books. Prices of books have decreased by eighty percent" (Hirsch, Printing, Selling and Reading 1450-1550 [1967] 1).

Hirsch mentions in a footnote that this statement was printed by Sweynheym and Pannartz in their edition of St. Jerome, Epistolae, Rome, 1468, but does not mention that Bussi edited that edition. 

"Bussi also produced for Sweynheym and Parnnatz editions of the Epistolae of Jerome (1468), the Historia naturalis of Pliny the Elder (1470), the complete works of Cyprian (1471), and the works of Aulus Gellius. Though his edition of Pliny [ISTC no. ip00787000] was not the first (a 1469 printing at Venice preceded it), nonetheless it was criticised by Niccolò Perotti in a letter to Francesco Guarneri, secretary of cardinal-nephew Marco Barbo. Perotti attacks Bussi's practice, then common, of adding one's own preface to an ancient text, and also the quality and accuracy of his editing" (Wikipedia article on Giovanni Andrea Bussi, accessed 01-04-2009).

Bussi dedicated most of his editions to Pope Paul II, whom he served as the first papal librarian. That a bishop and papal librarian served as chief editor for printers suggests a both a recognition of the importance of printing by the church and a close relationship between the printers and the Vatican. 

ISTC no. ih00161000

(This entry was last revised on 07-16-2014.)

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Johannes de Spira Becomes the First Printer in Venice September 1469

Portrait of Andrea Navagero Beazzano and Augustine by Raphael, 1516. (Click on image to view larger.)

In September 1469, in order to initiate the new technology in their community, the Venetian Senate granted the German printer Johannes de Spira (Speyer) a five-year monopoly on printing in the city. This was the first monopoly on printing granted by a European government. Speyer probably set up shop in Venice well before September, since issued Cicero's Epistolae ad familiares in an edition of 100 copies in 1469. (ISTC no. ic00504000). "Four months" later he issued a second edition of 300 copies (ISTC no. ic00505000). Also in 1469 he published the first edition of Pliny's Historia naturalis, a long text, in an edition of 100 copies (ISTC no. ip00786000). In November 2013 a digital facsimile of the copy of the first edition of Pliny in the Bibliothèque de Saint Geneviève was available at this link.

From the text of the decree it appears that the Venetian Senate granted the monopoly to Speyer as a way of supporting his ongoing work, which they much admired. The manuscript of the grant is preserved in the Venetian State Archives (ASV, NC, reg. 1, c.55r). It is reproduced in color and translated in Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org, from which I quote:

"The art of printing books has been introduced into our renowned state, and from day to day it has become more popular and common through the efforts, study and ingenuity of Master Johannes of Speyer, who chose our city over all the others. Here he lives with his wife, children and whole household; practices the said art of printing books; has just published, to universal acclaim, the Letters of Cicero and Pliny's noble work On Natural History, in the largest type and with the most beautiful letter-forms; and continues every day to print other famous volumes so that [this state] will be enriched by many, famous volumes, and for a low price, by the industry and fortitude of this man. Whereas such an innovation, unique and particular to our age and entirely unknown to those ancients, must be supported and nourished with all our goodwill and resources and [whereas] the same Master Johannes, who suffers under the great expense of his household and the wages of his craftsmen, must be provided with the means so that he may continue in better spirits and consider his art of printing something to be expanded rather than something to be abandoned, in the same manner as usual in other arts, even much smaller ones, the undersigned lords of the present Council, in response to the humble and reverent entreaty of the said Master Johannes, have determined and by determining decreed that over the next five years no one at all should have the desire, possibility, strength or daring to practice the said art of printing books in this the renowned state of Venice and its dominion, apart from Master Johannes himself. Every time that someone shall be found to have dared to practice this art and print books in defiance of this determination and decree, he must be fined and condemned to lose his equipment and the printed books. And, subject to the same penalty, no one is permitted or allowed to import here for the purpose of commerce such books, printed in other lands and places. . . ."

"Scholars and writers too went more readily to Venice than to any other city, in their search for publishers, attracted by the excellence of the local paper stock and typography as much as relatively liberal atmosphere in the city. In contrast to other early modern states where censorship and state regulation took on early to encourage and protect the nascent trade, in Venice, the trade was left virtually uncontrolled in the first years of its development. It was only in 1515 when Andrea Navagero was appointed for the task of the official revision of books that the state began to exercise a degree of control over what was printed. Even then, this literary censorship was primarily concerned with the quality of printed books to secure commercially successful correct editions. Thus the natural play of economic forces had left printers free to establish their printing enterprises and compete against each other in an open market. In other words, Venice was an ideal place from which to begin the 'printing revolution.'

"The rapid expansion of the printing industry leaves no doubt that Venice was the first city in the world to feel the full impact of printing, and to experience the most important revolution in human communications, and a favourable territory in which the system of copyright could develop. This, however, did not make Venice into a champion of literary property. It would take a long time before the copyright holder was identified with the moral or aesthetic personality of the writer.

"The best-known explanation for the emergence of author's rights is a technological one, viewing the need to protect literary production as a consequence of the invention of printing. In a manuscript culture, texts were treated as common property, and copying another man's work was often considered more of a favour than an injury. . . .

"It is not so much printing as the existence of a market in books and ideas that introduced concepts of intellectual property. As the literary market increased in importance, authors, who might well be writing for a living and competing for recognition, began to stress the distinctiveness of their products, in other words their intellectual or literary originality. Printing encouraged the development of such a market and expanded the concept of a book as a commodity (selling object). However, the concept of a book as a particular category of commodity - the work of the mind - was slow to develop" (Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900), eds L. Bently & M. Kretschmer, www.copyrighthistory.org, accessed 07-24-2009).

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The Staff and Salaries of a 15th Century Venetian Printing Office 1475

"The press itself employs three people: the compositor, the inker [printer's devil], and the pressman; a small printing house might have six employees, while one that has from six to eight presses with thirty to forty workers is a firm of substantial dimensions. Only the compositor has to have specialized training, and, judging from satirical comments of the time, there were a lot of unemployed servants and penniless students ready to fill any jobs that might open up. In any case, it's a well-paid job; in Padova in 1475 a compositor earns three ducats a month, plus a ducat's worth of books that he can re-sell. Three ducats is also the monthly salary of a hydraulic engineer, an occupation certainly of no secondary importance in a city like Venice, whose survival depends  on the proper regulation of water flow in its rivers and in keeping the sea from entering the lagoon. Apprentices are paid about one-tenth the salary of an expert compositor and are provided with free room and board for a period of three years. . . . A proofreader could expect to be paid somehwere between four and six ducats per month" (Magno, Bound in Venice. The Serene Republic and the Dawn of the Book [2013] 27-28).

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Trithemius Favors Vellum over Paper for Long Term Information Storage 1494

In his treatise De laude scriptorum (In Praise of Scribes) written in reaction to the information revolution caused by printing, and published as a printed book in 1494, Benedictine abbot Johannes Trithemius (Tritheim) advocated preserving the medieval tradition of manuscript copying in spite of the the advantages of printing for information distribution. He was well aware of these advantages since he exploited them to expand his abbey library after the invention of printing, and also because thirty printed editions of his own writings appeared during the 15th century.

In the context of the fifteenth century information revolution Tritheim is most remembered for questioning the durability of media used in long term information storage when he compared the known long-term durability of information written on traditional parchment, examples of which had already lasted over 700 years, with that written or printed on the newer and less proven medium of paper.

Tritheim wrote:

"Brothers, nobody should say or think: 'What is the sense of bothering with copyring by hand when the art of printing has brought to light so many important books; a huge library can be acquired inexpensively.' I tell you, the man who ways this only tries to conceal his own laziness.

"All of you know the difference between a manuscript and a printed book. The word written on parchment will last a thousand years. The printed word is on paper. How long will it last? The most you can expect a book of paper to survive is two hundred years. Yet, there are many who think they can entrust their works to paper. Only time will tell.

"Yes, many books are now available in print but no matter how many books will be printed, there will always be some left unprinted and worth copying. No one will ever be able to locate and buy all printed books. . . ." (Translated in Tribble and Trubek eds., Writing Material: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age [2003]).

Taking an expansive view of libraries and the history of information, Tritheim also pointed out that all recorded information could never be published in print or collected in a single library. He also believed that in spite of the new technology it remained the responsibility of monks to continue to copy and preserve obscure texts which might not be economically viable to print. Working manually, the monks could produce copies of higher quality, or include decorative elements (ceteros librorum ornatus) not possible in a printed edition. 

Perhaps not surprisingly, Tritheim's retrograde treatise which took issue with the new technology was not a best-seller. It underwent only one printed edition, from Mainz at the press of Peter von Friedberg, during the 15th century.

ISTC no. it00442000.  Wagner, Als die Lettern laufen lernten. Medienwandel im 15. Jahrhundert (2009) no. 32.

In November 2013 a digital facsimile was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek website at this link

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Pacioli Issues "Summa de arithmetica", the First Great General Work on Mathematics November 10 – November 20, 1494

Page from Summa de arithmetica geometria, proporzioni et proporzionalita at the Libarary for Humanitities and Social Sciences at the Kobe University. (Click on the image to view the full page opening.)

Title page of Summa de arithmetica geometria, proporzioni et proporzionalita. (Click on the image to view the full title page.)

Portrait of Luca Pacioli, traditionally attributed to Jacopo de' Barbari, 1495 (attribution controversial).  Please see the wikipedia article on Luca Pacioli.

Between November 10 and 20, 1494 Fra Luca Bartolomeo de Pacioli published at the press of Paganinus de Paganinis in Venice Summa de arithmetica geometria, proporzioni et proporzionalita. This was “the first great general work on mathematics printed” (Smith, Rara arithmetica, 56).

“[The Summa] contains a general treatise on theoretical and practical arithmetic; the elements of algebra; a table of moneys, weights and measures used in the various Italian states; a treatise on double-entry bookkeeping; and a summary of Euclid’s geometry. . . . Although it lacked originality, the Summa was widely circulated and studied by the mathematicians of the sixteenth century. Cardano, while devoting a chapter of his Practica arithmetice (1539) to correcting the errors in the Summa, acknowledged his debt to Pacioli. Tartaglia’s General trattato de’ numeri et misure (1556-1560) was styled on Pacioli’s Summa. In the introduction to his Algebra, Bombelli says that Pacioli was the first mathematician after Leonardo Fibonacci to have thrown light on the science of algebra. . . . Pacioli’s treatise on bookkeeping, ‘De computis et scripturis,’ contained in the Summa, was the first printed work setting out the ‘method of Venice,’ that is, double-entry bookkeeping. [Richard] Brown has said [in his History of Accounting and Accountants, 1905] that ‘The history of bookkeeping during the next century consists of little else than registering the progress of the De computis through the various countries of Europe” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography).

ISTC no. il00315000 points out the very unusual aspect of the edition that two re-issues of the first edition exist with some sheets reprinted. One of these is thought to date after 1509 and another after 13 August 1502. Nevertheless, these re-issues bear the original publication date.  

In November 2013 a digital facsimile of a copy dated 1494 was available from the Herzog Auguste Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel at this link

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1500 – 1550

The Venetian Arsenal Develops the First Large-Scale Production-Line Circa 1525

About 1525 the Venetian Arsenal developed methods of mass-producing warships. These included the frame-first system to replace the Roman hull-first practice. The new system was much faster and required less wood. At the peak of its efficiency the Arsenal employed about 16,000 people who could produce nearly one ship each day, and could fit out, arm, and provision a newly-built galley with standardized parts on a production-line basis not seen again until the Industrial Revolution.

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1550 – 1600

William Lee Invents the Stocking Frame Knitting Machine 1589

In 1589 William Lee of Calverton near Nottingham, England, invented the stocking frame knitting machine for the production of stockings. Framework knitting, as the use of Lee's machine in stocking production was called, was the first major stage in the mechanization of the textile industry, a process that 200 years later led to the Industrial Revolution. 

"The machine imitated the movements of hand knitters. Lee demonstrated the operation of the device to Queen Elizabeth I, hoping to obtain a patent, but Elizabeth refused, fearing the effects on hand-knitting industries. The original frame had 8 needles to the inch, which produced only coarse fabric. Lee later improved the mechanism with 20 needles to the inch. By 1598 he was able to knit stockings from silk, as well as wool, but was again refused a patent by James I. Lee moved to France with his workers and his machines, but was unable to sustain his business. He died in Paris c.1614. Most of his workers returned to England with their frames, which were sold in London.

"The commercial failure of Lee's design might have led to a dead-end for the knitting machine, but John Ashton, one of Lee's assistants, made a crucial improvement by adding the mechanism known as a "divider".  

"A thriving business built up with the exiled Huguenot silk-spinners who had settled in the village of Spitalfields just outside the city. In 1663, the London Company of Framework Knitters was granted a charter. By about 1785, however, demand was rising for cheaper stockings made of cotton. The frame was adapted but became too expensive for individuals to buy, thus wealthy men bought the machines and hired them out to the knitters, providing the materials and buying the finished product. With increasing competition, they ignored the standards set by the Chartered Company. In 1728 the Nottingham magistrates refused to accept the authority of the London Company and the centre of the trade moved northwards to Nottingham, which also had a lace making industry" (Wikipedia article on stocking frame, accessed 06-10-2012)

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Publication of the Bills of Mortality": the Beginning of the Collection of Medical Statistics 1592 – 1593

The collection, recording, and publishing of medical statistics in the form of Bills of Mortality began in England as a result of the epidemic of plague in 1592-93.

"The epidemic of plague, which reached its height in the year 1593, began to be felt in London in the autumn of 1592, and is said to have caused 2000 deaths before the end of the year. On the 7th September, soldiers from the north on their way to Southampton to embark for foreign parts had to pass round London 'to avoid the infection which is much spread abroad' in the city. On the 16th September, the spoil of a great Spanish carrack at Dartmouth could be brough no farther than Greenwich, on account of the contagion in London; no one to go from London to Dartmouth to buy the goods. It was an ominous sign that the infection lasted through the winter; even in mid winter people were leaving London: 'the plague is so sore that none of worth stay about these places.' On the 6th April 1593, one William Cecil who had been kept in the Fleet prison by the queen's command, writes that 'the place where he lies is a congregation of the unwholesome smells of the town, and season contagious, so many have died of the plague.' From a memorial of 1595, it appears that the neighbourhood of Fleet Ditch had been the most infected part of the whole city and liberties in 1593; 'in the last great plague more died about there than in three parishes besides.' The epidemic does not appear to have reached its height until summer. . . .

"Of that London epidemic a weekly record was kept by the Company of Parish Clerks, and published by them beginning with the weekly bill of 21st December, 1592. The clerk of the Company of Parish Clerks, writing in 1665, had the annual bill for 1593 before him, with the plague-deaths and other deaths in each of 109 parishes in alphabetical order, and the christenings as well. For the next two years, 1594 and 1595, he appears to have had before him not only the annual bills but also a complete set of the weekly bills of burials and christenings according to parishes. The same documents were used by Graunt in 1662, and had doubtless been used by John Stow at the time when they were published. The originals are all lost, and only a few totals extracted from them remain on record. . . .

"The London plague of 1592-93 called forth two known publications, an anonymous 'Good Councell against the Plague, showing sundry preservatives. . . to avoyde the infection lately begun in some places of this Cittie' (London, 1592), and the Defensative' of Simon Kellwaye (April, 1593). The dates of these two books show that the alarm had really begun in the end of 1592 and the early months of 1593" (Creighton, A History of Epidemics in Britain[1891] 352-53).

The earliest surviving copy of the Bills of Mortality is:

True bill of the vvhole number that hath died At London : printed by I.R[oberts]. for Iohn Trundle, and are to be sold at his shop in Barbican, neere Long lane end, [1603]

1 sheet ([1] p.) ;c1⁰. STC (2nd ed.), 16743 1-3.


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1600 – 1650

Minsheu's "Ductor in Linguas," The First Book Sold by Subscription and the First Book to Include a List of Subscribers 1617

English linguist and lexicographer John Minsheu's (Minshew) Ηγημων εις τας γλωσσας. Ductor in linguas, The Guide into Tongues  (London, 1617) was the first book published by advance subscription using a printed prospectus, and the first book to include a list of subscribers. The unusually elaborate blingual Latin and English title page of this dictionary into eleven languages states that it was "By the Industrie, Studie, Labour, and at the Charges of John Minsheu Published and Printed."

Though the STC records no less than ten variant editions of the broadsheet list of subscribers found in some copies, each with increasing numbers of names, scholars have disputed whether Minsheu actually sold the first edition of his book by subscription. For example, in the authoritative Cambridge History of the Book in Britain Volume IV 1557 to 1695 (2002) the editor of the volume John Barnard states on p. 9:

"John Minsheu's multilingual dictionary, Ductor in linguas (made up of 726 folio pages using Greek, Anglo-Saxon and Hebrew characters as well as roman, black lettter and italic) on which he began work in 1599, was given a royal patent in 1611. Minsheu, however, was unable to raise the capital to publish the book until 1617; in so doing so he sought the support of the two universities, the Inns of Court, and 'divers Honorable and Right Worshipfull Personages, Bishops, and others', including merchants and London citizens; even so money ran out in the course of printing and the work was done at different times by two different printers. It was this difficulty which led to the publication of the second edition in 1625 by subscription, the first English example of this practice, one revived in the 1650s and taken up by the trade in the 1670s and 1680s."

Later in the volume, the co-editor of the same volume of The History of the Book in Britain, D. F. McKenzie, makes a similar assertion on p. 565, footnote 33. However, neither scholar seems to be aware of the unique prospectus for Minsheu's book preserved in the John Johnson Collection in the Bodleian Library. The working title given for the book on the prospectus is Glosson-Etymologicon. (Id est.) the Etymologie of Tongues. It is nevertheless clear that the prospectus is for the work later published as Ductor in linguas in 1617 as the 4-page folio-size prospectus (2 conjugate leaves) describes a dictionary in eleven languages with typography and format identical to the 1617 edition. The unique copy of the prospectus, which contains an internal date of 8 December 1610, was reproduced in facsimile by John Feather in English Book Prospectuses, An Illustrated History (Newtown: Bird & Bull Press, 1984). Feather, who believed that the prospectus was issued in 1611, stated on p. 28:

"The only earlier prospectus known to Pollard and Ehrman [The Distribution of Books by Catalogue to AD 1800 (1965)] cannot have been known to Minsheu. This was a manuscript proposal issued by Botel and Hurus in Savagona, Spain, in 1476, which solicits support for a new printed edition of the statutes of the Kingdom of Aragon. Stow's failure and the lack of any credible precedent lead me to regard Minsheu's Guide into tongues as the first subscription book, and John Minsheu himself as the pioneer, and for all practical purposes the inventor, of the book prospectus.

Minsheu's campaign was, in the end successful. The 417 subscribers in the final list represent a remarkable market for such a book in early seventeenth-century England. The figure, superficially small, has to be seen in the context of edition sizes limited by law to 1,250 and rarely reaching even that number. Indeed, in view of the trade's attitude in 1610 Minsheu had every reason to feel pleased with himself. Ironically, only five years after publication, the bookseller John Haviland issued an unauthorized reprint which infringed Minsheu's rights under his Letters Patent: Haviland was duly fined forty shillings by the Court of Assistants of the Stationers' Company on 5 April 1624."

My copy of Minsheu's book is bound in a contemporary binding of calf stamped with the Royal Arms in the center of the upper and lower covers. Several recorded copies of the first edition seem to be bound identically, but this fact remains unexplained.

Almost nothing is known about Minsheu. He was probably born in 1559 or 1560. The ODNB says he was of "unknown parentage," and provides what little information about his family. Minsheu refers to a cousin living in Oxfordshire, John Vesey, who was a self-made man of dubious probity. Minsheu may have resembled him in these two respects: he was educated by extensive travels rather than in a university, and he was described as a rogue by Ben Jonson. Minsheu apparently learned much of his Spanish while he was imprisoned in Spain. Nevertheless, the immense amount of information in Ductor in Linguas requires it to be taken seriously. In "John Minsheu: Scholar or Charlatan," Renaissance Quarterly 26, No. 1 (1973) 23-35 Jürgen Schäfer writes, on pp. 23-24:

"More than any other English work of the period the Ductor in Linguas reflects linguistic research and speculation at home and abroad and represents an important link in the beginnings of modern English lexicography. On the basis of this work Minsheu has been praised as a scholar, antiquarian, and etymologist of note. Closer inspection reveals, however, that such a blank judgment is seriously misleading and in need of revision. The following essay seeks to show in contrast to some of his contemporaries, Minsheu was an amateur of linguistic theory, an eclectic who incorporated linguistic material as he found it without subjecting it to any rigorous intellectual analysis. His etymologies, especially those which seem to qualify him as a leading student of the history of the vernacular, provide the cornerstone of his scholarly reputation, yet most of these are not original but have been drawn, often verbatim, from John Cowell's Interpreter (1607) — a dependence which has not yet been pointed out. From this new perspective Minsheu deserves praise as a teacher and disseminator of foreign languages. His scholarly credentials, however, are at best questionable.

"There is no doubt that the Ductor in Linguas is a monumental work. No less impressive than the title are the size and the contents of this volume. On more than 500 closely printed folio pages English lemmata are followed by their etymologies and their equivalents in ten other languages, 'British or Welsh, Low Dutch, High Dutch, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguez, Latine, Greeke, Hebrew.' In addition to Roman, black letter, and italics, the favorite triad around 1600, the compositors were also required to use Greek, Hebrew, and Anglo-Saxon letters. Long and learned prefaces in Latin and in English introduce the work, and there are two commendatory certificates, one by the University of Oxford and another by some of the leading scholars of the day. Both of these certificates are dated from the end of 1610 when the work had apparently been in progress for several years. In addition, a list of purchasers contains illustrious names from the court, as well as the study. Througout his introductions Minsehu stresses the number of collaborators and the amount of time and money invested in the enterprise, and the extent of his labor seems stupendous. Learned etymologies, definitions, multilingual equivalents, illustrative quotations, and precise bibliographic references crowd the pages, and the fact that the work was published at all may be more noteworthy than the many years of preparation." 

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"The Great Parchment Book" and Its Digital Restoration After Three Centuries 1639 – 2013

In 1639 a Commission instituted under the Great Seal by Charles I ordered compilation of The Great Parchment Book of the Honourable The Irish Society, a major survey of all estates in Derry managed by the City of London through the Irish Society and the City of London livery companies. It remained part of the City of London’s collections held at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA reference CLA/049/EM/02/018), and it represents a key source for the City of London’s role in the Protestant colonization and administration of the Irish province of Ulster.

However, in February 1786, a fire in the Chamber of London at the Guildhall in the City of London destroyed most of the early records of the Irish Society, so that very few 17th century documents remain. Among those which survived is the Great Parchment Book, but the fire caused such dramatic shrivelling and fire damage to the manuscript that it was completely unavailable to researchers since this date. 

"As part of the 2013 commemorations in Derry of the 400th anniversary of the building of the city walls, it was decided to attempt to make the Great Parchment Book available as a central point of an exhibition in Derry’s Guildhall.

Box of Pages from the Great Parchment Book (before rehousing)

"The manuscript consisted of 165 separate parchment pages, all of which suffered damage in the fire in 1786. The uneven shrinkage and distortion caused by fire had rendered much of the text illegible. The surviving 165 folios (including fragments and unidentified folios) were stored in 16 boxes, in an order drawing together as far as possible the passages dealing with the particular lands of different livery companies and of the Society.

"It soon became apparent that traditional conservation alone would not produce sufficient results to make the manuscript accessible or suitable for exhibition, since the parchment was too shrivelled to be returned to a readable state. However, much of the text was still visible (if distorted) so following discussions with conservation and computing experts, it was decided that the best approach was to flatten the parchment sheets as far as possible, and to use digital imaging to gain legibility and to enable digital access to the volume.

"A partnership with the Department of Computer Science and the Centre for Digital Humanities at University College London (UCL) established a four year EngD in the Virtual Environments, Imaging and Visualisation programme in September 2010 (jointly funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and London Metropolitan Archives) with the intention of developing software to enable the manipulation (including virtual stretching and alignment) of digital images of the book rather than the object itself. The aim was to make the distorted text legible, and ideally to reconstitute the manuscript digitally. Such an innovative methodology clearly had much wider potential application.

Before virtual flatteningAfter virtual flattening

"During the imaging work a set of typically 50-60 22MP images was captured for each page and used to generate a 3D model containing 100-170MP, which allowed viewing at archival resolution. These models could be flattened and browsed virtually, allowing the contents of the book to be accessed more easily and without further handling of the document. UCL’s work on the computational approach to model, stretch, and read the damaged parchment will be applicable to similarly damaged material as part of the development of best practice computational approaches to digitising highly distorted, fire-damaged, historical documents" (http://www.greatparchmentbook.org/the-project/, accessed 10-26-2014).

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1650 – 1700

Demography & Vital Statistics 1662

In 1662 John Graunt, a draper in London, published Natural and Political Observations Mentioned in a Following Index, and Made upon the Bills of Mortality. Basing his work primarily on London's weekly Bills of Mortality, which had been published since 1593, Graunt noted the regularity of certain vital phenomena, such as higher death rates for children under six years of age, constructed the first life expectancy tables, and attempted to use his data to describe various characteristics of populations.

Graunt was well aware of the limitations of his data, however, citing such defects as lack of thoroughness, inadequate disease vocabulary, and dishonest reporting of deaths from certain causes such as syphilis.  His work first established the uniformity and predictability of many important biological phenomena when taken in large numbers, such as the greater number of female babies, the longer lifespans of females, the high mortality among infants.

It has long been debated how much Graunt's friend, the economist William Petty, contributed to the Observations; recent opinion has it that most of the work is Graunt's, although Petty may have made a few contributions. 

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) No. 144.   Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 933.

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Argument for Forest Management 1664

In 1664 English writer, gardener, and diarist, John Evelyn published a protest against the destruction of England's forests to fuel her glass factories and iron furnaces. His book, the verbose title of which was Sylva, or a Discourse of Forest-Trees, and the Propagation of Timber in His Majesty's Dominions. .  . .To Which is Annexed Pomona, or an Appendix Concerning Fruit-Trees. . .also Kalendarium Hortense; or Gardeners' Almanac. . . . was influential in establishing a much-needed program of reforestation in order to provide timber for Britain's burgeoning navy. This program had a lasting effect on the British economy.

Sylva also bears the distinction of being the first official publication of the Royal Society, which had been permitted to publish in 1662.  The first edition contained two appendixes, "Pomona" and "Kalendarium Hortense"; the second of these, a gardening calendar, was often reprinted separately, and proved to be Evelyn's most popular work.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 745.

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The World's Oldest Auction House is Founded 1674

Stockholms Auktionsverk (Stockholm's Auction House), the world's oldest auction house, was founded in 1674.

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The First American Public Document to Protest Slavery and One of the First Written Public Declarations of Universal Human Rights April 1688

The 1688 Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, drafted by Francis Daniel Pastorius and signed by him and three other Quakers living in Germantown, Pennsylvania, on behalf of the Germantown Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, was the first protest against African-American slavery made by a religious body in the English colonies. It was also the first American public document to protest slavery and one of the first written public declarations of universal human rights. The signed document was forwarded to the monthly, quarterly, and yearly meetings of the Religious Society of Friends without any action being taken on it. 

"Some of the early English settlers of Philadelphia and its surrounding towns were wealthy and purchased slaves to work on their farms. Although many such slaveowners also had immigrated to escape religious persecution, they saw no contradiction in owning slaves, because serfdom, slavery and servitude had existed in Europe since the Middle Ages. Although serfdom was abolished in northwestern Europe by 1500, servitude was ubiquitous in Europe, sometimes under harsh conditions. Many immigrants to the new colony were indentured servants, working for several years in exchange for being carried on a boat to the new colony. Slaves were widely owned in the colonies and local slave markets made purchasing slaves easy. The slave trade was protected by the British crown and some thought it necessary for economic growth in the colonies. It was justified by racism and intolerance towards what many British saw as 'uncivilized' cultures. Many ship owners and captains made large profits carrying slaves from Africa to the Caribbean islands and the mainland colonies. William Penn oversaw the economic progress of his colony and once proudly declared that during the course of a year Philadelphia had received 10 slave ships.

"The first settlers of Germantown were soon joined by several more Quaker and Mennonite families from Krisheim, also in the Rhine valley, who were ethnic Germans but spoke a similar dialect to the Hollanders from Krefeld. Some out of pragmatism attended the local Quaker Meetings held in the newly built homes of immigrants, becoming involved and accepted in the Philadelphia Quaker community, and eventually joining as members. However, in several ways they felt themselves outsiders, which allowed them to see and question what the English could not. Some attended the Quaker Meeting temporarily while they waited for a Mennonite minister to arrive, and then helped to build the first Mennonite Meetinghouse. The town prospered and grew, and a Quaker Meeting was organized at Thones Kunders's house, under the care of Dublin (Abington Meeting). By 1686 a Quaker Meetinghouse was constructed near the current site of Germantown Friends Meeting.

"The German-Dutch settlers were unaccustomed to slaves, although from the shortage of labor they understood why their British neighbors relied on slaves for prosperity. Slaves and indentured servants were a valuable asset for a farmer because they were not paid. Yet the German-Dutch settlers refused to buy slaves themselves and quickly saw the contradiction in the slave trade and in farmers who forced people to work. Although in their native Germany and Holland the Krefelders had been persecuted because of their beliefs, only people who had been convicted of a crime could be forced to work in servitude. In what turned out to be a revolutionary leap of insight, the Germantowners saw a fundamental similarity between the right to be free from persecution on account of their beliefs and the right to be free from being forced to work against their will" (Wikipedia article on Germantown Quaker Petition Against Slavery, accessed 11-03-2013).
The Germantown Quaker Petition Aginst Slavery is preserved in the Quaker and Special Collections at Haverford College.
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"Political Arithmetick": Application of Statistics to Economic Theory and Policy 1690

Political Arithmetick, or, a Discourse Concerning the Extent and Value of Lands, People, Buildings; Husbandry, Manufacture, Commerce, Fisher, Artizans, Seamen, Soldiers; Publick Revenues, Interest, Taxes, Superlucration, Registries, Banks; Valuation of Men, Increasing of Seamen,of Militia's, Harbours, Situation, Shipping, Power at Sea, &c. As the same relates to every Country in general, but more particularly to the Territories of His Majesty of Great Britain, and his Neighbours of Holland, Zealand,[i.e. Denmark] and France. by English Economist Sir William Petty, published in London in 1690, was a major comparative study of the wealth and economic policies of England and her rivals France and Holland. This was the first of Petty's works to contain in its title the phrase "political arithmetick" he had coined to describe the application of statistics to economic theory and policy. Petty was the first to employ numerical evaluation in economics, and his work provided the decisive impulse toward econometrics and the general application of statistics.

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The Breslau Tables 1693

In 1693 English astronomer, mathematician, geophysicist, meterologist and physicist Edmond Halley published "An Estimate of the Degrees of Mortality of Mankind, Drawn from Curious Tables of the Births and Funerals at the City of Breslaw, with an Attempt to Ascertain the Price of Annuities Upon Lives" in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. He compiled the "Breslau Tables" to show the proportion of men able to bear arms. . . to estimate mortality rates, to ascertain the price of annuities upon lives.

J. Norman (ed), Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed. (1991) no. 1687.

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There Are 150 Paper Mills in England 1699

There were about 150 paper mills in England by 1699. At this time they employed about 2500 people, or an average of about 16 people per mill, making paper by hand.

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1700 – 1750

Bernardino Ramazzini Founds Occupational Medicine and Ergonomics 1700

Title page from De morbis artificium diatriba.

Page opening from De morbis artificium diatriba.

Bernardino Ramazzini.

In 1700 Italian physician Bernardino Ramazzini issued De morbis artificium diatriba from the press of Antonio Capponi in Modena. Ramazzini's book on the diseases of workers was the first comprehensive and systematic treatise on occupational medicine; it was also the foundation work in ergonomics.

“The Western medical tradition, with its emphasis on humoral imbalance as the cause of illness, for centuries did not really favor the idea that certain diseases might be due to one’s occupation or environment. Egyptians knew that the blacksmith was ‘grilled’ by the furnace, and in Roman times Lucretius mentioned the ‘malignant breath’ of gold miners, and noted ‘how speedily men die and how their vital forces fail when they are driven by dire necessity to endure such work.’ . . . In the sixteenth century the ever insolent Paracelsus wrote a monograph on diseases of metalworkers, and the metallurgist and physician Georgius Agricola connected the injured lungs of Silesian miners to the dust they breathed, But the founder of investigation into occupational and environmental diseases is generally conceded to be the great Italian physician Bernardino Ramazzini” (Simmons, Doctors and Discoveries: Lives That Created Today’s Medicine, p. 123).

Ramazzini decided to study occupational diseases after a chance encounter with a cesspool cleaner, from whom he learned of the eye afflictions and other dangers attached to that profession. He compiled information from the available sources on the subject and also performed firsthand research, visiting workers and noting their particular illnesses and infirmities.

“In his first edition, Ramazzini addresses some forty-two groups. Miners are discussed in the first chapter, for their suffering is most pronounced and the cause is obvious. But artisans of all kinds are represented. There are chapters on diseases of apothecaries, bakers, millers, painters, and soap makers. Ramazzini details metal poisoning in metalworkers, and silicosis in stonemasons. The seventeenth chapter is devoted to tobacco workers” (Simmons, p. 125).

Ramazzini also discussed the occupational diseases of women, recommending that midwives practice cleanliness and take precautions against syphilitic infections. Ramazzini recognized that a number of workers’ diseases were caused by the taxing postures and repetitive motions required by professions such as shoemaking, tailoring and writing; he is thus considered a founder of ergonomics. He suggested ways to prevent these ailments:

“Standing, even for a short time, proves so exhausting compared with walking and running . . . It follows that whenever occasion offers, we must advise men employed in the standing trades to interrupt when they can that too prolonged posture by sitting or walking about or exercising the body in some way. . . . Those who sit at their work and are therefore called “chair-workers,” such as cobblers and tailors become bent, hump-backed, and hold their heads down like people looking for something on the ground . . . These workers, then, suffer from general ill-health caused by their sedentary life. . . . The maladies that afflict the clerks arise from three causes: First, constant sitting, secondly the incessant movement of the hand and always in the same direction . . . Incessant driving of the pen over paper causes intense fatigue of the hand and the whole arm because of the continuous and almost tonic strain on the muscles and tendons, which in course of time results in failure of power in the right hand. All sedentary workers suffer from lumbago. They should be advised to take physical exercise, at any rate on holidays. Let them make the best use they can of [exercise] one day, and so to some extent counteract the harm done by many days of sedentary life”( http://ergonomenon.com/ergonomics-articles/bernardino-ramazzini-the-first-ergonomist-and-what-have-we-learned-from-him/, accessed 06-05-2012).

Ramazzini's book was translated into English as A Treatise on the Diseases of Tradesmen (London, 1705). Through various Latin editions and translations into Italian, German, French and Dutch it was also influential in the history of economics. Adam Smith cited it in his Wealth of Nations, and Karl Marx cited it in Das Kapital.

In 1713 Ramazzini expanded his text. This revised edition was reprinted with a parallel English translation by Wilmer Cave Wright and published as De Morbis Artificum Bernardini Ramazzini Diseases of Workers (1940).

Norman, Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) No. 2121. Hunter, The Diseases of Occupations (1955) 30-34. Lilly, Notable Medical Books 99. Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man No. 170. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science & Medicine (1991) No. 1776. Rosen, History of Miners’ Diseases, 108-120.

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Lombe's Silk Throwing Mill: The First Factory 1718 – 1721

Lombe's Mill, a silk throwing mill built by Thomas Lombe on an island in the river Derwent in Derby, England from 1718-21, was the first successful powered continuous production unit in the world, and the model for the factory concept later developed by Richard Arkwright and others in the Industrial Revolution.

The mill seems to have been the result of early industrial espionage. Silk weaving technology had evolved in Italy since the thirteenth century. The Italians had developed two machines-- a throwing machine and a doubler-- capable of winding the silk onto bobbins while putting a twist in the thread.

"They called the throwing machine, a filatoio, and the doubler, a torcitoio. There is an illustration of a circular handpowered throwing machine drawn in 1487 with 32 spindles. The first evidence of a externally powered filatoio comes from the thirteenth century, and the earliest illustration from around 1500. Filatorios and torcitoios contained parallel circular frames that revolved round each other on a central axis. The speed of the relative rotation determined the twist. Silk would only cooperate in the process if the temperature and humidity were high, in Italy the temperature was elevated by sunlight but in Derby the mill had to be heated, and the heat evenly distributed." (Wikipedia article on Lombe's Mill, accessed 09-30-2012).

About 1715 Thomas Lombe's brother John obtained employment at one of the Italian shops where the secret silk-throwing machinery was used. As the story goes, John stole into the shops at night and carefully diagrammed them by candlelight. He brought the designs back to England in 1716. In 1718 Thomas obtained British patent No. 422 for "A New Invention of Three Sorts of Engines never before made or used in Great Britaine, One to Wind the Finest Raw Silk, Another to Spin, and the Other to Twist the Finest Italian Raw Slik into Organzine in great Perfection, which was never before done in this Kingdom."

"Little of the original mill remain. It is known from written sources that it was five storeys high rectangular in plan. It was built of brick, in flemish bond, being 33.5m long by 12m wide. It was built on a series of stone arches that allowed the waters of the River Derwent to flow through. The mill was 17m high,topped by a shallow pitched roof.The throwing machines were two storeys high, and pierced the first floor. The winding machines were situated on the top three floors. All the machines were powered by Sorocolds external undershot waterwheel- one that was 7m in diameter and 2m in width. Its axle entered the mill through a navel hole at first floor level. It drove a vertical shaft which was 0.45m square. This drove a horizontal shaft or lay shaft that ran the length of the mill. The torcitoios and filatoios took their power from this shaft. The vertical shaft was extended past the second floor by an iron gudgeon to a further vertical shaft that reached the top 3 floors to drive the winding machines. The mill needed to be heated in order to process the silk and this was explained in the 1718 patent. It was reported in 1732 that Lombe used a fire engine (steam engine) to pump hot air round the mill. The stair column was 19.5m high, its layout is not known and there is no information on how bales were hoisted between the floors" (Wikipedia article on Lombe's Mill, accessed 09-30-2012).

(This entry was last revised on 05-10-2016.)

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Abraham de Moivre Formulates the Theory of Annuities 1725

In 1725 French Hugenot mathematician and demographer exiled in England, Abraham de Moivre published from London Annuities upon Lives: Or, the Valuation of Annuities upon any Number of Lives; as also, of Reversions. Using the mortality statistics gathered by Edmond Halley in the 1690s, Moivre formulated the theory of annuities, deriving his formulas from a postulated uniform rate of mortality and constant rates of interest on money. "Here one finds the treatment of joint annuities on several lives, the inheritance of annuities, problems about the fair division of the costs of a tontine, and other contracts in which both age and interest on capital are relevant. This mathematics became a standard part of all subsequent commercial applications in England" (Dictionary of Scientific Biography).

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1530.

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Johann Peter Süssmilch Proves the Need for a Healthy and Industrious Population 1742

German army chaplain, statistician and demographer Johann Peter Süssmilch issued Die göttliche Ordnung in den Veränderungen des menschlichen Geschlechtsfrom Berlin in 1742. In this work he showed the necessity of a healthy and industrious population for the survival of a nation.

J. Norman (ed.) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed. (1991) No. 1691.

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Antoine Deparcieux Issues the First "Correct" Life Tables 1746 – 1760

In 1746 French mathematician and statistician Antoine Deparcieux issued in Paris Essai sur les probabilités de la durée de la vie humaine. He published a supplement to this work entitled Addition à l'Essai sur les probabilités de la durée de la vie humaine in 1760. These works on annuities and mortality were the first correct "life tables."

J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography, 5th ed. (1991) no. 1691.1

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Hannah Glasse's "The art of Cookery", Probably the Most-Widely Read English Cookery Book of the 18th Century 1747

In 1747 English writer on cookery, Hannah Glasse published The Art of Cookery. This work became one of the most widely read cookbooks in England and America for about 100 years.

"Hannah wrote mostly for domestic servants (the "lower sort", as she referred to them), writing in a conversational style familiar to anyone who has learned a recipe at the elbow of a parent or grandparent. The food is surprisingly recognizable, with staples such as Yorkshire pudding and gooseberry fool still known and eaten today, and there are even early traces of the Indian food that eventually became naturalized in the UK. She showed marked disapproval of French cooking styles and in general avoided French culinary terminology" (Wikipedia article on The Art of Cookery, accessed 06-07-2009).

"By the time Hannah Glasse published her first cookery book in 1747 the urban middle classes were almost universally literate and had cash to burn. They were also acutely aware that fortunes were easier to earn than respectability and social status. Prosperous merchants, lawyers, shopkeepers and tradesmen were desperate in the mid-18th Century to show off their new wealth and to establish themselves within society. Hannah Glasse gave them the ticket to social respectability by providing middle class women with a no-nonsense cookery books that gave them the ticket out of the kitchen and into a life of leisure. Even if the women of London’s burgeoning mercantile class could not quite replicate the life of leisure led by the gentry and nobility, they were now about to eat in the style of those much higher up the social scale. Hannah was providing a guide to life.

"Between 1700 and 1789 over 500,000 copies of some 300 cookery books were published. The vogue for complicated books published by men was completely overtaken by the simple approach pioneered by Glasse and many female contemporaries. The success of the Art of Cookery is testament not only to the aspirational desires of the middle classes and the increased purchasing power of women, but also to the fact that a much wider spectrum of British society was beginning to enjoy eating. Discarding the extravagance and pomp of court food and French culinary techniques saw British cooking get back to basics – good ingredients, simple techniques, and quality dining available for all" (Wikipedia article on Hannah Glass, accessed 06-07-2009).

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"Descriptions des Arts et Métiers": Mechanical and Industrial Arts of 18th Century France 1749 – 1814

In 1749 French scientists René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur and Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau issued the first volume of Descriptions des arts et métiers faites ou approuvées par Messieurs de l'Académie royale des Sciences from Paris. Eventually comprising 72 works in 114 parts printed in folio format, with over 2100 engraved plates and plans, the work was completed 65 years later, in 1814. 

This series was the most important and the largest work on the mechanical and industrial arts of eighteenth century France, and one of the earliest projects of its kind undertaken in any country. Although encyclopedic in scope, the work was not conceived in parallel to Diderot and D’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, but in response to the perceived function of the Académie royale des sciences. A statement was published in 1699 in Histoire, an organ of the Académie, that outlined the motives and aims behind a proposed Description des arts et métiers:

“When this work is completed, it will be easy for each craft to compare the practices in vogue in France with those pursued in other countries; and from this comparison, the French and the inhabitants of these foreign lands will profit equally” (quoted in Cole and Watts, p. 7).

Each article had sections on materials, tools and apparatus, processes and methods, and illustrations of the métier. The wide range of crafts and industries covered nearly every aspect of French industrial and artisan life: coal-mining, fishing, textile manufacture, carpentry and cabinet-making, masonry, glass-blowing, ceramics, candle- and soap-making, barbering and wig-making, papermaking and bookbinding, iron- and tinsmithing, among other fields. Although the work was very much a separate enterprise, the Arts et métiers inspired many articles in the Encyclopédie, and can be said to complement the latter work. Both were essential to any well-balanced library in France and abroad.

The two principal figures involved in the Arts et métiers were René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur  and Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau. The former was elected to the Académie at age 25, and had a prodigious output, submitting memoir after memoir on a variety of subjects, mostly relating to pure mathematics and pure science, but including his celebrated description of English steel production. Duhamel de Monceau, who succeeded Réaumur, was interested in applied sciences, in particular chemistry, botany and mechanics. Réaumur died before the first cahier of the Arts et métiers appeared, and Duhamel du Monceau assumed control of the project some time after Réaumur’s death in 1757. Other contributors included François Bedos de Celles, Fredrik Chapman, Charles Romme, Michel Ferdinand d’Albert d’Ailly, duc de Chaulnes, the Abbé Jean-Antoine Nollet, Jean-Jacques Perret, Charles-René Fourcroy de Ramecourt, August-Denis Fougeroux de Bondaroy, François-Alexandre Pierre de Garcault, Jérome le Français de Lalande, Jean Jacques Paulet, Jeanne-Marie Roland de la Platière, Nicolas Christien de Thy, comte de Milly (1728-84) and others. The Académie and the authors of the Arts et métiers sought help from men with practical experience whenever possible.

Though it was written by the elite rather than the artisan class, the combination of the best scientific minds and the best practical minds of the era produced an invaluable reference work and an unparalleled social record of the artisan classes, and recorded for posterity manufacturing methods that would soon disappear with the coming of the Industrial Revolution. Like Diderot’s Encyclopédie, the Arts et métiers is one of the greatest productions of the French Enlightenment, and a benchmark in social and scientific history.

Arthur H. Cole and George B. Watts, The Handicrafts of France as Recorded in the Description des Arts et Métiers (1952).

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1750 – 1800

Printing about 200 Sheets per Hour Circa 1750

In the mid-18th century printing by hand on wooden printing presses remained a very laborious process, the output of which had not improved dramatically from the mid-15th century when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press.

"There seems to be agreement among the authorities on the wooden press concerning its speed of operation. The Frankfurt printing ordinances of 1573 laid this down as at about 240 sheets an hour, while Moxon writes of the 'token'— 250 sheets an hour, printed on one side by two pressmen. It seems clear, however, that towards the end of a twelve-hour working day the rate would drop, and a more reasonable average figure would be in the region of 200 sheets an hour" (Moran, Printing Presses, History and Development [1973] 32).

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"The First Treatise on Economics" by Richard Cantillon is Posthumously Published 1755

In 1755 Essai sur la nature du commerce en général, written in French circa 1732 by Irish businessman and economist, Richard Cantillon, was first published anonymously in London, in the French language, some twenty-two years after Cantillon died in a fire in his London home; the fire was allegedly set by Cantillon's discharged cook.

"Cantillon was perhaps the first to define long-run equilibrium as the balance of flows of income, thus setting the foundations both for Physiocracy as well as Classical Political Economy. Cantillon's system was clear and simple and absolutely path-breaking. He developed a two-sector general equilibrium system from which he obtained a theory of price (determined by costs of production) and a theory of output (determined by factor inputs and technology). His work is quoted by Adam Smith in his Wealth of Nations.

"Although his work was well-known to the Physiocrats and the French school, Cantillon fell into obscurity in the English-speaking world until resurrected and popularized by William Stanley Jevons in the 1880s." (Wikipedia article on Richard Cantillon, accessed 01-14-2009).

"The Essai is far more than a mere essay or even collection of disconnected essays like those of Hume. It is a systematic and connected treatise, going over in a concise manner nearly the whole field of economics, with the exception of taxation. It is thus, more than any other book I know, the first treatise on economics. Sir William Petty's Political Arithmetic and his Treatise of Taxes and Contributions are wonderful books in their way, and at their time, but, compared with Cantillon's Essai, they are merely collections of casual hints. There were earlier English works of great merit, such as those of Vaughan, Locke, Child, Mun, etc., but these were either occasional essays and pamphlets, or else fragmentary treatises. Cantillon's essay is, more emphatically than any other single work, 'the Cradle of Political Economy' " (Jevons, Principles of Economics, 164, quoted by Friedrich Hayek, "Richard Cantillon",  Journal of Libertarian Studies VII [1985] 221).


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Filed under: Economics

Voltaire Issues "Candide, ou l'Optimism" Anonymously and Secretively 1759

In 1759 French philosophe François-Marie Arouet, who wrote under the pen name Voltaire, pseudonymously published the satirical novella Candide, ou l'Optimisme, traduit de l‟Allemand de Mr. le Docteur Ralph secretly in Geneva, Switzerland. The work was first printed at the press of printer and bookseller Gabriel Cramer. Probably within days, editions were also published in Paris, Amsterdam, London and Brussels.

Immediately after its secretive publication, the book was widely banned because it contained religious blasphemy, political sedition and intellectual hostility hidden under a thin veil of naïveté. Attempts at censorship undoubtedly backfired, and promoted sales. Twenty different editions of the work dated 1759 have been identified. Of those, four with 299 pages, are considered the earliest. It is estimated that 20,000 to 30,000 copies of the work were sold during its first year, making it a resounding bestseller.

"The bibliographical history of this book has been exasperatingly complex and confused, and, until recently, virtually insoluble. The cumulative analyses of Ira Wade, Giles Barber, and Stephen Weissman, however, finally succeeded in resolving the matter conclusively. The 1759 Cramer edition containing 299-pages, with the points detailed below, has been given priority: the misprint 'que ce ce fut' on p. 103, line 4 (corrected in later editions to 'que ce fut'); the incorrect adjective 'precisement' on p. 125, line 4 (corrected in later editions to 'precipitamment'); with Voltaire‟s revisions on p. 31, where an unnecessary paragraph break was eliminated, and p. 41, where several short sentences about the Lisbon earthquake were rewritten. Finally, as in all of the few known copies of the Geneva printing, Chapter XXV (signature L) does not contain the paragraph critical of contemporary German poets, which Voltaire decided to drop while the book was being printed. Ten copies of the first issue are known, of which seven were bound without the final leaves N7, a blank, and N8, instructions to the binder concerning the cancellation of two pairs of leaves (B4 and B9 and D6 and D7)" (James J. Jaffe, list prepared for the New York Antiquarian Book Fair April 11, 2011, no. 124). 

The true first state is very rare, though it is likely that a few more than ten copies exist.

Barber 299G. Bengesco 14 34. Morize 59a. Wade 1. Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) No. 204. For the influence of Candide in the history of economics see Reinert, How Rich Countries Got Rich . . . and Why Poor Countries Stay Poor (2008) XIX-XXII.

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James Hargreaves Invents the Spinning Jenny 1764

IIn 1764 iliterate English weaver and carpenter James Hargreaves (Hargraves) of Blackburn, Lancashire, England invented the spinning jenny, which spun eight threads simultaneously, reducing the amount of work needed to produce yarn.

"The idea was developed by Hargreaves as a metal frame with eight wooden spindles at one end. A set of eight rovings was attached to a beam on that frame. The rovings when extended passed through two horizontal bars of wood that could be clasped together. These bars could be drawn along the top of the frame by the spinner's left hand thus extending the thread. The spinner used his right hand to rapidly turn a wheel which caused all the spindles to revolve, and the thread to be spun. When the bars were returned, the thread wound onto the spindle. A pressing wire (faller) was used to guide the threads onto the right place on the spindle" (Wikipedia article Spinning Jenny, accessed 02-28-2016).

For his invention Hargreaves received British patent No. 962 in 1770. In the specification Hargreaves's name was spelled Hargraves. The text of specification was unusually brief, chiefly to explain the accompanying detailed schematic drawing. By 1770 the machine could, as stated in the patent and shown in the drawing, spin 16 or more threads at one time:

"A Method of Making a Wheel or Engine of an entire New Construction (and never before made Use of), in order for Spinning, Drawing, and Twisting of Cotton and to be managed by One Person only, and that the Wheel or Engine will Spin, Draw, and Twist Sixteen or more Threads at One Time by a Turn or Motion of One Hand a Draw of the other."

The ppinning jenny was a major step toward the Industrial Revolution; as a result of Hargreaves's invention Blackburn became a boomtown of the Industrial Revolution, and among the first industrialized towns in the world.

(This entry was last revised on 02-28-2016.)

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Richard Arkwright Invents his Spinning Machine: Mass Production Instigating Disruptive Economic & Social Change in the Industrial Revolution 1769 – 1775

In 1769 English inventor and entrepreneur Richard Arkwright of Nottingham received British patent No. 931 innovation in textile production, entitled "A new Piece of Machinery never before found out, practised, or used, for the Making of Weft or Yarn from Cotton, Flax, and Wool, which would be of great Utility to a great many Manufactuers in this His Kingdom of England, we well as to His Subjects in general, by Employing a Number of Poor People in Working the said Machinery, and Making the said Weft or Yarn much Superior in Quality to any ever hertofore Manufactured or Made."

Arkwright's description of his invention in his patent specification, referring to the associated diagrams, was brief, and unillustrated:

"A, the cogg wheel and shaft, which receive their motion from a horse; B, the drum or wheel which turns C, a belt of leather, and give motion to the whole machine; D, a lead weight which keeps F., the small drum, steady to E, the forcing wheel; G, the shaft of wood which gives motion to the wheel H, and continues it to I, four pair of rollers (the form of which are drawn in the margin), which act by tooth and pinion, made of brass and steel nutts, fixt in two iron plates K. That part of the roller which the cotton runs through is covered with wood, the top roller with leather, and the bottom one fluted, which lets the cotton &c. through it, and by one pair of rollers moving quicker than the other, draws it finer for twisting, which is performed by the spindles T. K, the two iron plates described abpve; L, four large bobbins with cotton rovings on, conducted between rollers at the back; M, the four threads carried to the bobbins and spindles, by four small wires fixt across the frame in the slip of wood V; N, iron leavers with small lead weights, hanging to the rollers by pulleys, which keep the rollers close to each other; O, a cross piece of wood to which the leavers are fixed; P, the bobbins and spindles; Q, flyes made of wood, with small wires on the side which lead the thread to the bobbins; R, small worsted bands, put about the whirl of the bobbins, the screwing of which tight or easy causes the bobbins to wind up the thread faster or slower; S, the four whirls of the spindles; T, the four spindles which run in iron plates V, explained in letter M; W, a wooden frame of the whole machine."

Two years after receipt of his first patent, in 1771 Arkwright built Cromford Mill, in CromfordDerbyshire — the first water-powered cotton spinning mill, which laid the foundation for his fortune and was quickly copied by mills in Lancashire, Germany and the United States. In his concept for a mechanized cotton spinning mill Arkwright had been precursed by Thomas Lombe, whose silk-throwing mill built on an island in the river Derwent in the second decade of the 18th century, had been the first factory. Arkwright received a second patent (No. 1111) in 1775 for "Certain Instruments or Machines which would be of publick Utlity in Preparing Silk, Cotton, Flax, and Wool, for Spinning, and constructed on easy and simple Principles very different from any that had ever been contrived." This patent, an expansion of Arkwright's first patent of 1769, was illustrated with diagrams of the machine. The machine, known as a spinning frame, was originally intended to be operated by "horse" power. When Arkwright applied water power to the machinery it became known as the water frame.

Arkwright's hydraulic spinning machine was one of the first developments of mass production, which eventually caused disruptive economic and social changes characteristic of the Industrial Revolution. In Cromford there were not enough local people to supply Arkwright with the workers he needed. After building a large number of cottages close to the factory, he imported workers from all over Derbyshire. Arkwright preferred weavers with large families ao that while the women and children worked in his spinning-factory the weavers (adult males) worked at home turning the yarn into cloth.

"The Derby Mercury reported on 22nd October 1779 that Arkwright feared that people made unemployed by his new methods might destroy his factory: 'There is some fear of the mob coming to destroy the works at Cromford, but they are well prepared to receive them should they come here. All the gentlemen in this neighbourhood being determined to defend the works, which have been of such utility to this country. 5,000 or 6,000 men can be at any time assembled in less than an hour by signals agreed upon, who are determined to defend to the very last extremity, the works, by which many hundreds of their wives and children get a decent and comfortable livelihood' " (http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/IRarkwright.htm, accessed 01-30-2012).

In March 2015 a portrait of Arkwright by Joseph Wright of Derby was available at this link.

(This entry was last revised on 03-01-2015.)

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The Earliest Large-Scale Data-Processing Organization 1770

In 1770 the first banker’s clearing house, the earliest large-scale data-processing organization, was founded in London.

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Adam Smith's Classic of "Laissez-Faire" 1776

In 1776 Scottish Economist and moral philosopher Adam Smith published in London An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.

Smith argued "that the free market, while appearing chaotic and unrestrained, is actually guided to produce the right amount and variety of goods by a so-called "invisible hand". . . . Smith believed that while human motives were often driven by selfishness and greed, the competition in the free market would tend to benefit society as a whole by keeping prices low, while still building in an incentive for a wide variety of goods and services. Nevertheless, he was wary of businessmen and argued against the formation of monopolies.

An often-quoted passage from The Wealth of Nations is:

It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.

"Value theory was important in classical theory. Smith wrote that the "real price of every thing ... is the toil and trouble of acquiring it" as influenced by its scarcity. Smith maintained that, with rent and profit, other costs besides wages also enter the price of a commodity.Other classical economists presented variations on Smith, termed the 'labour theory of value'. Classical economics focused on the tendency of markets to move to long-run equilibrium.

"Smith also believed that a division of labour would effect a great increase in production. One example he used was the making of pins. One worker could probably make only twenty pins per day. However, if ten people divided up the eighteen steps required to make a pin, they could make a combined amount of 48,000 pins in one day" (quotations from Wikipedia article on Adam Smith, accessed 01-14-2009).

While I have not seen edition size information for the first edition of Smith's Wealth of Nations, the edition must have been comparatively large—well over 1000 copies. According to American Book Prices Current, since 1975 there have been about 100 copies of the first edition sold at auction.

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 221.

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John Pendred Issues the Earliest Directory of the Book Trade in England 1785

In 1785 journeyman printer John Pendred issued from London the earliest directory of the book trade in England. Entitled The London and Country Printers, Booksellers and Stationers Vade Mecum, Pendred's printed directory survived in only one copy preserved in the Bodelan Library, Oxford.

In 1955 bookseller and bibliographer Graham Pollard published through The Bibliographical Society (London) an annotated edition of Pendred's work entitled The Earleist Directory of the Book Trade by John Pendred (1785). From Pollard's edition we have the text of Pendred's full and very explanatory title:

The London and Country Printers, Booksellers and Stationers Vade Mecum; Containing an Alphabetical Arrangement of the Letter-Press Printers, Copper-Plate Printers, Letter Founders, Booksellers, Bookbinders, Stationers, Print-Sellers, Music-Sellers, Paper Merchants, Paper Stainers, Paper Hangers, Card-Makers, &c. &c. &c.

In London, Westminster, and Southwark: With the Numbers affixed in their Houses. Also of those residing in the different Counties of England, Scotland and Wales, with the Number of Miles each Town is distant from London, and their Market-Days.

Likewise a correct List of Newspapers published in Great Britain, their Agents, and Days of Publication; and an useful Table of Stamps and Duties that are now in Use. Also a List of the Master Printers in Ireland.

Regarding the purpose and significance of Pendred's directory I quote from Pollard's edition p. xxii-xxiii:

"It is clear from the last line of his title-page and the note at the end that Pendred intended to issue the Vade Mecum annually to subscribers. He described it as 'very necessary for all Printers, Booksellers, Stationers, &c. Likewise for all Lottery-Office-Keppers, Shopkeepers, and others, who have Occasion to advertise in any of the News-papers in England, Scotland or Ireland. From this it appears that he sought his market among the advertising agents—not a numerous trade at that date, except for the lottery office—and among wholesale booksellers. In his concluding note Pendred says 'he hath spared no pains to render it of general utility both to Masters and Journeymen', and he goes on to mention that he has 'found it a difficult Task to obtain the Names of the real Master Letter-press Printers'. From this I infer that Pendred intended the Vade Mecum to be used by journeymen printers like himself, when in search of work.

Pendred's aims were utilitarian; his sources such as came to hand; and his treatment of them was sometimes careless. Nevertheless he has preserved for us a substantial body of information about the numbers of the book trade in 1785. In particular he tells us something about typefounders, printers, newspapers, and the wall-paper trade that we should not have known without his Vade Mecum.

If we exclude the professions, such as bankers and lists of officers in the navy and the army, Pendred published the earliest directory of any trade in this or, as far as i have been able to discover, any other country."

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William Playfair Founds Statistical Graphics, and Invents the Line Chart and Bar Chart 1785 – 1786

In 1785 Scottish engineer and political economist William Playfair issued in London a privately circulated preliminary edition of his The Commercial and Political Atlas; Representing, by Means of Stained Copper-Plate Charts, the Exports, Imports, and General Trade of England, at a Single View. 

The next year Playfair formally published the work in London with an even longer title as The Commercial and Political Atlas; Representing, by Means of Stained Copper-Plate Charts, the Exports, Imports, and General Trade of England, at a Single View. To which are Added, Charts of the Revenue and Debts of Ireland, Done in the Same Manner by James Correy.  For this work Playfair invented the line chart or line graph or times series plots, present in the book in 43 variants, and the bar chart or bar graph, represented by a single example. The first 10 plates were engraved by Scottish engraver and cartographer John Ainslie in 1785 for the preliminary edition; the remainder were engraved by Samuel John Neele. It is thought that Playfair, often short of funds, may have hand-colored the charts himself—the coloring process that he curiously designated as "staining" in the titles.

As one inspiration for his information graphics concerning economics and finance, Playfair cited Priestley's timelines as published in his New Chart of History.

"Over the course of the next half century, Plafair's line graph, which counterposed two quantitative axes, (one for time, the other for economic measures such as exports, importants and debts) became on of the most recognizable chronographic forms" (Rosenberg & Grafton, Cartographies of Time [2010] 136).

"Playfair had a variety of careers. He was in turn a millwright, engineer, draftsman, accountant, inventor, silversmith, merchant, investment broker, economist, statistician, pamphleteer, translator, publicist, land speculator, convict, banker, ardent royalist, editor, blackmailer and journalist. On leaving Watt's company in 1782, he set up a silversmithing business and shop in London, which failed. In 1787 he moved to Paris, taking part in the storming of the Bastille two years later. He returned to London in 1793, where he opened a "security bank", which also failed. From 1775 he worked as a writer and pamphleteer and did some engineering work" (Wikipedia article on William Playfair, accessed 03-16-2010).

In 2005 the third edition (1801) of Playfair's atlas with the first edition (1801) of the breviary were reproduced in color as Playfair, The Commercial and Political Atlas and Statistical Breviary, Edited and Introduced by Howard Wainer and Ian Spence. 

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Oliver Evans Builds the First Automated Flour Mill: Origins of the Integrated and Automated Factory Circa 1785

About 1785 American inventor Oliver Evans invented and promoted the process of continous process milling. He built the first automated flour mill on Red-Clay Creek near Newport, Delaware. Driven by water power, the mill operated continuously through the use of five bulk material handling devices including a hopper-boybucket elevators, conveyor belts, Archimedean screws, and descenders, reducing the number of men needed to operate the equipment from four to one. If properly managed Evans's mill also increased the amount of flour obtained from a given amount of grain. For these reasons Evans's system was eventually adopted throughout the United States, and gristmilling became and long remained one of the nation's most important industries. By 1870 it was the nation's leading industry by value of product.

Evans described  and illustrated this invention in The Young Mill-Wright and Millers' Guide which he self-published in Philadelphia in 1795 in an edition of 2000 copies; his book had 14 plates (1 folding). This work became very popular, undergoing 15 editions and revisions between 1795 and 1860, becoming the most significant text for the flour milling trade during this period. Its chapters on elements of mechanical and hydraulic engineering were useful in the application of the trade of millwrighting to many other industries besides grist milling. Millwrights who gained experience with production mechanisms installed and maintained textile machinery when it was introduced during the early 19th century.

Evans patented this invention in a few states and, when the US patent system was established, in the federal patent system (Third U.S. Patent).

Evans described his automatic flour mill as follows:

"These five machines . . . perform every necessary movement of the grain, and meal, from one part of the mill to another, and from one machine to another, through all the various operations, from the time the grain is emptied from the wagoner's bag . . . until completely manufactured into flour. . . without the aid of manual labor, excepting to set the different machines in motion."

Evans, The Young Mill-Wright & Miller's Guide. Foreward by Eugene S. Ferguson. Reprinted from the First Edition, 1795. Wallingford, PA: The Oliver Evans Press, 1990. 

(This entry was last revised on 03-06-2016).

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Foundation of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade May 22, 1787 – 1807

On May 22nd, 1787, twelve men met at 2 George Yard in the City of London, in what was then a printing shop and bookstore, to set up the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade (or The Society for the Abolition of the Slave Trade). Nine of the twelve founders were Quakers: John Barton, William Dillwyn, George Harrison, Samuel Hoare Jr., Joseph Hooper, John Lloyd, Joseph Woods Sr., James Phillips and Richard Phillips. The other three were Anglicans: Philip Sansom and most notably, Granville Sharp and Thomas Clarkson. The nine Quakers, as non-conformists, were prevented from standing for Parliament, while the presence of the  three Anglicans in the Society strengthened the committee's likelihood of influencing Parliament.

The Society was formed to raise public awareness in order to lobby for a new law that would abolish the slave trade, and enforce this law on the high seas across the British empire and in West Africa, so that Africans would no longer live in fear of being captured and sold into slavery. Methods used to achieve these goals included publishing anti-slavery books and posters and tours around cities in England. One of the first of the anti-slavery books was Clarkson's Essay on the Impolicy of the African Slave Trade (1788).

One of the key supporters of the committee was Josiah Wedgewood, who commissioned a bronze token and a ceramic medallion from the artist William Hackwood in 1787.  Wedgewood's slave tokens and medallions, picturing an African slave on one knee in shackles with the caption "Am I not a man and a brother?" became the most famous image of a black person in 18th century art, and helped significantly to promote the abolitionist campaign. Other objects sold to promote the anti-slavery movement included a sugar bowl with a gold inscription reading,"East India Sugar not made by Slaves."

The movement to end slavery has been called "the first great human rights campaign." In 1791, as a consequence of the work by the committee, William Wilberforce brought into parliament the first bill to abolish the slave trade. Though it was beaten 163 votes to 88, momentum was gradually building for the abolition of slavery.  An Act for the Abolition of the Slave Trade became law in 1807, although the institution of slavery was not officially abolished until the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833. 

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Bastille Day Occurs January 23 – July 14, 1789

Though the convening of the Estates-General by royal edict dated January 23, 1789 may be the official beginning of the French Revolution, the revolution formally began on July 14, 1789. Why did it happen?

Among the major causes were economic and fiscal crises of the Ancien Régime. In particular poor harvests and the rising price of food made life increasingly intolerable for the poor. At the same time the isolation of the royal court at Versailles made the court largely unresponsive to the crisis. In addition, Englightenment ideals, which had developed during the second half of the eighteenth century, created aspirations for social change, and resentments toward the Ancien Régime. 

"The economy was not healthy; poor harvests, rising food prices, and an inadequate transportation system made food even more expensive. The sequence of events leading to the revolution involved the national government's virtual bankruptcy due to its poor tax system and the mounting debts caused by numerous large wars. The attempt to challenge British naval and commercial power in the Seven Years' War was a costly disaster, with the loss of France's colonial possessions in continental North America and the destruction of the French Navy. French forces were rebuilt and performed more successfully in the American Revolutionary War, but only at massive additional cost, and with no real gains for France except the knowledge that Britain had been humbled. France's inefficient and antiquated financial system could not finance this debt. Faced with a financial crisis, the king called an Assembly of Notables in 1787 for the first time in over a century.

"Meanwhile, the royal court at Versailles was isolated from, and indifferent to the escalating crisis. While in theory King Louis XVI was an absolute monarch, in practice he was often indecisive and known to back down when faced with strong opposition. While he did reduce government expenditures, opponents in the parlements successfully thwarted his attempts at enacting much needed reforms. Those who were opposed to Louis' policies further undermined royal authority by distributing pamphlets (often reporting false or exaggerated information) that criticized the government and its officials, stirring up public opinion against the monarchy.

"Many other factors involved resentments and aspirations given focus by the rise of Enlightenment ideals. These included resentment of royal absolutism; resentment by peasants, laborers and the bourgeoisietoward the traditional seigneurial privileges possessed by the nobility; resentment of the Catholic Church's influence over public policy and institutions; aspirations for freedom of religion; resentment of aristocratic bishops by the poorer rural clergy; aspirations for social, political and economic equality, and (especially as the Revolution progressed) republicanism; hatred of Queen Marie-Antoinette, who was falsely accused of being a spendthrift and an Austrian spy; and anger toward the King for firing finance minister Jacques Necker, among others, who were popularly seen as representatives of the people" (Wikipedia article French Revolution, accessed 03-08-2014).

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Alexander Hamilton Issues "The Magna Carta of Industrial America" December 5, 1791

On December 5, 1791 American economist and political philosopher Alexander Hamilton published in Philadelphia the Report of the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States on the Subject of Manufactures. Presented to the House of Representatives, December 5, 1791.

In this report Hamilton

"revealed. . . the full range of his program for making the United States a prosperous, secure, and happy nation," laying out in detail 'what he regarded as the proper role of government in the econony of a free society" (Forrest MacDonald, Alexander Hamilton, 323, 235). The report was called "the quintessential American statement against the laissez-fair doctrine of free trade and for activist government policies— including protectionist tariffs— to promote industrialization" (David A Irwin, "The Aftermath of Hamilton's 'Report on Manufactures'," Journal of Economic History, 64 [2004] no. 3).

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de Prony Produces Mathematical Tables Calculated by Hairdressers Unemployed after the French Revolution 1793 – 1801

French mathematician and engineer Gaspard Clair François Marie Riche de Prony, Engineer-in-Chief of the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, undertook, beginning in 1793, the production of logarithmic and trigonometric tables for the French Cadastre. He was asked to produce the tables by the French National Assembly, which, after the French Revolution, wanted to bring uniformity to the multiple measurements and standards used throughout the nation. The tables and their production were vast, with values calculated to between fourteen and twenty-nine decimal places.

Inspired by Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, de Prony produced the tables through the systematic division of labor, bragging that he could manufacture logarithms as easily as one could manufacture pins. At the top of the organizational hierarchy were scientists and mathematicians who devised the formulas. Next were workers who created the instructions for doing the calculations. At the bottom were about ninety human computers who were not trained in mathematics, but who followed instructions very carefully. De Prony found that hairdressers unemployed after the French Revolution, who were meticulous by nature, made excellent human computers. In spite of the division of labor it took eight years for the tables to be completed, and because of the inflation during the French Revolution the tables were never published in full. Portions were published for the first time in 1891.    

Though the tables remained unpublished the manuscripts could be examined and consulted. De Prony's method of production of the tables inspired Charles Babbage in the design of his Difference Engine No. 1 in 1822.

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Gottfried Erich Rosenthal Issues the First Comprehensive Bibliography of Technology 1795

Meteorologist and instrument manufacturer Gottfried Erich Rosenthal published Litterature der Technologie das ist: Verzeichniss der Bücher, Schriften und Abhandlungen, welche von den Künsten, den Manufackturen und Fabriken, der Handlung, der Handwerkern und sonstigen Nahrungszweigen, als auch von denen zum wissenschaflichen Betriebe derselben erforderlichen Kenntnissen aus dem Naturreich, der Mathematik, Physik und Chemie handeln.

Rosenthals' work was the first comprehensive bibliography of technology, containing about 20,000 references in European languages and Latin, but seemingly nothing in English. It shows the build-up of techical literature by the early stages of the Industrial Revolution.  It is particularly useful for the numerous references to early journal articles on specialized subjects.

This work was also issued as the final part of Jacobssons technologisches Wörterbuch oder alphabetische Erklärung aller nützlichen mechanischen Künste, Manufacturen, Fabriken und Handwerker (1781-95).

Petzhold p. 727.

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Malthus on Population 1798

In 1798 economist and demographer Thomas Malthus published in London An Essay on the Principle of Population, as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society. In this rebuttal of the utopian views of William Godwin, Malthus reasoned that populations inscrease by geometrical proportion but food supply only increases arithmetically. He argued that if both food and "the passion between the sexes" are necessary to man's existence, but populations have a much greater tendency to increase than does the food supply, then a "strong and constantly operating check"—such as famine, disease, or sexual deprivation—must be imposed to keep the population level consistent with the level of subsistence. 

Malthus's suppositions, though reasonable, were largely intuitive. Though the Essay contained no supporting numerical data, it was extremely influential on passage of the Census Act or Population Act of 1800, which led in 1801 to the first Census of England, Scotland and Wales. Using some of the information gathered in the first census, Malthus supplied factual documentation to support his theories in the greatly expanded second edition of his Essay published in 1803.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1431.

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The First Official National Industrial Exposition Occurs in Paris 1798

In 1798 the first official public national industrial exposition, Exposition publique des produits de l'industrie, occurred in Paris. It was organized by the Marquis de Avèze and François de Neufchâteau, Minister of the Interior for the French Republic. For this two catalogues were issued. The first issue, printed in Paris by the Imprimérie de la République, consisted of 24 pages.  A second issue, expanded to 30 pages, was issued at Grenoble by J. Allier. Its title page read as follows:

EXPOSITION PUBLIQUE DES PRODUITS DE L’INDUSTRIE. Première exposition publique des produits de l’industrie française. Catalogue des produits industriels qui ont été exposés au Champs-de-Mars pendant les trois derniers jours complémentaires de l’An VI; avec les noms, départments et demeures des artistes et manufacturiers qui ont concouru à l’exposition; suivi du Proces-Verbal du Jury nommé pour l’examen de ces produits. A Grenoble: Chez J. Allier, imp. cour de Chaulnes, [1798].

"It appears from a statement made by the Marquis d'Avèze, that in the year V of the Republic, 1797, that gentleman was requested by the Minister of the Interior to undertake the office of Commissioner to the Manufactures of the Gobelins (tapestries), of Sèvres (china) and of Savonnerie (carpets). On visiting these establishments, the marquis found the workshops deserted; for the artisans had been in a starving condition for two years, while the warehouses were full of the results of their labours, and no commercial enterprise came to relieve the general embarassment. It then occurred to the marquis that if these and other objects of industry of the national manufactures could be collected together in one large exhibition, a stimulous might be given to the native industry, and thus relief be afforded to the suffering workmen. The plan was approved by M. François de Neufchateau, the Minister of the Interior, and the chateau of St. Cloud was appropriated for the purpose.'In a few days the walls of every apartment in the castle were hung with the finest Gobelin tapestry; the floors covered with the superb carpets of the Savonnerie, which long rivalled the carpets of Turkey, and latterly have far surpassed them; the large and beautiful vases, the magnificent groups, and the exquisition pictures of Sèvres china, enriched these saloons, already glowing the chefs d'oeuvre of Gobelins and the Savonnerie. The Chamber of Mars was converted into a receptacle for porcelain, where might be seen the most beautiful services of every kind, vases for flowers,—in short, all the tasteful varieties which are originated by this incomparable manufacture.' The 18th Fructidor was the day fixed for public admission, but previous to that time a number of distinguished persons in Paris and many foreingers visited the Exposition, and made purchases sufficient to afford a distribution to the workmen, whereby some temporary relief was afforded to their necessities. But on the very morning of the 18th, the walls of the city were placarded with the decree of the Directory for the expulsion of the nobility. The chateau of St. Cloud was given into the custody of a comapny of dragoons, the Marquis d'Avèze was in the proscribed list, and thus ended the scheme which had promised so well.

"Early in the following year, however (1798,) on his return from proscription to Paris, the marquis resumed his labours. The palace selected for the Exposition was the Maison d'Orsay, Rue de Varennes, No. 667. The objects collected consisted of rich furniture and marqueterie by Boule, Riessner, and Jacob; clocks and watches by L'Epine and Leroy; porcelain and china from the manufactories of Sèvres, of Angoulême and of Nast; richly bound books; silks of Lyons; historical pictures by Vincent, David, and Suvé; landscapes by Hue and Valenienne, flowers by Vandael, and Van Pankouck; and many other objects of an equally luxurious and aristocratic character; all tending to prove that in banishing the aristocracy from Paris, the Government had banished the chief patrons of French manufacture. The Exposition was exceedingly attractive and successful, and the Government accordingly determined to adopt the idea and carry it out on a grand scale. An admirable opportunity was afforded on the return of Napoleon from the successful termination of the Italian wars. On the same spot in the Champ de Mars on which the army had celebrated the inauguration of the collection of Italian spoils, and only six weeks after that fête, the nation erected the 'Temple of Industry,' around which were arranged sixty porticoes filled with objects of use or of beauty. The Exhibition remained open only during the last three complimentary days of the year VI, of the Republic; but it excited the greatest enthusiasm throughout the country. The merits of the several exhibitors were entrusted to the decison of a jury composed of nine men, distinguished in science and in art; and this plan was found to work so well, that it was continued  in subsequent Expositions, the only change being to increase the number of jurors. The names of some of the manufacturers in the prize list are of European reputation; as for example, that of Breguet, connected with the progress of watch and clock making in France, Lenoir, the inventor and maker of mathematical instruments; Didot and Herhan, who so greatly improved the art of printing; Dilh and Guerhard, whose manufacture of painted china rivalled that of Sèvres, Conté, celebrated as a mechanist and engineer, who first applied machine-ruling to engraving; Clouet and Payen, so well known for their chemicals; and Denys du Luat, among whose cotton yarns were some of the extraordinary finess of No. 110" (Tomlinson, Cyclopaedia of Useful Arts I, ii-iii)

Charles B. Wood III, Fairs & Expositions. Catalogue 144 (2010) No. 6, with illustration of the title page of the second issue.

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1800 – 1850

By this Stage in the Industrial Revolution All Phases of Cloth Production Are Performed by Machines Circa 1800

At this stage in the Industrial Revolution, around 1800, all phases of cloth production were performed by machines. 

"Mechanized cotton spinning powered by steam or water increased the output of a worker by a factor of about 1000. The power loom increased the output of a worker by a factor of over 40. Large gains in productivity also occurred in spinning and weaving of wool and linen, but they were not as great as in cotton."

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Joseph-Marie Jacquard's Loom Uses Punched Cards to Store Patterns 1801 – 1821

Few details are known for sure about the early career of Joseph-Marie Jacquard of Lyon. He was born into a family of weavers, and some say that he was originally apprenticed as a bookbinder; others say that he was originally a manufactuer of straw hats. In 1801 he received a patent for the automatic loom which he exhibited at the industrial exhibition in Paris in the same year. Jacquard's first patent, No. 245 in the French system of brevets, dated 23 December 1801, was entitlted Brevet d'invention de dix ans, Pour une machine destinée à suppléer le tireur de lacs, dans la fabrication des étoffes brochées et façonnées. This patent was first published in print on pp. 62-72 of  Description des machines et procédés spécifiés dans les brevets d'invention de prefectionnement et d'importation, Dont la durée est expirée; Publiée d'après les ordres de Son Excellence le Ministre de l'Intérieur, Par M. Christian, Directeur du Conservatoire royal des Arts et Métiers, Tome Quatrième (1820). It was accompanied by 2 folding plates. Accounts state that before patenting the loom Jacquard was summoned to Paris and attached to the Conservatoire nationale des arts et métiers. There he saw a loom by Jacques Vaucanson which suggested various improvements to his own, enabling Jacquard to perfect his invention before patenting it. None of the accounts I have read as of May 2016 appear to have actually read Jacquard's patent, making me wonder how accurate this account may be.

Jacquard's loom used series of punched cards to store patterns, reducing strenuous manual labor, and enabling repetitve production of complex designs. The Cambridge History of Western Textiles, edited by David Jenkins I (2003) p. 793 indicates that Jacquard did not finish his loom until 1805, and it was "only operational after 1810 in France." This would correspond to Jacquard's second patent, No. 658, granted on December 13, 1805 entitled "Brevet d'Invention de quinze ans, Pour un metier à faire du filet." This patent was first published in print on pp. 238-243 of Description des machines et procédés dans les brevets d'invention, de prefectionnement et dimportation dont la durée est expirée Tome VIII (1824). It was accompanied by 1 folding plate. The Cambridge History of Western Textiles also states that after 1810 the loom required further modification and improvements "so that by 1818 there was a device incorporated in the loom to control individual warp yarns which allowed intricately woven patterns to be woven automatically and accurately." This might correspond to the patent No. 640 granted to M. Breton, mécanicien à Lyon, granted on February 28, 1815 entitled "Brevet de perfectionnement de cinq ans, Pour un perfectionnement fait au mécanisme dit à la Jacquard, destiné à remplacer le tireur de lacs, dans la fabrication des étoffes façonnes." Breton's patent was first published in print on pp. 134-39 of Tome VIII of the same volume in which Jacquard's second patent (1805) appeared.

Nevertheless other accounts that I read state that in 1806 Jacquard's loom was declared public property, and Jacquard received a pension for his invention as compensation instead of royalties on his patent. Accounts also state that Jacquard was forced to flee from Lyon because of the anger of the weavers, who feared they would lose their jobs to the new technology. Jacquard persevered, and some unverified and probably exaggerated accounts say that by the time of his death in 1834 there were as many thirty thousand Jacquard looms installed in Lyon alone. Whatever the actual number, it is likely that the expanded new technology eventually employed more people than had been previously employed by the old technology.

Finding the specific references to Jacquard's original patents eluded me for several years. The first place where I ever found them specified was in D. de Prat's Traité de tissage au Jacquard (1921) 383. This valuable technical work, "Précédé d'une Notice historique sur l'Invention du Jacquard," seems to be common in trade, as it was easy to acquire a copy In May 2016. At that time I was unable to find a digital version on the web.

In 2016 I also acquired a copy of the English patent on the Jacquard loom granted in 1821 to Stephen Wilson, a silk merchant from Hoxton in Middlesex, England. The specification No. 4543 was granted for "Certain Improvements in Machinery for Weaving Figured Goods." As one might expect, nowhere in the patent is any mention of Jacquard. The 1821 patent describes the loom and its operation in considerable detail, and the large folding chart in the patent, which contains 16 detailed images, coincided remarkably with the 1820 publication in print of Jacquard's original patent. Like other British patents, this one was first printed in 1857.

Wilson had seen an example of the loom while a prisoner of war in France from 1803-1807. He gained his freedom after his wife Sarah petitioned Napoleon for his release. After returning to England, from 1810 to 1820 Wilson seems to have been engaged in finding a Jacquard loom that could be shipped back to England. This would have been difficult as few of the looms were being built in this early period and all would have been regarded as very valuable strategic business property.

"Stephen's attempts to introduce the Jacquard loom into his company are seen in a letter sent to him, in August 1820, from Paris, by a Thomas Smith. The letter has all the appearance of being from an industrial spy. Smith described his visit to one of the largest manufactories in the environs of Paris and his examination of 'the machine'. He described the technology of 'the machine' and concluded by saying, 'I have also obtained a Hook as you desired - and also a small bit of the Paste-board [composition of the cards] to show its texture' " (http://www.heartstreatham.co.uk/streathams-french-connection-at-the-streatham-silk-mill, accessed 02-28-2016).

Wilson built a large silk mill opposite his house in Streatham for production of silk woven by Jacquard looms. He also smuggled a French weaver into England to teach his employees how to use the looms. According to The Cambridge History of Western Textiles (p. 793) the earliest surviving Jacquard-woven patterns in England date from 1825, though there is a design for a handkerchief of 1823, "but the collapse of the silk industry in 1826 made the introduction abortive."

The Jacquard loom did no computation, and for that reason it was not a digital device in the way we think of digital today. However the method by which Jacquard stored information in punched cards by either punching a hole in one of the more than 1000 standardized spaces in a card, or not punching a hole in that space, is analogous to a zero or one or an on-and-off switch. It was also an important conceptual step in the history of computing because the Jacquard method of storing information in punched cards was used by Charles Babbage in his plans for data and program input, and data output and storage in his general purpose programmable computer, the Analytical Engine. Trains of Jacquard cards, on which elaborate weaving patterns were stored, were programs in the modern sense of computer programs, though the word "program" did not have that meaning until after the development of electronic computers after World War II.

Precursors of Jacquard

In 1725 Basile Bouchon of Lyon, the son of an organ maker, adapted the concept of musical automata controlled by pegged cylinders to the repetitive task of weaving. He invented a loom that was controlled by perforated paper tape.

In order to make the input of instructions to the loom more flexible in 1728 Jean-Baptiste Falcon substituted a chain of punched paper cards for the perforated paper tape employed by his colleague Basile Bouchon. Other inventors also contributed to the automation of weaving: Regnier and Vaucanson; however, none of the attempts before Jacquard were totally successful.

(This entry was last updated on 05-12-2016.)

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The First Census of England, Scotland and Wales is Undertaken 1801

Following the passage of the Census Act or Population Act of 1800, which he was largely responsible for drafting, English goverment official and statistician John Rickman supervised the first Census of England, Scotland and Wales— the first detailed census ever undertaken of any country.

"The 1801 census was in two parts: the first was concerned with the number of people, their occupations, and numbers of families and houses. The second was a collection of the numbers of baptisms, marriages and burials, thus giving an indication of the rate at which the population was increasing or decreasing. Information was collected by census enumerators who were usually the local Overseers of the Poor or (in Scotland) schoolmasters. They visited individual households and gathered the required information, before submitting statistical summaries. The details of households and individuals were important only in creating these local summaries and were destroyed in all but a few cases."

John Rickman first proposed the census in 1796 in an article in the Commercial, Agricultural, and Manufacturer's Magazine, which he edited. The Secretary to the Treasury, George Rose, noticed the article and in 1800 the Census Act, drafted by Rickman, was presented to parliament. Rickman then directed the census and was responsible for digesting and annotating the data.

The study of population was one of the major concerns of political economy at this time and the first census came at a crucial point in the debate. When Malthus published his Essay on Population in 1798, demographic knowledge was necessarily limited. After the results of the first census were known, Malthus extensively revised and expanded the Essay, incorporating insights gained from the census and other sources, and published it virtually as new work in 1803.

The census was published on December 21, 1801 as Abstract of the answers and returns made pursuant to an act, passed in the forty-first year of His Majesty King George III. Intitled an act for taking an account of the population of Great Britain, and the increase or diminution thereof. A second volume was published on June 9, 1802.

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William Playfair Invents the Pie Chart 1801

In 1801 Scottish engineer and political economist William Playfair published in London The Statistical Breviary; Shewing, on a Principle Entirely New, the Resources of Every State and Kingdom in Europe; Illustrated with Stained Copper-Plate Charts, Representing the Physical Powers of Each Distinct Nation with Ease and Perspicuity. To which is added, a Similar Exhibition of the Ruling Powers of Hindoostan. In this work Playfair invented the pie chart. It has also been suggested that Playfair, often short of funds, may have colored the charts in all the copies himself—the process he characterized as "staining" in the title.

Playfair, The Commercial and Political Atlas and Statistical 
, Edited and Introduced by Howard Wainer and Ian Spence (2005). This edition reproduces in color the third edition of the atlas (1801) and the first edition of the breviary (1801).

(This entry was last revised on 02-04-2015.)

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The Ludd Riots Occur November 11, 1811 – January 12, 1813

Concerned about the loss of jobs due to mechanization in the workplace as a result of the Industrial Revolution, towards the end of 1811 workers and craftmen founded the Luddite movement. 

"Towards the close of the year 1811, a spirit of riot and insubordination manifested itself in the country of Nottingham, which, in the course of that year, extended to the counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lancashire, Cheshire, and Yorkshire, and in some degree, pervaded all the manufacturing districts of England. The insurgents, who assumed the name of 'LUDDITES,' probably with a view of inspiring their adherents with confidence, the malcontents gave out that they were under the command of one leader, whom they designated by the factitious name of Ned Ludd, or General Ludd, calling themselves Ludds, Ludders, or Luddites. There is no reason, however to believe that there was in truth any one leader. In each district where the disaffection prevailed, the most aspiring man assumed the local superiority, and became the General Ludd of his own district.

"The avowed and immediate object of the Luddites was the destruction of certain articles of machinery, the use of which had superseded or diminished manual labour, in the manufacture of the articles to which they were applied. These disturbances, which had now attracted the attention of parliament, and excited apprehensions of the most alarming nature, first manifested themselves by the destruction of a great number of newly-erected stocking-frames, by small parties of men, principally stocking-weavers, who assembled in various places round the town of Nottingham. The men engaged in the disturbances were at first principally those thrown out of employment by the use of the new machinery, or by their refusal to work at the rate of wages offered by the manufacturers, and they particularly sought the destruction of frames owned those hosiers, or worked by those men who were willing to work at the lower rates. In consequence of the resistance opposed to the outrages of the rioters, in the course of which one of their number was shot, on the 11th of November, at Bullwell, magistrates found it necessary to call in the assistance of a considerable armed force, which was promptly assembled, consisting, at first, principally of local militia and volunteer yeomanry, to whom were added about four hundred special constables. The terror of this force seemed for a time to allay the spirit of insurbordination; but before the end of the month of November, the outrages were renewed, and assumed a more serious systematic character. In several villages, the rioters not only destroyed the frames, but they levied contributions for subsistence, which rapidly increased their number, and enlarged their sphere of action.

"A considerable regular military force was now went to Nottingham, and in January 1812, two of the most experienced police magistrates were dispatatched from London to that place for the purpose of assisting the local authorities in their endeavours to restore tranquillity in the disturbed districts. The systematic combination with which the outrages were conducted, the terror which they inspired, and the disposition of many of the lower orders to favour, rather than to oppose them, made it very difficult  to discover the offenders, or to obtain evidence to convict those who were apprehended. Some, however, were afterwards proceeded against at the spring assizes of 1812, at Nottingham, and seven persons, convicted of different offences connected with the riots, were sentenced to transportation. In the meantime, acts were passed by the legistature for establishing a police in the disturbed districts, upon the ancient system of watch and war, and for making the destruction of stocking-frames a capital crime, punishable by death.

"Early in the year, the spirit of riot and distrubance spread itself into Cheshire and Lancashire; at Tentwistle, in the former county, the cotton machinery in Mr. Rhodes's mill was totally destroyed; and at Stockport, the house of Mr. Goodwin was set on fire on the 14th of April, and his steam-looms destroyed. On the 20th of the same month, the manufactory of Messrs. Daniel Burton and Sons, situated at Middleton, six miles from Manchester, was attached by a mob, consisting of several thousand persons, and although the rioters were repulsed, and four of their number killed by the military force assembled to protect the works, a second attack was made on the following day, when Mr. Emanuel Burton's dewelling-house was set on fire, and destroyed. About the same time riots took place in Manchester, of which the alleged cause was the high price of provisions. At West Houghton, near Bulton-le-moors, the rioters taking advantage of the absence of the military, assailed the large manufactur of Messrs. Wroe and Duncuft, and after having forced the doors, and set fire to the mill and machinery, dispersed before the soldiers could be assembled

"Symptoms of the same lawless disposition appeared at Newcastle-under-line, Wigan, Warrington, and Eccles; and the contagion had spread to Carlisle, and into Yorkshire. In Nottinghamshire, the machinery obnoxious to the rioters was wide weaving frames; in Lancashire, looms wrought by steam; and in Yorkshire, gig-mills, or machinery used in the shearing of woollen cloth—all inventions of modern date, and each of them calculated to supersede or diminish the demand for manual labour. . . .

"The causes alleged for these alarming proceedings were generally the want of employment for the working manufacturers—a want, however, which was the least felt in some of the places where the disorders were the most prevalent; another of the alleged causes was the application of machinery to supply the place of labour; and a third, the high price of provisions. An opinion also prevailed at the time, that the views of some of the persons engaged in these excesses extended to revolutionary measures, and contemplated the overthrow of the government; but his opinion seems to have been supported by no satisfactory evidence; and it is admited on all hands, that the leaders of the riots, although possessed of considerable influence, were all of the labouring classes.

"That societies existed for forwarding the objects of the disaffected was clearly manifest, all which societies were directed by a secret committee, which might be considered as the great mover of the whole machine; and it was established by the various information received from different parts of the country, that these societies were governened by their respective secret committees; that delegates and messengers were continually dispatched from place to place for the purpose of concerting plans and conveying information; * [*"A small weekly contribution paid by every member of these combinations formed a fund, by which the delegates and messengers were wholly or in part supported, according to the nature and extent of their services. This fund there is reason to suppose was also applied to the support of the imprisoned Luddites; and its application in this way, combined with the nature of the oath, may in some degree account for the paucity of information collected from them while in prison, and even in the prospect of death. In fact, the made no disclosures. All their secrets, whether they related to the organization of their societies, the names of their leaders, or their depots of arms, died with them."] that an illegal oath of the most atrocious kind was extensively administered;* [*"Several copies of the oath were discovered, but the following appears to be the correct version: OATH. 'I. A. B., of my own voluntary will, do declare, and solemnly swear, that I never will reveal to any person or persons under the canopy of heaven, the names of the persons, who compose this secret committee, their proceedings, meetings, places of abode, dress, features, complexion, or anything else that might lead to a discovery of the same, either by word, deed, or sign, under the penalty of being sent out of the world by the first brother who shall meet me, and my name and character blotted out of existence, and never to be remembered but with contempt and abhorrence; and I further now do swear, that I will use my best endeavours to punish by death any traitor or traitors, should any rise up among us, wherever I can find him or them, and though he should fly to the verge of nature, I will pursue him with unceasing vengeance. So help me God, and bless me to keep this my oath inviolable."] that secret signs were arranged, by which the persons engaged these conspiracies were known to each other. The military organization, carried on by persons enaged in these societies, had also prceeded to an alarming length; in some parts of the country they assembled in large numbers, chiefly by night; upon heaths or commons, taking the usual precaution of paroles and counter-signs. The muster-rolls were called over by numbers, not names; they were directed by leaders, sometimes in disguise; they placed sentries to give alarm at the approach of any person, whom they might suspect of an intention to interrupt or give information opf their proceedings; and they dispersed instantly at the firing of a gun or other signal agreed upon, and so dispersed to avoid detection . . . . (An Historical Account of the Luddites of 1811, 1812, and 1813, with Report of their Trials at York Castle, from the 2nd to the 12th of January, 1813, before Sir Alexander Thompson and Sir Simon le Blanc, Knights, Judges of the Special Commission [1862] 7-12).

In January 1813 64 persons were tried for crimes tied to the Luddite movement; 14 were executed.  The proceedings of the trial were published as Report of Proceedings under Commissions of Oyer & Terminer and Gaol Delivery for County of York, Held at the Castle of York, before Sir Alexander Thomson, Knight and Sir Simon Le Blanc, Knight, from the 2nd to the 12th January 1813.  From the shorthand notes of Mr. Gurney. To which are subjoined Two Proclamations, Issued in consequence of the Result of those Proceedings. Though this edition is undated, because of the sensational nature of the trial, the presumption is that it would have been published during 1813.

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David Ricardo Explains the Distribution of Wealth, Including How it Applies to the Value of Rare Books 1817

In 1817 David Ricardo published The Principles of Political Economy and Taxation in which he expounded the theory of comparative advantage, "a fundamental argument in favor of free trade among countries and of specialization among individuals. Ricardo argued that there is mutual benefit from trade (or exchange) even if one party (e.g. resource-rich country, highly-skilled artisan) is more productive in every possible area than its trading counterpart (e.g. resource-poor country, unskilled laborer), as long as each concentrates on the activities where it has relative productivity advantage" (Wikipedia article on David Ricardo, accessed 12-27-2008).

Concerning the economic value of rare books and manuscripts Ricardo included pertinent observations in Chapter One, Section 1, paragraph 4:

"There are some commodities, the value of which is determined by their scarcity alone. No labour can increase the quantity of such goods, and therefore their value cannot be lowered by an increased supply. Some rare statues, scarce books and coins, wines of a peculiar quality, which can only be made from grapes grown on a particular soil, of which there is very limited quanity, are all of this description. Their value is wholly independent of the quantity of labour necessary to produce them, and varies with the varying wealth and inclinations of those who desire to possess them." 

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 277.

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Foundation of the First Business School December 1, 1819

Established on December 1, 1819, l'Ecole Spéciale de Commerce et d’Industrie (now ESCP Europe) was the first business school. It was founded in Paris by a group of economic scholars and businessmen, including the economist Jean-Baptiste Say, who held the first Chair of Economics, and the trader Vital Roux. The school was patterned after the École Polytechnique founded by politician, engineer and mathematician Lazare Carnot and mathematician Gaspard Monge, but was much more modest in its beginnings, mainly because it did not receive state funding. It soon was renamed Ecole Supérieure de Commerce, and gradually gained in stature and importance during the 19th century. Fifty years after its founding it was acquired by the Chambre de commerce et d'industrie de Paris (CCIP), and became a government institution.

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Francis Place Founds the Birth Control Movement 1822

Title page of Illustrations and Proofs of the Principle of Population: Including an Examination of the Proposed Remedies of Mr. Malthus, and a Reply to the Objections of Mr. Godwin and Others.

Excerpt from page of Illustrations and Proofs of the Principle of Population: Including an Examination of the Proposed Remedies of Mr. Malthus, and a Reply to the Objections of Mr. Godwin and Others.

Francis Place.

In 1822 English tailor, economist and political radical Francis Place published in London Illustrations and Proofs of the Principle of Population: Including an Examination of the Proposed Remedies of Mr. Malthus, and a Reply to the Objections of Mr. Godwin and Others. Place's book was the foundation work of the birth-control movement. 

“Though many preceded Francis Place in discussing the technique of contraception, he seems to have been the first to venture, at first alone and unaided, upon an organized attempt to educate the masses. Place, holds, therefore, the same position in social education on contraception that Malthus holds in the history of general population theory . . . it was Place who first gave birth control a body of social theory” (Himes, Medical History of Contraception [1930], 212-13). 

Place, the son of an alcoholic London bailiff, overcame enormous economic hardship to become a successful master tailor. In his free time he taught himself mathematics, the law, history and economics; he also became involved in British radical politics, associating with such influential figures as Joseph Hume, Thomas Wakely, Sir Francis Burdett, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill.  David Ricardo had sent Place a copy of Malthus's work and Place sent Ricardo the manuscript of his book for comments in September 1821 to which Ricardo replied in a lengthy letter to Place dated September 9, 1821.

Place’s Illustrations and Proofs arose from the long-standing controversy between Thomas Malthus and the utopian socialist William Godwin over the nature of human society. Godwin held that there was no limit on human perfectibility, and that society, if freed from the evils of government and other man-made institutions, would advance to an ideal state, free of poverty and governed entirely by reason. Malthus countered Godwin’s utopian claims with his famous Essay on the Principle of Population (1798 and subsequent editions), in which he argued that humanity’s improvement was necessarily limited by the constant struggle between a population’s natural tendency to increase (which was not susceptible to control by reason) and the restraints on population growth, such as famine and disease, imposed by scarce resources. In the second edition of the Essay (1803) Malthus proposed that poverty and other miseries caused by these opposing pressures on populations could be mitigated by voluntary growth-limiting measures such as “moral restraint”; i.e. delayed marriage and sexual continence prior to marriage. Malthus explicitly condemned artificial methods of contraception, however, claiming they were unnatural and would lead to immorality.

Although a supporter of Malthus’s views on population, Place emphatically disagreed with Malthus’s condemnation of birth control. His own life experience had given him first-hand knowledge of both grinding poverty and licentious behavior, and he knew how hopeless a task it was to persuade England’s poor to refrain from sex until they were economically prepared to support a family. His own early marriage, at the age of 19, had rescued him from a life of debauchery; however, “experience . . . emphatically warned him that early marriage meant many children” (quoted in Hime, Introduction, p. 10)—a situation that kept poor families in poverty and led to such social evils as prostitution and child labor. “Thus it was that Place came to be dominated by the compelling persuasion, an opinion that amounted to an idée fixe, that Malthus’s remedy was impracticable, that it was as utopian in its own way . . . as Godwin’s notions of perfectibility. And thus it was that Place, feeling that he had a distinctive contribution to make to the discussion of population problems . . . came out unequivocally [in Illustrations and Proofs] for contraception as the best ‘means of preventing the numbers of mankind from increasing faster than food is provided’” (Himes, Introduction, p. 11). “It was a daring innovation in the history of economic thought . . . when, in 1822, Place published his Illustrations and Proofs of the Principle of Population, the first treatise on population in English to propose contraceptive measures as a substitute for Malthus’s ‘moral restraint’” (Himes, Medical History of Contraception, p. 213).

Place’s Illustrations sold poorly, which prompted him to use more direct methods of communicating his message. In 1823 he began distributing handbills advocating contraception, addressed to “The Married of Both Sexes,” “The Married of Both Sexes in Genteel Life,” and “The Married of Both Sexes of the Working People.” These “received considerable circulation not only in London, but in the industrial districts of the North; while the discussions which ensued caused them to be reprinted in several radical journals of the period . . . the handbills were in advance of modern medical opinion in maintaining that economic indications held a coordinate place with medical indications for contraception” (Himes, Medical History of Contraception, 213, 218).

Himes, “Editor’s introduction,” in Place, Illustrations and Proofs of the Principles of Population, ed. Himes (1930; repr. 1967), 7-63; Medical History of Contraception (1936), 212-20. J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography no. 1696.1.

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The First Publically Subscribed Passenger Railroad September 27, 1825

On September 27, 1825 British engineer George Stephenson's Locomotion No. 1 (originally named Active), the first steam engine to carry passengers and freight on a regular basis, hawled its first train on the Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR). The S&DR was the first publically subscribed passenger railroad.

"It was 26 miles (40 km) long and was built in north-eastern England between Witton Park and Stockton-on-Tees via Darlington and connected to several collieries near Shildon. Planned to carry both goods and passengers, the line was initially built to connect inland coal mines to Stockton, where coal was to be loaded onto sea-going boats. Much of its route is now served by the Tees Valley Line, operated by Northern Rail. It was also the longest railway at the time" (Wikipedia article on Stockton and Darlington Railway, accessed 02-01-2012).

About the same time as the S&DR opened for business British engineer Thomas Tredgold issued  A Practical Treatise on Rail-Roads and Carriages, Shewing the Principles of Estimating their Strength, Proportions, Expense, and Annual Produce . . . (1825), and British colliery and steam locomotive engineer Nicholas Wood issued A Practical Treatise on Rail-Roads and Interior Communication in General, with Original Experiments, and Tables of the Comparative Value of Canals and Rail-Roads (1825).  These books, both of which were published in London, were the first comprehensive works on railway engineering.

Dibner, Heralds of Science (1980) No. 182.

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Discovery of Brownian Motion 1828

In 1828 Scottish botanist and palaeobotanist Robert Brown published for private distribution in London at the press of Richard Taylor a small number of copies of his 16-page pamphlet entitled  A Brief Account of Microscopical Observations Made in the Months of June, July, and August 1827, on the Particles Contained in the Pollen of Plants; and on the General Existence of Active Molecules in Organic and Inorganic bodies. 

While studying pollen, Brown observed particles within the grains in a state of constant motion.  He extended his observations to both dead and inorganic matter, and found that such motion was not restricted to live pollen but could be observed in any substance ground fine enough to be suspended in water. In 1879 William Ramsay explained that Brownian motion is due to the impact on particles of the molecules in the surrounding fluid, an explanation proved in 1908 by Jean Perrin. Brown's observations also inspired Einstein's 1905 paper Ueber die von der molekularkinetischen Theorie der Wärme geforderte Bewegung von in ruhenden Flüssigkeiten suspendieren Teilchen, which gave a theory of Brownian motion based on the kinetic theory of gases.

The seemingly random movement of particles suspended in a liquid or gas or the mathematical model used to describe such random movements is often called particle theory.

"The mathematical model of Brownian motion has several real-world applications. An often quoted example is stock market fluctuations.

"Brownian motion is among the simplest continuous-time stochastic processes, and it is a limit of both simpler and more complicated stochastic processes (see random walk and Donsker's theorem). This universality is closely related to the universality of the normal distribution. In both cases, it is often mathematical convenience rather than the accuracy of the models that motivates their use" (Wikipedia article on Brownian motion).

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 353.

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Writer & Publisher Charles Knight Explains How Mechanized Printing Delivers Information Faster & at Costs Affordable to All 1831

In 1831 writer and publisher Charles Knight of London issued a book entitled The Results of Machinery, namely Cheap Production and Increased Employment. intended for working men, and also presumably women, who were concerned that mechanization was eliminating their jobs or lowering their wages. Knight, who devoted his life and much of his writing and publishing career to making books and periodicals affordable to all, was one of the first to write about the socio-economic advantages of what I have called the mechanized, rather than the hand-printed book. Knight explained how mechanization of papermaking and printing--developments that had in the past 20 years, had both increased the speed of book production while reducing costs, thereby greatly widening the market for books and expanding an industry and creating tens of thousands of new jobs. He was motivated to write this book by Luddite style riots protesting mechanization of agriculture, which had occurred in the South of England in 1830. Knight's book reminds us that the mechanization of the book took place in a period of social resistance to mechanization of various industries. It is also notable that 50,000 copies of Knight's book were sold by the time he issued a new edition in 1845.

"The difference between those of you who object to machines, and the persons who think with Joseph Foster [that the introduction of machinery in weaving is inevitable] is, as it appears to us, a want of knowledge. We desire to impart to you that knowledge. Now, how shall we set about the business of imparting it? You are many in number and are scattered over a large extent of country; some of you are sorely pressed as we conceive, by the evils that result from a want of knowledge, which make it the more necessary that we should address ourselves to you speedily; and some of you are poor, and therefore have not much spare, even for what you may believe may do you good. You, therefore, want this knowledge to be given to you, extensively, quickly, cheaply. It would be out of our power to impart this knowledge at all without machinery: and, therefore, we have begin by explaing how the machinery, which gives you knowledge of any sort by the means of books, is a vast blessing, when comparted with slower methods of multiplying written language; and how, by the aid of this machinery, we can produce a book for your use, without any limit point of the number of copies, with great rapidity, and at a small price.

"It is about 350 years since the art of printing books was invented. Before that time all books were written by the hand. There were many persons employed to copy out books, but they  were very dear, although the copiers had small wages. A Bible was sold for thirty pounds in the money of that day, which was equal to a great deal more of our money. Of course, very few people had Bibles or any other books. An ingenious man invented a mode of imitating the written books by cutting the letters on wood, and taking off copies from the wooden blocks by rubbing the sheet on the back; and soon after other clever men thought of casting metal types or letters, which could be arranged in words, and sentences, and pages, and volumes; and then a machine, called a printing-press, upon the principle of a screw, was made to stamp impressions of these types so arranged. There was an end, then, at once to the trade of the pen-and-ink copiers; because the copiers in types, who could press several hundred books while the writers were producing one, drove them out of the market. A single printer could do the work of at least two hundred writers. At first sight this seems a hardship, for a hundred and ninety-nine people might have been, and probably were, thrown out of their accustomed employment. But what was the consequence in a year or two? Where one written book was sold, a thousand printed books were required. The old books were multiplied in all countries, and new books were composed by men of talent and learning, because they could then find numerous readers. The printing-press did the work more neatly and more correcdtly than the writer, and it did it infinitely cheaper. What then? The writers of books had to turn their hands to some other trade, it is true, but type-founders, paper-makers, printers, and bookbinders, were set to work, by the new art or machine, to at least a hundred times greater number of persons than the old way of making books employed. If the pen-and-ink copiers could break the printing-presses, and melt down the types that are used in London alone at the present day twenty thousand people would at least be thrown out of employment to make room for two hundred at the utmost; and what would be even worse than all this misery, books could only be purchased, as before the invention of printing, by the few rich, instead of being the guides, and comforters, and best friends, of the millions who are now within reach of the benefits and enjoyments which they bestow.

"The cheapness of production is the great point to which we shall call your attention, as we give you other examples of the good of machinery. In the case of books produced by the printing-press you have a cheap article, and an increased number of persons engaged in manufacturing that article. In almost all trades the introduction of machines has, sooner or later the like effects. This we shall show you as we go on. But to make the matter even more clear, we shall direct your notice to the very book you hold in your hand, to complete our illustration of the advantages of machinery to the consumer, that is, to the person who wants and buys the article consumed, as well as to the producer, or the person who manufactures the article produced.

"This little book is intended to consist of 216 pages, to be printed, eighteen on a side upon six sheets of printing paper, called by the makers demy. These six sheets of demy, at the price charged in the shops, would cost four-pence. If the same number of words were written, instead of being printed—that is, if the closeness and regularity of printing were superseded by the looseness and unevenness of writing,—they would cover 200 pages, or 50 sheets, of the paper called foolscap, which would cost in the shops three shillings; and you would have a book difficult instead of easy to read,because writing is much harder to decipher than print. Here, then, besides the superiority of the workmanship, is at once a saving of two shillings and eight pence to the consumer, by the invention of printing, all other things being equal. But the great saving is to come. Work as hard as he could, a writer could not transcribe this little book upon these 200 pages of foolscap in less than ten days; and eh would think himself very ill paid to receive thirty shillings for the operation. Adding, therefore, a profit for the publisher and retail tradesman, a single written copy of this little book, which you buy for a shilling could not be produced for two pounds. Is it not perfectly clear, then if there were no printing-ress, if the art of printing did not exist, that if we found purchasers at all for this dear book at the cost of two pounds, we should only sell, a the utmost, a fortieth part of what we now sell; that instead of selling ten thousand copies could only sell, even if there wree the same quantity of book-buying funds amongst the few purchasers as amongst the many, two hundred and fifty copies; and that therefore, although we might employ two hundred and fifty writers for a week, instead of about twenty printers in the same period, we should have forty times less employment for paper-makers, ink-makers, book-binders, and many other persons, besides the printers themselves, who are called into activity by the large demand which follows cheapness of production. 

"You will perceive, without having the subject dwelt upon, that if we could not give you this book cheaply, we could not give it to you extensively; that, in fact, the book would be useless; that it would be a mere curiosity; that we should not attempt to multiply and copies, because those whose use it was intended for could not buy it. It is also perfectly clear, that if, by any unnatural reduction of the wages of labor, such as happens to the Hindoo, who works at weaving muslin for about sixpence a week, we could get copiers to produce the book as cheaply as the printing-ress (which is impossible,) we could not send it to the world as quickly. We can get ten thousand copies of this book printed in a week, by the aid of about twelve compositors, and two printing machines, each machine requiring two boys and a man for its guidance. To transcribe ten thousand copies in the same time would require more than ten thousand penmen. Is it not perfectly evident, therefore, that if printing, which is a cheap and a rapid process, were once again superseded by writing, which is an expensive and slow operation, neither this book, nor any other book, could be prodcued for the use of the people, that knowledge, upon which every hope of bettering your condition must ultimately rest, would again become the property of a very few; and that mankind would lose the greater part of that power, which has made, as is making them truly independent, and which will make them virtuous and happy?

"The same principle applies to any improvement of the machinery used in printing, or in the manufacture of the paper upon which books are printed. by the use of the printing machine, instead of the printing press, (which machine is only profitably applicable to books printed in large numbers,) the cost of production is diminished at least one-tenth; and by the use of the machine for making paper, a better article is produced, also at a lower rate. This book is printed upon paper as fine as is needful for comfortable reading, instread of paper of a wretched quality; because the paper-machine had diminished the cost of production, by working up the pulp of which paper is composed more evenly, and therefore with a saving. And from both causes united, the diminished price of printing by the machine instead of printing by hand, and the diminished price of machine-made paper, the buyers of this book have six sheets, or 216 pages instead of five sheets, or 180 pages, for a shilling. Thus, not only is the price lessened to the consumer, by the increase of the quantity, but one-sixth more paper, one -sixth more more ink, one-sixth more labor of the compositor or printer who arranges the types, one-sixth more labor of the sewer or binder of the book; all these additions of direct labor and of materials produced by labor are consumed. In selling you this book, therefore, for a shilling, we give you a sixth more matter than you could have had without these new inventions; if we were to take that sixth in quantity, we could lessen the price, and give you the smaller book for tenpence. Thus, there is a decided advantage to the consumer in the diminished cost of the production, and an ample equivalent in mere labor, (which, bear always in mind, is the means of producing commodities, and not the end for they are produced,) in the place of labor thrust out by the printing-machine and the paper-machine.

"We cannot conclude this branch of our subject without one other illustration. About seven years ago the art of engraving on steel was invented; this art arose out of an attempt to multiply plates by machinery. it was said that this art would ruin the engravers as a body; for as steel-plates would not wear out with prining twenty thousand copies, and copper-plates could not give more than a thousand impressions, one steel-plate would stand in the place of twenty copper ones. Yet engravers, as a body, were never so numerous or so flourishing as they are at this moment; simply because steel-plates having made engravings cheap, numbers can have the pleasure of psessing prints, which were formerly only within the reach of a very few. The class of books called Annuals, which consist each of ten or twelve beautiful engravings, with amusing reading at a moderate price, and of which at least one hundred thousand copies are sold, having cost in their production about £50,000, could never had existed without the invention of steel engraving; and there are many other publications of landscapes,views of buildings, maps, &c. which, being rendered cheap by steel engravings, have produced exactly the same effects of increasing the enjoyments of the consumers, and bettering the condition and increasing the numbers of the producers.

 "We think that in the article of Books we have proved to you that maninery has rendered productions cheaper, and has increased the demand for manual labor, and consequently the number of laborers; and that, therefore, machinery applied to books is not objectionable...."

This writing by Charles Knight came to my attention in February 2016 when I read portions of another book that I had acquired by Knight entitled Capital and Labour; Including The Results of Machinery (London: Charles Knight & Co., 1845). The original cloth binding has blind-stamped on its covers: Knight's Weekly Volume for All Readers." Knight inscribed my copy on the front free endpaper: "To Geo. Nicholls Esq With the author's respectful Compts."  Nicholls, a British Poor Law Commissioner, was a particularly appropriate recipient for the book. Knight's "Advertisement" prefacing his 1845 book helps place his 1831 work in perspective:

" 'The Results of Machinery' was written in by me at a period of great national alarm, when a blind rage against a power supposed to interfere with the claims of Labour was generally prevalent, and led, in the Southern agricultural districts expecially, to many acts of daring violence. That little book had a most extensive sale, and is still in constant demand. Fifty thousand copies have been sold since its first publication. I wrote a second tract, 'Captial and Labour,' which was to form part of a Series entitled 'The Rights of Industry.' This Series I never could find leisure to proceed with. It has appeared to me that the two parts might be advantageously incorporated. machinery, in connexion with Capital and labour, is one of the great instruments of Production. In this Volume, then,  thus remodelled, the general object of The Production of Wealth is fully, though, popularly expounded. The original tracts were especially addressed to Working Men. This volume is addressed to all. The statistical details are brought up to the present time."

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Babbage's "On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures" Begins Operations Research 1832 – 1835

In 1832 Charles Babbage published On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures, the first work on operations research, partially based on data he had accumulated during the previous ten years in order to build his Difference Engine No. 1. Primary themes of the book were the division of labor and the division of mental labor, to which Babbage devoted chapters 19 and 20. The first part of his chapter on the division of mental labor was an analysis of the methods used by de Prony in the production of his celebrated mathematical tables, and the third and fourth editions included in section 249 a small table calculated by the completed portion of the Difference Engine No. 1.  

Babbage had seen de Prony’s manuscript tables in 1819, and around 1820 began planning the Difference Engine No. 1 based on the principles of the division of labor. With this goal, Babbage visited factories throughout England, inspecting every machine and every industrial process. Rather than a study limited to engineering and manufacturing techniques, his book turned out to be an analysis of manufacturing processes within their economic context. Written when manufacturing was undergoing rapid development and radical change, the book represents an original contribution to British economics.

"Adam Smith had never really abandoned the belief, reasonable enough in his day, that agriculture was the principal source of Britain’s wealth; Ricardo’s ideas were focused on corn; Babbage for the first time authoritatively placed the factory in the centre of the stage. The book is at once a hymn to the machine, and analysis of the development of machine-based production in the factory, and a discussion of social relations in industry. . . .

"The Economy of Manufactures established Babbage’s position as a political economist and its influence is well attested, particularly on John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx. Babbage’s pioneering discussion of the effect of technical development on the size of industrial organizations was followed by Mill and the prediction of the continuing increase in the size of factories, often cited as one of Marx’s successful economic predictions, in fact derives from Babbage’s analysis. . . . Babbage wrote with many talents: a natural philosopher and mechanical engineer, his knowledge of factory and workshop practice was encyclopaedic; he was well-versed in relevant business practice; and he was without rival as a mathematician among contemporary British political economists" (Hyman, Charles Babbage, Pioneer of the Computer (1982) 103–4).

On the Economy of Machines and Manufactures was also the first book on operations research, discussing topics like the regulation of power, control of raw materials, division of labor, time studies, the advantage of size in manufacturing, inventory control, and duration and replacement of machinery. Besides regular pagination and chapters Babbage divided his book into numbered sections, which reached No. 467 by the third and fourth edition (1835), though the Table of Contents extended only to section No. 463. The book was indexed to the section numbers rather than to pages. 

In Chapter XI, "Of Copying", Babbage analyzed a surprisingly wide range of methods of duplication, including many different kinds of printing of different products, only a few categories of which were printing on paper. In section 159 he broke down the process of preparing the stereotype plates on which his book was printed into six different stages, and in Chapter XXI, "On the Cost of Each Separate Process in a Manufacture", section 256 he presented an exceptionally detailed accounting of all the costs in the production of the 3000 copies of the first edition of his book, which presumably he paid, followed by analyses of these costs in sections 257-262, the costs not including the extra charges for the small number of large paper copies (222 x 142mm) which Babbage ordered for presentation to his friends. Among the details mentioned in section 256 was that the book was printed on large sheets with 16 pages up, resulting in gatherings of 32 pages. As the book was printed from stereotype plates we may thus assume that the book was also printed by machine rather than by handpress, especially as its publisher Charles Knight was an early exponent of machine printing and its cost efficiencies. Though Babbage does not discuss the gold-stamped cloth bindings in which most of edition appeared, these were very early gold-stamped cloth edition bindings.

The work was Babbage’s most complete and professional piece of writing, and the only one of his books that went through four editions during his lifetime. The work was  translated into French and German, and appeared in an American edition also in 1832. Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace (2002) No. 42.

(This entry was last revised on 03-01-2015.)

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The Penny Post: Perhaps the Greatest Single Stimulus to Written Communication 1837 – 1840

Until the development and widespread adoption of the electric telegraph, letter writing was the only way to communicate with people at a distance, and because of the high cost of telegraph, until the invention of the telephone, and later of email, letter writing remained the primary method. However, prior to 1840 sending a letter could cost as much as a day's wage for the working classes, and those receiving a letter had to pay for its delivery. Prepayment was also social slur on the recipient; one had to be financially solvent to receive a letter. If the recipient could not afford to pay for a letter, it was returned to sender. Thus for the working classes, leaving home often meant losing touch with family and friends.

In 1837 English teacher, inventor and social reformer Rowland Hill circulated his privately printed pamphlet, Post Office Reform: its Importance and Practicability. In this Hill explained why the postal system needed reform, and laid out his principles for reform. It may be validly argued that Hill's invention of the Penny Post was the greatest stimulus to written communication in history, making written communication affordable to all classes of society.

"The penny post inaugurated and administered by Rowland Hill required the adoption of four novel principles: (1) prepayment of postage, (2) payment by weight instead of by the number of sheets, (3) the use of envelope, (4) the use of adhesive stamps on letters. Prior to this reform, for example, the use of an envelope would have been a novelty to most letter-writers and entailed double postage" (Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man [1967] 306a).

"In the 1830s, charges were notoriously inconsistent since the Post Office determined single, double, or triple rates according to the number of miles a letter traversed to get to its destination and the number of sheets of paper (and enclosures) a writer used. A letter might not necessarily travel the most direct or economical route. In addition, postal workers used “candling” — an inexact method of holding a letter up to the light — to assess the number of letter sheets or enclosures. Any reader of Jane Austen’s Emma (1815) knows that to save costs, cross writing was common — a writer turned his or her letter horizontally and “crossed” (or wrote over) the original text at a right angle rather than use an additional sheet of paper. Folded letters with a wax seal may look quaint, but like cross writing, this was also a pre-1840s cost cutting measure since that same missive, posted in an envelope, would receive double charge." 

"One of the first things Queen Victoria did when she came to the throne in 1837 was to appoint a Select Committee on Postage, chaired by Robert Wallace MP and charged to look into the condition of the post with a view towards postal rate reduction. Victoria, on August 17, 1839, gave royal assent to the Postage Duties Bill and, in 1840, ushered in Uniform Penny Postage and the enormously popular adhesive postage stamp, prepaid by the sender (an unpaid letter cost the recipient 2 pence to encourage prepayment). The Penny Post abolished the much-abused system of franking — postmarks granting Members of Parliament and the Queen free carriage of mail — and transformed the mail from an expensive tax for revenue to a civic service affordable to all social classes" (http://www.victorianweb.org/technology/letters/intro.html, accessed 04-17-2013).

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Charles MacKay Issues an Exposition of Financial Bubbles 1841

In 1841 Scottish poet, journalist, and song writer Charles Mackay issued Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. The three volume work published in London on what later came to be called "investor psychology" contained, among many other things, notable descriptions of financial bubbles. It also contained early discussions of topics which were much later studied by sentiment analysis.

"Among the alleged bubbles or financial manias described by Mackay is the Dutch tulip mania of the early seventeenth century. According to Mackay, during this bubble, speculators from all walks of life bought and sold tulip bulbs and even futures contracts on them. Allegedly, some tulip bulb varieties briefly became the most expensive objects in the world, 1637.

"Other bubbles described by Mackay are the South Sea Company bubble of 1711–1720, and the Mississippi Company bubble of 1719–1720. . . .

"Financier Bernard Baruch credited the lessons he learned from Extraordinary Popular Delusions with his decision to sell all his stock ahead of the crash of 1929" (Wikipedia article on Extraordinary Popular Delusions, accessed 12-09-08).

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The First Annotated Bibliography of the History of Economics 1845

The Scottish economist John Ramsay McCulloch, Professor of political economy at University College London, wrote extensively on economic policy, and was a pioneer in the collection, statistical analysis and publication of economic data. His The Literature of Political Economy. A Classified Catalogue of Select Publications in the Different Departments of That Science with Historical, Critical, and Biographical Notices, published in London in 1845, was the first annotated and classified bibliography of classics in the historical literature of economics. Some of the annotations extend for more than a page and include extensive quotations. Each section begins with a general introduction, followed by a list of the principal works relating to that aspect of political economy, with notes on the individual works. There is a comprehensive author, title and subject index.

McCulloch was a noted book collector of books on a wide range of subjects besides economics. He published privately a listing of his library as  A Catalogue of Books, the Property of the Author of the Commercial Dictionary (London, 1856). McCulloch was also one of the earliest clients of the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch, and they remained close friends. In his Contributions towards a Dictionary of British Book-Collectors, fascicule VI, Quaritch and historian of economics James Bonar published reminiscences of McCulloch, a photograph, and two facsimiles of letters from McCulloch to Quaritch. After McCulloch's death in 1864 Quaritch sold McCulloch's library to McCulloch's friend, the banker and politician Samuel Jones-Loyd, 1st Baron Overstone for £5000. Bonar states that a significant portion of the books were destroyed in a fire at Overstone's house soon afterward. Lord Overstone's daughter bequeathed the surviving portion of McCulloch's library to the University of Reading.

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Beginning of the American Conservation Movement 1846

A Report on the Trees and Shrubs Growing Naturally in the Forests of Massachusetts issued by American educator and president of the Boston Society of Natural HistoryGeorge B. Emerson, in 1846 was one of the earliest pleas for "a wiser economy" in the use of forests, and a pioneering treatise on conservation. This non-technical guide to the state's principal trees grew out of a zoological and botanical survey of Massachusetts headed by Emerson.

" 'The cunning foresight of the Yankee,' George Emerson complained,' seems to desert him when takes the axe in hand.' The wanton destruction of the state's woodlands was endangering not only wildlife and the ecological order, but the very basis of the human economy as well. It is not generally remembered today that until 1870 the United States took the vast part of its energy and materials from the forest. For 250 years, from the first settlement to the advent of steel fabrication, America lived in an age of wood. The people of Massachusetts, numbering almost 750,000 when Emerson wrote his book, had to take from the forests almost every product they made: houses furniture, ships, wagons. sleighs, bridges, brooms,whips, shovels, hoes. casks, boxes. baskets, bootjacks. From the maples they got sugar, from hickories and chestnuts a good supply of nuts. Most basic was their cordwood for winter fuel; according to Emerson, this fuel, costing an average of four dollars a cord, was annually worth five million dollars. The railroads required another 55,000 cords, chiefly pine, for their locomotives. Altogether, then, the state could not have survived without a steady, cheap supply of trees. Even the bark was needed for tanning leather, while sumac and barberry roots supplied valuable dyes to the cloth industry. Yet each year the forests were recklessly cut away, and no provision was made to replant and protect them. By the 1840s Massachusetts was already importing great quantities of both hard- and softwood from Maine and New York; and Emerson warned that 'even those foreign resources are fast failing us.'

"At best, then, the practical art of woodland management existed only at a primitive level in New England. In 1838 Emerson canvassed some of the more knowledgeable people of Massachusetts to gather a fund of folk wisdom for the future. Two chief principles emerged from his survey to guide the woodsman in cutting: for timber, select only the more mature trees, but for fuel, cut the entire woodland 'clean and close.' In the latter case the consensus of opinion was that the forest would renew itself enough to be profitably cut again every twenty-three years, though the average would vary widely from species to species. 'When the trees are principally oak, white, black, and scarlet, the forest may be clean cut three times in a century,' Emerson noted. After each cut, some of his correspondents maintained, the old stumps would sprout anew and thus perpetuate the oak woods. But in the experience of others, this seldom happened. Instead, the pines would spring up to replace the oak grove, or vice versa. It had long been a vexing problem for the state's farmers to explain why such a succession occurred, and when one's livelihood depended on whether it was oak or pine one had to sell, a reliable answer was vital. According to some countrymen, the cause lay in a magical spontaneous generation that no one could predict. Emerson, though, was sure that by some natural means the older woods must perpetually contain its successor species, either as seeds lying domant in the soil or as small trees growing unobserved on the forest floor" (Worster, Nature's Economy. A History of Ecological Ideas. 2nd ed. [1994] 68-69).

In 1875 Emerson issued a second edition of his treatise in 2 volumes, doubling the length of the text and including many more illustrations including fine chromolithographs of leaves, flowers, and seeds of numerous species.

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The French Revolution of 1848 in Europe's Year of Revolutions February 1848

Like the French revolutions of 1789 and 1830, the economic crisis in France leading to the French Revolution of 1848, sometimes known as the February Revolution, began in agriculture. Failure of the potato crop in 1846, and a poor harvest of grain in 1847 increased the price of bread and other foodstuffs. The food shortage— not limited to France—was exacerbated by an increase in population that had occurred in France and other European countries since the beginning of the eighteenth century. Inhabitants of rural areas crowded into towns where they found few factories to employ them. During this crisis, in some instances, people who had low-paying jobs had to work an entire day to earn enought to pay for a loaf of bread. As a result of widespread hunger, in 1848 revolutions occurred in almost every European city with more than 50,000 inhabitants. But within a year reactionary forces won out and the revolutions collapsed.

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The Communist Manifesto February 21, 1848

Having been commissioned by The Communist League at its second congress held in London from November to December 1847, German philosopher, political economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, communist, and revolutionary Karl Marx and German social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and communist Friedrich Engels published Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei through the German printer J.E. Burghard in London on February 21, 1848.

Supplies of the pamphlet reached the continent just as the Revolutions of 1848 began.  

"The revolutionary upsurge in Europe owed nothing to the 'Manifesto'; but the panic-stricken authorities found its subversive sentiments a good excuse for action against its authors. Marx and his wife were arrested and expelled from Belgium. Later the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Marx's principal organ of expression, was suppressed in Cologne, the final issue being defiantly printed in red, and Marx himself was expelled in turn from Germany and France. He then emigrated to England ('the most important landmark in his career' as E. H. Carr put it), where he spent the rest of his life—much of it in the reading room of the British Museum. He is buried in Highgate cemetery in London" (Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man [1967] no. 326).

Rather than predicting communism's future forms, The Communist Manifesto set out the League's purposes and program. It presented an analytical approach to the class struggle and the problems of capitalism. 

"The Communist Manifesto was first published (in German) in London by a group of German political refugees in 1848. It was also serialised at around the same time in a German-language London newspaper, the Deutsche Londoner Zeitung. The first English translation was produced by Helen Macfarlane in 1850. The Manifesto went through a number of editions from 1872 to 1890; notable new prefaces were written by Marx and Engels for the 1872 German edition, the 1882 Russian edition, the 1883 French edition, and the 1888 English edition. This edition, translated by Samuel Moore with the assistance of Engels, has been the most commonly used English text since" (Wikipedia article on The Communist Manifesto, accessed 09-18-2010).

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1850 – 1875

100,000 Tons of Paper, Only 4% Made by Hand 1860

In 1860 100,000 tons of paper were produced in the United Kingdom, almost a tenfold increase since 1800. Only 4% was made by hand. Because of reduction in labor costs the average cost of paper fell 60% in the period from 1800-1860 (Twyman).

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The Autograph Manuscript of Mill's "Considerations on Representative Government" 1860 – 1861

By 1980, at the end of my first decade as an independent antiquarian bookseller, I had accumulated twelve extraordinary manuscripts on diverse subjects, each of considerable historic significance. These we offered for sale in our eighth catalogue, entitled simply Twelve Manuscripts. At the time I had a sense that my ownership of several of these manuscripts was a once in a lifetime experience. What I did not appreciate was my exceptional luck in finding each of the manuscripts. Though it was, and continues to be, my privilege to handle many exceptionally fine and significant books and manuscripts in the course of business, I never again had the opportunity to assemble a comparable dozen.

Of the twelve, one of the most remarkable was the autograph manuscript of John Stuart Mill's Considerations on Representative Government, handwritten by Mill in 1860, and published in 1861. Looking back on my experience cataloguing and selling this manuscript, in 1980 Japanese institutions were very actively acquiring western rare books and manuscripts, so close readers of the description below will see that it was pitched toward the Japanese market. As it turned out, the manuscript did eventually sell to a Japanese bookseller who passed it to a Japanese university. By 2014 when I wrote this database entry, the balance of trade had shifted, and I suspected that the manuscript would have found a purchaser in the United States had it been offered for sale thirty-four years later. Our description from 1980 is quoted in full:

Complete Autograph Manuscript for one of "The Great Books of the Western World"

Mill, John Stuart (1806-73). Untitled autograph manuscript draft of Considerations on representative government. 224 leaves, mostly written on rectos with occaisonal notes on verso, with extensive current revision & later light revision. 23.5 x 18.5 cm. Gathered in 11 quires, marked A-K by Mill, each separately sewn, probably at a later date, uncut. In fine condition, in a full moroco box, gilt label. Composed in part if not entirely at Avignon, in 1860.

The most important Mill discovery of the century, this manuscript represents the only complete autograph manuscript extant of a major work of political theory by Mill. The only other known manuscripts by Mill relating to politcial theory are an incomplete autograph press copy of Principles of political economy (1848) at the Pierpont Morgan Library, and a manuscript of Chapters on socialism (1879), sold at Sotheby's in 1922, but presently unlocatable. In fact, there are a bare half-dozen manuscripts of major works by Mill extant, on whatever subject. Among these, only two others represent early drafts, as our manuscript does—an early draft of the Autobiography (1873) at the University of Illinois and an early version of A system of logic (1843) at the Pierpoint Morgan Library. The remaining major Mill manuscripts are an autograph press copy of A system of logic in the British Library, the final autograph copy of the Autobiography at Columbia University, and the scribal press copy of the Autobiography in the John Rylands Library. The autobiography and scribal copies of Three essays on religion (1874) were sold by Sotheby's in 1922, but like the Chapters on socialism have since disappeared.

Considering Mill's position as the major British philosopher, economist, and political thinker of the 19th century, and considering his productivity, it is remarkable that only a half-dozen of his major manuscripts are still in existence, and that, aside from correspondence, only about half a dozen interesting minor manuscripts remain extant. This scarcity of Mill manuscripts has come about because of the unusual and unfortunate circumstances in which Mill's library was disposed of at the turn of the century. While a few manuscripts remained in the hands of friends or family in England until donated to libraries or sold at auction, the large repository of Mill's papers and books at his home in Avignon (where he spent several months of each year from 1858 on) was sold in 1905 to a provincial French bookseller by members of the family who had little or no comprehension of its significance. Our untitled manuscript of Consdierations on representative government, which we know was composed in 1860 at least partly in Avignon, was quite probably part of this group, which the French bookseller sold off bit by bit. Thus it remained unknown to the public until now, in the hands of a French family who obtained it at auction in the 1930s.

It is all the more remarkable, then, that the untitled manuscript salvaged from near oblivion should turn out to be of such high caliber—the complete first draft of Mill's most significant work of political theory, and the text chosen, along with Mill's On liberty (1859) and his Utilitarianism (1863), for the Great books of the western world series (volume 43 in company with the United States' Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, The Federalist, etc.). To the best of our knowledge this manuscript of Representative government is the only autograph manuscript of the complete text of any classic from the entire Great books series which remains in private hands. The few other existing autograph manuscripts for these epochal achievements in the history of thought are in institutions. Mill's manuscripts for Utilitarianism and On liberty have, of course, never been found.

Our manuscript of Representative government is not an early draft in any preliminary sense, but the first full draft of the text, with the author's extensive autograph revisions. Professor John M. Robson, the general editor of the multi-volume standard edition of the Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, has made a preliminary examination of the manuscript and prepared a two-page report, a copy of which is included with the manuscript. He confirms that the manuscript is entirely in Mill's hand, and considers it to be the first draft of the text (on the basis of Mill's coments in the Autobiography and the few extant manuscripts, Mill habitually wrote two complete drafts). Professor Robson points out to us that Mill made a large number of revisions in rewriting the work, altering its structure in in interesting ways and expanding the text, particularly changing the order of chapters from the middle on, although retaining chapter headings in a wording close to that in the printed version.

'It is my impression that a careful collation of the text [of the manuscript] with that of the first and later editions would result in deeper understanding of Mill's formulation of democratic theory, in terms of the detail and of the argument supporting the conclusions. Even more certain is the significance of the comparison for a fuller appreciation of the workings of Mill's mind as writer and as theoretician. Had this manuscript been available to me when I edited the text (in its first scholarly and collated version) for the Collected Works of J. S. Mill, Vol. XIX, the text and the commentary would have been significantly different [italics ours]; both will, in the future, have to be revised, if and when the manuscript becomes available to an editor" (communication from Professor Robson). 

From its publication in 1861, Considerations on representive government was a signal success. It went through three Library editions in the next four years and was widely quoted by practical politicians as well as other theorists, not only in England, but in new democracies such as Japan. It is a text still in print today—an eminently readable outline of the principal issues in democratic theory, by a proclaimed democrat and worker in the British Reform Movement from his youth who had carefully considered popular movements in North America, Europe, and the British Empire.

Like other works of Mill's maturity, such as his System of Logic and Principles of Political economy, Considerations on  representative government is characterized by thoughtful attention to central issues. In this work especially Mill directs attention to the potential dangers of political democracy, particularly the problem of combining the abilities of enlightened leadership with the need for wide participation. This was an issue of pressing urgency to the emergence of popular democracy in less modern states such as Russia and Japan. In fact, Representative government played an important role in the struggle to form a democratic government out of feudal Japan.

The text was translated into Japanese three times between 1873 and 1890, along with the texts of On liberty, Utilitarianism, Principles of political economy, and the Subjection of women. Mill's political ideas informed the famous memorial of 1874 calling for the establishment of a popularly elected assembly, and the memorial's author, Furusawa Uru, quoted from Representative government in his criticism of the conservative position. Although the conseravatives eventually triumphed, establishing a constitutional code in 1889 on the model of the German imperial constitution, the influence of Mill on the development of Japanese democratic thought cannot be underestimated. Even in the face of increasing government repression, interest in Mill did not entirely dissipate, and underwent a rebirth after World War II.

D.S.B. Holman, "J.S. Mill's library, Provence, 1906," and "J.S. Mill's library: a further note," Mill news letter (Spring & Fall, 1971) 20-21 & 18. Written communication from Professor John M. Robson, University of Toronto, general editor of the Collected works of J.S. Mill (a copy of his 2-page report will be supplied with the manuscript). Sugihara & Yamashita. "J.S. Mill and Modern Japan," Mill news letter (Summer, 1977) 2-6.

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Origins of the Internal Revenue Service July 1, 1862

Text of first page of HR 312 also known as the Revenue Act of 1862.

Letter dated July 3, 1862 from Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase to President Lincoln recommending George S. Boutwell for the newly created post of Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

During the American Civil War, on July 1, 1862 President Lincoln and the United States Congress and passed the Revenue Act of 1862, creating the office of Commissioner of Internal Revenue and enacting a progressive rate income tax to pay war expenses.

"Annual income above $600 was taxed at a 3% rate, but those earning over $10,000 per year were taxed at a 5% rate. This Act repealed the flat rate income tax that had been established by the Revenue Act of the previous year."

"To assure timely collection, income tax was 'withheld at the source' by the employer, with the Act specifying that Federal income tax was a temporary measure that would terminate in 'the year eighteen hundred and sixty-six' " (Wikipedia article on Revenue Act of 1862, accessed 12-27-2008).

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The Role of Women as Typesetters in the French Printing Industry 1865 – 1867

While in Paris in September 2012 I acquired an album or scrapbook  in 4to format bound in 19th century blindstamped red cloth.  It is labeled on the spine simply Receuil de Journaux. On all 184 pages of the album someone pasted newspaper clippings from printing trade journals and other souvenirs of the printing trade published between 1865 and 1867.  The articles emphasize social issues in the printing trade, especially in typesetting.

Two topics in the collection of clippings and ephemera stand out: pp. 24-65 and 74-76 concern the employment of women as typesetters. This seems to be the one place in the print shop where women were sometimes employed at the time. Considering the large amount of coverage of this unusual subject one wonders if the album might have been assembled by a woman. The second half of the album mainly concerns issues regarding the exhibition of the printing trades in the Paris Exhibition of 1867. 

There is no identification of ownership in the album except an unusual French diamond-shaped bookplate reflecting a serious interest in the history of printing. This contains a monogram which may be read PLM or LMP, or some other combination of the letters.

Images in the album show women doing typesetting, a lithography plant, a bank note printing plant, and some unusual ephemera. Whoever assembled the album went to the great effort of preparing what appears to be a complete manuscript index to people and places mentioned, making this an unusually valuable reference source for two years in the long history of printing in Paris.

Beginning quite early in the history of printing women were from time to time employed as typesetters. The first press known to have employed women was the press of the monastery of San Jacopo di Ripoli which employed nuns from its convent as compositors setting type. The press was in operation in Tuscany from 1476-1484. However, the employment of women in the male-dominated printing trade remained controversial throughout the 19th century. The images in the spectacular book advertising the very large Alfred Mame printing company show no women employed in any aspect of book production.

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Marx's "Das Kapital" is Published September 14, 1867

On September 14, 1867 German philosopher, political economist, historian, political theorist, sociologist, communist, and revolutionary Karl Marx published Das Kapital. Kritik der politischen Oekonomie. . . . Erster Band. Buch I: Der Produktionsporcess des Kapitals. . . . in Hamburg, Germany at the press of Otto Meissner. Characterized by Marx as a continuation of his Zur Kritik der politischen Oekonomie (1859), Das Kapital

"was in fact the summation of his quarter of a century's economic studies, mostly in the Reading Room of the British Museum. The Athenaeum reviewer of the first English translation (1887) later wrote: 'Under the guise of a critcal analysis of capital, Karl Marx's work is principally a polemic against capitalists and the capitalist mode of production, and it is this polemical tone which is its chief charm.' The Historical-polemical passages, with their formidable documentation from British official sources, have remained memorable; and, as Marx (a chronic furunculosis victim) wrote to Engels while the volume was still in the press, 'I hope the bourgeoisie will remember my carbuncles all the rest of their lives . . . ."

"By an odd quirk of history the first foreign translation of Das Kapital to appear was the Russian, which Petersburgers found in their bookshops early in April 1872. Giving his imprimatur, the censor, one Skuratov, had written 'few people in Russia will read it, and still fewer will understand it.' He was wrong: the edition sold out quickly; and in 1880 Marx was writing to his friend F. A. Sorge that 'our success is still greater in Russia, where Kapital is read and appreciated more than anywhere else."

"Only this first volume of Marx's magnum opus appeared in his lifetime, though in a letter to friend Dr. Kugelmann in the autumn of 1866, when he was working over the manuscript, he described a four-book three-volume work on lines identical with those edited after his death by Friedrich Engels. Thus vol. 1 is the 'Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production' including the central concept of surplus-value: vol. II (1885) discusses the process of circulation of capital; vol. III (1894) the process of capitalist production as a whole. Marx's fourth section, on the history of economic theory, exists only in the form of a book, edited from his voluminous notes by Karl Kautsky, entitled Theorien über den Mehrwert ('Theories of Surplus Value) 3 vols., 1903-10)" (Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man [1967] no. 359.)

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British Telegraph is Nationalized 1870

In 1870 British telegraph systems were nationalized.

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Requiring Universal Education of Children Between the Ages of 5 and 12 in England and Wales 1870

On February 17, 1870, after campaigning by the National Education League, the Elementary Education Act 1870, drafted by liberal MP William Forster, and commonly known as Forster's Education Act, was introduced in Parliament. The Act established the framework for compulsory schooling of all children in England and Wales between ages 5 and 12 in England and Wales.

"A driving force behind the Act was a perceived need for Britain to remain competitive in the world by being at the forefront of manufacture and improvement.

"The Act was not taken up in all areas and would be more firmly enforced through later reforms. There were objections to the concept of universal education. One was because many people remained hostile to the idea of mass education. They claimed it would make labouring classes 'think' and that these classes would think of their lives as dissatisfying and possibly encourage them to revolt. Others feared that handing children to a central authority could lead to indoctrination. Another reason was the vested interests of the Church and other social groups. The churches were funded by the state with public money to provide education for the poor and these churches did not want to lose that influence on youth.

"The Act established the foundations of English elementary education. The state (Gladstonian Liberalism) became increasingly involved and after 1880 attendance was made compulsory for children until they were 12 years old.

"The Act was passed partly in response to political factors (such as the need to educate the citizens recently enfranchised by the Reform Act 1867 to vote wisely). It also came about due to demands for reform from industrialists, who feared Britain's status in world trade was being threatened by the lack of an effective education system. The spectacular military successes of the Prussian army prompted Gladstone to consider the military benefits of an Education Act; as he remarked: 'Undoubtedly, the conduct of the campaign, on the German side, has given a marked triumph to the cause of systematic popular education' " (Wikipedia article on Elementary Education Act 1870, accessed 06-07-2012).

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"Circular Notes", a Precursor of Traveler's Cheques, are Introduced 1874

Circular note, launched in 1874 by Thomas Cook. 

No higher resolution image available at this time.

Thomas Cook.

English travel agent Thomas Cook introduced "circular notes." This financial product became much better known through the American Express brand of traveler's cheques which were introduced in 1891.

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Josiah Willard Gibbs Issues The Principia of Thermodynamics 1874 – 1878

In 1874 and 1878 American theoretical physicist, physical chemist, and mathematician Josiah Willard Gibbs published "On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances," Transactions of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences III, 108-248; 343-524. Gibbs’s paper, known as the Principia of chemical thermodynamics and physical chemistry, remains, along with Benjamin Franklin’s pioneering studies of electricity, among the greatest American contributions to physics and chemistry. The long two-part paper integrated chemical, physical, electrical, and electromagnetic phenomena into a coherent system. It introduced concepts such as chemical potential, phase rule, and others which form the basis for modern physical chemistry.

“In this monumental, densely woven, 300-page treatise, the first law of thermodynamics, the second law of thermodynamics, the fundamental thermodynamic relation, are applied to the predication and quantification of thermodynamic reaction tendencies in any thermodynamic system in a visual, three-dimensional graphical language of Lagrangian calculus and phase changes, among others” (Wikipedia article On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances, accessed 06-23-2011).

Though Gibbs’s work was published in one of the most obscure of American scientific periodicals, Gibbs attempted to gain wider circulation for his ideas by mailing a larger than usual number of offprints of the papers to scientists he believed would be interested. One of the few scientists who read the first offprint he received and commented about it in print was James Clerk Maxwell, “On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances,” Proceedings of the Cambridge Philosophical Society II (1876), 427-30. However, it is unclear that the papers had wide influence in the scientific community until they were translated into German by Wilhelm Ostwald (1892) and into French by Henry Louis Le Chatelier (1899). Through these translations and later editions Gibbs’s work influenced numerous scientists, including Nobel laureates in chemistry, physics, and economics, as expounded by the Wikipedia:

◊ Johan van der Waals of the Netherlands won the 1910 Nobel prize in physics. In his Nobel Lecture, he acknowledged the influence on his work of Gibbs's equations of state.

◊ "Max Planck of Germany won the 1918 Nobel prize in physics for his work in quantum mechanics, particularly his 1900 quantum theory paper. This work is largely based on the thermodynamics of Rudolf Clausius, Gibbs, and Ludwig Boltzmann. Nevertheless, Planck said about Gibbs: "…whose name not only in America but in the whole world will ever be reckoned among the most renowned theoretical physicists of all times."

◊ "At the turn of the 20th century, Gilbert N. Lewis and Merle Randall used and extended Gibbs's work on chemical thermodynamics, published their results in the 1923 textbook Thermodynamics and the Free Energy of Chemical Substances, one of the two founding books in chemical thermodynamics. In the 1910s, William Giauque entered the College of Chemistry at Berkeley, where he received a bachelor of science degree in chemistry, with honors, in 1920. At first he wanted to become a chemical engineer, but soon developed an interest in chemical research under Lewis's influence. In 1934, Giauque became a full Professor of Chemistry at Berkeley. In 1949, he won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his studies in the properties of matter at temperatures close to absolute zero, studies guided by the third law of thermodynamics.

◊ "Gibbs strongly influenced the education of the economist Irving Fisher, who was awarded the first Yale Ph.D. in economics in 1891. One of Gibbs's protegés was Edwin Bidwell Wilson, who in turn passed his Gibbsian knowledge to the American economist Paul Samuelson. In 1947, Samuelson published Foundations of Economic Analysis, based on his Harvard University doctoral dissertation. Samuelson explicitly acknowledged the influence of the classical thermodynamic methods of Gibbs. Samuelson was the sole recipient of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1970, the second year of the Prize. In 2003, Samuelson described Gibbs as "Yale's great physicist" (Wikipedia article on Josiah Willard Gibbs, accessed 06-23-2011).

Remarkably Gibbs’s mailing lists for distribution of his offprints are among his papers preserved at Yale. These lists were published by Wheeler, Josiah Willard Gibbs. The History of a Great Mind (1952) 235-48. According to these records Gibbs mailed nearly 100 copies of each of the two parts of his paper, mostly to individuals, and 10 each to institutions. Of these few appear to have survived. Dibner, Heralds of Science  no. 49 (journal issue). Horblit, One Hundred Books Famous in Science  no. 60 (journal issue). Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 899 (offprint issue).

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Francis Amasa Walker Issues The First National Thematic Atlas 1874

In 1874 American economist, statistician, journalist, educator, academic administrator, and military officer Francis Amasa Walker published in Washington, D.C. at the Government Printing Office Statistical Atlas of the United States Based on the Results of the Ninth Census 1870 with Contributions from Many Eminent Men of Science and Several Departments of the Government. This oversized compendium of maps, graphs, statistical tables, and essays by scientists, economists, and federal officials was the first comprehensive thematic atlas produced by any nation.  It was hailed both at home and abroad for its innovative use of graphic elements to distill and display complex data. When he conceived and supervised production and publication of this work Walker was Chief of the U. S. Bureau of Statistics and superintendent of the 1870 census. The 60 large maps, most of which were printed in color, were chromolithographed in New York by Julius Bien, who produced the plates for the first American full-size reissue of portions of Audubon's Birds of America (1858-60).

Kinnahan, "Charting Progress: Francis Amasa Walker's Statistical Atlas of the United States and Narratives of Western Expansion," American Quarterly 60 (2008) 399-423.

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1875 – 1900

"Street Life in London": Pioneering Social Documentary Photography as a Form of Photojournalism 1876 – 1877

From 1876 to 1877 Scottish photographer, geographer and traveler John Thomson, in collaboration with the radical journalist Adolphe Smith, published a monthly magazine, Street Life in London illustrated with Woodburytype photomechanical reproductions of photographs. The twelve parts were collected and issued in book form by Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington in 1877. The project documented in photographs and text the lives of street people of London. Smith's short essays were based on interviews with a range of men and women who eked out a precarious and marginal existence working on the streets, including flower-sellers, chimney-sweeps, shoe-blacks, chair-caners, musicians, dustmen, locksmiths, beggars and petty criminals. However, Thomson's photographs conveyed even more information. Out of a genuine concern for their welfare and living conditions, Thomson introduced social documentary photography as a form of photojournalism. Instead of the images acting as a supplement to the text, his photomechanically reproduced photographs became the the predominant medium for the imparting of information, successfully combining photography with the printed word.

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First Use of the Term "Credit Card" 1887

In his utopian novel Looking Backward (1887), describing life in the year 2000, Edward Bellamy used the term credit card eleven times—the first description of the use of a card for purchases.

"The book tells the story of Julian West, a young American who, towards the end of the 19th century, falls into a deep, hypnosis-induced sleep and wakes up one hundred and thirteen years later. He finds himself in the same location (Boston, Massachusetts), but in a totally changed world: It is the year 2000 and, while he was sleeping, the United States has been transformed into a socialist utopia. The remainder of the book outlines Bellamy's thoughts about improving the future. The major themes are the dangers of the stock market, the use of credit cards, the benefits of a socialist legal system, music, and the use of an "industrial army" to make tasks run smoother.

"The young man readily finds a guide, Doctor Leete, who shows him around and explains all the advances of this new age; including drastically reduced working hours for people performing menial jobs and almost instantaneous, Internet-like delivery of goods. Everyone retires with full benefits at age 45, and may eat in any of the public kitchens. The productive capacity of America is nationally owned, and the goods of society are equally distributed to its citizens. A considerable portion of the book is dialogue between Leete and West wherein West expresses his confusion about how the future society works and Leete explains the answers using various methods, such as metaphors or direct comparisons with 19th-century society.

"Although Bellamy's novel did not discuss technology or the economy in detail, commentators frequently compare Looking Backward with actual economic and technological developments. For example, Julian West is taken to a store which (with its descriptions of cutting out the middleman to cut down on waste in a similar way to the consumers' cooperatives of his own day based on the Rochdale Principles of 1844) somewhat resembles a modern warehouse club like BJ's, Costco, or Sam's Club. He additionally introduces a concept of credit cards in chapters 9, 10, 11, 13, 25, and 26, but these bear no resemblance to the instruments of debt-finance. All citizens receive an equal amount of "credit." Those with more difficult, specialized, dangerous or unpleasant jobs work fewer hours. Bellamy also predicts both sermons and music being available in the home through cable "telephone". Bellamy labeled the philosophy behind the vision "nationalism", and his work inspired the formation of more than 160 Nationalist Clubs to propagate his ideas"(Wikipedia article on Looking Backward, accessed 02-07-2012)

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77 Windmill Factories Employ 1,100 Workers in the U.S. 1889

in 1889 about 77 windmill factories scattered across the United States employed about 1,100 workers. They sold water-pumping windmills to railroads, who needed water for their steam locomotives, and to farmers, to pump water for their animals.

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"How the Other Half Lives": Pioneering Photojournalistic Muckraking 1890

Camera lenses of the 1880s were slow, as was the emulsion of photographic plates, the technology used before film negatives. Thus photographers could not take pictures in the dark or in most interior scenes. However, in early 1887 Danish American social reformer, journalist and photographer Jacob Riis of New York learned that flash power, a mixture of magnesium with potassium chlorate and antimony sulfide for added stability, could be used in a pistol-like device that fired cartridges, for flash photography. Using this technology Riis illustrated his book How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York, published in 1890.  

"The title of the book is a reference to a sentence by French writer François Rabelais, who famously wrote in Pantagruel: "one half of the world does not know how the other half lives" ("la moitié du monde ne sait pas comment l'autre vit").

"In How the Other Half Lives Riis describes the system of tenement housing that had failed, as he claims, due to greed and neglect from wealthier people. He claims a correlation between the high crime rate, drunkenness and reckless behaviour of the poor and their lack of a proper home. Chapter by chapter he uses his words and photographs to expose the conditions inhabited by the poor in a manner that “spoke directly to people's hearts”.

"He ends How the Other Half Lives with a plan of how to fix the problem. He asserts that the plan is achievable and that the upper classes will not only profit financially from such ventures, but have a moral obligation to tend to them as well.

"How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York explained not only the living conditions in New York slums, but also the sweatshops in some tenements which paid workers only a few cents a day. The book explains the plight of working children; they would work in factories and at other jobs. Some children became garment workers and newsies (newsboys).

"The effect was the tearing down of New York's worst tenements, sweatshops, and the reformation of the city's schools. The book led to a decade of improvements in Lower East Side conditions, with sewers, garbage collection, and indoor plumbing all following soon after, thanks to public reaction" (Wikipedia article on How the Other Half Lives, accessed 01-12-2013).

My attention to Riis's book was drawn by an article published in The New York Times on January 11, 2014 by journalist Ted Gup, entitled "The 1890 Book I Had to Have." It described Gup's experience in 2009-2010 buying the author's annotated copy of Riis's How the Other Half Lives, his appreciation of the unique copy, and the book's relevance to socio-economic problems today.

In January 2014 an audio version of Riis's complete book was available from LibriVox.org at this link.

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The First Production Automobiles 1893 – 1894

Karl Benz of Mannheim, Germany created the Victoria, a two-passenger, 4-wheeled automobile with a 3-hp engine, which could reach the top speed of 11 mph and had a pivotal front axle operated by a roller-chained tiller for steering. The model was successful with 85 units sold in 1893.

"In 1894 Benz improved this design in his new Velo model. This was produced on such a remarkably large scale for the era—1,200 total from 1894 to 1901— that it may be considered the first production automobile. The Benz Velo also participated in the first automobile race, the 1894 Paris to Rouen Rally" (Wikipedia article on Karl Benz, accessed 06-01-2009).

By the end of the nineteenth century Benz was the largest automobile company in the world with 572 units produced in 1899.

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Foundation of the Dow Jones Industrial Average May 26, 1896

On May 26, 1896 Wall Street Journal editor and Dow Jones & Company founder Charles Henry Dow founded the Dow Jones Industrial Average. This represented the dollar average of twelve stocks from leading American industries.

"Previously in 1884, Dow had composed an initial stock average called the Dow Jones Averages, which contained nine railroads and two industrial companies that appeared in the Customer's Afternoon Letter, a daily two-page financial news bulletin which was the precursor to The Wall Street Journal. The original group of 12 stocks ultimately chosen to form the Dow Jones Industrial Average did not contain any railroad stocks, but purely industrial stocks. Of these, only General Electric currently remains part of that index.

"The other 11 were:

"American Cotton Oil Company, a predecessor company to Bestfoods, now part of Unilever.

"American Sugar Company, became Domino Sugar in 1900, now Domino Foods, Inc.

"American Tobacco Company, broken up in a 1911 antitrust action.

"Chicago Gas Company, bought by Peoples Gas Light in 1897, now an operating subsidiary of Integrys Energy Group.

"Distilling & Cattle Feeding Company, now Millennium Chemicals, formerly a division of LyondellBasell, the latter of which recently emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

"Laclede Gas Company, still in operation as the Laclede Group, Inc., removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1899.

"National Lead Company, now NL Industries, removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1916.

"North American Company, an electric utility holding company, broken up by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in 1946.

"Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company in Birmingham, Alabama, bought by U.S. Steel in 1907; U.S. Steel was removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1991.

"U.S. Leather Company, dissolved in 1952.

"United States Rubber Company, changed its name to Uniroyal in 1961, merged with private B.F. Goodrich in 1986, bought by Michelin in 1990.

"When it was first published in the late 1890s, the index stood at a level of 40.94, but ended up hitting its all-time low of 28.48 during the summer of 1896 during the depths of what later became known as the Panic of 1896" (Wikipedia article on Dow Jones Industrial Average, accessed 01-11-2013).

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The First Automobile Assembly Line August 21, 1897 – 1901

On August 21, 1897 Ransom E. Olds founded the Olds Motor Vehicle Company in Lansing, Michigan.  In 1899 copper and lumber magnate Samuel L. Smith bought Olds' company and renamed it Olds Motor Works. The new company was relocated from Lansing to Detroit, and Smith became President while Olds became vice president and general manager. 

In 1901 Olds designed and introduced the Curved Dash Oldsmobile.  Selling for $650, this was the first high-volume, mass-produced, low-priced American motor vehicle, produced on the first assembly line, a development of immense consequence which Olds patented. Although the factory was destroyed by fire that year, the company still sold over 600 models of the Curved Dash. The assembly line approach to building automobiles enabled Olds to more than quintuple his factory’s output, from 425 cars in 1901 to 2,500 in 1902, to up to 5000 units in 1904.

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1900 – 1910

Henry Ford Sponsors Improvements in the Automotive Assembly Line 1908 – December 1, 1913

In 1908 American industrialist Henry Ford began development of the assembly line for the Ford Model T. The line became operational in Detroit on December 1, 1913, and fully operational in 1915. Contrary to popular mythology, Ford did not invent the automotive assembly line. That was accomplished by Ransom E. Olds in 1901. (Examples of assembly line production have survived from as early as 215-210 BCE.)

"Despite oversimplistic attempts to attribute it to one man or another, it [Ford's Model T assembly line] was in fact a composite development based on logic that took 7 years and plenty of intelligent men. The principal leaders are discussed below. The basic kernel of an assembly line concept was introduced to Ford Motor Company by William "Pa" Klann upon his return from visiting a Chicago slaughterhouse and viewing what was referred to as the 'disassembly line', where animals were butchered as they moved along a conveyor. The efficiency of one person removing the same piece over and over caught his attention. He reported the idea to Peter E. Martin, soon to be head of Ford production, who was doubtful at the time but encouraged him to proceed. Others at Ford have claimed to have put the idea forth to Henry Ford, but Pa Klann's slaughterhouse revelation is well documented in the archives at the Henry Ford Museum and elsewhere, making him an important contributor to the modern automated assembly line concept. The process was an evolution by trial and error of a team consisting primarily of Peter E. Martin, the factory superintendent; Charles E. Sorensen, Martin's assistant; C. Harold Wills, draftsman and toolmaker; Clarence W. Avery; Charles Ebender; and József Galamb. Some of the groundwork for such development had recently been laid by the intelligent layout of machine tool placement that Walter Flanders had been doing at Ford up to 1908.

"In 1922 Ford (via his ghostwriter Crowther) said of his 1913 assembly line:

'I believe that this was the first moving line ever installed. The idea came in a general way from the overhead trolley that the Chicago packers use in dressing beef.'

Charles E. Sorensen, in his 1956 memoir My Forty Years with Ford, presented a different version of development that was not so much about individual 'inventors' as a gradual, logical development of industrial engineering:

" 'What was worked out at Ford was the practice of moving the work from one worker to another until it became a complete unit, then arranging the flow of these units at the right time and the right place to a moving final assembly line from which came a finished product. Regardless of earlier uses of some of these principles, the direct line of succession of mass production and its intensification into automation stems directly from what we worked out at Ford Motor Company between 1908 and 1913. Henry Ford is generally regarded as the father of mass production. He was not. He was the sponsor of it.'

As a result of these developments in method, Ford's cars came off the line in three minute intervals. This was much faster than previous methods, increasing production by eight to one (requiring 12.5 man-hours before, 1 hour 33 minutes after), while using less manpower. It was so successful, paint became a bottleneck. Only japan black would dry fast enough, forcing the company to drop the variety of colors available before 1914, until fast-drying Duco lacquer was developed in 1926. In 1914, an assembly line worker could buy a Model T with four months' pay.

"The assembly line technique was an integral part of the diffusion of the automobile into American society. Decreased costs of production allowed the cost of the Model T to drop within the budget of the American middle class. In 1908, the price of a Model T was around $825, and by 1912 it had dropped to around $575. This price reduction is comparable to a drop from $15,000 to $10,000 in dollar terms from the year 2000" (Wikipedia article on Assembly Line, accessed 02-16-2012).

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1920 – 1930

The First Suburban Shopping Center Designed for Shoppers Arriving by Automobile 1923

In 1923 American real estate developer J. C. Nichols built the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri. Designed architectually after Seville, Spain, it was the first suburban shopping center in the world designed to accommodate shoppers arriving by automobile. In 2013 the Country Club District, which Nichols developed around the shopping center, was the largest contiguous master-planned community in the United States.

Nichols "called his method 'planning for permanence,' for his objective was to 'develop whole residential neighborhoods that would attract an element of people who desired a better way of life, a nicer place to live and would be willing to work in order to keep it better.' Nichols invented the percentage lease, where rents are based tenants' gross receipts. The percentage lease is now a standard practice in commercial leasing across the United States" (Wikipedia article on J C Nichols, accessed 04-05-2009).

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Von Neumann Invents the Theory of Games 1928

In 1928 Hungarian-American mathematician, physicist, economist and polymath John von Neumann then working at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, published "Zur Theorie der Gesellschaftsspiele" in Mathematische Annalen, 100, 295–300. This paper "On the Theory of Parlor Games" propounded the minimax theorem, inventing the theory of games.

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1930 – 1940

Hundreds of Thousands of Wind Turbines Power Farms in the U.S. Circa 1930 – 1945

"In the 1930s and 1940s, hundreds of thousands of electricity-producing wind turbines were built in the U.S. Just like wind turbines today, they had two or three thin blades, which rotated at high speeds to drive electrical generators. These wind turbines provided electricity to farms beyond the reach of power lines and were typically used to charge storage batteries, operate radios and power a few lights" (Michigan renewable energy, accessed 04-20-2009).

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Statistical Quality Control in Manufacturing is Conceptualized and Introduced by Shewhart and Deming April 1930 – 1950

"Economic Quality Control of Manufactured Product, published by American physicist, engineer and statistician Walter Andrew Shewhart of Bell Labs in "Bell System Technical Journal IX, No. 2 (April, 1930) 364-89, and its expansion in book form entitled Economic Control of Quality of Manufactured Product issued by Shewhart in 1931, represent the first publications on statistical quality control in manufacturing. 

"Shewhart framed the problem in terms of assignable-cause and chance-cause variation and introduced the control chart as a tool for distinguishing between the two. Shewhart stressed that bringing a production process into a state of statistical control, where there is only chance-cause variation, and keeping it in control, is necessary to predict future output and to manage a process economically. Dr. Shewhart created the basis for the control chart and the concept of a state of statistical control by carefully designed experiments. While Dr. Shewhart drew from pure mathematical statistical theories, he understood data from physical processes never produce a 'normal distribution curve' (a Gaussian distribution, also commonly referred to as a 'bell curve'). He discovered that observed variation in manufacturing data did not always behave the same way as data in nature (Brownian motion of particles). Dr. Shewhart concluded that while every process displays variation, some processes display controlled variation that is natural to the process, while others display uncontrolled variation that is not present in the process causal system at all times" (Wikipedia article on Walter A. Shewhart, accessed 01-08-2013). 

In 1939 Shewhart issued Statistical Method from the Viewpoint of Quality Control . . . With the editorial assistance of W. Edwards Deming. Strangely the book was published in Washington, D.C. by The Graduate School of the Department of Agriculture.  Shewhart and Deming's book was the first work to extend the principles of statistical quality control in industry to the wider realms of science and statistical inference. Shewhart “extended the applications of statistical process control to the measurement processes of science, and stressed the importance of operational definitions of basic quantities in science, industry and commerce . . . [Statistical Method] has profoundly influenced statistical methods of research in the behavioral, biological, and physical sciences, and in engineering” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography).

Shewhart’s long and fruitful collaboration with the physicist, statistician and consultant W. Edwards Deming began in 1938. It involved work on productivity during World War II and Deming’s championship of Shewhart’s ideas in Japan from 1950 onwards, which was “the catalyst that gave birth to Japan’s industrial efficiency and emphasis on highest attainable quality of manufactured products” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography). Only after Japan successfully adopted Deming's ideas, and set higher standards for manufacturing, did competition motivate American manufacturers to aggressively implement statistical quality control in the United States.

In July 2014 a 21-minute radio interview with Deming was available from the Internet Archive at this link. Thanks to John F. Ptak for this reference.

(This entry was last revised on 07-03-2014).

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Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times" 1936

In Los Angeles in 1936 Charlie Chaplin wrote, directed and starred in the film, Modern Times. In his final silent-film appearance Chaplin portrayed his Little Tramp character struggling to survive in the industrialized world in which assembly lines dehumanize work and robots replace people. The film is also a comment on the desperate employment and fiscal conditions many people faced during the Great Depression—conditions created, in Chaplin's view, by the efficiencies of modern industrialization. The movie also starred Paulette Goddard, Henry Bergman, Stanley Sandford and Chester Conklin.

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1940 – 1950

Von Neumann & Morgenstern Issue "The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior" 1944

In 1944 mathematician, physicist, and economist John von Neumann, and economist Oskar Morgenstern published The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior in Princeton at the University Press.

Quantitative mathematical models for games such as poker or bridge at one time appeared impossible, since games like these involve free choices by the players at each move, and each move reacts to the moves of other players. However, in the 1920s John von Neumann single-handedly invented game theory, introducing the general mathematical concept of "strategy" in a paper on games of chance (Mathematische Annalen 100 [1928] 295-320). This contained the proof of his "minimax" theorem that says "a strategy exists that guarantees, for each player, a maximum payoff assuming that the adversary acts so as to minimize that payoff." The "minimax" principle, a key component of the game-playing computer programs developed in the 1950s and 1960s by Arthur Samuel, Allen Newell, Herbert Simon, and others was more fully articulated and explored in The Theory of Games and Economic Behavior, co-authored by von Neumann and Morgenstern.

Game theory, which draws upon mathematical logic, set theory and functional analysis, attempts to describe in mathematical terms the decision-making strategies used in games and other competitive situations. The Von Neumann-Morgenstern theory assumes (1) that people's preferences will remain fixed throughout; (2) that they will have wide knowledge of all available options; (3) that they will be able to calculate their own best interests intelligently; and (4) that they will always act to maximize these interests. Attempts to apply the theory in real-world situations have been problematical, and the theory has been criticized by many, including AI pioneer Herbert Simon, as failing to model the actual decision-making process, which typically takes place in circumstances of relative ignorance where only a limited number of options can be explored.

Von Neumann revolutionized mathematical economics. Had he not suffered an early death from cancer in 1957, most probably he would have received the first Nobel Prize in economics. (The first Nobel prize in economics was awarded in 1969; it cannot be awarded posthumously.) Several mathematical economists influenced by von Neumann's ideas later received the Nobel Prize in economics. 

Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace (2002) no. 953.

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1950 – 1960

"Diners Club", the First Credit Card February 1950

Early Diners' Club card.

Early advertisement for Diners' Club card.

In February 1950 the Diners Club issued the first "general purpose" credit card, invented by Diners Club founder Frank X. McNamara. The card allowed members to charge the cost of restaurant bills only.

"The first credit card charge was made on February 8, 1950, by Frank McNamara, Ralph Schneider and Matty Simmons at Major's Cabin Grill, a restaurant adjacent to their offices in the Empire State Building" (Wikipedia article on Diners Club International, accessed 02-28-2012).

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1960 – 1970

President Eisenhower Warns About the Increasing Influence of the Military-Industrial Complex January 17, 1961

On January 17, 1961 President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivered his Farewell Address. In this speech Eisenhower, former General of the Army, former Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe, and the first Supreme Commander of NATO, warned the nation about the increasing influence of the "military-industrial complex," the threats this influence could pose to our democratic system of government, and the need for political leaders to balance our military requirements with the maintenance of our democracy.

From the speech I quote:

"A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.

"Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or indeed by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.

"Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

"Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.

"In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.

"Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.

"The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present--and is gravely to be regarded.

"Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientifictechnological elite.

"It is the task of statesmanship to mold, to balance, and to integrate these and other forces, new and old, within the principles of our democratic system -- ever aiming toward the supreme goals of our free society" (http://www.eisenhower.archives.gov/research/online_documents/farewell_address/1961_01_17_Press_Release.pdf, accessed 11-02-2013).

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Fritz Machlup Introduces the Concept of "The Information Economy" 1962

In 1962 Austrian-American economist Fritz Machlup of Princeton published The Production and Distribution of Knowledge in the United States.

In this book Machlup introduced the concept of the knowledge industry.

"He distinguished five sectors of the knowledge sector: education, research and development, mass media, information technologies, information services. Based on this categorization he calculated that in 1959 29% per cent of the GNP in the USA had been produced in knowledge industries" (Wikipedia article on Information Society, accessed 04-25-2011).

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1970 – 1980

Mandelbrot's "The Fractal Geometry of Nature" 1975 – 1982

In 1975 French American mathematician, physicist, economist, and information theorist Benoit Mandelbrot, a researcher at the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, New York, first developed fractal geometry in his book, Les objets fractals, forme, hasard et dimension, building on the concept that seemingly irregular shapes can have identical structure at all scales. Mandelbrot expanded and translated his ideas in his book Fractals: Form, Chance and Dimension (1977). He further expanded them in The Fractal Geometry of Nature (1982). In 1999 American Scientist magazine stated that these three books, taken together, comprise “one of the ten most influential scientific essays of the 20th century.” The impact of these books on the scientific community, and on the educated public, was significantly enhanced by mathematically accurate computer-drawn illustrations created by programmers working with Mandelbrot, primarily at IBM Research. Images for the 1977 and 1982 books were mainly by Richard F. Voss. The early graphics were low-resolution black and white; later drawings were higher resolution and in color as computer graphic technology evolved between 1975 and 1982.

Mandelbrot's new geometry made it possible to describe mathematically the kinds of irregularities existing in nature, and had applications in an enormously wide range of scientific and technological fields.

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1980 – 1990

The Declining Role of Print in Total Information Flow 1983

In 1983 American political scientist Ithiel de Sola Pool of MIT published "Tracking the Flow of Information," Science 221 (1983) 609-19. This study, which estimated the growth trends of the “amount of words” transmitted by 17 major communications media in the United States from 1960 to 1977, was the first to show empirically the declining volume of print media relative to electronic media in terms of information flow.

"By using words transmitted and words attended to as common denominators, novel indexes were constructed of growth trends in seventeen major communications media from 1960 to 1977. There have been extraordinary rates of growth in the transmission of electronic communications, but much lower rates of growth in the material that peole actually consume, representing the phenomenon often labeled information overload. Growth in print media has sharply decelerated, a a close relationship is found between the cheapness of a medium and its rate of growth."

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Australia Issues the First Polymer Banknote ($10) January 1988

The world's first polymer banknote was the $10 commemorative note issued in January 1988 to commemorate the Australian Bicentenary. It was developed by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA), Commonwealth Scientific and Industreal Research Organisation (CSIRO), and The University of Melbourne.

Made from the polymer, biaxially-oriented polypropylene (BOPP), these notes incorporate security features difficult to include in paper bank notes. They are also more durable, harder to tear, more resistant to folding, more resistant to soil, waterproof and washing machine proof, easier to process by machine, and are shreddable and recyclable at the end of their useful lives, which are 4-5 times longer than paper banknotes.

"The traditional printed security features applied on paper can also be applied on polymer. These features include intaglio, offset and letterpress printing, latent images, micro-printing, and intricate background patterns. Polymer notes can be different colours on the obverse and reverse sides. Like paper currency, polymer banknotes can incorporate a watermark (an optically variable 'shadow image') in the polymer substrate. Shadow images can be created by the application of Optically Variable Ink (OVI) enhancing its fidelity and colour shift characteristics. Security threads can also be embedded in the polymer note; they may be magnetic, fluorescent, phosphorescent, microprinted, clear text, as well as windowed. Like paper, the polymer can also be embossed.

"Polymer notes also enabled new security features unavailable at the time [1988] on paper, such as transparent windows, and diffraction grating. Since 2006 however the development of the paper transparent window technologies by De La Rue (Optiks) and G&D (Verify) have reduced that advantage" (Wikipedia article on polymer banknote, accessed 11-21-2011).

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1990 – 2000

"Selling Wine without Bottles" March 1994

John Perry Barlow, lyricist for The Grateful Dead, published in March 1994 issue of Wired magazine an article entitled The Economy of Ideas. A framework for patents and copyrights in the Digital Ages. (Everything you know about intellectual property is wrong.)

This, or a very similar text, was also issued under the title of: Selling Wine Without Bottles: The Economy of Mind on the Global Net.

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics Begins Publishing on its Website January 1995

In 1995 the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, which began publication of statistics in print in 1886, began publishing statistics on its website.

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The Beginning of the "Dot-Com Bubble" August 9, 1995

On August 9, 1995 Netscape Communications, Mountain View, California, had a very successful IPO. The stock, initially intended to be offered at $14 per share, was offered at double that for the IPO, and reached $75 on the first day of trading.

This was later considered the beginning of the "dot-com bubble."

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"Where's George?" Begins December 23, 1998

On December 23, 1998 Hank Estrin's Where's George?, a website that tracked the natural geographic circulation of American paper money, became operational.

"A hit is when a bill registered with Where's George? is re-entered into the database. Where's George? does not have specific goals other than tracking currency movements, but many users like to collect interesting patterns of hits, called bingos. The most common bingo involves getting at least one hit in all 50 states (called "50 State Bingo"). Another Bingo, FRB Bingo, is when a user gets hits on bills from all 12 Federal Reserve Banks.

"Most bills do not receive any responses, or hits, but many bills receive two or more hits. The average hit rate is slightly over 11.1%. Double- and triple-hitters are common, and bills with 4 or 5 hits are not unheard of. Almost daily a bill receives its 6th hit. The site record is held by a $1 bill with 15 entries.

"To increase the chance of having a bill reported, users (called "Georgers") may write or stamp text on the bills encouraging bill finders to visit www.wheresgeorge.com and track the bill's travels. Bills that are entered into the database, but not marked, are known as stealths" (Wikipedia article on Where's George, accessed 05-04-2009).

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2000 – 2005

Climax of the Dot-Com Bubble March 10, 2000

The Netscape logo

The dot-com bubble, thought to have begun with the IPO of Netscape on August 9, 1995, reached its climax on March 10, 2000 with the NASDAQ peaking at 5132.52.

After this date the dot-com bubble began to burst.

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"Weapons of Financial Mass Destruction"? December 14 – December 21, 2000

Credit Default Swaps, invented in 1997 by a team working for JPMorgan Chase, became legal, and illegal to regulate, with the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000.

The Senate and House versions of this bill were introduced and rushed through congress on the last day before the Christmas holiday. The 11,000-page bill was never debated in the House or the Senate. Less than a week after it was passed by congress, President Clinton signed it into Public Law (106-554) on December 21, 2000. (adapted from the Wikipedia article on Credit Default Swap).

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How Employment in Bookselling and Newspaper and Magazine Publishing in the U.S. Declined Since the "Great Recession" 2004 – 2014

By the end of 2014, five years after the end of the Great Recession, the United States economy regained the nine million jobs it lost. But not all industries recovered equally. On December 26, 2014 The New York Times feature, "How the Recession Shaped the Economy in 255 Charts," published this caption for its chart on the "Digital Revolution":

"Bookstoresprinters and publishers of newspapers and magazines  have lost a combined 400,000 jobs since the recession began. Internet publishers — including web-search firms — offset only a fraction of the losses, adding 76,000 jobs. Electronic shopping and auctions made up the fastest-growing industry, tripling in employment in 10 years."

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"The Long Tail" October 2004

Chris Anderson

A cover of Wired Magazine

A graph depicting "The Long Tail"

Chris Anderson published "The Long Tail" in the October 2004 issue of Wired magazine. In this article he described "the niche strategy of businesses, such as Amazon.com or Netflix, that sell a large number of unique items, each in relatively small quantities. Anderson elaborated the Long Tail concept in his book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More.

"A frequency distribution with a long tail—the concept at the root of Anderson's coinage—has been studied by statisticians since at least 1946. The distribution and inventory costs of these businesses allow them to realize significant profit out of selling small volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers, instead of only selling large volumes of a reduced number of popular items. The group that purchases a large number of "non-hit" items is the demographic called the Long Tail.

"Given a large enough availability of choice, a large population of customers, and negligible stocking and distribution costs, the selection and buying pattern of the population results in a power law distribution curve, or Pareto distribution. This suggests that a market with a high freedom of choice will create a certain degree of inequality by favoring the upper 20% of the items ("hits" or "head") against the other 80% ("non-hits" or "long tail"). This is known as the Pareto principle or 80–20 rule.

"The Long Tail concept has found a broad ground for application, research and experimentation. It is a common term in online business and the mass media, but also of importance in micro-finance (Grameen Bank, for example), user-driven innovation (Eric von Hippel), social network mechanisms (e.g., crowdsourcing, crowdcasting, Peer-to-peer), economic models, and marketing (viral marketing)" (Wikipedia article on The Long Tail, accessed 04-19-2009).

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2005 – 2010

Reborn Digital: The First Fully Digital University Press: A 3 Year Experiment in the United States July 13, 2006 – September 30, 2010

The Rice University Press logo

The Connexions logo

Rice University Press, which shut down in 1996, announced that it was re-opening as an entirely digital operation:

"As money-strapped university presses shut down nationwide, Rice University is turning to technology to bring its press back to life as the first fully digital university press in the United States.  

"Using the open-source e-publishing platform Connexions, Rice University Press is returning from a decade-long hiatus to explore models of peer-reviewed scholarship for the 21st century. The technology offers authors a way to use multimedia -- audio files, live hyperlinks or moving images -- to craft dynamic scholarly arguments, and to publish on-demand original works in fields of study that are increasingly constrained by print publishing.  

" 'Rice University Press is using Rice's strength in technology to innovatively overcome increasingly common obstacles to publication of scholarly works,' Rice University President David Leebron said. 'The nation's first fully digital academic press provides not only a solution for scholars -- particularly those in the humanities -- who are limited by the dearth of university presses, but also a venue for publishing multimedia essays, articles, books and scholarly narratives.'

Charles Henry, Rice University vice provost, university librarian and publisher of Rice University Press during the startup phase, said, 'Our decision to revive Rice's press as a digital enterprise is based on both economics and on new ways of thinking about scholarly publishing. On the one hand, university presses are losing money at unprecedented rates, and technology offers us ways to decrease production costs and provide nearly ubiquitous delivery system, the Internet. We avoid costs associated with backlogs, large inventories and unsold physical volumes, and we greatly speed the editorial process.  

" 'We don't have a precise figure for our startup costs yet, but it's safe to say our startup costs and annual operating expenses will be at least 10 times less than what we'd expect to pay if we were using a traditional publishing model,' Henry said.  

"The digital press will operate just as a traditional press, up to a point. Manuscripts will be solicited, reviewed, edited and resubmitted for final approval by an editorial board of prominent scholars. But rather than waiting for months for a printer to make a bound book, Rice University Press's digital files will instead be run through Connexions for automatic formatting, indexing and population with high-resolution images, audio and video and Web links.  

" 'We don't print anything,' Henry explained. 'It will go online as a Rice University Press publication in a matter of days and be available for sale as a digital book.' Users will be able to view the content online for free or purchase a copy of the book for download through the Rice University Press Web site. Alternatively, thanks to Connexions' partnership with on-demand printer QOOP, users will be able to order printed books if they want, in every style from softbound black-and-white on inexpensive paper to leather-bound full-color hardbacks on high-gloss paper.  

"As with a traditional press, our publications will be peer-reviewed, professionally vetted and very high quality,' Henry said. 'But the choice to have a printed copy will be up to the customer.'

"Authors published by Rice University Press will retain the copyrights for their works, in accordance with Connexions' licensing agreement with Creative Commons. Additionally, because Connexions is open-source, authors will be able to update or amend their work, easily creating a revised edition of their book. W. Joseph King, executive director of Connexions and co-director of the Rice University Press project, said, 'Connexions' mission is to support open education in all forms, including the publication of original scholarly works. We believe that Connexions has the ability to change the university press at Rice and in general.'

"In the coming months, Rice University Press will name its board of directors and appoint an editorial board in one or two academic disciplines that are especially constrained by the current print model. Over time, Rice University Press will focus on:

"1. Putting out original scholarly work in fields particularly impacted by the high costs and distribution models of the printed book. One such field is art history, in which printing costs are exceptionally high. Over the years, many university presses have slashed the number of art history titles, severely limiting younger scholars' prospects of publication, Henry said. Rice University Press has identified art history as a field that would benefit immediately and therefore it will be the press's first area of major effort.  

"2. Fostering new models of scholarship: With the rise of digital environments, scholars are increasingly attempting to write book-length studies that use new media -- images, video, audio and Web links -- as part of their arguments. Rice University Press will easily accommodate these new forms of scholarship, Henry said.

"3. Providing more affordable publishing for scholarly societies and centers: Often disciplinary societies and smaller centers, especially in the humanities, publish annual reports, reflections on their field of study or original research resulting from grants. For smaller organizations, the printing costs of these publications are prohibitive. Rice University Press will partner with organizations to provide more affordable publishing.  

"4. Partnering with large university presses: In the wake of rising production costs and overhead, many university presses have closed or reduced the number of titles they publish, especially in the humanities and social sciences. As a result many peer-reviewed, high quality books are waiting on backlog. Rice University Press will work with selected university publishers to inexpensively publish approved works. Henry said two major university presses have already expressed an interest in working with Rice University Press to reduce backlogged titles. Rice University Press plans to partner with these and other presses to produce such works as dual publications.  

" 'Technological innovations suffuse academia, but institutional innovation often seems more challenging. The initiative to resuscitate Rice University Press as a fully digital university press is thus doubly exciting,' said Steve Wheatley, vice president of the American Council of Learned Societies, an umbrella organization of 70 scholarly societies in the humanities and social sciences. 'It is particularly encouraging to note that the revived press will give special attention to scholarship that is born digital. Equally commendable -- and perhaps even more important -- is the commitment of the university to support this initiative at this crucial phase for scholarly publishing " (http://media.rice.edu/media/NewsBot.asp?MODE=VIEW&ID=8654, accessed 05-23-2010)/

♦ "Rice University Press ceased operations on September 30, 2010. Certain publications continue to be available on Connexions."

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"Anshe Chung Becomes First Virtual World Millionaire" November 26, 2006

Ailin Graef

Ailin Graef's character, Anshe Chung

Available virtual real estate for purchase from Anshe Chung

The cover of businessweek featuring Anshe Chung

On November 26, 2006 it was announced that "Anshe Chung [Real life: Ailin Graef] has become the first online personality to achieve a net worth exceeding one million US dollars from profits entirely earned inside a virtual world.

"Recently featured on the cover of Business Week Magazine, Anshe Chung is a resident in the virtual world Second Life. Inside Second Life, Anshe buys and develops virtual real-estate in an official currency, known as Linden Dollars, which is convertible to US Dollars. There is also a liquid market in virtual real estate, making it possible to assess the value of her total holdings using publicly available statistics. 

"The fortune Anshe Chung commands in Second Life includes virtual real estate that is equivalent to 36 square kilometers of land – this property is supported by 550 servers or land "simulators". In addition to her virtual real estate holdings, Anshe has 'cash' holdings of several million Linden Dollars, several virtual shopping malls, virtual store chains, and she has established several virtual brands in Second Life. She also has significant virtual stock market investments in Second Life companies.

"Anshe Chung's achievement is all the more remarkable because the fortune was developed over a period of two and a half years from an initial investment of $9.95 for a Second Life account by Anshe's creator, Ailin Graef. Anshe/Ailin achieved her fortune by beginning with small scale purchases of virtual real estate which she then subdivided and developed with landscaping and themed architectural builds for rental and resale. Her operations have since grown to include the development and sale of properties for large scale real world corporations, and have led to a real life "spin off" corporation called Anshe Chung Studios, which develops immersive 3D environments for applications ranging from education to business conferencing and product prototyping.

"Ailin Graef was born and raised in Hubei, China, but is currently a citizen of Germany. She runs Anshe Chung Studios with her husband Guntram Graef, who serves as CEO of the company. Anshe Chung Studios has offices in Wuhan, China and is currently seeking to expand its workforce from 25 to 50" (http://www.anshechung.com/include/press/press_release251106.html, accessed 01-27-2010).

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The First Virtual Currency Has a Real Value of 7 Billion Dollars 2008 – November 18, 2013

On November 13, 2013 The New York Times reported that Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer digital currency, and the first virtual currency or cryptocurrency, had a real value of more than seven billion dollars. This was the financial markets' response to acknowledgement by U.S. federal officials in a Senate hearing that virtual financial networks offered real benefits for the financial system, even as they acknowledged that new forms of digital currency had been used for money laundering and other illegal activity.

Bitcoin originated in November 2008 when a paper was posted on the Internet under the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto entitled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System. This paper detailed methods of using a peer-to-peer network to generate what was described as "a system for electronic transactions without relying on trust". In January 2009, the Bitcoin network became operational with the release of the first open source Bitcoin client and the issuance of the first bitcoins, with Satoshi Nakamoto mining the first block of bitcoins ever —known as the "genesis block".  

"Investigations into the real identity of Satoshi Nakamoto have been attempted by The New Yorker and Fast Company. Fast Company's investigation brought up circumstantial evidence linking an encryption patent application filed by Neal King, Vladimir Oksman and Charles Bry on 15 August 2008, and the bitcoin.org domain name which was registered 72 hours later. The patent application (#20100042841) contained networking and encryption technologies similar to Bitcoin's, and textual analysis revealed that the phrase "...computationally impractical to reverse" appeared in both the patent application and bitcoin's whitepaper. All three inventors explicitly denied being Satoshi Nakamoto...." (Wikipedia article on History of Bitcoin, accessed 11-18-2013).

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Craiglist Becomes the Leading Classified Advertising Service Worldwide September 2008

By September 2008 Craigslist was the leading classified advertising service worldwide. It provided free local classifieds and forums for more than 550 cities in over 50 countries, generating more than 12 billion page views per month, used by more than 50 million people each month. Craigslist users self-published more than 30 million new classified ads each month and more than 2 million new job listings each month. Each month Craigslist also posted more than 100 million user postings in more than 100 topical forms. All of this it did with only 25 employees.

Because Craigslist did not charge for classified advertising it replaced a large portion of the classified advertising that historically was placed in print newspapers. By doing so it substantially reduced the significant revenue that print newspapers historically generated from classified advertising. This contributed to an overall reduction of profits for many print newspapers. Similarly, Craigslist's policy of charging below-market rates for job listings impacted that traditional source of newspaper revenue, and impacted profits at physical employment agencies, and the more expensive online employment agencies.

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The First iPhone and iPad Apps for the Visually Impaired 2009 – 2010

Because of the convenience of carrying smart phones it was probably inevitable that their features would be applied to support the visually impaired. iBlink Radio introduced in July 2010 by Serotek Corporation of Minneapolis, Minnesota, calls itself the first iOS application for the visually impaired. It provides access to radio stations, podcasts and reading services of special interest to blind and visually impaired persons, as well as their friends, family, caregivers and those wanting to know what life is like without eyesight.

SayText, also introduced in 2010 by Haave, Inc. of Vantaa, Finland, reads out loud text that is photographed by a cell phone camera.

VisionHunt, by VI Scientific of Nicosia, Cyprus, introduced in 2009, is a vision aid tool for the blind and the visually impaired that uses the phone’s camera to detect colors, paper money and light sources. VisionHunt identifies about 30 colors. It also detects 1, 5, 10, 20, 50 US Dollar bills. Finally, VisionHunt detects sources of light, such as switched-on lamps or televisions. VisionHunt is fully accessible to the blind and the visually impaired through Voice Over or Zoom.

Numerous other apps for the visually impaired were introduced after the above three.

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Apple Eliminates Anticopying Restrictions from iTunes January 6, 2009

Having sold over a billion songs through the iTunes store in 2008, Apple announced that it reached agreements with record companies to remove anticopying restrictions on all tunes in the iTunes store. It also allowed record companies to set a range of prices for the songs.

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Kickstarter.com is Launched April 28, 2009

On April 28, 2009 Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler, and Charles Adler launched Kickstarter.com, originally under the url of KickStartr.com. The company was based in New York City.

"One of a number of fundraising platforms dubbed 'crowd funding,' Kickstarter facilitates gathering monetary resources from the general public, a model which circumvents many traditional avenues of investment. Project creators choose a deadline and a goal minimum of funds to raise. If the chosen goal is not gathered by the deadline, no funds are collected (this is known as a provision point mechanism). Money pledged by donors is collected using Amazon Payments. The platform is open to backers from anywhere in the world and to creators from the US or the UK.

"Kickstarter takes 5% of the funds raised. Amazon charges an additional 3–5%. Unlike many forums for fundraising or investment, Kickstarter claims no ownership over the projects and the work they produce. However, projects launched on the site are permanently archived and accessible to the public. After funding is completed, projects and uploaded media cannot be edited or removed from the site" (Wikipedia article on Kickstarter, accessed 02-21-2013).

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"Revenue at Craigslist is Said to Top $100,000,000" as Classified Advertising in Newspapers Declines June 9, 2009

"SAN FRANCISCO — As the newspaper industry and its classified advertising business wither, one company appears to be doing extraordinarily well: Craigslist.

"The Internet classified ads company, which promotes its “relatively noncommercial nature” and “service mission” on its site, is projected to bring in more than $100 million in revenue this year, according to a new study from Classified Intelligence Report, a publication of AIM Group, a media and Web consultant firm in Orlando, Fla.

"That is a 23 percent jump over the revenue the firm estimated for 2008 and a huge increase since 2004, when the site was projected to bring in just $9 million. 'This is a down-market for just about everyone else but Craigslist,' said Jim Townsend, editorial director of AIM Group. The firm counted the number of paid ads on the site for a month and extrapolated an annual figure. It said its projections were conservative.

"By contrast, classified advertising in newspapers in the United States declined by 29 percent last year, its worst drop in history, according to the Newspaper Association of America" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/10/technology/internet/10craig.html?hpw, accessed 06-10-2009).

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Employment in the Field of Simulation June 14, 2009

"As employment headlines go from grim to grimmer, it’s appropriate that one job category with expanding demand involves helping people avoid reality. Designers of computer simulations are sought in many fields to help understand complex, multifaceted phenomena that are too expensive or perilous to study in real life."

Bill Waite, chairman of the AEgis Technologies Group, a Huntsville, Ala., company that creates simulations for various military and civilian applications, "estimates that 400,000 people make a living in the United States in one aspect or another of simulation" (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/14/jobs/14starts.html?8dpc, accessed 06-22-2009).

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2010 – 2012

General Statistics on the U.S. Book Publishing Industry May 6, 2010

"The US book publishing industry consists of about 2,600 companies with combined annual revenue of about $27 billion. Major companies include John Wiley & Sons, McGraw-Hill, Pearson, and Scholastic, as well as publishing units of large media companies such as HarperCollins (owned by News Corp); Random House (owned by Bertelsmann); and Simon & Schuster (owned by CBS). The industry is highly concentrated: the top 50 companies generate about 80 percent of revenue.

"Demand for books is driven by demographics and is largely resistant to economic cycles. The profitability of individual companies depends on product development and marketing. Large publishers have an advantage in bidding for new manuscripts or authors. Small and midsized publishers can succeed if they focus on a specific subject or market.

"Publishers produce books for general reading (adult "trade" books); text, professional, technical, children's, and reference books. Trade books account for 25 percent of the market, textbooks 25 percent, and professional books 20 percent.  "

"About 150,000 new books are published in the US every year; however, most are low-volume products. The number of books produced by major trade publishers and university presses is closer to 40,000" (http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/permalink/?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20100506006043&newsLang=en, accessed 05-06-2010).

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Of the Seventy Online Databases that "Define Our Planet", Many are Known Only to Specialists December 3, 2010

As part of a description of a potential costly (1 billion euros) European scheme to simulate the entire planet earth, MIT's Technology Review published an article listing and describing the "The 70 Online Databases that Define Our Planet." These databases cover climate, health, finance, economics, traffic, and other topics. Only a few, such as the Wikipedia, Google Earth, the Wayback Machine at the Internet Archive, and Wolfram Alpha, are widely known to generalists, such as the author of From Cave Paintings to the Internet.

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IBM's Watson Question Answering System Defeats Humans at Jeopardy! February 14 – February 16, 2011

LOn February 14, 2011 IBM's Watson question answering system supercomputer, developed at IBM's T J Watson Research Center, Yorktown Heights, New York, running DeepQA software, defeated the two best human Jeopardy! players, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Watson's hardware consisted of 90 IBM Power 750 Express servers. Each server utilized a 3.5 GHz POWER7 eight-core processor, with four threads per core. The system operatesd with 16 terabytes of RAM.

The success of the machine underlines very significant advances in deep analytics and the ability of a machine to process unstructured data, and especially to intepret and speak natural language.

"Watson is an effort by I.B.M. researchers to advance a set of techniques used to process human language. It provides striking evidence that computing systems will no longer be limited to responding to simple commands. Machines will increasingly be able to pick apart jargon, nuance and even riddles. In attacking the problem of the ambiguity of human language, computer science is now closing in on what researchers refer to as the “Paris Hilton problem” — the ability, for example, to determine whether a query is being made by someone who is trying to reserve a hotel in France, or simply to pass time surfing the Internet.  

"If, as many predict, Watson defeats its human opponents on Wednesday, much will be made of the philosophical consequences of the machine’s achievement. Moreover, the I.B.M. demonstration also foretells profound sociological and economic changes.  

"Traditionally, economists have argued that while new forms of automation may displace jobs in the short run, over longer periods of time economic growth and job creation have continued to outpace any job-killing technologies. For example, over the past century and a half the shift from being a largely agrarian society to one in which less than 1 percent of the United States labor force is in agriculture is frequently cited as evidence of the economy’s ability to reinvent itself.  

"That, however, was before machines began to 'understand' human language. Rapid progress in natural language processing is beginning to lead to a new wave of automation that promises to transform areas of the economy that have until now been untouched by technological change.  

" 'As designers of tools and products and technologies we should think more about these issues,' said Pattie Maes, a computer scientist at the M.I.T. Media Lab. Not only do designers face ethical issues, she argues, but increasingly as skills that were once exclusively human are simulated by machines, their designers are faced with the challenge of rethinking what it means to be human.  

"I.B.M.’s executives have said they intend to commercialize Watson to provide a new class of question-answering systems in business, education and medicine. The repercussions of such technology are unknown, but it is possible, for example, to envision systems that replace not only human experts, but hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs throughout the economy and around the globe. Virtually any job that now involves answering questions and conducting commercial transactions by telephone will soon be at risk. It is only necessary to consider how quickly A.T.M.’s displaced human bank tellers to have an idea of what could happen" (John Markoff,"A Fight to Win the Future: Computers vs. Humans," http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/15/science/15essay.html?hp, accessed 02-17-2011).

♦ As a result of this technological triumph, IBM took the unusal step of building a colorful website concerning all aspects of Watson, including numerous embedded videos.

♦ A few of many articles on the match published during or immediately after it included:

John Markoff, "Computer Wins on 'Jeopardy!': Trivial, It's Not," http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/science/17jeopardy-watson.html?hpw

Samara Lynn, "Dissecting IBM Watson's Jeopardy! Game," PC Magazinehttp://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2380351,00.asp

John C. Dvorak, "Watson is Creaming the Humans. I Cry Foul," PC Magazinehttp://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2380451,00.asp

Henry Lieberman published a three-part article in MIT Technology Review, "A Worthwhile Contest for Artificial Intelligence" http://www.technologyreview.com/blog/guest/26391/?nlid=4132

♦ An article which discussed the weaknesses of Watson versus a human in Jeopardy! was Greg Lindsay, "How I Beat IBM's Watson at Jeopardy! (3 Times)" http://www.fastcompany.com/1726969/how-i-beat-ibms-watson-at-jeopardy-3-times

♦ An opinion column emphasizing the limitations of Watson compared to the human brain was Stanley Fish, "What Did Watson the Computer Do?" http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/21/what-did-watson-the-computer-do/

♦ A critical response to Stanley Fish's column by Sean Dorrance Kelly and Hubert Dreyfus, author of What Computers Can't Dowas published in The New York Times at: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/28/watson-still-cant-think/?nl=opinion&emc=tya1

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The Impact of Automation on Legal Research March 4, 2011

"Armies of Expensive Lawyers Replaced by Cheaper Software," an article by John Markoff published in The New York Times, discussed the use of "e-discovery" (ediscovery) software which uses artificial intelligence to analyze millions of electronic documents from the linguistic, conceptual and sociological standpoint in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the cost of the hundreds of lawyers previously required to do the task.

"These new forms of automation have renewed the debate over the economic consequences of technological progress.  

"David H. Autor, an economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says the United States economy is being 'hollowed out.' New jobs, he says, are coming at the bottom of the economic pyramid, jobs in the middle are being lost to automation and outsourcing, and now job growth at the top is slowing because of automation.  

" 'There is no reason to think that technology creates unemployment,' Professor Autor said. 'Over the long run we find things for people to do. The harder question is, does changing technology always lead to better jobs? The answer is no.'

"Automation of higher-level jobs is accelerating because of progress in computer science and linguistics. Only recently have researchers been able to test and refine algorithms on vast data samples, including a huge trove of e-mail from the Enron Corporation. 

“ 'The economic impact will be huge,' said Tom Mitchell, chairman of the machine learning department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. 'We’re at the beginning of a 10-year period where we’re going to transition from computers that can’t understand language to a point where computers can understand quite a bit about language.'

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The Impact of Artificial Intelligence and Automation on Jobs March 6, 2011

In an op-ed column called Degrees and Dollars published in The New York Times Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman of Princeton wrote concerning the impact of artificial intelligence and automation on jobs:

"The fact is that since 1990 or so the U.S. job market has been characterized not by a general rise in the demand for skill, but by “hollowing out”: both high-wage and low-wage employment have grown rapidly, but medium-wage jobs — the kinds of jobs we count on to support a strong middle class — have lagged behind. And the hole in the middle has been getting wider: many of the high-wage occupations that grew rapidly in the 1990s have seen much slower growth recently, even as growth in low-wage employment has accelerated."

"Some years ago, however, the economists David Autor, Frank Levy and Richard Murnane argued that this was the wrong way to think about it. Computers, they pointed out, excel at routine tasks, “cognitive and manual tasks that can be accomplished by following explicit rules.” Therefore, any routine task — a category that includes many white-collar, nonmanual jobs — is in the firing line. Conversely, jobs that can’t be carried out by following explicit rules — a category that includes many kinds of manual labor, from truck drivers to janitors — will tend to grow even in the face of technological progress.  

"And here’s the thing: Most of the manual labor still being done in our economy seems to be of the kind that’s hard to automate. Notably, with production workers in manufacturing down to about 6 percent of U.S. employment, there aren’t many assembly-line jobs left to lose. Meanwhile, quite a lot of white-collar work currently carried out by well-educated, relatively well-paid workers may soon be computerized. Roombas are cute, but robot janitors are a long way off; computerized legal research and computer-aided medical diagnosis are already here.

"And then there’s globalization. Once, only manufacturing workers needed to worry about competition from overseas, but the combination of computers and telecommunications has made it possible to provide many services at long range. And research by my Princeton colleagues Alan Blinder and Alan Krueger suggests that high-wage jobs performed by highly educated workers are, if anything, more “offshorable” than jobs done by low-paid, less-educated workers. If they’re right, growing international trade in services will further hollow out the U.S. job market."

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McKinsey Report on the Impact of the Internet on Growth, Jobs, and Prosperity May 2011

 McKinsey research into the Internet economies of the G-8 nations as well as Brazil, China, India, South Korea, and Sweden found that the web accounted for a significant and growing portion of global GDP. If measured as a sector, Internet-related consumption and expenditure were bigger than agriculture or energy. On average, the Internet contributed 3.4 percent to GDP in the 13 countries covered by the research—an amount the size of Spain or Canada in terms of GDP, and growing at a faster rate than that of Brazil.

"Research prepared by the McKinsey Global Institute and McKinsey's Technology, Media and Telecommunications Practices as part of a knowledge partnership with the e-G8 Forum, offers the first quantitative assessment of the impact of the Internet on GDP and growth, while also considering the most relevant tools governments and businesses can use to get the most benefit from the digital transformation. To assess the Internet's contribution to the global economy, the report analyzes two primary sources of value: consumption and supply. The report draws on a macroeconomic approach used in national accounts to calculate the contribution of GDP; a statistical econometric approach; and a microeconomic approach, analyzing the results of a survey of 4,800 small and medium-size enterprises in a number of different countries.  

"The Internet's impact on global growth is rising rapidly. The Internet accounted for 21 percent of GDP growth over the last five years among the developed countries MGI studied, a sharp acceleration from the 10 percent contribution over 15 years. Most of the economic value created by the Internet falls outside of the technology sector, with 75 percent of the benefits captured by companies in more traditional industries. The Internet is also a catalyst for job creation. Among 4,800 small and medium-size enterprises surveyed, the Internet created 2.6 jobs for each lost to technology-related efficiencies.

"The United States is the largest player in the global Internet supply ecosystem, capturing more than 30 percent of global Internet revenues and more than 40 percent of net income. It is also the country with the most balanced structure within the global ecosystem among the 13 countries studied, garnering relatively equal contributions from hardware, software and services, and telecommunications. The United Kingdom and Sweden are changing the game, in part driven by the importance and the performance of their telecom operators. India and China are strengthening their position in the global Internet ecosystem rapidly with growth rates of more than 20 percent. France, Canada, and Germany have an opportunity to leverage their strong Internet usage to increase their presence in the supply ecosystem. Other Asian countries are rapidly accelerating their influence on the Internet economy at faster rates than Japan. Brazil, Russia and Italy are in the early stages of Internet supply. They have strong potential for growth" (http://www.mckinsey.com/Insights/MGI/Research/Technology_and_Innovation/Internet_matters, accessed 01-19-2012).

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2012 – 2016

Technological Unemployment: Are Robots Replacing Workers? January 23, 2012 – January 13, 2013

On January 23, 2012 Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee of MIT issued Race Against the Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy

Drawing on research by their team at the Center for Digital Business at MIT, the authors show that digital technologies are rapidly encroaching on skills that used to belong to humans alone.

"This phenomenon is both broad and deep, and has profound economic implications. Many of these implications are positive; digital innovation increases productivity, reduces prices (sometimes to zero), and grows the overall economic pie.

"But digital innovation has also changed how the economic pie is distributed, and here the news is not good for the median worker. As technology races ahead, it can leave many people behind. Workers whose skills have been mastered by computers have less to offer the job market, and see their wages and prospects shrink. Entrepreneurial business models, new organizational structures and different institutions are needed to ensure that the average worker is not left behind by cutting-edge machines.

"In Race Against the Machine Brynjolfsson and McAfee bring together a range of statistics, examples, and arguments to show that technological progress is accelerating, and that this trend has deep consequences for skills, wages, and jobs. The book makes the case that employment prospects are grim for many today not because there's been technology has stagnated, but instead because we humans and our organizations aren't keeping up."

About a year later, on January 13, 2013, CBS television's 60 Minutes broadcast a report on automation in the workplace taking the viewpoint expressed in Brynjolfsson and McAfee's book entitled "Are robots hurting job growth?" (accessed 01-27-2013).

Following up on the issue, on January 23, 2013 John Markoff published an article in The New York Times entitled "Robot Makers Spread Global Gospel of Automation." Markoff reported that Henrik I. Christensen, the Kuka Chair of Robotics at Georgia Institue of Technology's College of Computing was highly critical of the 60 Minutes report.

"During his talk, Dr. Christensen said that the evidence indicated that the opposite was true. While automation may transform the work force and eliminate certain jobs, it also creates new kinds of jobs that are generally better paying and that require higher-skilled workers.

" 'We see today that the U.S. is still the biggest manufacturing country in terms of dollar value,' Dr. Christensen said. 'It’s also important to remember that manufacturing produces more jobs in associated areas than anything else.'

"An official of the International Federation of Robotics acknowledged that the automation debate had sprung back to life in the United States, but he said that America was alone in its anxiety over robots and automation.

 'This is not happening in either Europe or Japan,' said Andreas Bauer, chairman of the federation’s industrial robot suppliers group and an executive at Kuka Robotics, a German robot maker.

"To buttress its claim that automation is not a job killer but instead a way for the United States to compete against increasingly advanced foreign competitors, the industry group reported findings on Tuesday that it said it would publish in February. The federation said the industry would directly and indirectly create from 1.9 million to 3.5 million jobs globally by 2020.

"The federation held a news media event at which two chief executives of small American manufacturers described how they had been able to both increase employment and compete against foreign companies by relying heavily on automation and robots.

“ 'Automation has allowed us to compete on a global basis. It has absolutely created jobs in southwest Michigan,' said Matt Tyler, chief executive of Vickers Engineering, an auto parts supplier. 'Had it not been for automation, we would not have beat our Japanese competitor; we would not have beat our Chinese competitor; we would not have beat our Mexican competitor. It’s a fact.'

Also making the case was Drew Greenblatt, the widely quoted president and owner of Marlin Steel, a Baltimore manufacturer of steel products that has managed to expand and add jobs by deploying robots and other machines to increase worker productivity.

“ 'In December, we won a job from a Chicago company that for over a decade has bought from China,' he said. 'It’s a sheet-metal bracket; 160,000 sheet-metal brackets, year in, year out. They were made in China, now they’re made in Baltimore, using steel from a plant in Indiana and the robot was made in Connecticut.'

"A German robotics engineer argued that automation was essential to preserve jobs and also vital to make it possible for national economies to support social programs.

“ 'Countries that have high productivity can afford to have a good social system and a good health system,' said Alexander Verl, head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering in Germany. “You see that to some extent in Germany or in Sweden. These are countries that are highly automated but at the same time they spend money on elderly care and the health system.'

"In the report presented Tuesday by the federation, the United States lags Germany, South Korea and Japan in the density of manufacturing robots employed (measured as the number of robots per 10,000 human workers). South Korea, in particular, sharply increased its robot-to-worker ratio in the last three years and Germany has twice the robot density as the United States, according to a presentation made by John Dulchinos, a board member of the Robot Industries Association and the chief executive of Adept Technology, a Pleasanton, Calif., maker of robots. 

"The report indicates that although China and Brazil are increasing the number of robots in their factories, they still trail the advanced manufacturing countries.  

"Mr. Dulchinos said that the United States had only itself to blame for the decline of its manufacturing sector in the last decade.

“ 'I can tell you that in the late 1990s my company’s biggest segment was the cellular phone market,' he said. 'Almost overnight that industry went away, in part because we didn’t do as good a job as was required to make that industry competitive.'

"He said that if American robots had been more advanced it would have been possible for those companies to maintain the lowest cost of production in the United States.  

“ 'They got all packed up and shipped to China,' Mr. Dulchinos said. 'And so you fast-forward to today and there are over a billion cellphones produced a year and not a single one is produced in the United States.'

"Yet, in the face of growing anxiety about the effects of automation on the economy, there were a number of bright spots. The industry is now generating $25 billion in annual revenue. The federation expects 1.6 million robots to be produced each year by 2015."

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"Information Technology Dividends Outpace All Others" January 11, 2013

"For what appears to be the first time ever, information technology companies in the Standard & Poor’s index of 500 stocks are paying more in dividends than companies in any other sector, S.&P. reported this week. Multimedia

"Off the Charts: High Tech, High Dividends S.&P. Dow Jones Indices reported that in 2012 the technology sector accounted for 14.7 percent of all dividends paid to investors in the 500 companies, up from 10.3 percent in 2011 and from a little over 5 percent back in 2004. It replaced the consumer staples sector, which had been the largest payer of dividends for the previous three years.  

"The change was largely because of the decision by Apple, now the most valuable company in the world, to begin paying dividends last year. The company had been public for more than three decades before it announced plans in March to begin making payouts. Four other technology companies in the index — all but one of which had been public for more than two decades without paying a dividend — later joined in making payments to shareholders.  

"With those changes, 60 percent — 42 — of the 70 technology stocks in the index are now dividend payers. The dividends from many technology companies are relatively small, however, and of the other sectors, only health care comes close to having as large a share of companies that do not pay dividends" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/12/business/information-technology-dividends-surge-past-consumer-staples-sector.html, accessed 01-12-2013).

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PBS Digital Studios: Will 3D Printing Change the World? February 28, 2013

Much attention has been paid to 3D Printing lately, with new companies developing cheaper and more efficient consumer models that have wowed the tech community. They herald 3D Printing as a revolutionary and disruptive technology, but how will these printers truly affect our society? Beyond an initial novelty, 3D Printing could have a game-changing impact on consumer culture, copyright and patent law, and even the very concept of scarcity on which our economy is based. From at-home repairs to new businesses, from medical to ecological developments, 3D Printing has an undeniably wide range of possibilities which could profoundly change our world.

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Amazon Sells More than 25% of New Books in the U.S. July 5, 2013

According to an article by David Streitfeld in the July 5, 2013 issue of The New York Times, Amazon.com now sells

"about one in four new books, and the vast number of independent sellers on its site increases its market share even more. It owns as a separate entity the largest secondhand book network, Abebooks. And of course it has a majority of the e-book market."

The main issue raised in Steitfeld's article, entitled "The Price of Amazon," was Amazon's ability to control the prices of new books and ebooks.

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The First Master's Degree Offered through Massive Open Online Courses by a Major University August 17, 2013

On August 17, 2013 The New York Times reported that Georgia Tech, which operates one of the country’s top computer science programs, plans to offer in January 2014 a massive open online course (MOOC) master’s degree in computer science for $6,600 — far less than the $45,000 on-campus price.  

"Zvi Galil, the dean of the university’s College of Computing, expects that in the coming years, the program could attract up to 10,000 students annually, many from outside the United States and some who would not complete the full master’s degree. 'Online, there’s no visa problem,' he said.  

"The program rests on an unusual partnership forged by Dr. Galil and Sebastian Thrun, a founder of Udacity, a Silicon Valley provider of the open online courses.  

"Although it is just one degree at one university, the prospect of a prestigious low-cost degree program has generated great interest. Some educators think the leap from individual noncredit courses to full degree programs could signal the next phase in the evolution of MOOCs — and bring real change to higher education."

"From their start two years ago, when a free artificial intelligence course from Stanford enrolled 170,000 students, free massive open online courses, or MOOCs, have drawn millions and yielded results like the perfect scores of Battushig, a 15-year-old Mongolian boy, in a tough electronics course offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology" (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/18/education/masters-degree-is-new-frontier-of-study-online.html?hp, accessed 08-18-2013).

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A Mobile, One-Armed Robot that Costs $35,000 October 2013

In October 2013 Unbounded Robotics, a spinoff formed in January 2013 from Willow Garage in Menlo Park, announced that it will ship the UBR-1 robot in mid-2014 for the low price of $35,000. According to Melonee Wise, the CEO of Unbounded Robotics, the UBR-1 will be "the Model T of robots," suggesting that it will be the first mass-produced and widely sold robot. 

"The UBR1 makes use of the open-source Robot Operating System originally developed at Willow and can be described as a simpler version of Willow’s flagship PR2, a large mobile robot with two arms that sold to research labs for $400,000. Although the PR2 became the basis for projects that pushed the boundaries of robot autonomy (see “Robots That Learn From People” and “TR35: Leila Takayama”), the high price meant that only a handful were sold. Wise says that just 43 PR2s exist in labs around the world today"  (Tom Simonite, "Why This Might Be the Model T of Workplace Robots," Technology Review, October 21, 2013, accessed 10-22-2013)

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Use of the Internet by Part-Time Business Owners in 2013 October 10, 2013

Research released on October 10, 2013 by The Internet Association showed that nine out of ten part-time business owners relied on the Internet to conduct their business.  According to their report Internet enabled part-time businesses employed 6.6 million people and contributed $141 billion to the US Gross National Product (GNP). 

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Retail e-commerce sales expanded 15 percent in the U.S in 2012—seven times as fast as traditional retail. November 7, 2013

"Why do some stores succeed while others fail? Retailers constantly struggle with this question, battling one another in ways that change with each generation. In the late 1800s, architects ruled. Successful merchants like Marshall Field created palaces of commerce that were so gorgeous shoppers rushed to come inside. In the early 1900s, mail order became the “killer app,” with Sears Roebuck leading the way. Toward the end of the 20th century, ultra-efficient suburban discounters like Target and Walmart conquered all.

"Now the tussles are fiercest in online retailing, where it’s hard to tell if anyone is winning. Retailers as big as Walmart and as small as Tweezerman.com all maintain their own websites, catering to an explosion of customer demand. Retail e-commerce sales expanded 15 percent in the U.S in 2012—seven times as fast as traditional retail. But price competition is relentless, and profit margins are thin to nonexistent. It’s easy to regard this $186 billion market as a poisoned prize: too big to ignore, too treacherous to pursue.

"Even the most successful online retailer, Amazon.com, has a business model that leaves many people scratching their heads. Amazon is on track to ring up $75 billion in worldwide sales this year. Yet it often operates in the red; last quarter, Amazon posted a $41 million loss. Amazon’s founder and chief executive officer, Jeff Bezos, is indifferent to short-term earnings, having once quipped that when the company achieved profitability for a brief stretch in 1995, “'t was probably a mistake' " (http://www.technologyreview.com/news/520801/no-stores-no-salesmen-no-profit-no-problem-for-amazon/ accessed 11-07-2013).

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The U.S. Postal Service Will Deliver Amazon Packages on Sundays November 11, 2013

In a testimony to the growing impact of e-commerce, on November 11, 2013 the U.S. Postal Service and Amazon.com announced that the Postal Service will deliver packages in the Los Angeles and New York metropolitan areas on Sundays—a first for the postal service, and a service not provided by private delivery companies. According to Amazon's press release, Sunday deliveries will be for Amazon Prime members, "who receive unlimited, free two-day shipping on millions of items."  Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service plan to roll out this service to a large portion of the U.S. population in 2014, including Dallas, Houston, New Orleans and Phoenix.

"Getting packages on Sundays normally is expensive for customers. United Parcel Service Inc. doesn't deliver on Sundays, according to a spokeswoman. And FedEx Corp. said Sunday 'is not a regular delivery day,' though limited options are available.

"The deal could be a boon for the postal service, which has been struggling with mounting financial losses and has been pushing to limit general letter mail delivery to five days a week.

"Spokeswoman Sue Brennan said that letter mail volume is declining 'so extremely,' yet package volume is 'increasing in double-digit percentages.'

"The postal service's Sunday package delivery business has been very small, but the arrangement with Amazon for two of the retailer's larger markets, Los Angeles and New York, should boost work considerably.

"To pull off Sunday delivery for Amazon, the postal service plans to use its flexible scheduling of employees, Brennan said. It doesn't plan to add employees, she said" (http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-amazon-usps-20131109,0,7390545.story?track=lat-email-topofthetimes#axzz2kLimvcy6, accessed 11-12-2013) 

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The Growing Economic and Social Impact of Artificial Intelligence December 29, 2013

On December 29, 2013 The New York Times published an article by Michael Fitzpatrick on Japan's Todai Robot Project entitled "Computers Jump to the Head of the Class." This was the first article that I ever read that spelled out the potential dystopian impact of advances in artificial intelligence on traditional employment and also on education. Because the article was relatively brief I decided to quote it in full:

"TOKYO — If a computer could ace the entrance exam for a top university, what would that mean for mere mortals with average intellects? This is a question that has bothered Noriko Arai, a mathematics professor, ever since the notion entered her head three years ago.

“I wanted to get a clear image of how many of our intellectual activities will be replaced by machines. That is why I started the project: Can a Computer Enter Tokyo University? — the Todai Robot Project,” she said in a recent interview.

Tokyo University, known as Todai, is Japan’s best. Its exacting entry test requires years of cramming to pass and can defeat even the most erudite. Most current computers, trained in data crunching, fail to understand its natural language tasks altogether.

Ms. Arai has set researchers at Japan’s National Institute of Informatics, where she works, the task of developing a machine that can jump the lofty Todai bar by 2021.

If they succeed, she said, such a machine should be capable, with appropriate programming, of doing many — perhaps most — jobs now done by university graduates.

With the development of artificial intelligence, computers are starting to crack human skills like information summarization and language processing.

Given the exponential growth of computing power and advances in artificial intelligence, or A.I., programs, the Todai robot’s task, though daunting, is feasible, Ms. Arai says. So far her protégé, a desktop computer named Todai-kun, is excelling in math and history but needs more effort in reading comprehension.

There is a significant danger, Ms. Arai says, that the widespread adoption of artificial intelligence, if not well managed, could lead to a radical restructuring of economic activity and the job market, outpacing the ability of social and education systems to adjust.

Intelligent machines could be used to replace expensive human resources, potentially undermining the economic value of much vocational education, Ms. Arai said.

“Educational investment will not be attractive to those without unique skills,” she said. Graduates, she noted, need to earn a return on their investment in training: “But instead they will lose jobs, replaced by information simulation. They will stay uneducated.”

In such a scenario, high-salary jobs would remain for those equipped with problem-solving skills, she predicted. But many common tasks now done by college graduates might vanish.

“We do not know in which areas human beings outperform machines. That means we cannot prepare for the changes,” she said. “Even during the industrial revolution change was a lot slower.”

Over the next 10 to 20 years, “10 percent to 20 percent pushed out of work by A.I. will be a catastrophe,” she says. “I can’t begin to think what 50 percent would mean — way beyond a catastrophe and such numbers can’t be ruled out if A.I. performs well in the future.”

She is not alone in such an assessment. A recent study published by the Program on the Impacts of Future Technology, at Oxford University’s Oxford Martin School, predicted that nearly half of all jobs in the United States could be replaced by computers over the next two decades.

Some researchers disagree. Kazumasa Oguro, professor of economics at Hosei University in Tokyo, argues that smart machines should increase employment. “Most economists believe in the principle of comparative advantage,” he said. “Smart machines would help create 20 percent new white-collar jobs because they expand the economy. That’s comparative advantage.”

Others are less sanguine. Noriyuki Yanagawa, professor of economics at Tokyo University, says that Japan, with its large service sector, is particularly vulnerable.

“A.I. will change the labor demand drastically and quickly,” he said. “For many workers, adjusting to the drastic change will be extremely difficult.”

Smart machines will give companies “the opportunity to automate many tasks, redesign jobs, and do things never before possible even with the best human work forces,” according to a report this year by the business consulting firm McKinsey.

Advances in speech recognition, translation and pattern recognition threaten employment in the service sectors — call centers, marketing and sales — precisely the sectors that provide most jobs in developed economies. As if to confirm this shift from manpower to silicon power, corporate investment in the United States in equipment and software has never been higher, according to Andrew McAfee, the co-author of “Race Against the Machine” — a cautionary tale for the digitized economy.

Yet according to the technology market research firm Gartner, top business executives worldwide have not grasped the speed of digital change or its potential impact on the workplace. Gartner’s 2013 chief executive survey, published in April, found that 60 percent of executives surveyed dismissed as “‘futurist fantasy” the possibility that smart machines could displace many white-collar employees within 15 years.

“Most business and thought leaders underestimate the potential of smart machines to take over millions of middle-class jobs in the coming decades,” Kenneth Brant, research director at Gartner, told a conference in October: “Job destruction will happen at a faster pace, with machine-driven job elimination overwhelming the market’s ability to create valuable new ones.”

Optimists say this could lead to the ultimate elimination of work — an “Athens without the slaves” — and a possible boom for less vocational-style education. Mr. Brant’s hope is that such disruption might lead to a system where individuals are paid a citizen stipend and be free for education and self-realization.

“This optimistic scenario I call Homo Ludens, or ‘Man, the Player,’ because maybe we will not be the smartest thing on the planet after all,” he said. “Maybe our destiny is to create the smartest thing on the planet and use it to follow a course of self-actualization.”

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Matthew Gentzkow Receives Clark Medal for Study of Media Through Big Data Sets April 18, 2014

On April 18, 2014 the University of Chicago Booth School of Business reported that  The American Economic Association named University of Chicago Booth School of Business Professor Matthew Gentzkow winner of the 2014 John Bates Clark Medal, awarded to an American economist under the age of 40 who is judged to have made the most significant contribution to economic thought and knowledge.

The Clark Medal, named after the American economist John Bates Clark, is considered one of the two most prestigious awards in the field of economics, along with the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. 

Gentzkow studies empirical, industrial organization and political economy, notably with a specific focus on media industries, using large scale data sets. His recent studies included a set of papers that looked at political bias in the news media; a second set of studies that examined the impact of television on society from several perspectives; and a third set that explored questions of persuasion. A full list of those studies is available here.

"Mr. Gentzkow, 38, has used deeply researched, data-driven projects to examine what drives ideological biases in newspapers and how the Internet is remaking the traditional media landscape.

"He has also studied the societal impact of mass media, including how student test scores were affected by the introduction of television decades ago, and how the shift by media consumers to television ultimately reduced voter turnout.

“ 'Media has been a fun area to study because it combines rich economics with political and social aspects,' Mr. Gentzkow said in a telephone interview on Thursday. With the advent of the Internet and the ability to quickly analyze huge amounts of data, 'the set of questions that can be answered using economic methods has exploded,' he said.

"As automated text analysis became widely available, for example, it became possible to examine how news is presented by rapidly scanning newspaper articles for ideologically laden terms like estate tax versus death tax, or war on terror versus war in Iraq.

“ 'Economists had thought about this, but media had been a pretty small part of economics because the data weren’t as good,' Mr. Gentzkow said. 'This work would have been impossible 20 years ago.' . . . .

"In a 2010 paper, Mr. Gentzkow and Jesse M. Shapiro, a frequent collaborator and fellow professor at Chicago Booth, found that ideological slants in newspaper coverage typically resulted from what the audience wanted to read in the media they sought out, rather than from the newspaper owners’ biases.

"Research by Mr. Gentzkow and Mr. Shapiro from 2008 found that television viewing by preschool children did not hurt their test scores during adolescence. In fact, they found, there was actually a small benefit to watching television for students in homes where English was not the main language or the mother had less than a high school education" (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/18/business/media/university-of-chicago-economist-who-studies-media-receives-clark-medal.html?_r=0, accessed 04-18-2014).

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The Lely Astronaut A4 Robotic Cow Milking System April 22, 2014

On April 22, 2014 The New York Times published an article by Jesse McKinley entitled, "With Farm Robotics, the Cows Decide When It's Milking Time," reporting on a robotic installation on a dairy farm in Easton, New York. More than any article I had previously read, this brought home the reality that robots had moved from the factory floor to lines of work that I would not previously have imagined. From it I quote:

"Desperate for reliable labor and buoyed by soaring prices, dairy operations across the state are charging into a brave new world of udder care: robotic milkers, which feed and milk cow after cow without the help of a single farmhand.

"Scores of the machines have popped up across New York’s dairy belt and in other states in recent years, changing age-old patterns of daily farm life and reinvigorating the allure of agriculture for a younger, tech-savvy — and manure-averse — generation.

“ 'We’re used to computers and stuff, and it’s more in line with that,' said Mike Borden, 29, a seventh-generation dairyman, whose farm upgraded to robots, as others did, when disco-era milking parlors — the big, mechanized turntables that farmers use to milk many cows at once — started showing their age.

“ 'And,' Mr. Borden added, 'it’s a lot more fun than doing manual labor.'

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Amazon States its Economic Position on the Sale of E-Books in the "Amazon/Hachette Business Interruption" July 29, 2014

On July 29, 2014 in its Kindle forum blog Amazon.com, which probably controlled more than one-third of the book trade in the United States, stated its position on the very public dispute between Amazon and Hachette publishers over the terms of e-book sales. Amazon believed that the price of $9.99 was the optimal price at which sales of most e-book titles would be maximized. They also believed that 35% of the revenue gained from e-book sales should go to the author, 35% to the publisher, and 30% to Amazon. This global proposal for e-book distribution and income sharing represented a huge sea change in the traditional economics of printed book publishing, under which publishers set retail prices on a title by title basis, authors rarely received more than 10% of revenue received from printed books, and trade discounts were negotiated between the publisher and distributors and book stores. The Amazon Books team wrote:

"A key objective is lower e-book prices. Many e-books are being released at $14.99 and even $19.99. That is unjustifiably high for an e-book. With an e-book, there's no printing, no over-printing, no need to forecast, no returns, no lost sales due to out-of-stock, no warehousing costs, no transportation costs, and there is no secondary market -- e-books cannot be resold as used books. E-books can be and should be less expensive.

"It's also important to understand that e-books are highly price-elastic. This means that when the price goes up, customers buy much less. We've quantified the price elasticity of e-books from repeated measurements across many titles. For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.

"The important thing to note here is that at the lower price, total revenue increases 16%. This is good for all the parties involved:

* The customer is paying 33% less.

* The author is getting a royalty check 16% larger and being read by an audience that's 74% larger. And that 74% increase in copies sold makes it much more likely that the title will make it onto the national bestseller lists. (Any author who's trying to get on one of the national bestseller lists should insist to their publisher that their e-book be priced at $9.99 or lower.)

* Likewise, the higher total revenue generated at $9.99 is also good for the publisher and the retailer. At $9.99, even though the customer is paying less, the total pie is bigger and there is more to share amongst the parties.

"Keep in mind that books don't just compete against books. Books compete against mobile games, television, movies, Facebook, blogs, free news sites and more. If we want a healthy reading culture, we have to work hard to be sure books actually are competitive against these other media types, and a big part of that is working hard to make books less expensive.

"So, at $9.99, the total pie is bigger - how does Amazon propose to share that revenue pie? We believe 35% should go to the author, 35% to the publisher and 30% to Amazon. Is 30% reasonable? Yes. In fact, the 30% share of total revenue is what Hachette forced us to take in 2010 when they illegally colluded with their competitors to raise e-book prices. We had no problem with the 30% -- we did have a big problem with the price increases.

"Is it Amazon's position that all e-books should be $9.99 or less? No, we accept that there will be legitimate reasons for a small number of specialized titles to be above $9.99. 

"One more note on our proposal for how the total revenue should be shared. While we believe 35% should go to the author and 35% to Hachette, the way this would actually work is that we would send 70% of the total revenue to Hachette, and they would decide how much to share with the author. We believe Hachette is sharing too small a portion with the author today, but ultimately that is not our call."

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Media Companies Spin Off Newspapers to Create Stand-Alone "Print Companies" August 10, 2014

On August 10, 2014, which was, incidentally, my mother Rachel's 96th birthday, media columnist David Carr of The New York Times published published a column entitled "Print is Down, and Now Out. Media Companies Spin Off Newspapers to Uncertain Futures."  The primary issue that Carr raised was that newspapers—virtually all of which were still published both in print and online editions — could not generate enough advertising revenue fast enough, to satisfy the growth demands required by Wall Street investors. For this reason media companies, which derived most of their income from television, spun off their newspaper divisions. From his column I quote selections:

"A year ago last week, it seemed as if print newspapers might be on the verge of a comeback, or at least on the brink of, well, survival.

"Jeff Bezos, an avatar of digital innovation as the founder of Amazon, came out of nowhere and plunked down $250 million for The Washington Post. His vote of confidence in the future of print and serious news was seen by some — including me — as a sign that an era of “optimism or potential” for the industry was getting underway.

"Turns out, not so much — quite the opposite, really. The Washington Post seems fine, but recently, in just over a week, three of the biggest players in American newspapers — GannettTribune Company and E. W. Scripps, companies built on print franchises that expanded into television — dumped those properties like yesterday’s news in a series of spinoffs. . . .

"The persistent financial demands of Wall Street have trumped the informational needs of Main Street. For decades, investors wanted newspaper companies to become bigger and diversify, so they bought more newspapers and developed television divisions. Now print is too much of a drag on earnings, so media companies are dividing back up and print is being kicked to the curb.

"Setting aside the brave rhetoric — as one should — about the opportunity for a “renewed focus on print,” those stand-alone print companies are sailing into very tall waves. Even strong national newspapers like The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are struggling to meet Wall Street’s demands for growth; the regional newspapers that make up most of the now-independent publishing divisions have a much grimmer outlook.

"As it turns out, the journalism moment we are living in is more about running for your life than it is about optimism. Newspaperscontinue to generate cash and solid earnings, but those results are not enough to satisfy investors.

"Even the most robust evangelism is belied by the current data. Robert Thomson, chief executive of News Corporationespoused the “power of print” on Thursday even as he announced that advertising revenue at the company plunged 9 percent in the most recent quarter.

"And remember that it was Mr. Thomson’s boss, Rupert Murdoch, who started the wave of print divestitures when his company divorced its newspapers last year, although it did pay out $2 billion in alimony, which gave the publications, including The Journal, a bit of a cash cushion. (News Corporation’s tepid earnings report came two days after Mr. Murdoch, who has swashed more buckles and cut more deals than almost anyone, was forced by the market to let go of his latest prey, Time Warner.)

"The people at the magazine business Time Inc. were not so lucky, burdened with $1.3 billion in debt when Time Warner threw them from the boat. Swim for your life, executives at the company seemed to be saying, and by the by, here’s an anchor to help you on your way.

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