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

1750 to 1800 Timeline


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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Raimondo di Sangro Issues the First Extensive Treatise on the Peruvian Knot-Based Counting Language, the Quipu 1750

The first extensive treatise on the Peruvian knot-based counting language, the Quipu was Lettera apologetica dell'esercitato accademico della Crusca contenente la Difesa del Libro Intitolato Lettere d'una Peruana per rispetto alla supposizione de'Quipu published in 1750 by the Neopolitan polymath and inventor Raimondo di Sangro, Prince of Sansevero, from the press of Gennaro Morelli of Naples. This work, printed in color using a polychromatic printing process invented by the Prince, was the first extensive treatise on the Peruvian knot-based counting language, the Quipu.  

Quipu used a decimal positional system: a knot in a row farthest from the main strand represented one, next farthest ten, etc.; the absence of knots on a cord implied zero. The colors of the cords, the way the cords are connected together, the relative placement of the cords, the spaces between the cords, the types of knots on the individual cords, and the relative placement of the knots are all important parts of the recording system. ‘Quipucamayocs,’ the accountants of the Inca Empire, created and deciphered the Quipu knots, and were also capable of performing simple mathematical calculations such as adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing. Quipu accounts were kept by court historians in Peru that covered hundreds of years of history, but after the Conquest, the Spaniards began to resent having this second set of record-keepers contradict them. The Quipu was classified as idolatrous at the Third Council of Lima (1581-3), many examples were destroyed.  Thus, by the time Raimondo di Sangro published his book the Quipu was no longer practiced, and attempting to understand the language was a research project in cryptanalysis.

"To date, no link has yet been found between a quipu and Quechua, the native language of the Peruvian Andes. This suggests that quipus are not a glottographic writing system and have no phonetic referent. Frank Salomon at the University of Wisconsin has argued that quipus are actually a semasiographic language, a system of representative symbols—such as music notation or numerals—that relay information but are not directly related to the speech sounds of a particular language. The Khipu Database Project (KDP), begun by Gary Urton, may have already decoded the first word from a quipu—the name of a village, Puruchuco, which Urton believes was represented by a three-number sequence, similar to a ZIP code. If this conjecture is correct, quipus are the only known example of a complex language recorded in a 3-D system. (Wikipedia article on Quipu, accessed 04-07-2013).

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Diderot & d'Alembert's Encyclopédie, the Central Enterprise of the French Enlightenment 1751 – 1780

Between 1751 and 1780 French philosopher, art critic, and writer Denis Diderot and French mathematician, mechanician, physicist and philosopher Jean le Rond d'Alembert edited and wrote portions of the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société‚ de gens de lettres in 17 folio volumes of text plus 11 folio volumes (i.e., 10 volumes in 11) of plates. The first 7 volumes were published in Paris, but volumes 8 to 17 had to be published under a false Neuchâtel imprint. The main work appeared between 1751 and 1772. A supplement of 4 volumes plus one plate volume was published in Paris and Amsterdam from 1776 to 1777. The Table analytique et raisonnée for the set was published in 2 folio volumes in Paris and Amsterdam in 1780. Altogether there were 35 volumes, with 71,818 articles, and 3,129 plates.

The central enterprise of the French Enlightenment, the Encyclopédie embodied that movement's liberal, anti-clerical and scientific spirit, its preoccupation with man as a creature of nature, and its conception of culture and society as mutable products of the evolutionary processes of history. As such, the work challenged the twin authorities of the French monarchy and the Catholic Church, both of which derived their power from the traditional belief in a divinely ordained, unchanging order. Well aware of the dangers of affronting such powerful authorities, the philosophes who contributed to the Encyclopédie relied heavily on irony and subterfuge in their attacks on the established order, but the epistemological basis of these attacks was clearly stated in the Encyclopédie's "Discourse préliminaire," written by d'Alembert, who, "although he formally acknowledged the authority of the church, . . . made it clear that knowledge came from the senses and not from Rome or Revelation" (Darnton, The Business of Enlightenment: A Publishing History of the Encyclopédie 1775-1800 [1979] 7).

"The Encyclopédie was an innovative encyclopedia in several respects. Among other things, it was the first encyclopedia to include contributions from many named contributors, and it was the first general encyclopedia to lavish attention on the mechanical arts. Still, the Encyclopédie is famous above all for representing the thought of the Enlightenment. According to Denis Diderot in the article 'Encyclopédie,' the Encyclopédie's aim was 'to change the way people think.' "(Wikipedia article on Encyclopédie, accessed 01-26-2010).

The first seven volumes of the Encyclopédie were produced in relative safety, due in part to the support of powerful protectors, notably Madame de Pompadour, but official tolerance came to an end in 1759, when the Encyclopédie was condemned by the Parlement of Paris and placed on the Index librorum prohibitorum by Pope Clement XIII. Diderot was forced to complete the remaining ten volumes in secret and to publish them under a false Neuchâtel imprint.  "In truth, secular authorities did not want to disrupt the commercial enterprise, which employed hundreds of people. To appease the church and other enemies of the project, the authorities had officially banned the enterprise, but they turned a blind eye to its continued existence" (Wikipedia).

A high percentage of the Encyclopédie's 71,818 articles were written by Diderot and d'Alembert themselves, with another large portion, about 400 articles, written by the Baron d'Holbach. Other famous contributors included Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Voltaire. The most prolific contributor was the French scholar Louis de Jaucourt who wrote 17,266 articles, or about 8 per day between 1759 and 1765.   Altogether 140 people contributed articles to the project.

The Encyclopédie was a considerable commercial success, resulting in a print run of 4250 copies (Wikipedia), much larger than the typical print run of most publications at the time.

The discussion and exposition of printing in the Encyclopédie is among the most significant of the 18th century. Of this Giles Barber wrote in French Letterpress Printing (1969)9-10:

"The Encyclopédie provides one of the best general explanations of printing of the century, being both detailed and accurate. The main article is well supported by a host of minor ones including numerous definitions of terms and processes and by an excellent and evocative series of plates showing general workshop scenes as well as details of presses and other equipment. The authorship of all these articles is not, as yet ascertained. In their Preface the editors say: 'On juge bien que sur ce qui concerne l'Imprimerie et la Librairie, les memes tous les secours qui'il nos était possible de désirer'. In addition two of the publishers are credited with particular articles, David l'ainé with 'catalogue" (based on a manuscript by the abbé Girard bequeathed to Le Breton) and Le Breton himself with 'encre noire'. The technical part of the long and important article on 'imprimerie' is ascribed to the prote in Le Breton's shop, who we learn from the article 'prote', also ascribed to him, was one Brullé. J.B.M. Paillon, the famous engraver, wrote a number of minor articles on engraving ('dentelle, dorure sur parchemen, fleuron') and provided notes for others. Pierre Simon Fournier, the type founder, is similarly thanked in the Préface for providing background notes on his trade. "Papeterie' is by L. J. Goussier, one of the regular contributors, assisted by 'M. Prevost de Langlée près de Montargis'.

"Of the chief editors we know that d'Alembert wrote 'bibliomanie' and that Diderot's editorial asterisk, indicating his responsibility for either part or all of the article, occurs before 'bibliothécaire', caractère de'imprimerie (doubtless basically written by Fournier), chassis, corps, correcteur' and a few other minor subjects. But the chief editor as far as printing was concerned was undoubtedly the Protestant chevalier Louis de Jaucourt. Among his more important contributions were parts of 'imprimerie' covering 'histoire des inventions modernes' and 'imprimerie de Contantinople', the historical part of 'papier' and the articles on 'privilege d'impression' and 'relieur' as well as a large number of short ones.  It has also bee suggested the printer Claude François Simon wrote many of the printing articles but no internal confirmation of this has been found."

♦ Charles C. Gillespie reproduced 485 of the most notable plates in the Encyclopédie with informative and entertaining commentary in A Diderot Pictorial Encylopedia of Trades and Industry (2 vols. 1959). These included all or most of the plates concerning book production (papermaking, printing, copperplate engraving, bookbinding, leather production).

♦ Lough, Essays on the Encyclopédie of Diderot and d'Alembert (1968) provided an authoritative bibliographical study and identified the authors of a significant percentage of the unsigned articles. 

♦ There are numerous versions of the Encyclopédie online. The ARTFL Encyclopédie Database from the University of Chicago contains "20.8 million words, 400,000 unique forms, 18,000 pages of text, 17 volumes of articles, and 11 volumes of plate legends."

♦ For an English translation there is the Encyclopedia of Diderot and d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project at the University of Michigan. When I checked in 2013 significant portions of the Encyclopédie had been tranlsated.

♦ In February 2014 the full text of the first edition of the Encyclopédie was available from the French Wikipedia at this link. As I searched through the text Google Chrome provided a machine translation.

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 200.  Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 637.

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Edme-François Gersaint Issues the First Significant Catalogue Raisonné in Western Art History, on Rembrandt's Prints 1751 – 1828

Catalogue raisonné de toutes les pieces qui forment l'oeuvre de Rembrandt by Edme-François Gersaint, P.-C.-A. Helle, and Jean-Baptiste Glomy published in Paris in 1751 was  the "first catalogue raisonné in Western art history" (Sylvia Hochfield, "Rembrandt: Myth, Legend, Truth", ARTnews 7/01/06 accessed 09-29-2011). The primary author, Marchand-mercier Gersaint, immortalized by L'Enseigne de Gersaint (Gersaint's Shop Sign) painted by Jean-Antoine Watteau, was an art dealer, the leading auctioneer in Paris of art objects and natural history specimens, and a scholar and connoisseur. He compiled his catalogue from the collection of Dutch painter and writer Arnold Houbraken, of Amsterdam, which had previously been the property of Jan Six, an intimate firend of Rembrandt and the subject of more than one portrait by the artist. Toward the end of the work, in a chapter on doubtful attributions Gersaint addressed the connoisseurship issues involved in distinguishing Rembrandt's work from that of his pupils. He also included a chapter on portraits and other pieces etched after Rembrandt by other masters

After Gersaint's death in 1750, Gersaint's widow turned over the manuscript of the unfinished catalogue to Helle and Glomy who augmented this compilation by examination of a number of collections in France, and published the catalogue in duodecimo format one year later. An English translation of the catalogue appeared in London in 1752 as A Catalogue and Description of the Etchings of Rembrandt Van-Rhyn, with some Account of his Life. To which is added, A List of the best Pieces of this Master

Publication of Gersaint's catalogue stimulated further research. A supplement to Gersaint's catalogue by printmaker Pieter Yver, based on the collection of M. van Leyden, which had been culled from those of Houbraken, Halling, Maas, Moewater and De Burgy, and which was the largest known collection of Rembrandt at the time, was published in Amsterdam in 1756.  Austrian scholar and artist Adam Bartsch issued a new, revised edition of the catalogue in Vienna in 1797.  In 1796 Daniel Daulby, celebrated in his own lifetime as perhaps the greatest British collector of Rembrandt etchings, issued from Liverpool a new English edition entitled A Descriptive catalogue of the works of Rembrandt ... compiled from original etchings. In 1824 Le Chevalier de Claussin published a revised and expanded edition of the Gersaint catalogue, and in 1828 he published a supplement to that work.

Glorieux, À l'Enseigne de Gersaint: Edme-François Gersaint, marchand d'art sur le Pont Notre-Dame (2002). 

Michel, Le Commerce du tableau à Paris dans la seconde moitié du XVIIIe siècle (2007).

(This entry was last revised on 05-25-2014.)

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Linnaeus Develops Binomial Nomenclature for Plants 1753

In 1753 Swedish physician and naturalist Carl Linnaeus issued from Stockholm Species plantarum ("The Species of Plants"). Species plantarum introduced binary or binomial nomenclature (genus and species) for plants. Using this system, Linnaeus named, and therefore classified, all plants known to European naturalists at the time.

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The British Museum is Founded January 11, 1753

The will of English physician and naturalist Sir Hans Sloane bequeathed his collection of 70,000 objects, including a library, and an herbarium to Britain as the basis for the British Museum.

"When Sloane retired in 1741, his library and cabinet of curiosities . . . had grown to be of unique value. He had acquired the extensive natural history collections of William Courten, Cardinal Filippo Antonio Gualterio, James Petiver, Nehemiah Grew, Leonard Plukenet, the Duchess of Beaufort, the rev. Adam Buddle, Paul Hermann, Franz Kiggelaer and Herman Boerhaave. On his death on 11 January 1753 he bequeathed his books, manuscripts, prints, drawings, flora, fauna, medals, coins, seals, cameos and other curiosities to the nation, on condition that parliament should pay to his executors £20,000, which was a good deal less than the value of the collection. The bequest was accepted on those terms by an act passed the same year, and the collection, together with George II's royal library, etc., was opened to the public at Bloomsbury as the British Museum in 1759. A significant proportion of this collection was later to become the foundation for the Natural History Museum" (Wikipedia article on Sir Hans Sloane).

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Jean-Jacques Barthélemy Achieves the First Significant Decipherment of an Ancient Script: Palmyrene 1754

The first significant decipherment of an ancient script was that of Palmyrene, a West Aramaic dialect spoken in the city of PalmyraSyria in the early centuries CE. This was known from the church fathers to be similar to Syriac. "Copies" of Palmyrene script were available in print since 1616 but these were not helpful for decipherment. It was only after the British clergyman and orientalist John Swinton published accurate copies of paired inscriptions in Greek and Palmyrene in his paper, "An Explication of All the Inscriptions in the Palmyrene Language and Character Hitherto Publish'd," Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London 48/2 (1755) 690-756 that French writer, numismatist and linguist Abbé Jean-Jacques Barthélemy could correlate the two. The first word in one of the inscriptions was the name Septimios. Barthélemy was able to match the Palmyrene letters with the Greek, and he also discovered that they were recognizably similar to both Hebrew and Syriac. Swinton's paper was read to the Royal Society in a series of letters beginning on June 20, 1754. Barthélemy pubished his results in a 32-page pamphlet entitled Réflexions sur l'alphabet et sur la langue dont on se servoit autrefois à Palmyre issued in Paris in 1754. From the Approbation of the pamphlet dated July 18, 1754 it is evident that the reading of Swinton's initial letter, and the inscriptions made available, provided key information for Barthélemy, who reproduced  on the three plates published with his pamphlet inscriptions initially brought to light by Swinton with referencing Swinton in any way. Barthelemy's pamphlet was reprinted in Mémoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres 26 (1759) 577-97.

Parkinson, Cracking Codes. The Rosetta Stone and Decipherment (1999) 16. Daniels & Bright, The World's Writing Systems (1996) 145ff.

(This entry was last revised on 08-29-2014.)

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The First American Political Cartoon: "JOIN, or DIE." May 9, 1754

In the May 9, 1754 issue of his newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, printer, publisher, writer, scientist and inventor Benjamin Franklin published a political cartoon by Franklin showing eight American colonies as separated parts of a coiled snake with the caption, "JOIN, or DIE."

Franklin labeled eight separate sections of the snake with abbreviations for New York, New England, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Vermont, North Carolina and South Carolina.

"There was, at the time, a long-held superstition (with roots in the legend of Osiris) that held that a snake cut to pieces would come back to life if the pieces were put together before sunset. Separate, they are inert and impotent. United, they are active, and powerful. Delaware and Georgia were omitted, for reasons that remain unclear" (http://www.booktryst.com/2011/08/first-and-most-important-american.html, accessed 08-17-2011).

Franklin's accompanying text rallied the American colonies to unite and defend against the French in the French and Indian War. This was the first time that the colonies were asked to act as one.

James Parker republished Franklin's cartoon in the single September 21, 1765 issue of the Constitutional Courant attacking the Stamp Act. calling for the unification of the colonies in their struggle for justice from Great Britain. In 1774 Paul Revere altered the cartoon to fit the masthead of the Massachusetts Spy, and the cartoon became a symbol of colonial freedom during the American Revolutionary War.  Suitably redrawn, it returned to service for both the Union and the Confederacy in the American Civil War.

The original May 9, 1754 issue of the Pennsylvania Gazette is one of the rarest of early Americana, with the copy at the Library of Congress the only copy recorded in institutions.  

On September 12-14, 2011 a copy will be sold at Heritage Auctions in Beverly Hills. It carries an estimate of $100,000-$200,000.

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Thomas Simpson Publishes the Earliest Formal Treatment of "Data-Processing" 1755

In 1755 English mathematician Thomas Simpson published "On the Advantage of Taking the Mean of a Number of Observations, in Practical Astronomy" in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 49, part 1, 82-93.  Simpson's paper was "a milestone in statistical inference, as well as the earliest formal treatment of any data-processing practice" (Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace [2002] No. 16).

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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

Diderot on Information Overload, and the Encyclopedia as a Means of Organizing and Enhancing Associations in Knowledge 1755

In 1755 French writer and philosopher Denis Diderot published in the Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société‚ de gens de lettres an article entitled Encyclopédie. In that he explained that a primary reason for undertaking this enormous writing and publishing project was to manage information overload by providing a rational and comprehensible order to what was already an almost impossibly large and disorganized body of information. 

I preface my remarks About the Database with a brief quotation from Diderot's article. Equally relevant is this somewhat longer quotation, which places Diderot's partially self-deprecating thoughts in better context:

"As long as the centuries continue to unfold, the number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe. It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes. When that time comes, a project, until then neglected because the need for it was not felt, will have to be undertaken.

"If you will reflect on the state of literary production in those ages before the introduction of printing, you will form a mental picture of a small number of gifted men who are occupied with composing manuscripts and a very numerous body of workmen who are busy transcribing them. If you look ahead to a future age, and consider the state of literature after the printing press, which never rests, has filled huge buildings with books, you will find again a twofold division of labor. Some will not do very much reading, but will instead devote themselves to investigations which will be new, or which they will believe to be new (for if we are even now ignorant of a part of what is contained in so many volumes published in all sorts of languages, they will know still less of what is contained in those same books, augmented as they will be by a hundred—a thousand—times as many more). The others, day laborers incapable of producing anything of their own, will be busy night and day leafing through these books, taking out of them fragments they consider worthy of being collected and preserved. Has not this prediction already begun to be fulfilled? And are not several of our literary men already engaged in reducing all big books to little ones, among which there are still to be found many that are superfluous. Let us assume that their extracts have been competently made, and that these have been arranged in alphabetical order and published in an orderly series of volumes by men of intelligence—you have an encyclopedia!

"Thus we have now undertaken, in the interests of learning and for the sake of the human race, a task to which our grandsons would have had to devote themselves; but we have done so under more favorable circumstances, before a superabundance of books should have accumulated to make its execution extremely laborious" (translation in Baker, ed., The Old Regime and the French Revolution [1987] 85-86).

Diderot also believed that an encyclopedia should be a directory of associations where connections between different areas of knowledge could be exposed and pursued by individual readers in a way analogous to hypertext. In the same article he wrote:

"Every science overlaps with others: they are two continuous branches off a single trunk. He who composes an opus does not enter abruptly into his subject, does not close himself strictly within it, does not leave it abruptly: he is obliged to anticipate terrain adjoining his; its consequences often take him onto another contiguous terrain on the opposite side; and how many other excursions are necessary in the body of the work? What is the purpose of the forewords, introductions, prefaces, exordia, episodes, digressions, and conclusions? If we separated scrupulously from a book what is outside the subject it treats, we would almost always reduce it to a quarter of its volume. What does the encyclopedic linkage do? Just that harsh division. It sets the limits of a subject so firmly that there remains in an article only what is essential. A single new idea generates volumes under the pen of a writer; those volumes reduce to a few lines under the pen of an encyclopedist. We are subjected unawares to what is strictest and most precise in the geometricians' method. We progress rapidly. One page always presents something different from the preceding or subsequent page. The need of a proposition, a fact, an aphorism, a phenomenon, a system, requires no more than a single citation in an encyclopedia , just as in geometry. The geometrician refers from one theorem or problem to another, and the encyclopedist from one article to another. And so it is that two types of opus, which seem so very different in nature, come by the same means to create a most dense, tightly knit, and continuous whole. What I say is so precisely true that the method by which mathematics is treated in our dictionary is the same followed for other topics. From this point of view there is no difference between an article on algebra and an article on theology.

"Thanks to encyclopedic ordering, the universality of knowledge, and the frequency of references, the connections grow, the links go out in all directions, the demonstrative power is increased, the word list is complemented, fields of knowledge are drawn closer together and strengthened; we perceive either the continuity or the gaps in our system, its weak sides, its strong points, and at a glance on which objects it is important to work for one's own glory, or for the greater utility to humankind. If our dictionary is good, how many still better works it will produce" (http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=did;view=text;rgn=main;idno=did2222.0000.004, accessed 01-05-2013).

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The Tallard Sale: A New Level of Connoisseurship in the Cataloguing of Works of Art 1756

In mid-eighteenth century France the level of connoisseurship in art, and in the art market in general, including the rare book trade, made significant advances. A significant landmark was the publication of the Edmé-François Gersaint, P.-C.- A. Helle, and and Jean-Baptiste Glomy catalogue raisonnée of the works of Rembrandt (1752), the first significant catalogue raisonnée in Western art history.

As a result of this growing connoisseurship, and perhaps also as a result of Glomy's experience in editing the Rembrandt catalogue raisonnée, in 1756 commissaires-priseurs Jean-Baptiste Glomy (172?-1786) and Pierre Rémy (1715?-1797?) issued an auction catalogue that reflected a new level of scholarship and sophistication. In the auction catalogue of the sale in Paris of the paintings, sculpture in bronze, sculpture in marble, drawings, prints, porcelain, and furniture collected by Camille d'Hostun, Duc de Tallard, which they called a catalogue raisonnée, the auctionners authoritatively attributed works of art to a specific artist or workshop based on their own expertise. Prior to this catalogue descriptions of paintings in auction catalogues were vague, and often identified only by school, with little distinction made between originals and copies. 

The Tallard auction catalogue was entitled Catalogue raisonné des tableaux, sculptures, tant de marbre que de bronze, desseins et estampes des plus grands maîtres, porcelaines anciennes, meubles précieux, bijoux et autres effets qui composent le cabinet de feu Monsieur le duc de Tallard par les sieurs Remy & Glomy (1756). My copy of this catalogue is of special interest for including in manuscript not only prices realized, but also buyers' names, and also the names of collectors that certain buyers were representing. At the back of the copy is an 8-page printed addenda describing items that were left out of the main catalogue, and a schedule of dates that lots would be sold. This is followed by a second 4-page addenda with further scheduling of lots. The engraved frontispiece depicts an art auction in progress. The single additional engraved plate in the catalogue, facing p. 236, illustrates a very large and very old marble column, to which the auctioneers wanted to draw special attention.  

Watson, From Manet to Manhattan. The Rise of the Modern Art Market (1992) 58-59.

Michel, Le Commerce du tableau à Paris (2007) 232. For Rémy see 73ff.

(This entry was last revised on 06-03-2014.)

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George II Donates the "Old Royal Library" 1757

King George II donated the 'Old Royal Library' of the sovereigns of England to the British Museum. With that gift the British Museum obtained the privilege of acquiring books by copyright receipt.

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A Typographic Masterpiece, John Baskerville's First Book & the First Book Printed Partially on Wove Paper May 5, 1757

The first book, part of which was printed on wove paper (velin) invented by English papermaker James Whatman, was the edition of Virgil's Bucolica, Georgica et Aeneis printed in Birmingham, England by writing master, typographer and printer John Baskerville. The edition was advertised for sale in the London Press on May 5, 1757. Because Whatman could supply only enough wove paper for part of the edition,

"the first 28 sheets (A-2E) were printed on an unwatermarked wove paper, the remainder (2F-3H, Π-b) on an unwatermarked laid paper. At some time after the change from wove to laid paper a number of sheets and individual leaves were cancelled, those in the wove sections being identifiable through the cancellantia being printed on laid paper. Some of these cancels are found in nearly all copies of the book, some in only a few" (Gaskell, John Baskerville: A Bibliography [1959] no. 1).

The wove paper Whatman produced for this edition was a preliminary form:

"Apropos of the claim . . . that Baskerville's quarto Virgil of 1757 is printed on the first known specimen of western wove paper, it can be said without hesitation that the characteristics of this paper are unique. It is quite unlike the more successful wove papers that followed in having unmistakable wiremarks and flaws" (Balston, The Whatmans and Wove (Velin) Paper [1998] xxxv). 

Baskerville's Virgil of 1757 was his first publication, a project which he began in 1754, after he had made a fortune manufacturing japanned goods. Some authorities consider it Baskervile's finest work. The edition became famous for its typography, and overall design. 

"In this Virgil, his first book, the 'amateur' Baskerville shows an assurance one would have expected from a highly experienced master . . . His use of his own, freshly created type, with its balance between the subtlety of the earlier printers' designs and the harsh new French types, is exemplary. . . The skill seen here is especially remarkable, for such simplicity, even minimalism, was revolutionary. It was a defining moment in bookmaking, ridding it of the irrelevant, flowery decoration . . . The repercussions were to be felt not only in Britain, but in continental Europe, and even in America." (Bartram, Five Hundred Years of Book Design, 70-71).

Though book historians draw attention to the first use of wove paper in the first Baskerville edition of Virgil, there is no evidence that Baskerville was especially interested in this innovation in paper. Most of his later books were printed on the traditional laid paper. Besides the innovative typography and book design involved, Baskerville's first edition of Virgil was also known for the "glazed" surface of the paper. The exact method by which Baskerville glazed or hot-pressed his book-paper was a trade secret that Baskerville never revealed. As a result, extensive research by historians of printing and paper has been devoted to possible techniques involved; see Balston, op. cit (1998) 27-28, 217-224.

Eventually after the first edition of his 1757 4to Virgil was sold out, Baskerville published a second edition, produced in facsimile to the first. The precise date of this second edition, called by some a "forgery," is unknown, but it has been estimated to be around 1770. Among the ways it can be distinguished from the first edition is that is printed entirely on laid rather than wove paper. Determining the original printing from the early facsimile edition also requires attention to subtle bibliographical details cited in Gaskell's bibliography referenced above.

Pardoe, John Baskerville of Birmingham, Letter-Founder & Printer (1975).

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Linnaeus Introduces Binomial Nomenclature for Animals 1758

Carl Linnaeus published the tenth edition of his Systema naturae, in which he introduced binomial nomenclature for animal species. Using this system, Linnaeus named, and therefore classified, virtually all animal species known at this time.

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Barthélemy Deciphers the Phoenician Language 1758

Four years after deciphering Palmyrene, the first ancient script to be deciphered, in 1758 French writer, numismatist and linguist Abbé Jean-Jacques Barthélemy deciphered Phoenician on the basis of blingual Phoenician and Hebrew inscriptions found in Malta and two bilingual Phoenician and Hebrew inscriptions found in Cyprus by Richard Pococke. Bathélemy confirmed his reading with bilingual coins of from Tyre and Sidon, and a set of Sicilian-Punic tetradrachms.

Barthélemy published his discovery in "Réflexions sur quelques monuments phéniciens, et sur les alphabets qui en résultent," Memoires de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres 30 (1764) 405-26. In this paper Barthélemy postulated four rules of decipherment which withstood the test of time.  

My copy of Barthélemy's paper is a preprint paginated 1-23, with 5 plates. According on a note published in the margin of p. 1, Barthélemy read his report to the Académie des Inscriptions on April 12, 1758. It was not formally published until six years later, and from a setting of type different from my copy. The first of his plates reproduced the Malta inscriptions, the second reproduced recto and verso of 10 bilingual coins, the third reproduced the inscriptions found on Cyprus, and his fourth plate set out his understanding of the Phoenician alphabet. A fifth plate in my copy reproduces an inscription on a pitcher.

Daniels & Bright, The World's Writing Systems (1996) 144, 155.

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The British Museum Opens 1759

Having been founded in 1753 by the bequest of English physician Sir Hans Sloane, the British Museum opened to the public.

Sloane's library of about 40,000 volumes, especially significant for scientific and medical material, was among the largest formed in the eighteenth century. The British Museum retained all the Sloane manuscripts, but during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries they dispersed certain printed books from the collection as "duplicates." 

♦ The Sloane Printed Books Catalogue on the British Library website is a project to publish bibliographical descriptions of each volume in Sloane's original library from institutional holdings around the world.

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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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Laurence Sterne's "Tristram Shandy": Philosophical and Comedic Digressions and Innovative Illustration Techniques 1759 – 1767

English writer Laurence Sterne published the bawdy, humorous novel, The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman in nine volumes, the first two appearing in 1759, and seven others following over the next seven years (vols. 3 and 4, 1761; vols. 5 and 6, 1762; vols. 7 and 8, 1765; vol. 9, 1767). As its title suggests, the book is ostensibly Tristram's narration of his life story, but one of the central jokes of the novel is that Tristram cannot explain anything simply, and must make explanatory digressions (often erudite) on the widest variety of topics to add context and color to his tale, to the extent that his own birth is not even reached until Volume III. 

In the work Laurence Sterne employed unusual visual imagery that became famous in the history of book illustration: a black page that mourned the death of a character, a squiggly line drawn by another character as he flourished his walking stick, and on page 169, vol. 3, of the first edition an example of actual marbled paper mounted on a page. Sterne, an eccentric and tubercular Anglican priest, badgered his publisher, Dodsley, to include the marbled paper (which he called “the motley emblem of my work”) in order to suggest something about the opacity of literary meaning. Later editions economized production cost by replacing the actual mounted piece of marbled paper with a monochrome engraved reproduction.

Editions, translations and adaptations of Tristram Shandy continue to occur in many media. Relevant to illustrations in particular, in 2009, commemorating the 250th anniversary of Sterne's "Black Page," originally published in 1779 on p. 73 of Volume I, the Lawrence Sterne Trust held The Black Page Exhibition at Sterne's home, Shandy Hall, inviting 73 writers and artists to create their own "Black Page for exhibition and sale at auction. The page contained links to the websites of nearly all of the artists, reproducing the images each created for the exhibition. In 2011, on the 250th anniversary of Sterne's marbled page, the Lawrence Sterne Trust invitied 170 artists to produce their own versions of Sterne's "Emblem of My Work, most of which were reproduced at this link.

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The First Book Printed Entirely on Wove Paper October 6, 1759 – 1760

The first book printed entirely on James Whatman's wove paper, which had been invented by Whatman circa 1756, and first issued in Baskerville's quarto Virgil published in 1757, was English Shakespearean critic Edward Capell's Prolusions; or, Select Pieces of Antient Poetry. . . . This work was beautifully printed in London by Dryden Leach and completed, according to his colophon, on October 6, 1759.  It was issued by publishers J. and R. Tonson, with a title page dated 1760. By 1759 Whatman's wove paper was substantially improved over that used in the Baskerville Virgil.

Capell's book is notable in bibliography for including the first quasi-facsimile transcriptions of title pages of printed texts referenced.

The work was also the first modern edition of many of the early literary pieces it republished.

Balston, The Whatmans and Wove (Velin) Paper (1998) xxxiv, 85-86.

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The Copiale Cipher is Decrypted: Initiation into a Secret Society of Oculists Circa 1760 – 1780

The Copiale Cipher, an encrypted manuscript from circa1760-80, perserved at the German Academy of Sciences at Berlin, consisting of 75,000 characters on 105 pages, was decoded in April 2011 by an international team lead by Kevin Knight of the University of Southern California, using computer techniques. 

The cipher employed in the manuscript consists of 90 different characters, from Roman and Greek letters, to diacritics and abstract symbols. Catchwords (preview fragments) of one to three or four characters are written at the bottom of left–hand pages. The plain-text letters of the message were found to be encoded by accented Roman letters, Greek letters and symbols, with unaccented Roman letters serving only to represent spaces.

"The researchers found that the initial portion of 16 pages describes an initiation ceremony for a secret society, namely the "high enlightened (Hocherleuchtete) oculist order" of Wolfenbüttel. A parallel manuscript is kept at the Staatsarchiv Wolfenbüttel. The document describes, among other things, an initiation ritual in which the candidate is asked to read a blank piece of paper and, on confessing inability to do so, is given eyeglasses and asked to try again, and then again after washing the eyes with a cloth, followed by an 'operation' in which a single eyebrow hair is plucked "(Wikipedia article on Copiale Cipher, accessed 12-11-2011).

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John Mitchell Issues the First Scientific Explanation of Tsunamis 1760

In 1760 English natural philosopher and geologist John Michell published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society LI (1760) "Conjectures concerning the Cause and Observations upon the Phaenomena of Earthquakes." The work also appeared in a separate edition, a kind of early offprint. In this paper Michell "suggested that earthquakes were experienced as seismic waves of elastic compression travelled through the Earth. He was able to estimate both the epicentre and focus of the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake. He may have been the first to suggest that a Tsunami is caused by a subterranean earthquake" (Wikipedia article on John Michell, accessed 03-30-2012).

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The First Contemporary Art Exhibition in England is Accompanied by a Catalogue April 21, 1760

In 1760 the first exhibition in England of living artists was staged by the Royal Society of Arts in London. It included works by Joshua Reynolds, Richard WilsonLouis-François Roubiliac and more than 60 other artists. The exhibition was accompanied by a 15, [1]pp. catalogue entitled A Catalogue of the Pictures, Sculptures, Models, Drawings, Prints, &c. of the Present Artists, Exhibited in the Great Room of the Society of the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce, on the 21st of April, 1760. The catalogue, which was sold for six pence, listed 130 works divided into three sections: Pictures, 1-74, Sculptures, Models, and Engravings, 75-107, and Drawings, Engravings on Copper, 108-130. In the second section the word engravings was used to categorize engraved gems and medals.

Luckhurst, The Story of Exhibitions (1951) 15-23.

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Astronomer Jérôme Lefrançois de Lalande Writes the First Comprehensive Treatise on Papermaking 1761

Astronomer and writer Joseph Jérôme Lefrançois de Lalande published l'Art de faire le papier in volume 4 of the series Descriptions des arts et métiers published by the Académie royale des Sciences in 1761. Papermaking, a craft which had arrived in Europe earlier than printing, and had been passed down as trade secrets through apprenticeship for even longer, was later than printing in having a comprehensive manual published. The first comprehensive printing and typesetting manual had been published by printer Joseph Moxon roughly eighty years before de Lalande's, in 1683-84. By the mid-eighteenth century several other printing manuals— most notably that of Fertel— had been published. However, since literacy was not required for tasks in papermaking it is probable that some papermakers were illiterate, in contrast to printers, who had to be literate. Thus it may not be entirely inappropriate that this first detailed treatise was written not by a professional papermaker but by a scientist and astronomer. Its publication in a handsomely and expensively printed scientific series would suggest that it was intended not necessarily for papermakers themselves, but for students of technology, or entrepreneurs who might enter the papermaking industry.

De Lalande's work comprised 150 folio pages illustrated with 14 large engravings, describing the process of papermaking. Fundamental elements of the process were (1) Selection of raw material, i.e. rags. High quality white paper depended on using high quality white rags. (2) Conversion of rags into pulp (or "stuff"). When de Lalande published this process was done by a washer/beater "engine" propelled by water power. (3) Sheet-making and consolidation. (4) Sizing. (5) Sorting, Finishing and Packing.  According to Cohen and Wakeman (reference cited below) the 14 plates reproduced by de Lalande "date from 1698 and were originally prepared for a text, now lost by Giles Filleau des Billetes completed in 1706."

When de Lalande published, other than the conversion of rags into pulp, papermaking remained a manual process. It would begin to be mechanized roughly fifty years later, in the early nineteenth century.  A very careful and accurate observer, de Lalande consulted with numerous professional papermakers in different regions of France in order to write his treatise. The work covers all aspects of the trade, including the design and construction of buildings, the design of machinery and equipment, and the economics of the business, plus a glossary of terms of the trade.

de LaLande's work was translated into German along with the rest of the Descriptions des arts et métiers series, from 1762-75. An Italian translation of de LaLande's work appeared in 1762, an edition in Spanish in 1778, and a Dutch translation in 1792. In 2014 I was surprised to learn that an anonymous English translation of roughly one-quarter of de LaLande's text, credited as "from a late Treatise, in French" was serialized in London in The Universal Magazine issues for March, May and June of 1762 and February and April, 1763, with reproductions of 5 of the plates. These portions were reprinted with an introduction by Colin Cohen and Geoffrey Wakeman and issued in an edition limited to 200 copies by the Plough Press, Loughborough in Leicestershire, England, 1978. The complete work work was first translated into English by Richard MacIntrye Atkinson more than 200 years after its original publication, in a splendid full-size edition limited to 405 leatherbound copies in 1976. This new English translation, published by The Ashling Press, Mountcashel Castle, Kilmurry, Sixmilebridge, Co. Clare, Ireland, included all the plates printed on blue hand-made paper made by Ashling Papermakers.

Hunter, The Literature of Papermaking 1390-1800 (1925) 33.

(This entry was last revised on 12-02-2014.)

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Frank Nichols Publishes Probably the First Color-Printed Illustrations in a Major Scientific Periodical 1761 – 1762

On November 26, 1761 English physician Frank Nicholls's  "Observations concerning the Body of his late Majesty, October 26, 1760" was read before the Royal Society. This paper,  in which Nicholls described and illustrated a rupture of the right ventricle he discovered at the autopsy of the late George II, was published in Philosophical Transactions Vol. 52, Pt 1, 265-272. It was illustrated with two folding plates of the heart engraved by J. Mynde and printed in two colors (brown and sanguine). These were probably the first color-printed plates in a major scientific periodical.

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Barthélemy Discovers the Relationship of Egyptian Hieroglypics to Phoenician and Greek 1761 – 1763

Having deciphered Palmyrene in 1754 and Phoenician in 1758, Abbé Jean-Jacques Barthélemy directed his attention toward Egyptian hieroglyphs. He is considered the first to suggest that the cartouches or oval-shaped framed sections of hieroglyphic inscriptions contained the names of gods and kings. The date he made this observation is unclear; Murray, Milestones in Archaeology. A Chronological Encyclopedia (2007) page 177 set the date of that key observation at 1761. I have also seen the year 1762 associated with this observation, and where it was first published was unclear in August 2014.

On April 12, 1763 Barthélemy read a report to the Académie Royale des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres entitled "Reflexions générales sur les rapports des langues egyptienne, phenicienne & grecque." This was not formally published until it appeared in Vol. 32, pp. 212-233, of the Mémoires of the society issued in 1768. The printing that I own of this report is paginated 1-22 and was printed from a different setting of type than the journal. Because this was bound in a volume containing other separate printings and preprints by Barthélemy, I think that it is logical to assume that what I have is a preprint in view of the five year delay between the time the paper was read and its eventual journal publication.

Regarding this paper historian Martin Bernal wrote in Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization Volume 3, p. 171:

"In 1763 the brilliant Abbé Barthélemy, decipherer of Palmyrene and Phoencian, presented a paper entitled 'General reflections on the relations between the Egyptian, Phoenician and Greek languages'. In this his first correct assumption, based on Kircher—whose other work he considered fantastic—was that Coptic was a form of Ancient Egyptian. He also recognized the language family later known as Semitic, which he called 'Phoenician'. On these two bases, he established that Egyptian, although not a Semitic language, was related to the Semitic family. It is true that some of his lexical evidence can now be seen to have been faulty, as some Coptic words derive from Semitic loans into Late Egyptian. However, the main lines of his argument, based on similarities between pronouns and grammatical features, are irreproachable. In this sense, then, Barthélemy was a pioneer of what we should now call Afroasiatic studies.

"Barthélemy admited that he could see no such grammatical parallels between Coptic and Greek. Nevertheless he believed in the Egyptian colonization and civilizing of Greece and maintained that 'It is impossible that in this echange of ideas and goods, the Egyptian language did not participate in the formation of Greek. He then gave a list of etymologies from Egyptian into Greek, several of which - such as the Coptic hof, Demotic hf to the Greek ophis (snake) - would seem plausible today."

David, "En marge du mémoire de l'abbé Barthélemy sur les inscriptions phéniciennes (1758)", Comptes rendus des séances de l'Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres  105 (1961) 30-42.

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Bayes's Theorem for Calculating Inverse Probabilities 1763

On April 7, 1761 Thomas Bayes, an English clergyman and mathematician, died at the age of 59. Two years after his death, his paper, entitled "An Essay Towards Solving a Problem in the Doctrine of ChancesThomas Bayes was published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society 53 (1763) 370-418. Bayes's paper enunciated Bayes's Theorem for calculating "inverse probabilities”—the basis for methods of extracting patterns from data in decision analysisdata mining, statistical learning machinesBayesian networksBayesian inference.

"Whereas the ordinary rules of probability address such problems as 'what is the probability of drawing a yellow marble, if you draw three marbles from a sack containing 10 yellow marbles and 90 white marbles,' a Bayesian might ask the question, 'if I draw five marbles from a sack, and one is yellow and four are white, what is the probable distribution of the marbles in the sack?'  The advantage of inverse probability is that predictions can be continually refined as experience accumulates, so that if you draw five more marbles, and they are all white, that will change the probability prediction (and drawing a blue marble would drastically alter the situation), but Bayes’ theorem can easily accommodate any and all new information.  Bayes wrote his classic paper, 'An Essay towards solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances,' sometime in the late 1740s, but he never published it, for reasons unknown. After his death, his friend Richard Price found the paper among Bayes’ effects, and Price sent it for publication to John Canton of the Royal Society of London (apparently modifying the original paper considerably), and it appeared in the Philosophical Transactions in 1763. No one paid it the slightest attention. Ten years later, the Frenchman Pierre Simon Laplace independently discovered the rules of inverse probability, and although he later learned about Bayes’ paper and gave him priority, for the next century and a half Laplace got most of the credit (when credit was given at all--most statisticians did not consider Bayesian methods to be reputable, since they often involved making hunches and using gut feelings).  It wasn't until 1950 that the famous geneticist and mathematician R.A. Fisher first applied Bayes’ name to the methods of inverse probability, and since then, Bayes’ reputation has been gradually restored" (William B. Ashworth, Jr., email received on April 7, 2014.)

Hook & Norman, Origins of Cyberspace (2002) no. 1.

(This entry was last revised on April 7, 2014.)

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Jean-Vincent Capronnier Gauffecourt Issues the First Separately Printed French Treatise on Bookbinding 1763

In 1763 Jean-Vincent Capronnier Gauffecourt privately issued from La Motte, near Lyon, Traité de la relieur des livres. This was the first separately-printed treatise on bookbinding in French. The author, Gauffecourt (1692-1766) was, according to Pollard, a talented amateur and a friend of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Mme d'Épinay. He installed a printing press in his house and printed several books in small editions.

Of this manual on bookbinding Gauffecourt is thought to have printed  either 12 or 25 copies, of which Pollard could locate only a single extant copy in a private collection; he located manuscript copies at Cambridge University Library and in the Grolier Club, New York. Chalmers also located a copy of the printed edition in the Bibliothèque publique et universitaire de Genève.The French text was reprinted with an English translation by Claude Benaiteau, and issued in an edition of 300 copies with an introduction by John P. Chalmers (Austin, Texas: W. Thomas Taylor, 1987).

Pollard, Early Bookbinding Manuals (1984) no. 43.

(This entry was last revised on 02-21-2016.)

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Bookseller Guillaume François de Bure Begins "Modern" Rare Book Cataloguing 1763 – 1782

"Modern" rare book cataloguing, with researched descriptive annotations, originated between 1763 and 1782 with the publication by antiquarian bookseller and bibliographer Guillaume François de Bure (Debure) of Bibliographie instructive; ou traité de la connoissance des livres rares et singuliersContentant un Catalogue raisonné del la plus grande partie de ces Livres précieux, qui ont paru successivement dans la République des Lettres, depuis l'Invention de l'Imprimerie, jusques à nos jours; avec des Notes sur la différences & la rareté actuelle, & son dégré plus ou moins considérable: la maniere de distinguer les Editions originale, d'avec les contrefaites, avec un Description Typographique particuliere du composé de ces rare Volumes, ou moyen de laquell il sera aisé de reconnoître facilement les Exemplaires, ou mutilés en partie, ou absolument imparfaits, qui s'en recontrent journellement dans le Commerce, & de les distinguer surrement de ceux qui seront exactement completes dans toutes leurs parties. Disposé par order de Matieres & des facultés, suivant de systême Bibliographique généralement adopté; avec un Table générale des Auteurs, & un systême complete de Bibliographie choisie.

This main work appeared in 7 volumes. Volumes 8 and 9, published in 1769, consisted of Supplement à la Bibliographie instructive, our Catalogue des Livres  du Cabinet de feu M. Louis Jean Gaignat. This was the auction catalogue of Gaignat's collection written and published by de Bure. More than a decade later, in 1782, de Bure issued a tenth volume, also subtitled verbosely:

"Contenant une Table destinée à faciliter la recherche des livres anonymes qui ont été announcés par M. de Bure le jeune dans sa Bibliographie instructive & dans le Catalogue de M. Gaignat, & à suppléer à tout ce qui a été omis dans les tables des ces deux ouvrages, précédée d'un discours sur la science bibliographique et sur les devoirs du bibliographe; et accompagné de courtes notes servant de correctif à différens articles de la Bibliographie, & d'additions à quelques-uns de ceux dans lesquels les noms des Auteurs Anonymes n'avoient par été dévoilés. 

De Bure organized his reference work, and the Gaignat auction catalogue, according to the basic five categories originally promoted by Gabriel Martin in the pioneering Bigot sale in 1706. Among the many notable features of the Bibliographie instructive, it was the first to identify and describe the Gutenberg Bible. De Bure's extensive description first appeared in Volume 1, Théologie (1763) pp. 32-40. In 1769 he provided a dealer's description of the same work in Volume One of the Gaignat sale catalogue, Supplement à la bibliographie instructive, lot 16, pp. 6-7.

Roughly one hundred years after the Bibliographie instructive was published Brunet II, 552-53 wrote of this work: 

"une production tout à fait neuve et assez remarkable à l'époque où elle parut: aujourd'hui même elle peut encore être consultée utilement pour plusieurs articles qui n'ont pas été décrits autre part avec autant de détails que là. Ce catalogue donne d'ailleurs une idée exact du goût qui dominait alors parmi des amateurs de livres rare et précieux."

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) No. 107.

My thanks to Jean-Paul Fontaine for pointing out the correct reference for De Bure's first description of the Gutenberg Bible.

(This entry was last revised on 06-15-2014.)

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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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Pierre-Simon Fournier Issues an Influential Manual of Types and Typefounding 1764 – 1766

In 1764 printer and typefounder Pierre-Simon Fournier le Jeune issued from Paris his Manuel typographique, utile aux gens de lettres, et à ceux qui exercent les différents parties de l'Art de l'Imprimerie in 2 volumes. The first volume concerned typefounding and contained 16 plates showing equipment and instruments used by the typefounder. The second volume was a survey of European typefoundries, mainly of value today for its wide-ranging collection of type specimens from different foundries. Fournier planned a third volume on printing techniques, and a fourth volume on the lives of typographers.  His death in 1768 prevented publication of those volumes. 

In 1930 English typographer and historian of printing Harry Carter published an annotated English translation in an edition of 260 copies at the Curwen Press: Fournier on Typefounding. The Text of the Manuel typographique (1764-66) translated into English and Edited with Notes by Harry Carter. This was reprinted by offset as a trade edition, with a new foreword and a supplementary bibliography by Carter, in 1973.

Barber, French Letterpress Printing (1969) 10.

(This entry was last revised on 06-15-2014.)

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William Caslon Issues the First Type Specimen Book from an English Type Foundry 1764

English gunsmith, tool-cutter and type-founder William Caslon published A Specimen of Printing Types, by W. Caslon and Son, Letter Founders, in London in 1764. Bliss identified a unique copy of this work, probably a proof copy, dated 1763, in the American Antiquarian Society. He also identified two variant imprints, the first "Printed by Dryden Leach," and another "Printed by John Towers."

Caslon, known for the Caslon typeface, became a type-founder in 1720. He was was the first really competent cutter of punches and caster of types in England, and the first typefounder to develop a large-scale business. Caslon's success virtually stopped the importation of Dutch types, upon which English printers had relied for so long. Prior to his first specimen book Caslon published a broadside specimen sheet in 1734.

Carey S. Bliss reproduced the Dryden Leach issue of Caslon's specimen book in A Pair on Printing (1982).

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James Watt's Key Inventions Make the Steam Engine Practical 1765 – 1788

Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer Jame Watt first turned his attention to steam engines in 1763 when he was asked to repair a model Newcomen engine belonging to the University of Glasgow. After much experimentation Watt demonstrated that about three-quarters of the thermal energy of the steam was being consumed in heating the engine cylinder on every cycle. This energy was wasted because later in the cycle cold water was injected into the cylinder to condense the steam to reduce its pressure. By repeatedly heating and cooling the cylinder the engine wasted most of its thermal energy rather than converting it into mechanical energy. Watt's first key discovery, which he achieved in May 1765, was to cause the steam to condense in a separate chamber apart from the piston, and to maintain the temperature of the cylinder at the same temperature as the injected steam by surrounding it with a "steam jacket." By this method very little energy was absorbed by the cylinder on each cycle, making more available to perform useful work. 

Watt's next major contribution was sun and planet gear invented by the Scottish engineer William Murdoch, an employee of Boulton and Watt in Birmingham, but was patented by Watt in October 1781. Invented to bypass the patent on the crank held by James Pickard, the sun and planet gear played an important part in the development of devices for rotation in the Industrial Revolution..

Over the next six years Watt made a number of other improvements and modifications: a double acting engine, in which the steam acted alternately on the two sides of the piston, and a compound engine, which connected two or more engines. For these he received patents in 1781 and 1782. Another improvment was the steam indicator which produced an informative plot of the pressure in the cylinder against its volume, which he kept as a trade secret. His other important invention was parallel motion which was essential in double-acting engines as it produced the straight line motion required for the cylinder rod and pump, from the connected rocking beam, whose end moves in a circular arc. This was patented in 1784. In 1788 Watt invented the centrifugal governor to regulate the speed of his steam engine. This created interest in other feedback devices. All together Watt's improvements produced an engine which was up to five times more fuel efficient than the Newcomen engine.

(This entry was last revised on 03-20-2015.)

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Joseph Priestley Issues the First Biographical Timeline Chart 1765

British theologian, dissenting clergyman, natural philosopher, educator, and political theorist Joseph Priestley published A Chart of Biography in London with text entitled A Description of a Chart of Biography in 1765. Priestley's work was the first biographical timeline chart, in which individual bars were used to visualize the life span of a person, allowing the comparison of the lifespans of many people.

"The Chart of Biography covers a vast timespan, from 1200 BC to 1800 AD, and includes two thousand names. Priestley organized his list into six categories: Statesman and Warriors; Divines and Metaphysicians; Mathematicians and Physicians (natural philosophers were placed here); Poets and Artists; Orators and Critics (prose fiction authors were placed here); and Historians and Antiquarians (lawyers were placed here). Priestley's 'principle of selection' was fame, not merit; therefore, as he mentions, the chart is a reflection of current opinion. He also wanted to ensure that his readers would recognize the entires on the chart. Priestley had difficulty assigning all of the people listed to individual categories; he attempted to list them in the category under which their most important work had been done. Machiavelli is therefore listed as a historian rather than a statesman and Cicero is listed as a statesman instead of an orator. The chart was also arranged in order of importance; 'statesmen are placed on the lower margin, where they are easier to see, because they are the names most familiar to readers' " (Wikipedia article on A Chart of Biography, accessed 03-16-2010).

Rosenberg & Grafton, Cartographies of Time (2010) 116-17, plate 19.

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Jacob Christian Schäffer Issues "The Most Interesting and Rarest Work" on Papermaking January 30, 1765 – 1771

German pastor, botanist, mycologist, entomologist, ornithologist and inventor Jacob Christian Schäffer published Versuche und Muster ohne alle Lumpen oder doch mit enem geringen Zusatze derselben Papier zu machen in six volumes, Regensburg, 1765-71, in which he documented his experiments with new papermaking materials, and included actual specimens of paper made with each.  Because his experiments were conducted prior to the discovery of bleach by Scheele, Berthollet and others, all of Schäffer's samples show the tint of the original material from which they were made. Schäffer's book also probably includes the first documented sample of paper produced from wood pulp—not surprising because Schäffer, an entomologist, studied the production of wood pulp paper by wasps: 

"In most of the examples about one-fifth part cotton rags were added to the pulp to help bind the fibres together. A number of the specimens are sized and nearly all have been printed upon.

"It is curious to note one of the first specimens shown in Schaeffer's books was made from wasps' nests–for it was not the wasp, himself, the first papermaker, or was it the frog who was the original fabricator of paper? The wasp made his nest of wood fibre cleverly felted together exactly as paper is constructed, while the frog made a peculiar kind of spittle on the surface of ponds which became well-felted paper after drying naturally in the sun" (Hunter, The Literature of Papermaking 1390-1800 [1925] 34-36.)

Writing in 1925, Dard Hunter described Schäffer's set of books as "the most interesting and rarest work on the subject of paper ever published," and stated that complete copies with all of the 82 original paper specimens were extremely difficult to find.

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Computing the Nautical Almanac, Called the "Seaman's Bible" 1766

In 1766 the British Government sanctioned Nevil Maskelyne, the Astronomer Royal, to produce each year a set of navigational tables, to be called the Nautical Almanac. This was the first permanent mathematical table-making project in the world.

Known as the "Seaman's Bible," the Nautical Almanacs, first published in 1767, greatly improved the accuracy of navigation. However, the accuracy of the tables in the Nautical Almanacs was dependent upon the accuracy of the human computers who produced them, working by hand and separated geographically in an early example of organized but distant collaboration.

By the early nineteenth century, the time of Charles Babbage, these tables became notorious for their errors, providing Babbage the incentive to develop mechanical systems, which he called calculating engines, to improve their accuracy.

(This entry was last revised on 05-02-2016.)

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Aristotle's Complete Masterpiece: Probably the Earlest Illustrated Medical Book Published in the American Colonies 1766

In 1766 a printer calling himself Zechariah Feeling (perhaps a pseudonym for Zechariah Fowle) issued from Boston Aristotle's Complete Master-Piece, in Three Parts; Displaying the Secrets of Nature in the Generation of Man . . . to which is Added, a Treasure of Health, or the Family Physician . . . This octavo edition of 140 pages contained a woodcut frontispiece and 9 woodcut illustrations (one repeated), two by Isaiah Thomas. 

This edition, a copy of which passed through my hands in 2012, designated itself the "Thirtieth Edition". First published in London in 1684, Aristotle's Complete Masterpiece, an anonymous reproductive and sexual manual, went through hundreds of editions between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, but because the work was considered pornographic, it was often issued under false imprints and sold "under the table." "Largely a compendium of reproductive lore, Aristotle's Masterpiece also contained a prescriptive message about sexuality. It repeated early modern English beliefs that sexual pleasure for both male and female was not only desirable but also necessary for conception. That reproduction was the primary goal of sexuality recurred as a theme throughout its various editions" (D'Emilio & Freedman, Intimate Matters: A History of Sexuality in America [1988], 19-20).

Austen's Early American Medical Imprints 1668-1820 does not cite any illustrated American medical works prior to the 1755 "26th" edition of the Masterpiece, which is the earliest edition of this work that Austen records. Hamilton's Early American Book Illustrators and Wood-Engravers 1670-1870, a catalogue of the Hamilton collection at Princeton, does not record any examples of illustrated American medical works prior to the 1796 edition of the Masterpiece. The woodcuts in our edition of Aristotle's Complete Masterpiece included a frontispiece showing a large and a small human figure, an illustration of a dissected pregnant uterus, four rather fanciful illustrations of birth defects (conjoined twins and hairy cyclops), two astrological illustrations (Man of Signs) and a small cut of a hand. The two "Man of Signs" cuts were executed by Isaiah Thomas (1749-1831), the famous American printer and publisher, who became Zechariah Fowle's apprentice in 1755 at the early age of six and remained with Fowle until 1765. Thomas's cuts were also used by Fowle in his 1767 edition of The New Book of Knowledge. The woodcut frontispiece appears again in Nathaniel Coverly's 1770 edition of The Narrative of the Captivity of Mary Rowlandson.

The American Antiquarian Society's online catalogue cites five earlier American, or possibly American editions: the "25th," published in 1748; the "26th" and "27th," both published in 1755; another "27th," published in 1759; and the "28th," published in 1766. The AAS's copies are the only recorded examples of these editions. None of these earlier editions includes a place name in its imprint, so it is difficult to state with certainty that they were published in the American colonies. The "26th" edition, although cited in Austen and Bristol, is most likely a British imprint. The edition numbers are meaningless; the 1796 edition of the Masterpiece is also described as the "30th."

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The Jacquet-Droz Automata 1768 – 1774

Between 1768 and 1774 Swiss-born watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz, his son Henri-Louis, and Jean-Frédéric Leschot constructed three automata: The Writer (controlled by a mechanism consisting of 6000 metal parts), The Musician (controlled by a 2500-piece mechanism) and The Draughtsman (controlled by a 2000-piece mechanism).  

The Writer has an input device to set tabs that form a mechanical programmable memory, forty cams that represent a read-only program, and a quill pen for output. He is thus able to write any text up to 40 letters long. The text is coded on a wheel where characters are selected one by one. He uses a goose feather to write, which he inks from time to time, and he shakes his wrist to prevent ink from spilling. His eyes follow the text being written, and his head moves when he dips his pen in the inkwell. 

The Musician is a female organist who actually plays a genuine custom-built instrument by pressing the keys with her fingers. The music is not recorded or played by a mechanical music box. The automaton "breathes," showing movements of her chest, follows her fingers with her head and eyes, and also imitates some of the movements of a real player such as balancing her torso. 

The Draughtsman is a young child who actually draws four different images: a portrait of Louis XV, a royal couple (believed to be Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI), a dog with "Mon toutou" ("my doggy") written beside it, and a scene of Cupid driving a chariot pulled by a butterfly. This automaton uses a system of cams which code the movements of the hand in two dimensions, plus one to lift the pencil. The Draughtsman also moves on his chair, and periodically blows on his pencil to remove dust.

The Jaquet-Droz automata are preserved and operational at the art and history museum in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. 

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Von Heineken Issues the First Systematic Guide to Collecting Prints, Blockbooks, and the Earliest Printed books 1768 – 1771

Idée générale d'une collection complette d'estampes. Avec une dissertation sur l'origine de la gravure & sur les premiers livres d'images was the first systematic guide to collecting prints, blockbooks, and the earliest printed books. It was issued in 1771 from Leipzig and Vienna by Karl Heinrich von Heineken (Carl Heinrich von Heinecken), a German art historian, art collector, librarian, diplomat, and director of the Dresden Print Room (Kupferstichkabinett, Dresden). Of the eighteenth century guides to collecting, von Heincken's work was exceptional in the number and quality of its illustrations, including 32 engraved and woodcut plates (21 folding, 11 single-page) and occasional small woodcut text illustrations.

Heineken's 1771 guide represented partly a condensation, reorganization and, and of course, a translation of portions of his much longer Nachrichten von Künstlern und Kunstsachen issued from Leipzig in two volumes in 1768 and 1769. Both works were issued by the same publisher, Johann Paul Kraus, and shared some of the same illustrations. In the Nachrichten Heineken provided an account of the earliest Dutch writers on chalcography, and conjectured that Gutenberg took the idea of printing from playing-card makers, who were the first engravers of subjects intermingled with texts. Heinecken believed, incorrectly, that Gutenberg's early efforts at Strassbourg were ineffectual and that Gutenberg's first successful productions were the product of woodblock printing.

Heineken undertook a multi-volume Dictionnaire des artistes dont nous avons des estampes, avec une notice détaillé de leurs ouvrages gravées. Of this work only the first four volumes were published between 1778 and 1780, covering the letters A-Diz. The manuscript of the remaining work was preserved in Dresden, but has been considered lost since World War II, and was possibly destroyed during the bombing of the city.

Bigmore & Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing (1884; 2001 edition) 320, 310-320.

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Encyclopaedia Britannica Begins December 1768 – 1771

"A Society of Gentlemen in Scotland" based in Edinburgh published, in 100 fascicules issued weekly, the Encyclopaedia Britannica; or a Dictionary of Arts and Sciences Compiled upon a New Plan in which the different Sciences and Arts and digest into distinct Treatsies or Systems; and the various Technical Terms etc. are explained as they occur in the order of the Alphabets. Illustrated with One Hundred and Sixty Copperplates.

The complete first edition issued in 1771 was bound in three volumes. The Edinburgh 'society' mentioned on the title page may have consisted only of the editor, the antiquarian William Smellie, the engraver, Andrew Bell, and the printer, Colin Macfarquhar.

"It was a masterful composition although, by his own admission, Smellie borrowed liberally from many authors of his day, such as Voltaire, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Pope and Samuel Johnson. Nevertheless, the first edition of the Britannica contained gross inaccuracies and fanciful speculations; for example, it states that excess use of tobacco could cause neurodegeneration, 'drying up the brain to a little black lump consisting of mere membranes'. Smellie strove to make Britannica as usable as possible, saying that 'utility ought to be the principal intention of every publication. Wherever this intention does not plainly appear, neither the books nor their authors have the smallest claim to the approbation of mankind'. Smellie entertained strong opinions; for example, he defines farriery as 'the art of curing the diseases of horses. The practice of this useful art has been hitherto almost entirely confined to a set of men who are totally ignorant of anatomy, and the general principles of medicine.' Although possessed of wide knowledge, Smellie was not an e'pert in all matters; for example, his article on 'Woman' has but four words: "the female of man.' Despite its incompleteness and inaccuracies, Smellie's vivid prose and the easy navigation of the first edition led to strong demand for a second; some prurient engravings by Andrew Bell (later censored by King George III) may also have contributed to the success of the first edition. Smellie did not participate in the second edition of the Britannica, because he objected to the inclusion of biographical articles in an encyclopedia dedicated to the arts and sciences." (Wikipedia article on William Smellie, accessed 12-04-2008).

". . .the eleventh edition, 1910-11, is noteworthy for its index which has justly been described as the best index of any work of reference"(Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man [1967] no. 218.)

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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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Von Kempelen "Invents" the Chess-Playing Turk & Edgar Allan Poe Compares it to Babbage's Difference Engine No. 1 1769 – 1836

In 1769 Hungarian author and inventor Wolfgang von Kempelen (Johann Wolfgang Ritter von Kempelen de Pázmánd; Hungarian: Kempelen Farkas) built his chess-playing Turk, an automaton that purported to play chess. Although the machine displayed an elaborate gear mechanism, its cabinet actually concealed a man controlling the moves of the machine.

Von Kempelen's Turk became a commercial sensation, deceiving a very large number of people. It became the most famous, or the most notorious, automaton in history. It also must have been kind of an open secret within the professional chess community because over the years numerous chess masters were hired so that The Turk could challenge all comers with its chess skills. With a skilled concealed operator the Turk won most of the games played during its demonstrations around Europe and the Americas for nearly 84 years, playing and defeating many challengers including Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin. Although many had suspected the hidden human operator, the hoax was first revealed by the English engineer Robert Willis in his illustrated pamphlet, An Attempt to Analyse the Automaton Chess Player of Mr. de Kempelen. With an Easy Method of Imitating the Movements of the Celebrated Figure. . .  (London, 1821). The operator or operators working within the mechanism during Kempelen's original tour remain a mystery; however after the engineer Johann Nepomuk Mälzel purchased the device in 1804, and exhibited it first in Europe and in 1826 in America, the chess masters who secretly operated it included Johann Allgaier, Hyacinthe Henri Boncourt, Aaron Alexandre, William Lewis, Jacques Mouret, and William Schlumberger. In 1818, for a short time while Boncourt was the operator of the Turk, he caught the flu and his chess performance was rather poor, and he could not control his coughing which could be heard by spectators, creating a certain embarrassment to Mälzel who owned the machine. For this reason Mälzel added some noisy gears to the Turk, which had no other purpose than to cover any noise that might come from the operator.

One of the most insightful commentators on The Turk was the American writer, poet, editor, literary critic, and magazinist Edgar Allan Poe. who in April 1836 published in the Southern Literary Messenger issued from Richmond, Virginia "Maelzel's Chess Player." In this article on automata Poe provided a very closely reasoned explanation of the concealed human operation of von Kempelen's Turk, which Poe had seen exhibited in Richmond by Maelzel a few weeks earlier. 

Poe also briefly compared von Kempelen's Turk to Babbage's Difference Engine No. 1, which was limited to the computation of short mathematical tables, suggesting essentially that if the Turk was fully automated and had the ability to use the results of one logical operation to make a decision about the next one—what was later called "conditional branching" —it would be far superior to Babbage's machine. This feature Babbage later designed into his Analytical Engine

Here is Poe's comparison of the two machines:

"But if these machines were ingenious, what shall we think of the calculating machine of Mr. Babbage? What shall we think of an engine of wood and metal which can not only compute astronomical and navigation tables to any given extent, but render the exactitude of its operations mathematically certain through its power of correcting its possible errors? What shall we think of a machine which can not only accomplish all this, but actually print off its elaborate results, when obtained, without the slightest intervention of the intellect of man? It will, perhaps, be said, in reply, that a machine such as we have described is altogether above comparison with the Chess-Player of Maelzel. By no means — it is altogether beneath it — that is to say provided we assume (what should never for a moment be assumed) that the Chess-Player is a pure machine, and performs its operations without any immediate human agency. Arithmetical or algebraical calculations are, from their very nature, fixed and determinate. Certain data being given, certain results necessarily and inevitably follow. These results have dependence upon nothing, and are influenced by nothing but the data originally given. And the question to be solved proceeds, or should proceed, to its final determination, by a succession of unerring steps liable to no change, and subject to no modification. This being the case, we can without difficulty conceive the possibility of so arranging a piece of mechanism, that upon starting it in accordance with the data of the question to be solved, it should continue its movements regularly, progressively, and undeviatingly towards the required solution, since these movements, however complex, are never imagined to be otherwise than finite and determinate. But the case is widely different with the Chess-Player. With him there is no determinate progression. No one move in chess necessarily follows upon any one other. From no particular disposition of the men at one period of a game can we predicate their disposition at a different period. Let us place the first move in a game of chess, in juxta-position with the data of an algebraical question, and their great difference will be immediately perceived. From the latter — from the data — the second step of the question, dependent thereupon, inevitably follows. It is modelled by the data. It must be thus and not otherwise. But from the first move in the game of chess no especial second move follows of necessity. In the algebraical question, as it proceeds towards solution, the certainty of its operations remains altogether unimpaired. The second step having been a consequence of the data, the [column 2:] third step is equally a consequence of the second, the fourth of the third, the fifth of the fourth, and so on, and not possibly otherwise, to the end. But in proportion to the progress made in a game of chess, is the uncertainty of each ensuing move. A few moves having been made, no step is certain. Different spectators of the game would advise different moves. All is then dependent upon the variable judgment of the players. Now even granting (what should not be granted) that the movements of the Automaton Chess-Player were in themselves determinate, they would be necessarily interrupted and disarranged by the indeterminate will of his antagonist. There is then no analogy whatever between the operations of the Chess-Player, and those of the calculating machine of Mr. Babbage, and if we choose to call the former a pure machine we must be prepared to admit that it is, beyond all comparison, the most wonderful of the inventions of mankind. Its original projector, however, Baron Kempelen, had no scruple in declaring it to be a "very ordinary piece of mechanism — a bagatelle whose effects appeared so marvellous only from the boldness of the conception, and the fortunate choice of the methods adopted for promoting the illusion." But it is needless to dwell upon this point. It is quite certain that the operations of the Automaton are regulated by mind, and by nothing else. Indeed this matter is susceptible of a mathematical demonstration, a priori. The only question then is of the manner in which human agency is brought to bear. Before entering upon this subject it would be as well to give a brief history and description of the Chess-Player for the benefit of such of our readers as may never have had an opportunity of witnessing Mr. Maelzel's exhibition."

Even though the machine intelligence exhibited by the Turk was an illusion, von Kempelen's automaton was much later viewed as an analog to efforts in computer chess and artificial intelligence.

(This entry was last revised on 12-27-2014.)

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The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe 1769 – 1794

The Société typographique de Neuchâtel, a Swiss publisher and bookseller, published about 220 works during its 25 years of operation, the majority of which were counterfeit or pirated editions. Using the extensive archives of the Société, which are held at the Bibliothèque publique and the Université de Neuchâtel, and database technology, The French Book Trade in Enlightenment Europe Project tracks the movement of around 400,000 copies of 4,000 books across Europe.  "It details, where possible, the exact editions of these works, the routes by which they travelled and the locations of the clients that bought or sold them."

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Joseph Priestley Issues the Most Influential Historical Timeline of the Eighteenth Century 1769 – 1770

In 1769 and 1770 British theologian, dissenting clergyman, natural philosopher, educator, and political theorist Joseph Priestley published A New Chart of History with A Description of a New Chart of History.

"Together with his Chart of Biography (1765), which he dedicated to his friend Benjamin Franklin, Priestley believed these charts would allow students to 'trace out distinctly the dependence of events to distribute them into such periods and divisions as shall lay the whole claim of past transactions in a just and orderly manner.'

"The Chart of History lists events in 106 separate locations; it illustrates Priestley's belief that the entire world's history was significant, a relatively new development in the 18th century, which had begun with Voltaire and William Robertson. The world's history is divided up into the following geographical categories: Scandinavia, Poland, Russia, Great Britain, Spain, France, Italy, Turkey in Europe, Turkey in Asia, Germany, Persia, India, China, Africa and America. Priestley aimed to show the history of empires and the passing of power; the subtitle of the Description that accompanied the chart was 'A View of the Principal Revolutions of Empire that have taken place in the World' and he wrote that:

"The capital use [of the Charts was as] a most excellent mechanical help to the knowledge of history, impressing the imagination indelibly with a just image of the rise, progress, extent, duration, and contemporary state of all the considerable empires that have ever existed in the world.

" As Arthur Sheps in his article about the Charts explains, 'the horizontal line conveys an idea of the duration of fame, influence, power and domination. A vertical reading conveys an impression of the contemporaneity of ideas, events and people. The number or density of entries . . . tells us about the vitality of any age.' Voids in the chart indicated intellectual Dark Ages, for example" (Wikipedia article on A New Chart of History, accessed 07-10-2011).

Rosenberg & Grafton, Cartographies of Time (2010) 116-17, plate 20.

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James Granger Inspires "Grangerizing," A Mania for Extra-Illustration 1769 – 1774

In 1769 English clergyman, biographer and print collector James Granger published the first two volumes of Biographical History of England, from Egbert the Great to the Revolution, consisting of Characters dispersed in different Classes, and adapted to a Methodical Catalogue of Engraved British Heads. Intended as an Essay towards reducing our Biography to System, and a help to the knowledge of Portraits; with a variety of Anecdotes and Memoirs of a great number of persons not to be found in any other Biographical Work. With a preface, showing the utility of a collection of Engraved Portraits to supply the defect, and answer the various purposes of Medals.

This work, with its supplement published in 1774, and numerous following editions, was responsible for the fashion of "Grangerizing," or collecting additional illustrations to be interleaved with a text, particularly a history of a town or country.  The practice stimulated the destructive process of cutting up copies of books with plates to extra-illustrate other books. 

Granger, himself, owned a collection of about 14,000 engraved portraits which was dispersed in 1778 after his death.

"Before the publication of the first edition of Granger's work in 1769 five shillings was considered a good price by collectors for any English portrait. After the appearance of the ‘Biographical History,’ books, ornamented with engraved portraits, rose in price to five times their original value, and few could be found unmutilated. In 1856 Joseph Lilly and Joseph Willis, booksellers, each offered for sale an illustrated copy of Granger's work. Lilly's copy, which included Noble's ‘Continuation,’ was illustrated by more than thirteen hundred portraits, bound in 27 vols., price £42. The price of Willis's copy, which contained more than three thousand portraits, bound in 19 vols., was £38 10s. It had cost the former owner nearly £200. The following collections have been published in illustration of Granger's work: (a) ‘Portraits illustrating Granger's Biographical History of England’ (known under the name of ‘Richardson's Collection’), 6 pts. Lond. 1792–1812; (b) Samuel Woodburn's ‘Gallery of [over two hundred] Portraits … illustrative of Granger's Biographical History of England, &c.,’ Lond. 1816; (c) ‘A Collection of Portraits to illustrate Granger's Biographical History of England and Noble's continuation to Granger, forming a Supplement to Richardson's Copies of rare Granger Portraits,’ 2 vols. Lond. 1820–2." (Wikipedia article on James Granger, accessed 12-17-2011).

The Huntington Library holds 1000 "Grangerized" or extra-illustrated sets of books on a wide variety of subjects. "Particularly rich are the Kitto Bible, which contains 30,000 prints illustrating the Old and New Testaments, and Granger’s A Biographical History of England, 1769-1774 which numbers 14,000 portraits of British notables" (http://www.huntington.org/huntingtonlibrary.aspx?id=548, accessed 12-17-2011).

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Graphic Representation of the Organization of the Encyclopédie 1769

In 2012 I acquired a remarkable folding engraving, which it would appear, was extracted from one of the later volumes of the Diderot et d'Alembert Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire des sciences. This extremely large and intricately engraved tree of knowledge created in 1769 by Chrétien Fréderic Guillaume Roth of Weimar, and engraved by Benard, was entitled Essai d'une Distribution généologique des Sciences et des Arts principaux. Selon l'Explication détaillée du Systême des Connissances Humaines dans le Discours préliminaire des Editeurs de l'Encyclopédie publiée par M. Diderot et M. d'Alembert à Paris en 1751. Reduit en cette forme pour découvrir la Connoisance Humaine d'un coup d'oeil.

Remarkably Roth's tree of knowledge appears to have been engraved and printed from one very large copperplate.  The thick, folded sheet on which my copy was printed measures 925 x 622 mm. with the engraved surface measuring 900 x 597 mm.

When I wrote this entry in May 2013 I was unable to find any information concerning Chrétien Roth except for the general awareness that he created this graphic representation of the organization of knowledge.

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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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Joseph Priestley & Edward Nairne Invent the Rubber Eraser? April 15, 1770

On April 15, 1770 Joseph Priestley described a vegetable gum which has the ability to rub out pencil marks: "I have seen a substance excellently adapted to the purpose of wiping from paper the mark of black lead pencil." He called the substance "rubber."

Also in 1770 Edward Nairne, an English engineer, is credited with developing the first widely-marketed rubber eraser for an inventions competition. He reportedly sold natural rubber erasers for the high price of 3 shillings per half-inch cube.  This was the first practical application of rubber in Europe.

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Wilhelm Haas Builds Key Parts of the Handpress out of Iron 1772

In 1772 Wilhelm Haas of Basel built a new type of printing press in which all parts subject to stress during the printing process were made of iron, including both the bed and the platen.

Building key parts of the handpress out of iron greatly improved the efficiency of the press.

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Joseph Priestley Discovers that Growing Plants Restore Air Vitiated by Combustion or Respiration 1772

In 1772 British theologian, dissenting clergyman, natural philosopher, educator, and political theorist Joseph Priestley published "Observations on different kinds of air" in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society.

This was Priestley's first paper on the subject, reporting the results of his pneumatic researches since 1770. These included the isolation and identification of nitric oxide and anhydrous hydrochloric acid gases, the discovery that growing plants restored air vitiated by combustion or animal respiration, and the discovery of "nitrous air" (nitrous oxide).

Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 217. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1749.

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The Siku Quanshu: Probably the Most Ambitious Editorial Enterprise before the Wikipedia 1773 – 1782

The Siku Quanshu, variously translated as the Imperial Collection of Four, Emperor's Four Treasuries, Complete Library in Four Branches of Literature, or Complete Library of the Four Treasuries, and issued from 1773 to 1782, was the largest collection of books in Chinese history and, before the Wikipedia, probably the most ambitious editorial enterprise in the history of the world.

"During the height of the Qing Dynasty, the Qianlong Emperor commissioned the Siku quanshu, to demonstrate that the Qing could surpass the Ming Dynasty's 1403 Yongle Encyclopedia, which was the world's largest encyclopedia at the time.

"The editorial board included 361 scholars, with Ji Yun (紀昀) and Lu Xixiong (陸錫熊) as chief editors. They began compilation in 1773 and completed it in 1782. The editors collected and annotated over 10,000 manuscripts from the imperial collections and other libraries, destroyed some 3,000 titles, or works, that were considered to be anti-Manchu, and selected 3,461 titles, or works, for inclusion into the Siku quanshu. They were bound in 36,381 volumes (册) with more than 79,000 chapters (卷), comprising about 2.3 million pages, and approximately 800 million Chinese characters.

"Scribes copied every word by hand. 'The copyists (of whom there were 3,826) were not paid in cash but rewarded with official posts after they had transcribed a given number of words within a set time.' Four copies for the emperor were placed in specially constructed libraries in the Forbidden City, Old Summer Palace, Shenyang, and Wenjin Chamber, Chengde. Three additional copies for the public were deposited in Siku quanshu libraries in Hangzhou, Zhenjiang, and Yangzhou. All seven libraries also received copies of the 1725 imperial encyclopedia Gujin tushu jicheng.

"The Siku quanshu copies kept in Zhenjiang and Yangzhou were destroyed during the Taiping Rebellion. In 1860 during the Second Opium War an Anglo-French expedition force burned most of the copy kept at the Old Summer Palace. The four remaining copies suffered some damage during World War II. Today, the four remaining copies are kept at the National Library of China in Beijing, the National Palace Museum in Taipei, the Gansu Library in Lanzhou, and the Zhejiang Library in Hangzhou.  On the first month of the 37th year of Qianlong, the emperor issued an Imperial decree for Qing Empire, demanding the people to hand in their private book collections, in order for the compilation of Siku Quanshu. Due to the Manchu Empire's previous notorious record of Literary Inquisition such as in the case of Treason by the Book, the Chinese were too scared to hand in books, in the fear of subsequent persecution.

On October of that year, seeing that hardly any Chinese handed in books, Qianlong issued more Imperial Decrees, stressing the points (1) Books will be returned to owners once the compilation is finished. (2) Book owners would not be persecuted even if their books do contain Bad words. In less than three months after the issue of the decree, four to five thousands of different types of books were handed in.

"Apart from reassuring the book owners that they will be free from persecution, Qianlong made false promises and rewards to Chinese book owners, such as he would perform personal calligraphy on their books. By this time 10,000 types of books were handed in.

"Using the emperor initiated movement as a form of elite political contention among themselves, the Han Chinese literati of the society gave the emperor full cooperation and participation, thus helping Qianlong to fullfill his dream of establishing cultural superiority over all past emperors.

Qianlong's intention was very clear, he wanted his Siku Quanshu compilers to create a library of classical culture that contained no anti-Manchu elements, resulting in an empire-wide movement of house-to-house searches for "evil books, tracts, poetry, and plays". The movement was directed and led by Qianlong himself; the "evil texts" that were discovered were to be sent to Peking and burned, and the respective books owners, sometimes the whole families, were either sentenced to death, or exiled to remote land " (Wikipedia article on Siku Quanshu, accessed 10-26-2009).

♦ In 2004 300 sets of an edition of the Siku Quanshu were printed on handmade paper and hand-bound in 1,184 volumes.

♦ In February 2014 a digital version of the Siku Quanshu was available online from Eastview Information Services at this link.

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"Kaitai Shinsho" : The First Book on Western Medicine and Science Published in Japanese 1774

In 1774 Sugita Genpaku and colleagues published Kaitai Shinsho (解体新書 Kyūjitai解體新書; Anatomical Tables) in Tokyo. This translation into Japanese of Johann Adam Kulmus's Dutch text on anatomy, Ontleedkundige Tafelen, was the first work on Western medicine or science published in Japanese.

As the first translation into Japanese of a Western medical text,

"Kaitai Shinsho represented the beginning of two epoch-making developments. First and most directly Gempaku's work set in motion the modern transformation of Japanese medicine, revealing not only many anatomical structures hitherto unknown in traditional [Japanese] medicine, but also and more fundamentally introducing the very notion of an anatomical approach to the body--the idea of visual inspection in dissection as the primary and most essential way of understanding the nature of the human body. Second and more generally, Kaitai Shinsho inspired the rise of Dutch studies (Rangaku) in Japan, thus giving birth to one of the most decisive influences shaping modern Japanese history, namely the study of Western languages and science" (S. Kuriyama, " Between Mind and Eye: Japanese Anatomy in the Eighteenth Century," IN: Leslie & Young [eds.] Paths to Asian Medical Knowledge [1992] 21).

Kaitai Shinsho was drawn largely from Gerard Dieten's 1773 Dutch translation of Johann Adam Kulmus's Anatomische Tabellen (1731) although its Western-style title-age was copied from Valverde's Vivae imagines partium porporis (1566), and the last four anatomical woodcuts were taken from the 1690 Dutch edition of Bidloo's anatomy. According to Genpaku, the instigator and primary editor of the book, the inspiration for Kaitai Shinsho came in 1771 when he and two other students of Dutch medicine bribed an executioner to let them see the dismembered body of a criminal. The three compared what they saw to the anatomical illustrations in Kulmus's book, and, struck by the accuracy of the European representations, determined to prepare a Japanese edition of Kulmus's anatomy. Completed in just two years, the book was a sensation on publication, selling out almost immediately and going through numerous editions in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

After publication of Kaitai Shinsho Genpaku continued to help advance Western knowledge in Japan. In 1815 he published a chronicle of these advances entitled Rangaku Kotohajime (The Dawn of Western Science in Japan).

♦ In February 2014 the images from Kaitai Shinsho were available from the website of the National Library of Medicine at this link

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) No. 1196. 

J. Norman, Anatomy as Art: The Dean Edell Collection, NY: Christie's, 5 October 2007, No. 106.

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Didot Revises Fournier's Point System for Typographic Units 1775

In 1775 French printer François-Ambroise Didot revised the point system for typographic units introduced by Pierre-Simon Fournier in 1737.

Didot related the body size of the type to the legal standard of measurement then in force in France, the "pied du roi" or "royal foot." This resulted in an augmentation of Fournier's point by a twelfth. Didot's point system became the standard unit of type measurement in France. It was adopted in Germany in the mid-19th century.

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The American Revolutionary War Begins April 17, 1775

On April 17, 1775 the American Revolutionary War began with the rides of Paul Revere and William Dawes on April 17 and the battles of Lexington and Concord the following day.

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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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The Declaration of Independence is Approved and Printed July 4 – August 2, 1776

Detail of the Declaration of Independence of the United States.  Please click on link to view and resize entire image.

Detail of painting of John Dunlap by Rembrandt Peale.  Pelase click on link below to view and resize complete image.

On the night of July 4, 1776, by order of the Second Continental Congress, immediately after its approval of the text of the Declaration, Philadelphia printer John Dunlap printed approximately 200 copies of The Declaration of Independence as a broadside. The following day copies were delivered to the President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock, who sent them to the state governors on July 5 and 6.

The text of the Declaration was reprinted in the The Pennsylvania Evening Post newspaper for Saturday, July 6 (vol. II, number 228) published in Philadelphia by Benjamin Towne. This was the first newspaper printing and the second printing chronologically. Within a month of Dunlap's broadside printing a dozen regional broadside editions were printed, all of the greatest rarity, as far north as Salem, Massachusetts, and Exeter, New Hampshire, and as far south as Charleston, South Carolina. However, it is likely that even more Americans read the words of the Declaration in one of the many newspaper printings, of which Clarence Brigham identified thirty in the month of July 1776, produced in eighteen cities and towns ranging from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to Williamsburg, Virginia.

Copies of the Declaration of Indpendence were read publically by Colonel John Nixon from from a platform behind the Pennsylvania Statehouse (Independence Hall) on July 8, and on July 9 by George Washington on the commons of New York City to the Continental Army and local citizens, who celebrated by tearing down the statue of George III in Bowling Green. On July 28 Viscount Admiral Richard Howe of the British Navy intercepted a copy and dispatched it to London.

Regarding the first printing of the broadside:

"There is evidence that it was done quickly, and in excitement — watermarks are reversed, some copies look as if they were folded before the ink could dry and bits of punctuation move around from one copy to another. 'We were all in haste,' John Adams later wrote."

Surprisingly these printed broadsides, of which 25 copies survived in 2008, are the earliest records of the final draft of the document, as the original manuscript draft from which the broadside was printed no longer survives. 

The manuscript dated July 4, 1776 in the National Archives was back-dated. A fair copy of the Declaration of Independence, which Thomas Jefferson wrote out in the week after July 4, 1776, is preserved in the New York Public Library. This is one of two surviving fair copies in Jefferson's hand.

"A copy was also preserved by the Secretary of the Congress, Charles Thompson, in his minutes book; and it was to this text that a scribe, commissioned by the Congress, turned when preparing the ceremonial manuscript copy of the Declaration on parchment, preserved at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., which was signed by members of the Continental Congress on August 2, 1776. The printed Declaration of Independence thus predates the famous copy, signed by John Hancock et al., by nearly a month. The printed copy bears only the names, in type, of Hancock and Thompson on behalf of the Congress, and of the printer John Dunlap; it was the promulgation of an act of Congress and needed nothing more. The text of the ceremonial copy differs from that of the printed original only in its title: it became a “Unanimous Declaration” only later in July 1776, when New York State’s members of Congress changed their vote from abstention to the affirmative" (http://chapin.williams.edu/exhibits/founding.html#declaration, accessed 04-20-2012).

Brigham, History and Bibliography of American Newspapers (1947), 2:931–33. Walsh, "Contemporary Broadside Printings of the Declaration of Independence," Harvard Library Bulletin, 3 (1949).

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The Earliest Directory of the Book Trade? 1777

In January 2015, when I wrote this entry, the earliest printed directory of the book trade of which I was aware was the Almanach de l'auteur edited by Antoine Perrin in Paris in 1777, of which later editions appeared in 1778, 1781, and 1784. The source of this information was J. Grand-Carteret, Les Almanachs français (1896) Nos. 570 and 588 ff.

The full explanatory title of Perrin's work is:

Almanach de l'auteur et du libraire contenant:

1. Le nom des Ministres & Magistrats qui sont à la tête de la Librairie, ceux des Censeurs & des Inspecteurs.

2. Un Traité abrégé des formalités qu'on doit remplir pour obtenir les differentes permissions d'imprimer, de fair venir des Livres étrangers, de suivre les procès pendant en la Commission ou on Conseil, & enfin de ce qui'il faut faire pour parvenir à être reçu Libraire ou Imprimeur.

3. Un Tableau de tous les Libraires & Imprimeurs de Paris, avec la distinction de ceux qui sont retirés, & du genre de Libres que chacun d'eux à adopté.

4. Un Tableau de tous les Libraires & Imprimeurs du Royaume.

5. Un Tableau des Libraires le plus accrédités des principales Villes de l'Europe.

On y trouve aussi une list complette de tous les Ouvrages periodiques qui se chargent d'announcer les Livres nouveaux.

In January 2015 a digital edition of the work was available from the Hathitrust at this link.

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Zimmerman Issues the First Textbook on Zoogeography 1777

The first textbook of zoogeography, containing the first world map showing the distribution of mammals, was Specimen zoologiae geographicae, quadrupedem domicilia et migrationes sistens by German Geographer and Zoologist Eberhard August Wilhelm von Zimmerman  published in Leiden in 1777.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 2280.

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Georg Christoph Lichtenberg Describes "Lichtenberg Figures" 1777

German scientist, satirist and Anglophile Georg Christoph Lichtenberg discovered Lichtenberg figures, and described them in his memoir "Super nova methodo motum ac naturam fluidi electrici" investigandi," Göttinger Novi Commentarii, Göttingen, 1777.

"In 1777, Lichtenberg built a large electrophorus to generate high voltage static electricity through induction. After discharging a high voltage point to the surface of an insulator, he recorded the resulting radial patterns in fixed dust. By then pressing blank sheets of paper onto these patterns, Lichtenberg was able to transfer and record these images, thereby discovering the basic principle of modern Xerography. This discovery was also the forerunner of modern day plasma physics. Although Lichtenberg only studied 2-dimensional (2D) figures, modern high voltage researchers study 2D and 3D figures (electrical trees) on, and within, insulating materials. Lichtenberg figures are now known to be examples of fractals" (Wikipedia article on Lichtenberg figures, accessed 06-11-2010).

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Mesmer & the Animal Magnetism Movement: An Archive 1777 – 1787

During the decade from 1777 to 1787 more books and pamphlets were published in France on Animal Magnetism (Mesmerism in the movement's own terminology) than on any other subject. On the eve of the French Revolution the Viennese-born Dr. Franz Anton Mesmer held sway over the public, "mesmerized" them as we would say, with his philosophy aimed at creating a more perfect society through harmony with the physical universe, and with his healing through "rapport" between physician and patient. Mesmer always insisted on the physical character of his cures, which he at first attributed to magnetic forces, or electricity. He later abandoned these in favor of a "universal fluid" acting on the nervous system which was susceptible to it on account of its inherent property of "animal magnetism." At first Mesmer used actual magnets to effect cures, borrowed from the Hungarian astronomer and Jesuit priest Maximilian Hell. Later Mesmer concluded that the magnets could be dispensed with in that nearly all substances could be magnetized by touch, and it was this that led him to the idea of a magnet-like property inherent in living creatures. Initially he employed direct contact between his body of the physician and the patient. To transfer the healing magnetic force, Mesmer would sit with patients' legs squeezed between his knees, press their thumbs in his hands, stare intensely into their eyes, and stroke their limbs to manipulate their internal ether.

Mesmer promoted Animal Magnetism through his own publications and those of his many followers. His most famous book was Mémoire sur la dévouverte du magnétisme animal (Geneva & Paris, 1779). He also had a great flair for the dramatic and theatrical. In Paris he was besieged by more patients than he could hope to treat individually—as many as two hundred a day, so he invented what he called the baquet to accommodate groups at a time. Because the reactions Mesmer provoked seemed to be contagious, the dramatic effects were exacerbated in a crowded room. Some baquets could seat twenty people, and Mesmer had four of these in his Paris treatment rooms at the Hôtel Bullion on rue Coq-Héron. 

The baquet, as Mesmer named his magnetic device, was in keeping with the contemporary craze for medical electricity. Physicians and apothecaries frequently prescribed electric shock treatment, especially in attempts to cure paralysis, and often exposed the sick to a more general "electrical aura" as a healing agent. Benjamin Franklin, then American ambassador to France, was fond of demonstrating the power that could be harnessed in a Leyden jar, the prototype of the modern battery, by using one to send a bolt of electricity through a chain of people.  The sole remaining example of Mesmer's baquet, is preserved in the Musée d'Histoire de la Médecine et de la Pharmacie at Lyon. An excellent image of it was reproduced in Cabinet Magazine, Spring 2006.

Mesmer's critics observed that the actual and remarkable cures effected were due to Mesmer's working on the "imagination" of a "willing patient," who could be put into a "special state of mind." The peculiar nature of these cures continued to provoke interest among medical men, even after the Académie royale des sciences report of 1784 by Benjamin Franklin, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier and others attributed the power of Mesmerism to the "imagination." This report was translated into English in 1785. Interest of physicians also continued despite the scandalous financial practices of Mesmer and his associates in Mesmer's Society of Universal Harmony, initiation into which could cost a man his fortune. Successful surgery was practiced on patients in a mesmeric state by Topham and Ward and John Elliotson in England in the 1840's. About the same time James Braid identified the valid phenomena in Animal Magnetism, coining the terms hypnosis and hypnotism. Jean-Martin Charcot in the later 19th century connected the clinical manifestations of hysteria with artificially indcued hypnotic phenomena, and Sigmund Freud developed psychoanalysis from his acquaintance with Charcot's practices. Thus through Memser and his disciples medical attention was directed toward psychological phenomena and the first scientific steps toward an adequate approach to psychological problems were taken.

In its own time Animal Magnetism was as much a social movement as a medical practice. It spread from Paris all over Europe and to America, had an official program, administered instruction in its practices for certain fees, encouraged testimonials from members and urged the spread of Animal Magnetism "for the sake of humanity." It was perceived as a potentially radical force in France, provoked enormous public controveries and official condemnations, and stirred up its followers to a pitch of "religious" fervor.

Among the exceptional group of manuscripts that I offered for sale in my catalogue eight entitled Twelve Manuscripts issued in 1980, were the papers of the Amiens chapter of the Society of Universal Harmony formed by Mesmer and his associates Guillaume Kornmann and Nicolas Bergasse. We described the collection as follows:

ANIMAL MAGNETISM (MESMERISM). A collection of 56 manuscript items in French representing the correspondence & papers of the Amiens affiliates of the Animal Magnetism movement. Totalling nearly 300pp., including: {1} 10 letters & 5 documents signed by Franz Anton MESMER (1733-1815). {2} 12 letters signed by Guillaume KORNMANN, co-founder & treasurer of the Society of Universal Harmony, the organization through which Animal Magnetism was offically promoted. {3} 4 documents signed by Nicholas  BERGASSE (1750-1832), theoretician of Animal Magnetism. {4} A collection of approximately 100 case reports by a physician practicing Animal Magnetism. {5} 10 formal documents, including contracts for the teaching & practice of Animal Magnetism, membership lists for the Society of Universal Harmony, and declarations docuementing the schism which led to the movement's decline {6} 5 theorectical works, including an MS. copy in English of the illustrated textbook of Animal Magnetism written by Bergasse with a key to its symbols, and and MS. French version of this work {7} Miscellaneous papers of the Amiens group. All in very good to fine condition, in a half mroocco box. Mostly 1784-85, with a few later dates.

. . . . Some 40 items in the collection represent correspondence between the Paris and Amiens Societies of Universal Harmony or of the Amiens Society itself. These include 10 letters from Mesmer (signed Mesmer) and 12 letters from Guillaume Kornmann, the Society's treasurer, a Strasbourg banker who eventually broke away from Mesmer in 1785, taking with him the movement's theoretician, Nicolas Bergasse. The correspondence documents the fees, rules, and social complexion of the membership (e.g., a list of official practioners of Mesmerism names General Lafayette to teach it in the United States which he had served so well in the Revolution). It also shows the nature of the issues between the parent and local organization, and the emotional tone of the movement, particular in its great crisis in 1785 [when Mesmer left the country.]

. . . .The philosophy of Animal Magnetism was felt as an intellectual force for nearly 100 years after its inception. With roots going back to the hermetic thinkers of the 17th century, passing through Newton and the English physician Richard Mead into the Enlightenment, and extending into Romanticism and Naturphilosophie, the movement had many ramifications in culture and science. As representative of the philosophy of Animal Magnetism, the collection contains two manuscript versions of Nicolas Bergasse's Théorie du monde, the illustrated textbook of the movement, published in an engraved volume in 1784, and consdiered "très-rare" by Dureau, who prepared the standard bibliography of Animal Magnetism in 1869. Bergasse, whose inclinations toward systematization were much stronger than Mesmer's, was the theoretician of the movement. His "theory of the world and organic beings" was in part hieroglyphic, and the symbols used the text were "generally considered as magic hieroglyphics, capable of communicating primitive truths" ( Darnton 186 & reproducing illustration.). Subjects treated in the Théorie range from theology to physics, medicine and morals. The occult symbols have affinity with alchemical and other magical symbols, and a more elaborate and elegant English language version. The French manuscript appears to be in the hand of our Amiens physician; it may represent his copy or his interpretation of Bergasse's work. The English manuscript is contemporary with or a lilttle alter than the other materials in the collection, but is not an orginal part of the Amiens papers. It is a carefully prepared folio with diagrams and illustrations on nearly every one of its c. 100pp. What most intrigues us about it is that there is no published English language version of Bergasse's text. . . .

Darnton, Mesmerism & the End of the Enlightenment in France (1968) Dureau, Notes bibliographiques pour servir à l'histoire du magnétisme animal (1869). Hunter & Macalpine, 300 Years of Psychiatry (1963) 480-86. Mottelay, Bibliographical History of Electricity and Magnetism (1922) 235-37. Zilboorg & Henry, History of Medical Psychology (1941) 342-55 (chap. 9 "The discovery of neuroses").

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The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union November 15, 1777 – March 1, 1781

Drafted on November 15, 1777, The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union established the United States of America as a confederation of 13 founding states, and served as its first constitution. Its drafting by the Continental Congress began in mid 1776, and an approved version was sent to the states for ratification in late 1777. Once approved, the Articles were printed by Francis Bailey in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in a very small edition intended for distribution to state governors who were to submit them to their legislatures and local press in anticipation of the state-by-state ratification process. This process had to be unanimous.

"On March 1, 1781, Maryland became the thirteenth state to ratify, having held out until the larger states with western boundaries that extended as far as the Mississippi had ceded their lands northwest of the Ohio River to the common government. Under the Articles, the new nation was organized as a federal union of independent states with authority vested in a single body, the Congress of Confederation. There was no Executive Branch and no provision for a federal Judiciary except for certain cases of court-martial. Congress had only those powers, and they were few, specifically granted to them by the states as common concerns. These chiefly related to military and foreign diplomatic initiatives required in the face of war with Great Britain.

"The weakness of this confederation became increasingly apparent when the War for Independence was over and the staggering debt repayment, which Congress under the Articles could proportionally assess but not directly collect, became a point of conflict between the states and a source of intense domestic strife within several of the states" (http://chapin.williams.edu/exhibits/founding.html#articles, accessed 04-22-2012).

The original edition of the Articles of Confederation has been called "the most sumptuously printed major American document of the 18th century." In 2012 nine copies were recorded.

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Lorenz von Crell Begins Publication of "Chemische Annalen", the First Chemistry Journal 1778

Detail from cover of Chemische Annalen für die Freunde der Naturlehre, Arzneygelahrtheit, Haushaltungskunst und Manufacturen.  Please click on the link below to view and resize the full image.

Lorenz Florenz Friedrich von Crell.

In 1778 Lorenz Florenz Friedrich von Crell, professor of theoretical medicine and materia medica at the University of Helmstedt, Germany, began publication of  the first periodical specifically devoted to chemistry: Chemische Annalen für die Freunde der Naturlehre, Arzneygelahrtheit, Haushaltungskunst und Manufacturen in 1778.

The journal continued publication under this name until 1781. It resumed publication in 1784 with the title of Chemische Annalen, discontinuing publication in 1803. The journal is often called referred to as Crell's Annalen

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Filed under: Medicine, Publishing, Science

Ingen-Housz Discovers Photosynthesis 1779

In 1779 Dutch Physician Jan Ingen-Housz published Experiments upon Vegetables, Discovering their Great Power of Purifying the Common Air in the Sunshine, and of Injuring it in the Shade and at Night. 

While investigating Joseph Priestley's discovery made in 1771 that plants could "restore" air made unfit for respiration through combusion or putrefaction, Ingen-Housz became the first to observe and elucidate the processes of photosynthesis and plant respiration. In his Experiments upon Vegetables, Ingen-Housz established that only the green parts of a plant give off the "restoring" gas (oxygen), and only when exposed to visible sunlight. He also found that plants, "like animals, exhibit respiration, that respiration continues day and night, and that all parts of the plant—green as well as nongreen, flowers and fruit as well as roots—take part in the process.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1141.

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Jacques Gamelin Issues an Anatomy for Artists including Fantastical Elements 1779

Detail of plate from Gamelin's Nouveau recueil d'ostéologie et de myologie, dessin‚ d'après nature. . . pour l'utilit‚ des sciences et des arts..  Please click on link below to view and resize full image.

Jacques Gamelin.

In 1779 French painter Jacques Gamelin issued from Toulouse Nouveau recueil d'ostéologie et de myologie, dessin‚ d'après nature. . . pour l'utilit‚ des sciences et des arts. The folio volume, made up of 128 unfolded single sheets, included 90 engraved plates, and text vignettes engraved in a variety of techniques by Gamelin and his pupils Lavallée and Martin after Gamelin's original drawings.

Gamelin is known for his paintings and engravings of battle scenes. The plates for his anatomical atlas, issued in an edition of only 200 copies, were prepared from drawings made at his own dissection facility; they are distinct from the plates of other works of its type, being larger, more artistically varied, and more expressive and fantastic in their conceptions. "The work is known for its display of both talent and imagination, with striking scenes of the Resurrection, the Crucifixion, and skeletons at play. Aside from the full-page copperplate illustrations by Gamelin and the engraver Lavalée, the work contains a number of intriguing vignettes on the title pages and elsewhere, which show battle scenes, visitations by death on unsuspecting revelers, and the anatomical artist's studio" (Wikipedia article on Jacques Gamelin, accessed 02-08-2009).

Gamelin's plates show a constant interplay between the artistic and the anatomic: emblematic images in the seventeenth-century tradition, vignettes in the coquettish eighteenth-century manner, and classic studies of figures in repose and movement vie with straightforward "medical" depictions of bones and muscles. Gamelin's technical perfection, coupled with the emotional and fantastical elements in his images, have led him to be seen as a precursor of Goya; it is possible that the young Goya may have known or studied with Gamelin, who taught in Rome during the time Goya was there. 

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 872.

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Jean-Étienne Guettard Issues the First National Geological Atlas 1780

In 1780 French mineralogist and naturalist Jean-Étienne Guettard and Antoine Monnet, France's first Inspector-general of mines, published Atlas et description minéralogiques de la France in Paris at the Office of Dupain-Triel, Royal Geographical Engineer.

In 1766 Henri Bertin, Minister and Secretary of State in charge of mining, commissioned a geological survey of France from mineralogist Jean Etienne Guettard, one of the first geological cartographers, and Guettard's protegée, the young Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier (Antoine Lavoisier). Guettard and Lavoiser had begun collecting field notes for the project as early as 1763, and in 1767 they embarked on a geological tour of Alsace, Lorraine and Franche-Comt. During this tour both Guettard and Lavoisier maintained diaries of their geological observations. That kept by Lavoisier is preserved in the Duveen Lavoisier collection at Cornell University; that kept by Guettard was formerly in the Haskell F. Norman Library, dispersed at Christie's. 

When Lavoisier returned to Paris he assumed most of the responsibility for supervising the production of the geological maps, which were engraved by the Sieur de Dupain-Triel, Royal Geographical Engineer. By 1770, he and Guettard had overseen the completion of sixteen plates, and by 1777 they had partially completed an almost equal number. According to Lavoisier's own statement, all plates dated 1766 and 1767 were prepared with his assistance.

The atlas was to have contained 230 maps in all, but this total was never reached, as political and financial difficulties intervened. In 1777, to the displeasure of both Lavoisier and Guettard, Antoine Monnet, France's first Inspector-general of mines, was appointed to direct the geological survey. In 1780 thirty-one maps, together with a long text written by Monnet, were published under the joint authorship of Guettard and Monnet. The Atlas's maps included six by Guettard and Lavoisier, fifteen begun by Guettard and Lavoisier and finished by Monnet, and ten prepared entirely by Monnet. Monnet issued a second edition of the Atlas some time after 1794, under the title Collection complète de toutes les parties de l'Atlas minéralogique de la France. This second edition had forty-five maps, fourteen more than the 1780 Atlas; of the new maps, ten were by Guettard and Lavoisier, one was prepared by Guettard and Lavoisier and revised by Monnet, and three were prepared by Monnet alone.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1287; Guettard diary, no. 953. Duveen & Klickstein, Bibliography of the Works of Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1954) 218; Supplement pp. 129-132. The authors state that all the maps produced for the atlas could be purchased individually, colored or uncolored, at the office of Dupain-Triel.

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Léonard Defrance Creates Panel Paintings of the Operations of a French Enlightenment Printing Shop Circa 1782

In the early 21st century the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Grenoble recently acquired a fourth, and previously unknown panel painting of the printing shop of the Liège printer Clément Plomteux by the Franco-Flemish genre painter Léonard Defrance in 1782. 

This painting, and the three other paintings by Defrance that depict Plomteux's shop, are illustrated in color in the online article linked to above by Daniel Droixhe, du Groupe d'étude du XVIIIe siècle de l'Université de Liège. Defrance's paintings are among the best painted records of the printing/publishing process in the late eighteenth century.

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Charles-Joseph Panckoucke Issues the Prospectus for a Monumental European Encyclopedia 1782

In 1782 publisher and writer Charles-Joseph Panckoucke issued Encyclopédie méthodique, ou par ordre de matières. . . . This 80-page work was the separate edition of the complete prospectus to Panckoucke’s monumental Encyclopédie méthodique (1782-1832). Panckoucke intended this Encyclopédie to eclipse that of Diderot and d’Alembert; it represents “the grandest gamble in the competition for the Encyclopédie market of the Old Regime” (Darnton, The Business of Enlightenment,p. 395). Panckoucke made the shortcomings of the original Encyclopédie the central theme of his campaign to promote the Méthodique. He opened his first [i.e., this] prospectus with a quotation from Voltaire’s Questions sur l’Encyclopédie, which damned Diderot’s work with faint praise as a “succès, malgré ses défauts” (Panckoucke’s italics).“M. de Voltaire désirait ardemment une nouvelle édition de l’Encycloplédie, où les fautes de la première fussent corrigées,” the prospectus explained. . . . If Voltaire’s endorsement were not persuasive enough—and who would not be impressed by a pronouncement of the great man, whose prestige was then at a peak?—those who hesitated to subscribe could consider the advice of Diderot himself, whose memoir about the faults of his Encyclopédie could be read as propaganda for Panckoucke’s. . . . The prospectus of the Méthodique quoted Diderot’s criticisms at length and showed how Panckoucke’s Encyclopédie would meet them, point by point" (Darnton, pp. 417-18).

The prospectus for Panckoucke’s Encyclopédie was issued in pamphlet form as above, in an abridged version in the Mercure de France (Dec. 8, 1781), and as part of the first volume of the dictionary Beaux-Arts in the Encyclopédie méthodique. When we checked OCLC located four copies of this pamphlet.

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An Encyclopedia in 206 Thick Volumes but No Comprehensive Index! 1782 – 1832

Between 1782 and 1832 l'Encyclopédie méthodique ou par ordre de matières par une société de gens de lettres, de savants et d'artistes; précédée d'un Vocabulaire universel, servant de Table pour tout l'Ouvrage, ornée des Portraits de MM. Diderot et d'Alembert, premiers Éditeurs de l'Encyclopédie was published in 206 volumes by French publisher and writer Charles-Joseph Panckoucke and his daughter Therese-Charlotte Agasse.

The Encyclopédie méthodique was a revised and expanded version, arranged by subject matter, of the alphabetically-arrangedEncyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des sciences. . . . compiled by Diderot et d'Alembert.

"Two sets of Diderot's Encyclopédie, and its supplements, were cut up into articles. Each subject category was entrusted to an exclusive editor, whose job was to collect all articles relating to his subject, and exclude those belonging to others. Great care was to be taken of those articles that were of a doubtful nature, which were not to be omitted. For certain topics, such as air, which belonged equally to chemistry, physics and medicine), the methodical arrangement had the unexpected effect of breaking up a single article into several parts. Each volume was to have its own introduction, a table of contents, and a history of the Encyclopédie. The whole work was to be linked together by a Vocabulaire Universel (Vol. 1 - 4), with references to all locations where each word appears.

"The prospectus, issued early in 1782, proposed three editions, each with seven volumes of 250 to 300 plates:

84 volumes;

43 volumes, with 3 columns per page; and

53 volumes of about 100 sheets, with 2 columns per page. . . .

"The livraisons (home-deliveries) was to be in two volumes each, the first (Jurisprudence, Vol. 1., Literature, Vol. 1,) to appear in July 1782, and the whole to be finished by 1787. The number of subscribers, 4072, was so great that the subscription list of 672 livres was closed on April 30. Twenty-five printing offices were employed, and in November 1782, the first livraison (Jurisprudence, Vol. 1, and half volume each, of arts et métiers and histoire naturelle) was issued (Wikipedia article on Encyclopédie methodique, accessed 01-21-2010).

"The Encyclopédie méthodique was issued in parts piecemeal, each instalment consisting of a number of half-volumes of different dictionaries. Though initial progress was encouraging, it quickly became apparent that more wholesale revision of Diderot’s original was called for than Panckoucke had envisaged. Not only were there inadequacies in the original work; many of the disciplines had moved on since 1751. In some cases the developments occurred while the Encyclopédie was being published: Chémie reflects the new theories of Lavoisier regarding combustion which were being formulated as the early volumes were published, and the publication of Système anatomique was long delayed, in part because of the way in which the discipline was being restructured (by its editor Vicq-d’Azyr and others) in the 1790s. Several new dictionaries were added to the scheme to cover subjects that had originally been overlooked, such as music, architecture and forestry. By 1788, a year after the dictionary was supposed to have been completed, it had reached 53 volumes, the original projected total, and was obviously less than halfway to completion.  

"As the publication grew more and more unwieldy, Panckoucke resorted to a number of measures to ensure its continued financial viability. He attempted to placate his impatient subscribers with a series of announcements emphasising the unprecedented scale of the undertaking, the great difficulties he was having in bringing it to fruition and the considerable improvements that were being made. He added an Atlas encyclopédique to the original scheme and a series of natural history plates with accompanying text (entitled Tableau encyclopédique et máthodique des trois règnes de la nature) which subscribers could pay for as an optional extra. In 1790 a number of new dictionaries were introduced on lighter subjects with titles such as Amusemens des sciences mathématiques and Dictionnaire des jeux familiers to attract more subscribers. Meanwhile publication of some of the major series was stalled owing to the editors’ other engagements, indispositions or deaths. Subscribers had to stockpile the individual parts of each series in order, sometimes for many years, before having them bound together. The extremely complex publishing history is one reason why sets of the Méthodique are rarely found complete—and why there is widespread disagreement among bibliographers over what a complete set of the Méthodique should actually comprise.

"The outbreak of the Revolution threw more obstacles in Panckoucke’s way. Printing in Paris grew prohibitively expensive as an explosion of new journals and pamphlets took up the printers’ time and bills for wages and paper grew larger. Panckoucke responded by opening a huge print-shop of his own and turning to provincial printers to maintain the momentum of his great project. He started yet another dictionary on the Assemblée nationale constituante, intended as a supplement and successor to the dictionaries of jurisprudence, commerce and economy which had been completed just in time to be rendered obsolete by the fall of the Bastille. This particular series petered out after just one volume. Inevitably the Revolution hit Panckoucke’s customer base; many wealthy subscribers fled into exile or lost their fortune, depriving him of over 2000 subscribers. At the same time his writers, involved in political work or journalism, were finding it harder and harder to produce copy. At least one fell foul of the Revolution: Jean-Marie Roland de la Platière, editor of Man ufactures, arts et métiers, committed suicide in 1793 on hearing of the condemnation of his wife. In 1794, stricken by depression, Panckoucke admitted defeat and signed over the Encyclopédie, along with his entire business, to his son-in-law Henri Agasse.  

"Agasse continued to issue numbers of the encyclopedia until his death in 1816, when it was taken over by his widow, Panckoucke’s daughter Pauline. She finally brought “l’entreprise la plus vaste du dix-huitième siècle” to a close in 1832 with the last volume of Histoire naturelle. It is difficult to imagine that many of the original subscribers were still around to see it completed. By this time it extended to (according to the most generally accepted estimate) 166½ volumes of text" (http://www.lib.cam.ac.uk/deptserv/rarebooks/encmeth.html, accessed 01-21-2010).

"When 'completed', the encyclopedia suffered one great weakness. Many dictionaries have a classed index of articles; that of economie politique, being a very excellent example, giving the contents of each article, so that any passage can be found easily. As the Vocabulaire Universel, the key and index to the entire work, was not published, it was difficult to carry out any research or to find all the articles on any particular subject. The original parts had often been subdivided, and had been so added on to by other dictionaries, supplements and appendices, such that, without going into great detail, an exact account could not be given of the work, which contained 88 alphabets, 83 indexes, 166 introductions, discourses, prefaces, etc.

"Probably no more an unmanageable body of dictionaries has ever been published, except Jacques Paul Migne's Encyclopédie théologique, Paris, 1844-1875, with 168 volumes, 101 dictionaries, and 119,059 pages. Encyclopédie méthodique par ordre des matières occupied a thousand workers in production, and 2,250 contributors" (Wikipedia article on Encyclopédie methodique).

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Charles de Fourcroy Publishes Early Graphic Representation of Statistics 1782

In 1782 French mathematician and director of fortifications Charles Louis de Fourcroy published Essai d'une table poléométrique, ou amusement d'un amateur de plans sur les grandeurs de quelques villes in Paris at the press of Dupain-Triel père. Fourcroy's Tableau poléométrique published in this work was

"one of the oldest proportional representations of human phenomena."

"Each city is reperesented by a square whose area is proportional to the geographic area occupied by the city (and for the smallest cities, by a half square only, divided by the diagonal line.

"When superimposed, the squares are classed automatically. This results in visual groupings, which lead the author to propose an 'urban classification' "(Bertin, Semiology of Graphics [2011] 202-03, with reproduction).

Fourcroy's 45-page work pioneered the use of graphs in cross-sectional and mathematical analysis. In January 2013 a color reproduction of his graph was available at this link.

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Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond Reports on the First Aerial Voyages 1783 – 1784

French geologist and traveller Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond published Description des expériences de la machine aerostatique de MM. Montgolfier, et de celles auxquelles cette découverte a donné lieu and Première suite de la description des expériences aérostatiques de MM. Montgolfier, et de celles auxquelles cette découverte a donné lieu from Paris in two volumes in 1783 and 1784. Saint-Fond's work was the first full-length account of the historic experiments with balloon flight conducted by paper manufacturers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier in 1783. After some unsatisfactory experiments with hydrogen gas (which dissipated too quickly from their trial models), the Montgolfiers discovered that air heated to 100 degrees Celsius became sufficiently rarified to lift a balloon and did not diffuse. On June 5, 1783 the brothers released their first full-sized balloon, a paper and linen globe thirty-five feet in diameter, which rose 6,000 feet and travelled a horizontal distance of 7,668 feet from the starting point. On September 19, before Louis XVI and the French court at Versailles, they launched the first flight with living beings aboard (a sheep, a cock and a duck); and on November 20 the first manned flight took place.  

The invention of the hot-air “Montgolfière,” as well as its obvious limitations, stimulated renewed research into the possibility of using hydrogen as a lifting agent. Development of the hydrogen balloon proceeded simultaneously with that of the hot-air model, and on December 1 the first passenger-carrying hydrogen balloon, designed and manned by the physicist Jacques Charles, with Nicholas-Louis Robert as co-pilot, ascended for a two-hour voyage.  

Charles’s work was financed through the efforts of Faujas de Saint-Fond, whose account of it appears in the second volume of his work. A few copies of volume 1 were issued separately. When volume 2 was published the following year volume 1 was reissued with a 4-page supplement, describing the voyage of November 20.

Chemist Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier, a commissioner appointed by the Académie des Sciences to study the Montgolfier balloon, was among the authors of a report dated December 23, 1783 which was published on pages 200-231 of volume 2.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 769. Davy, Interpretive History of Flight 37-41. Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 229. En français dans le texte 75. 

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Noah Webster Reforms the Teaching of English in the United States 1783 – 1785

In 1783 American  lexicographer, textbook pioneer, English spelling reformer, political writer, editor, and prolific author Noah Webster issued from Hartford, Connecticut the first volume of A Grammatical Institute of the English Language, consisting of a speller (1783), a grammar first published in 1784, and a reader first published in 1785. 

"The Speller was arranged so that it could be easily taught to students, and it progressed by age. From his own experiences as a teacher, Webster thought the Speller should be simple and gave an orderly presentation of words and the rules of spelling and pronunciation. He believed students learned most readily when he broke a complex problem into its component parts and had each pupil master one part before moving to the next. Ellis argues that Webster anticipated some of the insights currently associated with Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development. Webster said that children pass through distinctive learning phases in which they master increasingly complex or abstract tasks. Therefore, teachers must not try to teach a three-year-old how to read; they could not do it until age five. He organized his speller accordingly, beginning with the alphabet and moving systematically through the different sounds of vowels and consonants, then syllables, then simple words, then more complex words, then sentences.

"The speller was originally titled The First Part of the Grammatical Institute of the English Language. Over the course of 385 editions in his lifetime, the title was changed in 1786 to The American Spelling Book, and again in 1829 to The Elementary Spelling Book. Most people called it the "Blue-Backed Speller" because of its blue cover, and for the next one hundred years, Webster's book taught children how to read, spell, and pronounce words. It was the most popular American book of its time; by 1837 it had sold 15 million copies, and some 60 million by 1890—reaching the majority of young students in the nation's first century. Its royalty of a half-cent per copy was enough to sustain Webster in his other endeavors. It also helped create the popular contests known as spelling bees.

"Slowly, edition by edition, Webster changed the spelling of words, making them "Americanized." He chose s over c in words like defense, he changed the re to er in words like center, and he dropped one of the Ls in traveler. At first he kept the u in words like colour or favour but dropped it in later editions. . . .

"Webster's Speller was entirely secular. It ended with two pages of important dates in American history, beginning with Columbus's in 1492 and ending with the battle of Yorktown in 1781. There was no mention of God, the Bible, or sacred events. 'Let sacred things be appropriated for sacred purposes,' wrote Webster. As Ellis explains, 'Webster began to construct a secular catechism to the nation-state. Here was the first appearance of 'civics' in American schoolbooks. In this sense, Webster's speller becoming what was to be the secular successor to The New England Primer with its explicitly biblical injunctions' " (Wikipedia article on Noah Webster, accessed 06-05-2012).

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"Paper Architect" Etienne-Louis Boullée Envisages In One Gigantic Reading Room the Entire "Memory of the World" 1784 – 1785

In 1785 French architect Etienne-Louis Boullée proposed a reconstruction of the Bibliothèque du Roi that would contain in one gigantic reading room the entire "memory of the world." The library was never built. Boullée seems to have been an architectural visionary, most, if not all of whose schemes were never realized. Thus he is sometimes called a "paper architect."

The year before, in 1784, Boullée designed an even more visionary cenotaph for Isaac Newton, who had been dead for 57 years. Boulée's drawing shows the outside of the Newton cenotaph. Except for the tiny trees, the drawing does not convey the enormous scale of the monument; the sphere would have been nearly 500 feet across and 500 feet high. Boullée envisaged that during the day sunlight would shine through countless small holes drilled through the top of the dome, so that from the inside, the interior of the dome would light up like the night sky. A detail from the previous drawing with tiny human figures are at the bottom provide a better representation of the scale of the design. At night the dome would have been dark, but there would have been a very large armillary model of the solar system hanging from the ceiling, with the sun shining brightly at its center. Thus when it was day outside, it would have been night inside, and vice versa— a clever and dramatic twist on the natural order of things. 

My thanks to William B. Ashworth, Jr. for bringing the drawings and thoughts about Boulée's cenotaph to my attention.

Boulée's drawings are preserved in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. 

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The First Book Printed on Machine-Made Paper, the First Book Printed on a Stanhope Press, & the First Book Printed by the Foulis & Tilloch Method of Stereotyping, as Improved by Earl Stanhope 1784 – 1804

In 1739 Scottish Goldsmith William Ged printed a 12mo edition of Sallust, which was probably the first book to announce on its title page that it had been printed from stereotype plates rather than movable type. Ged did not, however, attempt to patent the process. Much later, Andrew Foulis, Printer to the University of Glasgow, and Alexander Tilloch, a printer in Glasgow, were awarded British patent No. 1431 in 1784 for "A Method of Making Plates for the Purpose of Printing by or with Plates instead of the Moveable Types commonly used, and for Vending and Disposing of the said Printing Plates and the Books or other Publications therewith Printed, whereby a much greater degree of Accuracy, Correctness, and Elegance will be introduced in the publication of the Works both of the Ancient and Modern Authors than had hiterto been attained." Their process Tilloch claimed to have invented in 1781 without knowledge of Ged's prior work.

In their brief specification Foulis and Tilloch stated that their "method of making plates for the purpose of printing by or with such plates, instead of the moveable types commonly used, which is performed by making a plate or plates for their page or pages of any book or other publication, and in printing off such book or other publication at the press; the plates of the pages to be arranged in their proper order, and the number of copies wanted thrown off, instead of throwing the impressions wanted from moveable types locked together in the common method; and such plates are made either by forming moulds or matrices for the page or pages of the books or other publications to be printed by or with plates, and filling such moulds or matrices with metal or with clay, or with a mixture of clay and earth, or by stamping or striking with these moulds or matrices the metal, clay, earth or mixture of clay and earth."

In spite of the apparent labor-saving advantages of stereotyping, which eliminated the need to reset type when books were reprinted, the process seems to have met with resistance until the patent was purchased and the method perfected by Charles Mahon, 3rd Earl of Stanhope, inventor of the first completely iron printing press, and promoted under Stanhope's sponsorship by printer Andrew Wilson. In 1804 Wilson produced John Anastasius Freylinghausen's An Abstract of the Whole Doctrine of the Christian Religion. With Observations. From a Manuscript in Her Majesty's Possession. The First Book Stereotyped by the New ProcessWilson's translation of Freylinghausen's book was the first book printed from stereotype plates using the improved Stanhope process. It was also the first book printed on a Stanhope press.

Wilson, who commenced printing using stereotype plates in 1803 under the patronage of Stanhope, was the primary promoter of Stanhope's stereotyping process, issuing pamphlets on the subject in 1806 and 1811. The process was intended to reduce printing costs since type did not have to be reset when books were reprinted; however, it was opposed by some printers on the grounds that the quality of printing from the Stanhope stereotype plates remained inferior to printing from conventionally set type. Therefore, Wilson's edition was intended to reflect the high quality of printing that could be obtained from stereotype plates. Oxford University Press seems to have quickly recognized the economies that could be gained from the stereotype process as they underwrote some of the cost of development of the process and employed Wilson to print Bibles and prayer books in 1805. In 1809 Stanhope licensed Cambridge University Press to use his stereotype process. "By 1820 there were twelve printing firms in London that did stereotyping; by 1840 it was the standard printing practice" (Erickson, The Economy of Literary Form: English Literature and the Industrialization of Publishing, 1800-1850 [2000] 27).

Wilson's edition of Freylinghausen, which was sold by T. Cadell and W. Davies in London, was also the first book printed on machine-made paper, the first English patent for which was obtained by John Gamble in 1801. Through a chain of acquaintances, Gamble was introduced to the brothers Sealy and Henry Fourdrinier, stationers of London, who agreed to finance the development of Gamble's version of Robert's papermaking machine. The Fourdriniers brought Bryan Donkin, characterized as "a skilled and ingenious mechanic," into the project, with the result that an improved version of the Robert machine was installed at Frogmore Mill, Apsley, Hertfordshire, in 1803, followed by another in 1804. A third machine was installed at the Fourdriniers' own mill at Two Waters. The Fourdriniers also bought a mill at St Neots, to install two more machines there, and the process and the machines continued to develop. By 1804 the Fourdrinier brothers purchased the paper-making patent from John Gamble. Though there is no statement in Wilson's edition that the paper on which it was printed was made by machine, in 1805 the antiquarian, collector and scholar Richard Gough wrote an anonymous review of the book in The Gentleman's Magazine 75 (1805) 250 in which he stated:

"The paper is the first specimen made by what is termed the machine, in which the sheets are extended to any dimensions at pleasure. Its texture is solid and even throughout, its colour good, and by a certain roughness on its surface, in which it resembles copper-plate paper, it is adapted to take the imprint advantageously." 

In January 2015 I was pleased to obtain a copy of the first edition of this work for my collection. It was in a very unusual contemporary binding consisting of a red morocco spine and brown calf covers. On the spine was stamped below the title the word Stereotype, which suggests to me that it may be an original publisher's binding. The relatively heavy wove paper on which the book was printed is of uneven quality, with some gatherings heavily and unevenly browned while other gatherings are almost completely clean. One might expect uneven quality in a work printed on paper that must have been experimental at the time. The work was clearly intended as an advertisement for Stanhope's stereotype process as facing the title were printed "Standing Rules of The Stereotype Office," which read as follows:

"1. Nothing is to be printed against Religion.

"2. Every thing is to be avoided, upon the subject of Politics, which is offensive to any Party.

"3. The Characters of Individuals are not to be attacked.

"4. Every Work which is stereotyped at this Office, is to be composed with beautiful types.

"5. All the Stereotype Plates are to made according to the improved Process discovered by EARL STANHOPE.

"6. School Books, and all Works for the Instruction of Youth, will be stereotyped at a lower Price than any other."

Freylinghausen (1670-1730) studied theology at the Universities of Jena and Halle, and became minister of St. Ulrich"s Church and inspector of the Public School at Halle. He also wrote and composed forty-four hymns. Lowndes, Bibliographer's Manual of English Literature II, (1865) 841 states that "the translator was Queen Charlotte, consort of George III, and the editor of the volume was Beilby Porteus, Bishop of London. The Rev. Philip Bliss states that he had sen the original MS. in Her Majesty's handwriting."

Thanks to John Bidwell for pointing out to me in emails in January 2015 that Wilson's edition of Freylinghausen's book was the first book printed on machine-made paper, and for supplying the quote from Richard Gough's 1805 review confirming this. 

Hart, Charles Earl Stanhope and the Oxford University Press. Reprinted from Collectanea III, 1896 of the Oxford Historical Society with notes by James Mosley (1966) xi "It is possible, however, that the Freylinghausen is antedated by a pamphlet, Translation of a Report Made to the Philotechnical Society of Paris Respecting Julius Griffiths, an English Traveller, by Joseph Lavallée (London, Stereotyped and Printed by A. Wilson, 1804). . . .Another copy of the pamphlet, in the Library of the Literary and Philosophical Society, Newcastle (described by R.A. Peddie in the Newcastle Weekly Chronicle, 21 November 1896), was inscribed by the dedicatee, the Earl of Buchan: 'N.B.-This was the first work steterotyped according to the process of Lord Stanhope, the first book printed at a Stanhope Press, and the first book printed on machine-made paper.' The last claim, at least, may well be true, for the Fourdriniers had at least one experimental mill for machine papermaking at this time (D.C. Colman, The British Paper Industry, 1495-1860 (Oxford, 1959, pp. 181-2)."

Kubler, G.A., A New History of Stereotyping (1941) 64ff..  Bigmore & Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing III (1886), 87

(This entry was last revised on 03-08-2015.)

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John Mitchell is the First to Study the Effect of Gravity on Light 1784

English natural philosopher and geologist John Michell published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society Vol. 74, Pt. 1 "On the Means of discovering the Distance, Magnitude &c. of the Fixed Stars, in consequence of the Diminution of the Velocity of their Light, in case such a Diminution should be found to take place in any of them, and such other Data should be procured from Observations, as would be farther necessary for that Purpose."

"This paper was only generally 'rediscovered' in the 1970s and is now recognised as anticipating several astronomical ideas that had been considered to be 20th century innovations. Michell is now credited with being the first to study the case of a heavenly object massive enough to prevent light from escaping (the concept of escape velocity was well known at the time). Such an object would not be directly visible, but could be identified by the motions of a companion star if it was part of a binary system. Michell also suggested using a prism to measure the gravitational weakening of starlight due to the surface gravity of the source ('gravitational shift'). Michell acknowledged that some of these ideas were not technically practical at the time, but wrote that he hoped they would be useful to future generations. By the time that Michell's paper was 'resurrected' nearly two centuries later, these ideas had been reinvented by others" (Wikipedia article on John Michell, accessed 02-28-2009).

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Filed under: Science

Thomas Astle Issues the First English History of Paleography and Diplomatics 1784

In 1784 archivist, paleographer and antiquary Thomas Astle, Keeper of Records in the Tower of London, published The Origin and Progress of Writing, as well Hieroglyphic and Elementary, Illustrated by Engravings Taken from Marbles, Manuscripts and Charters, Ancient and Modern: Also, some account of the Origin and Progress of Printing. This work was probably the earliest treatise on paleography in English, and the earliest English work on diplomatics, the "science of diplomas, or of ancient writings, literary and public documents, letters, decrees, charters, codicils, etc., which has for its object to decipher old writings, to ascertain their authenticity, their date, signatures, etc." Astle also provided detailed summaries of the history of writing materials— parchment, vellum, and paper, including Chinese paper— and a well-informed summary of the history of printing and typography in Europe. The colored plates in this work may be the first color plates published in a treatise on paleography.

By hieroglyphs, Astle meant "picture-writing," and used as examples pictograms by the ancient Maya and the Egyptians.

Astle was well aware that the Romans brought literacy to Britain, and that after the departure of the Romans from Britain in 427 Britain reverted to illiteracy, writing on p. 96:

"After the most diligent inquiry it doth not appear, that the Britons had the use of letters before their intercourse with the Romans. Although alphabets have been produced, which are said to have been used by the Ancient Britons, yet no one MS. ever appeared that was written in them. (I have several of these pretended alphabets in my collection; though they are only Roman letters deformed.) Cunoboline, king of Britain, who lived in the reigns of the emperors Tiberius and Caligula, erected different mints in this island, and coined money in gold, silver and copper, inscribed with Roman characters.(Many of these coins are preserved in the elaborate dissertation of the Rev. Mr. Pegges, on the coins of Cunoboline; and many particulars concerning this prince appear in the hist. of Manchester, by Mr. Whitaker, vol. I p. 284, 372, and in his corrections, chap. ix.). From the coming of Julius Caesar, till the time the Romans left the island in the year 427, the Roman letters were as familiar to the eyes of the inhabitants, as their language to their ears, as the numberless inscriptions, coins, and other monuments of the Romans still remaining amongst us, sufficiently evince. (See several monuments inscribed with Roman British characters in Borlace's Hist. of Cornwall, p. 391, 396. See more in Warburton's Vallum Romanum, London, 1753, 4to). However, we are of opinion, that writing was very little practised by the Britons, till after the coming of St. Augustin, about the year 596.

"The Saxons, who were invited hither by the Britons, and who arrived about the year 449, were unacquainted with letters. The characters which they afterwards used, were adopted by them in the island, and though the writing in England from the fifth to the middle of the eleventh century is called Saxon (The architecture in England, which preceded the Gothic, is usually called Saxon, but it is in fact Roman.) it will presently appear, that the letters used in this island were derived from the Roman, and were really Roman in their origin, and Italian in their structure at first, but were barbarized in their aspect by the British Romans and Roman Britons. A great variety of capital letters were used by the Saxons in their MSS. of which many specimens are given in our plates."

Note that in the quotation from Astle above I have added in his footnotes to the paragraphs in parentheses, to provide a more complete example of Astle's scholarship.

The numerous plates in Astle's volume are beautifully produced through engraving, some printed in a single color, and some colored by hand. The scan provided on the Internet by Google books is not reflective of the fine quality of the printed images or of the overall fine quality of book production shown in Astle's deluxe publication.

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Abel Buell Issues the First Map of the United States Printed in the United States 1784

American goldsmith, jewelry designer, engraver, surveyor, type manufacturer, mint master, textile miller, counterfeiter Abel Buell published in New Haven, Connecticut A New and correct Map of the United States of North America Layd Down from the Latest Observations and Best Authorities agreeable to the Peace of 1783.

Created right after the Treaty of Paris, which marked the formal end of the American Revolutionary War, Buell's map, engraved on four joined sheets creating an image 1094 x 1228 mm (43 x 481/4 inches), was the first map of the new United States created by an American, and published in America.  It was also the first map printed in America to show the flag of the United States and the first map to be copyrighted in the United States. It covers the territory of the 13 colonies and an area east of the Mississippi River. The state boundaries are very different from those today. For example, Virginia extends from the Chesapeake Bay to the Ohio River.

Only seven copies are known, several defective.  The copy in the New Jersey Historical Society, one of the finest copies from the condition standpoint, was sold at Christie's, New York on December 3, 2010 for $2,098,500 including buyer's premium. This was the highest price for any single map sold at auction.  It was purchased by philanthropist David Rubenstein and placed on loan at the Library of Congress.

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Johann Gottfried von Herder, Enlightenment Precursor of Evolution by Natural Selection 1784 – 1791

From 1784 to 1791 German philosopher, poet and literary critic Johann Gottfried von Herder published in Leipzig Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit in 4 volumes. Herder's history has long been regarded as a very strong statement of the theory of evolution before Darwin; many passages come close to general statements on evolution by natural selection. Among the passages most often regarded as anticipatory are those on the temporal sequence of forms from simpler to more highly organized, and on the overabundance of nature with the ensuing struggle for existence between species and individuals. 

J. Norman (ed) Morton's Medical Bibliography 5th ed (1991) no. 215.3.

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Mozart's Autograph Catalogue of His Own Compositions, and its First Printed Editions February 9, 1784 – 1805

From February 1784 to November 1791, just before his death, Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart kept an autograph manuscript catalogue of his own compositions, arranged with dates and description of each work on the left page of each opening (verso), and musical incipits opposite on the right page of each opening (recto). The first entry, dated February 9, 1784, is for the Piano Concerto in E flat (K449), the last (ff. 28v-29r), is dated November 15, 1791, for the Masonic cantata ‘Laut verkünde unsre Freude’ (K623).

In 1800 composer and music publisher Johann Anton André of Offenbach acquired Mozart's catalogue from Mozart's widow Constanze, along with other Mozart manuscripts that she inherited. Creating a published record of Mozart’s works was a priority for both Constanze and André, and soon after acquiring the manuscripts, André used the Verzeichnüss as the basis for a thematic catalogue published in 1805 entitled Thematisches Verzeichniss sämmtlicher Kompositionen von W.A. Mozart, so wie er solches vom 9ten Februar 1784 an, bis zum 15ten November 1791 eigenhändig niedergeschrieben hat nach dem Original-Manuscripte herausgegeben von A. André 1805. Andre's edition—the earliest surviving lithographed book— reproduced the format and order of Mozart’s catalogue while paraphrasing Mozart’s descriptions in German and French. On the verso of each opening, the compositions (usually five per page) were listed by date, title, and instrumentation, while the corresponding musical incipits appeared on the recto.

Mozart's composition catalogue is preserved in the British Library as Zweig MS 63. As befitting Mozart, the manuscript has been intensively studied by generations of scholars, and both the British Library's description of the manuscript, and the bibliography of publications concerning it is unusually exensive. Its ownership history is also is well-documented. The manuscript remained in the André family until it was offered for sale at the auction of manuscripts of the heirs of André in Berlin by L. Liepmannssohn auctioneers, sale 55, October 12, 1929, lot no. 17, where it was unsold. Later it was purchased from Liepmannssohn for Austrian novelist, playwright, journalist, biographer and autograph manuscript collector Stefan Zweig by Berlin book & manuscript dealer Paul Graupe  and purchased by Zweig through H. Eisemann in 1935. After Zweig's death his heirs put the manuscript on loan to British Library, and continued to add to Zweig's collection. Then, in 1986 they donated his entire collection of literary, historical and musical autograph collections to the British Library, which summarized its significance as follows:

"Zweig's collection has been called one of the world's greatest collections of autograph manuscripts. Among the music manuscripts are autograph scores of Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. Composers in the Zweig Collection who were previously poorly represented in manuscript at the British Library, or not represented at all, include Schütz, Gluck, Wagner, Mahler, Debussy, Schoenberg, Ravel, Webern, and Berg."

In December 2013 at digital facsimile of the Mozart's autograph catalogue was available from the British Library at this link. A digital facsimile of the first 1805 lithographed edition was available from Harvard University Library at this link, and a digital facsimile of the second edition of Andre's printed edition (1828) was available from the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek at this link.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development [1984] no. 116).

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Origin of "The Times" of London 1785

In 1785 The Daily Universal Register began publication in London. On January 1, 1788 this newspaper was renamed the The Times

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William Withering Proves the Clinical Value of Digitalis 1785

In 1785 English physician William Withering published in Birmingham and London An account of the foxglove, and some of its medical uses. . . . An accomplished botanist as well as a physician, in this book Withering reported the results of the first clinical trials of the ground-up leaves of the purple foxglove—a traditional folk-remedy, discovering the efficacy of digitalis in heart diseases. Digitalis remains one of the few drugs introduced as early as the eighteenth century that remains widely used today.

Withering's work contains the results of ten years of observations and clinical trials, of the drug which he first learned about from an old woman herbalist in 1775. Of the 158 patients he treated with the foxglove, 101, who suffered from congestive heart failure, experienced relief after treatment with the drug, which is today known as digitalis after the foxglove’s Latin name, Digitalis purpurea. Modern analysis of Withering’s case reports suggests that many of the 57 other cases, such as those with pulmonary tuberculosis, did not involve diseases amenable to treatment with digitalis. Withering himself was aware that these factors might be affecting his results and warned against generalizing on the basis of his cases. Over the ten years of his researches on digitalis, Withering derived what he believed to be the optimum quantity of a single dosage—an amount only slightly less active than the tablet used in contemporary practice. The incidence of side effects of the drug declined as Withering gained clinical experience; Estes and White observed that “it appears that the overall incidence of side effects attributable to digitalis in Withering’s patients approximates the incidence recorded by physicians today. One could learn to use digitalis effectively and safely if one had no other text than Withering’s Account of the Foxglove.” Withering honestly recorded both successes and failures in his trials. He stressed that care must be taken in adjusting the dose, and he accurately described the signs and symptoms of digitalis toxicity and established clear guidelines for its rational use. Despite Withering’s modest but definite claims for the efficacy of the foxglove, the drug became a kind of panacea for nineteenth century clinicians.

Le Fanu, Notable Medical Books in the Lilly Library 139 points out that the folding frontispiece is colored in some copies but not in all. There are two versions of the plate: one, with artist’s name and with lower leaves pointing to the left, was copied from the original which James Sowerby had engraved for William Curtis’s Flora Londinensis; the other is the original version borrowed from Curtis, without artist’s name and with lower leaves pointing to the right.

Estes & White, “William Withering and the purple foxglove,” Scientific American 212 (1965), 110-119.  Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 2255. 

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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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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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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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The Whitebread Engine, the Earliest Surviving Rotative Steam Engine Built by Boulton & Watt 1785

The Whitbread Engine, designed by mechanical engineer James Watt  and manufactured for Boulton and Watt of Birmingham for installation in the Whitbread  brewery in London in 1785, is one of the first rotative steam engines ever built, and is the oldest surviving. A rotative engine is a type of beam engine where the reciprocating motion of the beam is converted to rotary motion, producing a continuous power source suitable for driving machinery.

On decommissioning in 1887 the Whitbread Engine was sent to Australia's Powerhouse Museum (then known as the Technological, Industrial and Sanitary Museum) and has since been restored to full working order.

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Samuel Taylor Develops the First System of Shorthand Used Throughout the English Speaking World 1786

In 1786 English stenographer Samuel Taylor published An Essay Intended to Establish A Standard for an Universal System of Stenography, or Short Hand Writing; Upon such simple & approv'd principles as have never before been offered to the Public; whereby a person in a few days may instruct himself to write Short hand correctly & by a little practice cannot fail taking down any discourse deliver'd in Public.  Taylor who advertised himself as "Many years professor & teacher of the science at Oxford, & the Universities of Scotland & Ireland," developed Taylor shorthand using an alphabet composed of 19 letters of simplified shapes. His stenographic method involved cutting out the superfluous consonants as well as the vowels in polysyllabic words. 

Having developed his stenographic system since 1773, Taylor  issued his book from London in high style with an elegant engraved title page and 11 engraved plates.  His book included an unusual number of testamonials and a list of subscribers.  He published the price of the book boldly on the title page— one guinea, a very high price for the time.  The title page also states in fine print that the book was printed for Samuel Taylor on january 1, 1786. . . .

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Richard Payne Knight Records Early Archaeological Explorations of Ancient Fertility Rites 1786

In 1786 Classical scholar, collector, connoiseur, and member of the Society of Dilettanti, Richard Payne Knight  privately issued from London, in an edition supposedly of about eighty copies, and with twelve engravings of phallic objects, An Account of the Remains of the Worship of Priapus, Lately Existing at Isernia, in the Kingdom of Naples. . . to which is Added, a Discourse on the Worship of Priapus, and its Connexion with the Mystic Theology of the Ancients.

The first and most explicit purpose of Knight's treatise was to provide a comparison of ancient (pagan) and modern (Christian) religious rituals, based on the archeological discoveries related in Sir William Hamilton's essay Account of the Remains of the Worship of Priapus Lately Existing at Isernia, in the Kingdom of Naples, with which Knight's work begins.  Knight's second and less obvious purpose was to use his dissertation to attack the Christian church as bigoted, corrupt, and categorically opposed to the enlightened paganism that Knight wished to revive— a male-centered ethic based on phallic fertility which he believed would liberate modern man from the oppressions of an increasingly industrialized environment. 

Knight's major contribution to history and anthropology was his recognition of the fundamental religious significance of the sexually explicit fertility rites practiced in the ancient world, a recognition that restored Priapus to his rightful place as the symbolic principle of fertility, and opened new pathways for anthropological research.  Unfortunately, the nature of Knight's subject matter caused him to be wrongly condemned as a libertine and pornographer both by his contemporaries (except for an open-minded few) and the strait-laced Victorians who followed; it was not until the late nineteenth century that Knight's work began to lose its pornographic stigma and gain recognition as a valuable source for the student of ancient religions.

The first edition of Knight's Priapus was restricted to approximately eighty copies printed for the Society of Dilettanti, "a group of enthusiasts especially concerned with the study of Grecian antiquity" (Messman, p. 41), of which Knight was a member.  Upon the work's publication, the Society voted "that the copies be lodg'd in the custody of the Secretary & one of them deliverd to each member of the Society, & that except these he do not on any Pretence whatever part with any other copy without an order made at a regular meeting.  [And] that each member be allowd once & no more to move the Society recommending by name a Friend to whom he wishes the Society to present a copy" (3 March 1787 minutes of the Society, quoted in Messmann, p. 43).

Knight was, perhaps ironically, best known as an arbiter of aesthetic taste. In his lifetime An Analytical Inquiry into the Principles of Taste (1805) was Knight’s most influential work. "This book sought to explain the experience of ‘taste’ within the mind and to clarify the theorisation of the concept of the picturesque, following from the writings of William Gilpin and Uvedale Price on the subject. Knight's views on the aesthetics of the picturesque are also formed in engagement with Edmund Burke's emphasis on the importance of sensation, which Knight partly rejects in favour of a modified associationism. The philosophical basis of Knight's theories have implications for his account of the relationship between the ‘beautiful’ and the ‘picturesque’ " (Wikipedia article on Richard Payne Knight, accessed 12-20-2008). 

Messmann, Richard Payne Knight: The Twilight of Virtuosity (1974) 41-43.  Rousseau, "The sorrows of Priapus," in Sexual Underworlds of the Enlightenment, ed. Rousseau & Porter, 101-153. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1226.

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William Jones Founds Comparative Linguistics February 2, 1786 – 1788

Philologist William Jones delivered The third anniversary discourse . . . [On the Hindus] on February 2, 1786. This was first published in 1788 in Volume One of Asiatick Researches: Or, Transactions of the Society Instituted in Bengal, for Inquiring into the History and Antiquities, the Arts, Sciences and Literature, of Asia. In his paper, printed in Calcutta (Kolkata), India in the English language, Jones announced his discovery of the relationship between the Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Gothic and Celtic languages, marking the foundation of comparative philology and historical linguistics. Jones’s “clear understanding of the basic principles of scientific linguistics provided the foundations on which Rask, Bopp and Grimm built the imposing structure of comparative Indo-European studies” (Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man [1967]) no. 235).

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The First Catalogue of the British Museum Library is Published 1787

The British Museum published the first catalogue of its library, Librorum impressorum qui in Museo Britannico adservantur catalogus, in 1786.

Breslauer & Folter, Bibliography: Its History and Development (1984) no. 109.

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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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The Constitution of the United States September 17, 1787 – June 21, 1788

Detail from The Constitution of the United States. Please click on the link below to view and resize full image.

Detail from painging of the signing of the Constitution of the United States by Thomas P. Rossiter.  Please click on the link below to view and resize full image.

The Constitution of the United States was created on September 17, 1787 and ratified by conventions in 11 states by June 21, 1788. During the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia two drafts of the federal Constitution were printed, each in editions of sixty copies, for discussion by the delegates. The first draft was prepared by the Committee of Detail, and when that was revised, a second draft was prepared by the Committee of Style and Arrangement.  The final version was printed in 1789 by Francis Childs and John Swaine, Printers to the United States, as Acts Passed at a Congress of the United States of America, begun and Held at the City of New-York on Wednesday the Fourth of March in the Year M,DCC,LXXXIX, and of the Independence of the United States, the Thirteenth.

The original manuscript of the Constitution is preserved by the National Archives, Washington, D.C., where it is on public display.

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The Beginnings of Papyrology 1788

The discipline of papyrology, or the study of ancient papyri, originated in 1788 when "Danish classicist Niels Iversen Schow published a Greek papyrus that recorded a series of receipts for work performed in 193 CE on the irrigation dikes in the Fayum district of Egypt.  The papyrus itself, a roll with twelve and a half surviving columns, had been bought in 1778 near Memphis by an anonymous merchant. As legend has it, the merchant bought only this one papyrus of the fifty offered for sale; 'the Turks' proceeded to burn the rest, delighting in the resulting aroma. Details of the story, especially its olfactory coda, have been contested, but it is certain that the papyrus that escaped destruction was donated to Cardinal Stefano Borgia. Hence, it is sometimes known as the Charta Borgiana, but it is also called the Schow papyrus after its editor. . . . Initially housed in the Cardinal's museum at Velitri, it now resides in the Museo Nationale Archeologico in Naples" (Keenan, "The History of the Discipline," Bagnall (ed) The Oxford Handbook of Papyrology [2009] 59-60).

Schow, Charta Papyracea Graece Scripta Musei Borgiani Velitris Qua Series Incolarum Ptolemaidis Arsinoiticae in Aggeribus Et Fossis Operantium Exhibetur . . . (Rome, 1788).

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Christopher Colles Issues the First Road Atlas of the United States 1789 – 1792

A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America by American engineer and surveyor Christopher Colles, issued in New York in 1789, was the first road atlas or guide book of the United States. The series of 83 maps with a title page was privately published by Colles, by subscription.

"It uses a format familiar to modern travelers with each plate consisting of two to three strip maps arranged side by side, covering approximately 12 miles. Colles began this work in 1789, but brought the project to an end in 1792 after obtaining relatively few subscriptions. But in that time, he compiled an atlas covering approximately 1,000 miles from Albany to Williamsburg, and is invaluable today for understanding the developing road network in the new nation."

Ristow, ed., A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America 1789 by Christopher Colles (1961) includes a lengthy biographical introduction and reproductions of a complete copy of the atlas.

(This entry was last revised on 07-09-2010).

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Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, Martyr to Chemistry 1789

In 1789, the year of the French Revolution, French chemist and biologist Antoine Laurent Lavoisier published Traité élémentaire de chimie in 2 volumes with 13 engraved plates by his wife, the chemist Marie Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze Lavoisier. Born into a wealthy Parisian family, Lavoisier was an administrator of the "Ferme Générale" and a powerful member of a number of other aristocratic councils. These political and economic activities enabled him to fund his scientific research. At the height of the French Revolution he was accused by Jean-Paul Marat of selling watered-down tobacco, and of other crimes, and was guillotined on May 8, 1794.

In his Traité work Lavoisier overthrew the phlogiston theory of Georg Ernst Stahl, established the concept of elements as substances which cannot be further decomposed, and reformed chemical nomenclature. An important consequence of his work was the law of conservation of mass, which states that matter remains constant throughout all chemical change. The book’s thirteen plates of chemical apparatus were drawn and engraved by Lavoisier’s wife, who had studied under the French artist David. 

"In 1771, at the age of 28, Lavoisier married 13-year-old Marie-Anne Pierrette Paulze, the daughter of a co-owner of the Ferme générale. Over time, she proved to be a scientific colleague to her husband. She translated documents from English for him, including Richard Kirwan's Essay on Phlogiston and Joseph Priestley's research. She created many sketches and carved engravings of the laboratory instruments used by Lavoisier and his colleagues. She edited and published Lavoisier’s memoirs (whether any English translations of those memoirs have survived is unknown as of today) and hosted parties at which eminent scientists discussed ideas and problems related to chemistry" (Wikipedia article on Antoine Lavoisier, accessed 07-10-2011).

The work was first issed in a one-volume version known in only a handful of copies; the second issue in 2 volumes contains 95 pages of additional material, including the “Tables à l’usage des chimistes” (pp. 559-591), the “Table des matières” (pp. 592-619) and various approvals of the work (pp. 620-653).

Horblit, One Hundred Books Famous in Science, no. 64. Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man no. 238. Duveen & Klickstein, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier bibliography no.  154. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science & Medicine no. 1295. 

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Zefirino Campanini Writes the First Italian Printing Manual 1789

The earliest known Italian printing manual, written in 1789 by Zefirino Campanini, remained unpublished until it was discovered in the Biblioteca Palatina in Parma in the late 20th century by book historian Conor Fahey, who edited it for publication as Istruzioni pratiche ad un novello capo-stampa o sia Regolamento per la direzione di una tipografica officina (1789), a cura di Conor Fahy (Firenze, Olschki; London, Modern Humanities Research Association, 1998). Campanini, who worked under Giambattista Bodoni in the Stamperia Reale at Parma, described the qualities and knowledge required of a master printer. His work did not explain how to print a book, but focussed on how to run a printing shop, providing important details of speed of typesetting and distribution of type, etc. 

Fahy, "A Printers manual from Bodoni's Parma: The 'instruzioni pratiche' of Zefirino Campanini (1789)", The Library, sixth series, 13, number 2, 97-115. 

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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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Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen August 26 – August 27, 1789

Detail of Déclaration des droits de l'Homme et du citoyen by Jean-Jacques le Barbier.  Please click on link below to view and resize entire image.

Detail of painting of Gilbert du Motier Marquis de Lafayette.  Please click on link below to view and resize entire image.

The last article of la Déclaration des droits de l'Homme et du citoyen, prepared and proposed by the marquis de Lafayette, was adopted by the Assemblée nationale constituante de France on August 26 and 27, 1789, as the first step toward writing a constitution for France. 

"The concepts in the declaration come from the philosophical and political principles of the Age of Enlightenment, such as individualism, the social contract as theorized by the English philosopher John Locke and developed by Jean Jacques Rousseau, and the separation of powers espoused by the Baron de Montesquieu. As can be seen in the texts, the French declaration is heavily influenced by the political philosophy of the Enlightenment, and by Enlightenment principles of human rights contained in the U.S. Declaration of Independence (4 July 1776), of which the delegates were fully aware. Thomas Jefferson, primary author of the U.S. Declaration of Independence, was at the time in France as a U.S. diplomat, and was in correspondence with members of the French National Constituent Assembly" (Wikipedia article on Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen, acessed 09-19-2009).

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The Bill of Rights September 25, 1789 – December 15, 1791

The Bill of Rights, the collective name for the first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States, were introduced by James Madison to the 1st United States Congress as a series of legislative articles, and were adopted by the House of Representatives on August 21, 1789.  By joint resolution of Congress they were formally proposed on September 25, 1789, and were ratified by three-fourths of the states on December 15, 1791. 

Once passed in the House of Representatives, the Bill of Rights, along with other legislation passed was printed by Francis Childs and John Swaine, Printers to the United States, in New York, and sent to the Senate for consideration as Acts passed at a Congress of the United States of America, begun and held at the City of New-York on Wednesday the Fourth of March in the Year, M,DCC,LXXXIX and of the Independence of the United States, the Thirteenth. This publication also included a version of the United States Constitution. The first edition was in folio format; a smaller octavo reprint also appeared in 1789. In the folio version owned by George Washington and preserved in the Chapin Library of Williams College

"there are seventeen articles, parts of which are of particular interest in comparison to the final text: for example, the original third article provided not only that 'Congress shall make no law establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' but also that 'the rights of Conscience [shall not] be infringed'; while the original fifth article, establishing “the right of the People to keep and bear arms' in relation to 'a well regulated militia,' also provided that 'no one religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.'

"The Senate in its deliberations deleted some of the articles written by the House, and combined others. Their preferred text then went to a House-Senate committee, and finally twelve articles, shown in the Chapin Library in a copy of the first printed Acts of Congress, were sent to the states for ratification. The states failed to ratify the first and second articles, which, respectively, concerned the proportion of representation in Congress and the method by which congressional salaries could be changed. Articles three through twelve as approved by Congress became, therefore, in the final ratified Bill of Rights, articles one through ten. (The original second article, concerning congressional salaries, in fact was never officially taken off the table, and was eventually ratified as the 27th Amendment in May 1992) (http://chapin.williams.edu/exhibits/founding.html#rights, accessed 04-22-2012).

The original manuscript of the Bill of Rights is preserved in the National Archives, Washington, D.C., where it is on public display.

♦ On June 22, 2012 Christie's in New York offered for sale at auction George Washington's annotated copy of the 1789 folio edition of the U. S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  The auction catalogue mentioned that Washington owned three copies of the folio edition and three copies of the octavo version.  One of the three was the copy owned by Williams College mentioned above.  The other two, including the copy being auctioned, remained in private hands. The pre-sale estimate was $2,000,000-$3,000,000. The book sold for $9,826,500. million. This set a new high price record for an American book or document. The book was purchased by the non-profit Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union, which maintains the historic Mount Vernon estate in Virginia that was Washington's home, and is now open to the public.

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Foundation of the Archives nationales de France 1790

The Archives nationales were founded in Paris in 1790.

"The Archives nationales were created at the time of the French Revolution in 1790, but it was a state decree of 1794 that made it mandatory to centralize all the pre-French Revolution private and public archives seized by the revolutionaries, completed by a law passed in 1796 which created departmental archives (archives départementales) in the départements of France to alleviate the burden on the Archives nationales in Paris, thus creating the collections of the Archives nationales as we know them today. In 1800 the Archives nationales became an autonomous body of the French state. Today, they contain about 364 km. (226 miles) of documents (the total length of occupied shelves put next to each other), an enormous mass of documents growing every year. The original documents stored by the Archives nationales range from A.D. 625 to today."

"Due to the massive volume of documents and records kept by the Archives nationales, these have been divided among four archives centres complemented by a microform centre serving as a back-up in case original documents are destroyed. The main centre is the CHAN (see below) located in Le Marais in the heart of Paris, but a new centre is being built in Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, in the northern suburbs of Paris, and will become the main centre of the Archives nationales from 2010 on, the CHAN keeping only pre-French Revolution records. 

"The Centre historique des Archives nationales (CHAN), French for "Historical Centre of the National Archives", has been located since 1808 in a group of buildings comprising the Hôtel de Soubise and the Hôtel de Rohan in the district of Le Marais in Paris. This centre stores all the documents and records from before 1958 (except the documents and records concerning former French colonies) as well as the archives of the French heads of state. Since 1867 it has also housed the Musée de l'Histoire de France.

"The CHAN keeps 98.3 km. (61 miles) of documents (as of 2004): 15 km. are pre-French Revolution archives; 52 km. are archives of the French central state from 1790 to 1958; 20 km. are the so-called Minutier central, i.e. the archives of all the Parisian notaries extending from the 15th century to the beginning of the 20th century; 5.8 km. are private archives, notably the archives of the aristocratic families seized at the time of the French Revolution; 4.5 km. are books; and finally 1 km. are ancient maps and plans.

"It should be noted that due to the events of the French Revolution, the pre-French Revolution archives kept by the Archives nationales are not just the archives of the central state, but also the many local archives of the Paris region, such as all the archives of the abbeys surrounding Paris (e.g. the Abbey of Saint-Denis), the archives of the churches of Paris, and the archives of the medieval Paris city hall. Thus, the Archives nationales serve as the archives of the French central state for records from 1790 onwards, but for records before 1790 they serve as both the archives of the central state and the local archives of Paris and its region. The Archives nationales, however, do not keep the church records of Paris (baptisms, marriages and burials). These were entirely destroyed by fires set by extremists at the end of the Paris Commune in 1871.

"The oldest document kept at the CHAN is a papyrus dated A.D. 625 coming from the archives of the Abbey of Saint-Denis seized at the time of the French Revolution. This papyrus is the confirmation of a grant of land in the city of Paris to the Abbey of Saint-Denis issued by King Chlothar II. This document is the oldest original one kept by the Archives nationales, although the Archives nationales possess medieval copies of earlier records going as far back as A.D. 528 (but not the originals).

"In total the Archives nationales possess 47 original documents from the Merovingian period (ended in 751). They also possess 5 original documents from the reign of Pepin the Short (751-768), 31 from the reign of Charlemagne (768-814), 28 from the reign of Louis the Pious (814-840), 69 from the reign of Charles the Bald (840-877), 1 from the reign of Hugh Capet (987-996), 21 from the reign of Robert the Pious (996-1031), and then a rapidly increasing number of original documents after Robert the Pious, with for example more than 1,000 original documents from the reign of Philip Augustus (1180-1223) and several thousand original documents from the reign of Saint Louis (1226-1270)" (Wikipedia article on Archives nationales [France], accessed 07-11-2009).

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The Early Development of the Mechanized or Machine Press as Conceptualized by Nicholson and Developed by Koenig as Others 1790 – 1841

From the late eighteenth century and for much of the nineteenth, there was little need to increase the speed of printing output for editions of books and pamphlets beyond what could be produced by a series of hand-presses working in tandem, except in the production of newspapers and large circulation magazines. For larger editions stereotyping increased hand-press output by eliminating the need for repeated typesetting when a book or magazine was printed on multiple presses working in tandem. But for newspapers, some of which issued several editions per day, mechanizing the printing process was necessary to increase circulation, especially since the large sheets used for newspaper were twice the size of the platen on most models of the popular Stanhope iron handpress, requiring two pulls to take one side through the press. Development of higher speed steam-powered printing presses enabled circulation of newspapers and magazines to increase dramatically.

The first widely-read account of machine printing appeared in Charles Knight's The Penny Magazine in 1833, the circulation of which reached as high as 200,000 printed copies, each of which it was estimated, may have been read by as many as five people, raising the circulation of this magazine to around a million--an unheard-of number early in the 19th century. Prior to Knight's account a good number of readers might have read an illustrated article published on October 26,1822 on the new printing technology used in the production of Bensley's The London Literary Gazette and Journal of the Belles Lettres, Arts, Politics, Etc. The Literary Gazette (Later renamed The London Literary Gazette) was the earliest periodical printed on a steam-driven press, as will be discussed later in this entry.

The earliest detailed account of the development of the machine press directed at printers was published within the early years of its development by the English printer and historian of printing Thomas Curson Hansard in his monumental book entitled Typographia: An Historical Sketch of the Origin and Progress of the Art of Printing; with Practical Directions for Conducting Every Department of an Office: with a description of Stereotype and Lithography, illustrated by Engravings, Biographical Notices, and Portraits.(1825). Hansard's work, which consisted of about 950 pages in large 8vo format, may be considered the most significant manual on printing after Moxon's Mechanick Exercises (1683-84). Writing just a little more than a decade after Konig invented the steam press, Hansard took a particular interest in the latest printing technology, devoting Chapter VI (pp. 637-688) to "Improved Manual Presses" and Chapter VII (pp. 689-714) to "Printing Machines". Hansard reviewed the history of the machines as he knew it and illustrated the latest machines as they rapidly evolved after Koenig. He ended his chapter with a description of a printing machine that he personally invented and had built by Napier, illustrating with a large folding plate (larger than any other plate in the book). Oddly, Hansard designed his machine to be operated by "two men turning a fly-wheel" rather than a steam engine. This machine, which Hansard called, after its manufacturer, "The Nay-Peer", was, according to Hansard, "more likely to succed in all its prentensions than any which has yet been offered to us; more praticularly as it supersedes the necessity of steam power" (p. 710).

For several years I have collected the incunabula of the earliest mechanized press, which, to me, at least, is as significant in the history of books as books produced during the first half-century of printing. Over this period of collecting I have sometimes wondered how the "machine press" was appreciated by printers during the decades of its introduction. In February 2015 I happened to be reading portions of master printer William Savage's A Dictionary of the Art of Printing (London, 1841) and I came across his entry beginning on p. 448 entitled simply "Machines". From Savage's dictionary, which was intended for members of the printing trades, I learned, what I suppose should have been obvious, that, in addition to the speed advantage, cylinder or machine presses also provided the very significant advantage of being able to print on sheets of paper of much larger size than could be printed on any hand press. Here is the beginning of Savage's long article. Note that as late as 1841, decades after Koenig developed the cylinder press, Savage regarded machine presses as very novel, and this was certainly the case, as they represented the most significant advance in speed of production since Gutenberg's invention of the handpress circa 1450:

"MACHINES. Cylindrical printing, or, as it is generally termed, Machine printing, is a new mode of obtaining impressions from types, the introduction of which took place in the year 1814. It has caused a great revolution in the art, from the facilities which it affords for printing sheets of paper of a size of which no press worked by manual labour is capable, nor, were it capable, is the strength of one man equal to the exertion requisite for the pressure necessary to produce a respectable impression. In addition to this advantage of printing sheets of such larger dimensions, it possess the power of multiplying impressions so rapidly as to appear like the work of magic. This may seem hyberbolical; bu the average rate of working at a press for common work, that is the general run of book work, with two men, one to ink the types and the other to work the press, is but 250 copies an hour, while a machine will produce 1,250 copies in the same time; and consdierably more might be obtained were not its powers restrained by the limited human means of feeding it with paper, it being found by experience that the number stated is the extent in which one person could supply it, he having regard to laying on the sheets evenly, so as to preserve a regular margin; but his speed was not deemed sufficient to meet the wants that were felt, and the Times newspaper is now printed at a machine where the paper is laid on at four places, one form of which consisting of four pages, is printed at the astonishing rate of 4,320 an hour at its ordinary rate of working, a fact which I have seen and ascertained myself by counting its motions with a seconds watch in my hand. Mr. Richard Taylor has also a similar Machine at which the Weekly Dispatch is printed. Considering what has been done I cannot see a reason why the paper should not be supplied at six or eight places, if found necessary, so as to increase the number printed to 6,000 or 8,000 in an hour; as the wonder ceases when we remember that steam is the moving power. Of the comparative merits of the Machine and the Press I shall speak subsequently."

After a long discussion of the early conceptualization by Nicholson, and the development of machine, or cylinder press, by Koenig, Savage inevitably compared the quality of machine  output with hand press or "press" output. His remarks are strikingly analogous to comparisons made between offset and letterpress printing today:

"With respect to the comparative merits of the cylindrical method of printing and those of the press, the manufacturers of machines as well as most master printers, not content with the real superiority of properties which the machine does certainly possess, attribute to it properties which it does not possess, and which are incompatible with it, namely, those of producing the finest work, and printing the finest impressions from highly finished engravings on wood at the rate of eight hundred or one thousand per hour . . . . 

In spite of the limited quality available from cylinder presses during their early decades, Savage appreciated their value:

'The advantages that cylinderical printing possesses are of great importance in the art, and not less so with respect to the public. Its power of printing larger sheets of paper than was ever before contemplated, has enabled the proprietors of newspapers to enlarge them to a previously unparalleled extent. The rapidity with which impressions are multiplied is also an advantage of great consequence, as in the case of morning newspapers, instead of going to press on the evening preceding the publication, they can now wait until five o'clock in the morning, and even later, when if a dispatch or an express arrives with any important news, it is in the hands of the public at the usual hour of publication; neither is this rapidity of less advantage to periodical publications, more particular to those of which a large number is printed. . . .  Another advantage in machine printing is, the regularity and uniformity of colour through any number of impressions, as it can be regulated with the greatest nicety to any shade; in this instance it is superior to the press for the production of common work, in the uniformity of colour, but only superior to common work in its rivalry with the press."

Also in February 2015 I acquired a copy of the second edition of John Southward's A Dictionary of Typography and its Accessory Arts (1875). By the time Southward published mechanized printing was well established, and all the advertisements at the back of his book concern mechanized presses or "machines" rather than the hand press. In his definition of "Machine" Southward clarified some points made earlier by Savage:

"In England, a printing press in which the operations of laying-on the sheet, inking the forme, and effecting the impression, among others, are automatically performed is called a machine; although to speak correctly every press is a machine, and every printing machine is a press, as said in America. The invention of machines has given an impetus to the progress of the art of printing, and has thereby accelerated the diffusion of knowledge to an extent which cannot be contemplated without a feeling of amazement. By the use of machines, sheets of paper can be printed of a size which could not possibly be obtained on a press worked by hand, and at a speed which, compared with that of the hand press, is that of the express train to the tortoise. . . . "

On the other hand, early in March 2015 I noticed a copy of Charles H. Timperly's The Printer's Manual (1838) on my shelves. This appears to take a more conservative attitude than Savage (1841), as it is concerned entirely with handpress printing. On p. 94, however, Timperly did have these respectiful, but cautious, comments about what he perceived as the limited applications of the new Machines:

"The invention of machinery, for the purposes of printing, first came into operation in England in the year 1814, and after many efforts, has now arrrived at that state of perfection which seems to admit of no further improvement either for newspapers or for bookwork. To the ingenuity of Mr. Konig, a Saxon by birth, with the assistance of Mr. Bensley, Mr. Walters, and other eminent master printers, is the printing-trade indebted for this vast change in their profession. These machines are now principally manufactured by Messrs. Cowper, of London and Manchester; by Mr. Napier, of London, and by a firm at Belper, in Derbyshire. 

"After all, in the great variety of forms and qualities of work passing through any printing-office, with the exception of newspapers, recourse must still be had to the aid of good manual presses and experienced pressmen. The serious expense of a printing machine can only be repaid by executing an extraordinary quantity of work in a much less portion of time than that usually occupied for the same work done by ordinary means. As, therefore, the time consuming in laying-on, or making ready a form, must be valuable in proportion to the number of sheets which might be struck off in that time, so frequent repetition of the previous process for short numbers would counterbalance gains arising from the speed in working. Machine printing will, therefore, be only applicable to works of extensive sale. But those of which limited numbers are printed; those also requiring a superior description of press-work with fine ink; fine and large paper copies, with alterations of margin; and many other peculiar circumstances which are continually occurring, will always require a judicious choice of men and materials, for the old mode of working, varied as circumstances may at the moment require. Half-sheet work, or jobs printed on one side only, are either impractible or disadvantageous at a perfecting machine."

The history of the machine or cylinder press began in 1790 when London chemist, translator, journalist, publisher, scientist, and inventor William Nicholson received British patent No. 1748 for "A Machine or Instrument on a New Construction for the Purpose of Printing on Paper, Linen, Cotton Woolen and other Articles in a more Neat, Cheap, and Accurate Manner than is effected by the Machines now in use." In this patent Nicholson made sketchy but prophetic proposals for printing with cylinders, which it is believed he never carried out.

"Nicolson's patent consisted of three parts. The first was for casting types in a multi-letter mould, so that 'two, three or more letters' could be cast at one pouring of the metal, but the resulting types were to be scraped into a shape so that they could be inserted around a cylinder. The second part called for cylinders covered with leather or cloth to distribute the ink. The third demanded that all printing was to be performed by passing paper or material to be printed between two cylinders, one of which 'has the block form, plate assemblance of types, or original, attached to or forming part of its surface' " (Moran, Printing Presses, History and Development from the Fifteenth century to Modern Times [1973] 102).

Nicholson's specification contains several drawings.

"In the first drawing, which as the outline of a hand-press A is the impression cylinder in gear with and driving the carriage HI to and fro. B is the inking cylinder,w ith distributing rollers; these take their ink supply from the 'ink block' (duct) at O as this advances with the carriage.

"In the second drawing, which shows three cylinders vertically arranged, B is an inking cylinder with distributors andan ink duct; A is a cylinder 'having the letter imposed upon it surface'; E is the impression cylinder" (Printing and the Mind of Man. Catalogue fo the Exhibitions at The British Museum and at Earls Court, London 16-27 July 1963 [1963] No. 402).

Mechanization of printing through a steam-powered cylinder press was first accomplished chiefly by printer, bookseller and inventor Friedrich Koenig (König) between 1810 and 1816. The Oxford Dictionary of National Bibliography states that "Nicholson was subsequently consulted by Friedrich König, the inventor of a machine for the same purpose constructed on different principles, but never asserted a prior claim."

On March 29, 1810 Koenig conducted the first test of his steam-driven platen press, printing 3000 copies—a large edition for the time— of sheet H (pp. 113-128) of The New Annual Register, or General Repository of History, Politics, and Literature for the Year 1810 at Richard Taylor & Co. Printers in Shoe Lane, London. This was the first printing done by the first printing press not powered by hand, and, at the rate of 800 sheets per hour, it achieved more than double the speed possible with an iron hand press, such as the Stanhope press. However, comparing the press work on sheet H with the sheets in the rest of the complete volume of the Register for 1810 in my collection it is evident that the printing of this experimental sheet is inferior.

Koenig, a native of Suhl, Germany, had designed a power-driven device known as the Suhl press around the year 1803; however, whether an actual machine was built is unknown. Finding no interest in his invention, Koenig travelled to London where he was introduced to Thomas Bensley, a printer interested in innovative technology. Bensley brought in two further printers, George Woodfall and Richard Taylor, to help finance the development of Koenig's powered press.

Koenig received his first British patent No. 3321 on March 29, 1810 for "A Method of Printing by Means of Machinery," describing his powered platen press. 

"The inking apparatus consisted of several cylinders vertically arranged, above which was  an ink-box, through a slight in which the ink was forced by a piston to fall on the cylinders, by which it was distributed. These cylinders were perforated brass tubes, through the axles of which, also perforated, steam or water was introduced to moisten the felt or leather covering. Koenig and Bauer, unlike Nicholson, gave detailed detailed specifications of the 'mill work' which carried the carriage backward and forward and depressed the platen. This operation was accomplished by a compound lever causing a screw to make a quarter of a revolution. The tympan was raised and thrown back, as the carriage left the platen, by a chain attached to the end, while a bar depressed it into position again as the carriage returned. The frisket, instead of being hinged to the free end of the tympan—as in the hand press—sprang up by the action of counterweights the moment the tympan was thrown back, thus released the sheet of paper, which was changed by hand. The press is said to have worked at the rate of 800 impressions an hour—a great advance on the hand press—but it was really a dead-end; it could advance no further technically, and the inking apparatus was considered unsatisfactory" (Moran, op. cit., 105).

On October 30, 1811 Koenig received his second British patent No. 3496 for "Further Improvements on my Method of Printing by Means of Machinery," describing the first cylinder flat-bed press.

"This steam-driven machine, revolutionary though it was, still incorporated vestiges of the hand press, as certain developments necessary to transform the printing press completely had not yet taken place. The forme no longer made a simple movement under a platen, rather the bed on which it was fastened received a continual motion by means of a double rack—for every sheet it moved to and fro.

"The platen was discarded in favour of a 'pressing cylinder,', which was completely novel. Koenig, writing later in The Times of 8 December 1814, explained the difference between the earlier cylinders and his invention: 'Impressions produced by means of cylinders, which had likewise been already attempted by others, without the desired effect, were again tried by me upon a new plan, namely, to place the sheet round the cylinder, thereby making it, as it were, part of the periphery.' Koenig's machine was, therefore not a mangle, in which a sheet is rolled and pressed, which was the essence of earlier ideas, and of some yet to come, but an ingenious device for bringing the sheet of paper rapidly to the point of impression.

"In the absence of grippers, a continuous motion to Koenig's cylinder would not have allowed the feeding of sheets, so there hd to be an intermitten or stop motion. The cyhlinder was therefore divided into three parts, which were covered with cloth and provided with points in the manner of tympan on a hand press' and iron frames, which continued to bear the name of 'friskets', were attached to hold the sheets of paper. The surface of the cylinder between the 'tympans' was cut away to allow the forme to pass freely under it on its return. The cylinder made one-third of a revolution for each impression and then stopped. The sequence was as follows: the uppermost frisket seized a sheet of paper and moved into the next position; the sheet formerly in that position came into contact with the forme and was printed; the third segment moved to the upper position.

"Composition rollers were in their infancy, and at this point Koenig utilized once again leather-covered rollers, which were not very efficient, and it was also difficult to supply them with an even flow of ink. The ink-box consisted of a vertical cylinder with a hole at the base, about half an inch in diameter, and was fitted with an air-tight piston, which was depressed by a screw which forced the ink out on the rollers. Whatever the drawbacks of this machine, it was set to work at the rate of 800 impressions an hour" (Moran, op. cit. [1973] 106).

♦ The first ever sheets printed by Koenig's cylinder flat-bed press that were actually issued were sheets G (pp. 81-96) and X (pp. 305-20) of Thomas Clarkson's Memoirs of the Private and Public Life of William Penn, Vol. 1 [1813] printed by Koenig's sponsor, printer Richard Taylor, at his press in Shoe-Lane, London. 

In 1813 engineer Bryan Donkin of Bermondsey, Surrey, and printer (later: Whig journalist, musician, and miscellaneous writer) Richard Mackenzie Bacon of Norwich invented the first rotary press and received British patent No. 3757 for "Certain Improvements in the Implements or Apparatus Emplying in Printing, whether from Types, from Blocks, or from Plates." 

"The first [rotary press] to be built, that of Richard Bacon and Bryan Donkin, patented in 1813, was fed by sheets of paper and avoided the problem of fitting type to cylindrical surfaces. The type was still held in flat formes, which were fixed on four sides of a prism, which was square in section. Its axis revolved by the action of a winch, and the type was printed on to the paper by means of a second roller, called by the old name of the platen, its surface being made up of four segments of cylinders, and its circumference when turned round always applying to a type surface. Ink was applied by a large composition cylinder above the prism, which received  ink from a distribution roller supplied from a third metal roller. Bacon and Donkin were thus pioneers in the use of the composition roller and the ink duct. The whole mechanism was quite small, capable standing upon an ordinary writing-table, but it was very complicated and required great accuracy of operation. An exhibition was held in Donkin's factory, and claims were made that the machine would perform the work of eight hand presses. Hansard states that he showed the inventor that work on six of his presses would have required four of the new machines to execute it. The only one of Bacon and Donkin's machines known to Hansard was installed at the University Press, Cambridge, where (in 1825) it 'rests in peace, as not being found in any degree useful" (Moran, op. cit. [1973] 175-76).

Koenig's third British patent, no. 3725, for "Certain Additional Improvements in my Method of Printing by Means of Machinery," issued on July 23, 1813

"contained improvements on that of 1811 and served as the basis of the double machine. For this a second cylinder was added by which the return movment of the bed was made productive. While the printer cylinders were divided into three parts as before, each being covered with cloth with points attached, the 'friskets' were abolished in favour of endless tapes conducted over rolls. The ink system underwent modifcation to the demands of double printing. The inking rollers were set transversely across the forme with their axles meeting on one side. In the patent the inking rollers were still described as covered in skin, but Koenig learned of the superiority of composition rollers during the year, otherwise The Times machine could not have worked as effectively as it did" (Moran, op. cit. [1973] 107).

The major speed advantage of Koenig's latest press was first put to practical use on November 24, 1814 when The Times of London newspaper published its first issue printed on a double steam-driven Koenig cylinder press. The output of the new machine was initially 1,100 sheets an hour—more than four times faster than the hand presses previously used by the newspaper.

Koenig's last English patent, No. 3868, "Certain further improvements on my method of printing by means of machinery," granted on December 24, 1814, was the basis of an improved cylinder machine and of a perfecting machine—one which would print on both sides of a sheet of paper.

"The perfecting machine was a combination of two in one, in which the forme, printing cylinder and inking device were duplicated but which had a single feeding apparatus in the shape of an endless web on which the sheet of paper was fed. A registering apparatus was fixed between the two printing cylinders, which were covered only partially to the size of a sheet so that the forme could return freely under the uncovered portion. The paper was carried between two rows of tapes round the first cylinder, to be printed on one side, and was then taken off the cylinder, laid on the register device, which sustained it until it arrived in a vertical position over the second cylinder, to be moved around it and printed on the second side. The sheet was turned by the use of an S-shaped course, and after being printed on both sides was conducted to a board in the middle of the machine. The first machine of this sort was finished in February 1816, and was installed in Bensley's office, where, steam-driven, it was used for book printing. It produced 900 to 1,000 perfected sheets an hour (Moran, op.cit. [1973] 109-110).

The first complete book that Bensley and Son printed on the new machine, and therefore the first complete book ever printed on a machine press, was Blumenbach's The Institutions of Physiology, Translated from the Latin of the Third and Last Edition by John Elliotson (London, 1817). At the end of Elliotson's preface on p. iii there is the following postscript:

"P.S. The volume may be considered a typographical curiosity, being the first book ever printed by machinery. It is executed by Messrs. Bensley and Son's patent machine, which prints both sides of the sheet by one operation, at the rate of 900 an hour, and is the only one of the kind ever constructed."

Besides inventing the machine press, Koenig also revolutionized the inking process. Prior to the development of the machine type had been inked by hand, using leather balls which needed frequent cleaning and renewal. In the steam press the ink was held in a central reservoir, and after preparation between a system of rollers it was passed over the surface of the type metal by a final final roller. This eliminated the laborious process of hand-inking.

In 1816 Koenig added a perfector to The Times of London steam power press, allowing the press to print almost as many copies on both sides of the sheet on one pass through the press as had been previously printed on one side only. By 1818 Koenig's steam power press achieved an output of 2400 impressions per hour.

In 1817 Koenig and the engineer Andreas Bauer established Schnellpressenfabrik Koenig & Bauer in a secularized monastery in Oberzell near Würzburg, "taking on the mammoth task of setting up an industrial production line 25 years before the industrial age reached Germany." The company (KBA), which builds some of the most advanced high speed presses, is the oldest printing press manufacturer in the world.

Bensley's steam-powered Koenig press was first used to print a weekly periodical beginning with the January 3, 1818 issue of The Literary Gazette and Journal of the Belles Lettres, Arts, Politics, EtcThe publishers featured the introduction of the new technology in the top center column of the first page of the issue:

"It may also be interesting to our readers to know, that, commencing with the present Number, this Journal will be printed by Messrs. Bensley's Patent Machine, an inventive improvement in the art of Printing which reflects honour on the present age, and exhibits a proof of the progress of the art of ingenious mechanism in this country. In this respect our Journal will enjoy an advantage over all other weekly papers, being the first ever printed by a steam-engine, and we shall thus be enabled to published at a very early hour on the Saturday morning."

In their issue published one week later on January 10, 1818 the editors of the same journal included the following article on p. 23

"The Patent Completing Printing Machine.

"In our last number, we mentioned, that the Literary Gazette was the only Journal in the world printed by this most admirable machine; and as a mattter of extraordinary mechanical interest we subjoin a brief account of the process by which about a thousand of these large sheets are per hour produced by this magical invention. The beauty of the movements, their rapidity, their precision are enhanced to the imagination by the nature of the operation they perform: it looks as if mind and not matter were at work. We see a boy lay a white sheet of paper upon the web (here described), and while we tell three it is recieved by another by, as flour comes from the mill, a perfect newspaper, printed on both sides, with a degree of unequalled force, clearness, and correctness. a more gratifying scene, than the action of this piece of mechanism, it is impossible to conceive; it seems the very climax of human ingenuity, and if ever a thing of the kind merited public admiration and acknowledgement, we hesitate not to say, that it is this wonderful apparatus.Printed in the housw where Samuel Johnson lived and died, by a Machine as curious and unique as his endowments were stupendous and unrivalled; the Literary Gazette now presents at least two incidental attractions in addition to those which have been already honoured with such cheering encouragement.

"We beg to request the notice of our readers to our page as a specmen of the art of printing by the singular means devised and perfected as is below explained.

"About ten years ago Mr. Bensley was applied to by Mr. König, a Saxon, who submitted to him proposals for joining him in the prosecution of a plan for improving the common printing press, which consisted chiefly in moving the press by machinery, by which the labour of one man might be saved. A press was formed on this plan, but the result was so unsatisfactory as to induce the rejection of it altogether. It will readily be conceived that this resolution was not taken till after numberless expeiments had rendered the prospect of success hopeless. The idea of cylindical impression now presented itself, which had been attempted by others without success; and a machine on this construction was completed, after encountering great difficulties, at the close of the year 1812. It may be proper here to introduce an outline of its operation.

The form (i.e. the composed types) is placed on a carriage or coffin, which is constantly passing under the inking cylinders, obtain a coat of ink its ingress and egress; these cylinders have a lateral and rotatory motion, for the purpose of equalizing the ink before it is communicated to the form. After the form is thorougly inked, it passes under the printing cylinder, on which the paper is laid, where it receives the impression, and thence delivers itself into the hands of the boy who waits to receive it.This is termed a Single Machine; by the assistance of two boys it prints 750 sheets on one side per hour. As despatch, however, is of the utmost improtance to a newspaper, it was deemed advised to construct what is called a Double Machine. This differs in no respect from that above described, excepting the addition of a second printing cylinder, by which means with the assistance of four boys, 1100 sheets are printed withn the hour on one side. The Machines used for printing the Times newspaper are on this plan, and have now been constantly in use since November 1814. After the Times' Machines were constructed the grander improvement of the Completing Machine was suggested, so called from its delivering the sheet printed on both sides. It has a double inking and printing apparatus, with two carriages or coffins, each large enough to admit a double demy form 34 1/2 by 21 inches. The paper is laid on an endless web, called the feeder, which receives at intervals; thence the sheet passes into the Machine, and is ejected in a few seconds printed on both sides. By this means 900 sheets are struck off in an hour, printed on both sides, or 1800 impressions; if the double sized paper be used, 3600 single impressions. Two boys and an overlooker are all the assistance requisite, and a steam engine of one-horse power is sufficient force to impel it.

"The Patentees must feel a just pride in the completion of such an ardous udnertaking, after so many years of labour and expense; and it is not the least grafifying circumstance attending it, to consider that in England so important an invention has been matured, which had been previously rejected by all the principal cities on the continent; for the inventor (Mr. König) spent not less than two years in seeking patronage in Germany and Russia, till at length, to use his own words, he was 'compelled to take refuge in England, the only country where mchanical inventions are duly rewarded"."


In 1827 British printers and inventors Edward Cowper & Augustus Applegath (often misspelled Applegarth), working in London, completed the design of a four cylinder steam-powered printing press with capacity of 4,000-5,000 impressions per hour.

As newspapers were able to increase circulation the demand for more and more production speed increased, motivating inventors to develop faster and faster presses.

The first detailed English language historical account of Koenig's development of the steam or machine press was written by Samuel Smiles and published in Macmillan's Magaine, December, 1869 as "Friedrich Koenig: Inventor of the Steam-Printing Machine." Smiles expanded this article as reissued it as Chapter 6 of his Men of Invention and Industry (1884).

(This entry was last revised on 05-11-2016.)

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André-Charles Caillot Issues a Bibliographical Guide to Antiquarian Bookselling and Collecting, with a Pioneering Exposition on Rarity 1790 – 1802

In 1790 antiquarian bookseller and publisher André-Charles Caillot published in 3 volumes Dictionnaire bibliographique, historique et critique des livres rares,

précieux, singulier, curieux, estimés et recherchés qui n'ont aucun prix fix, tant des auteurs connus que de ceux qui ne le sont pas, soit manuscrits, avant & depuis l'invention de l'Imprimerie; soit imprimés, et qui ont paru successivement de nos jours, en François, Grec, Latin, Italien, Espagnol, Anglis, & c. Avec leur valeur. Réduite à une just appréciation, suivant les prix auxquels ils ont été portés dans les ventes publiques, depuis la fin du XVIIe. Siecle jusqu'à présent. Auxquels on a ajouté, des observations & des Notes pour faciliter la connoissance exact & certaine des Editions originales, & les Remarques pour les distinguer les Editions contrefaits. Suivi d'n Essai de Bibliographie, où il est traité de la Connoissance & de l'Amour des Livres, de leurs divers degrés de rareté, & c. &c. Ouvrage utile et nécessaire A tous Littérateurs, Bibliographes, Bibliophiles, & à tous ceux qui veulent exercer, avec quelques connoissances, la Librairie ancienne et moderne.

In the introduction to their work the authors, who are not identified, explain how they were influenced by the Bibliographie instructive; ou traité de la connoissance des livres rares et singuliers issued by antiquarian bookseller Guillaume de Bure in 9 volumes from 1763 to 1769. They also provided a 10-page listing of the catalogues of about 100 auction sales of rare books that took place mainly in Paris from 1708 onward, together with the printed catalogues of a few private libraries, including the Catalogus Bibliothecae Thuanae (1679), from which they compiled their work. 

Perhaps the most notable feature of the work was the Essai de bibliographie, ou De la connissance & de l'amour des Livres, de leurs divers degrés de rareté, de la maniere de les classer, & de l'ordre de leurs facultés published on pp. 484-524 of volume 3.  This is one of the earliest discussions of the qualities of rarity in books, discussing the difference between absolute and relative rarity. By absolute rarity the authors meant books which were published in very small numbers, suppressed, or censored. By relative rarity they meant books which are sought after, collected or in demand even though they may be more or less common. In a footnote on p. 492 the authors referred to increased numbers of printers, lost morality, and increased production of scandalous, libellous or obscene literature as a result of the French Revolution.  In the Essai de bibliographie the authors also presented their refinement and expansion of the five basic subject categories under which information was organized in France since the beginning of the eighteenth century

In 1802 antiquarian bookseller and bibliographer Jacques Charles Brunet published a fourth and supplementary volume to this work. In the preface to that volume Brunet stated that the authors of the work, which was published by Caillot without attribution of authorship, were the abbé R. Duclos and the bookseller-publisher André-Charles Caillot.

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Death by Printing Press in Stockholm 1790

Probably the best and most historically accurate film series that I had seen, as of 2014, was the Anno 1790 Swedish historic crime drama series first broadcast in 2011. I finished the series on DVD in March 2014, following the Swedish dialogue with English sub-titles. The third episode of the ten episode series, entitled in English "Fickle Woman," featured a printer working in an authentic-appearing printing shop, being killed by having his head squished in the printing press. The printer was issuing subversive political documents inspired by the French Revolution, but he mainly got into trouble with his wife for fooling around with too many women who came to get printing done.

From the blurb on the DVD set:

"The Age of Enlightenment, year 1790. After returning from the battle fields of a bloody war in Finland, Swedish army surgeon Johan Gustav Dåådh [prounounced 'Dode'] finds himself reluctantly taking on the job as district police commissioner in Stockholm. Unenthusiastic about police work, he still brings tenacity and dispassionate reasoning to the job, with an eye to ensuring that criminals are caught and the innocent remain free. His methods may not be modern but they work, and the motives for the crimes remain unchanged from today: revenge, greed, love, jealousy, and politics. Beneath the calm exterior, Dåådh is an conflicted as the times he lives in; he's a closeted revolutionary torn between his loyalty to the King and his progressive ideals. He also struggles with forbidden love for his boss' wife Magdalena, who shares his vision for a just and free society."


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George Washington Founds the U.S. Patent System April 10 – July 31, 1790

On April 10, 1790 President George Washington signed the Patent Act of 1790 into law, founding the United States patent system. 

Three months later, on July 31, 1790 Samuel Hopkins of Philadelphia, received the first U.S. patent for an improvement in "the making of Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process." President George Washington signed the patent, as did Attorney General Edmund Randolph and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. The original document is preserved in the Chicago History Museum.

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The First U.S. Census is Taken August 2, 1790

The first Census of the United States was conducted on August 2, 1790. The results were used to allocate Congressional seats (congressional apportionment), electoral votes, and funding for government programs.

The federal census records for the first census are missing for five states: Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey and Virginia. They were destroyed some time between the time of the census-taking and 1830. The census estimated the population of the United States at 3,929,214, ". . . of which 697,681 were slaves, and . . . the largest cities were New York City with 33,000 inhabitants, Philadelphia, with 28,000, Boston, with 18,000, Charleston, South Carolina, with 16,000, and Baltimore, with 13,000."

In 1791 approximately 200 copies of the census were printed by Childs and Swaine of Philadelphia as:

Return of the Whole Number of Persons with the Several Districts of the United States, According to 'An Act Providing for the Enumeration of the Inhabitants of the United States:,' Passed March the First, One Thousand Seven Hundred and Nintety-One.

♦ A copy of the original edition with the autograph signature of Thomas Jefferson sold for $122,500 in the James S. Copley sale at Sotheby's, New York, on April 14, 2010.

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Von Kempelen Builds the First Successful Speech Synthesizer 1791

In 1791 Austro-Hungarian author and inventor, Wolfgang von Kempelen, published in Vienna Mechanismus der mensclichen Sprache nebst Beschreibung seiner sprechenden Maschine, in which he discussed the origins and development of languages, and described the first successful speech synthesizer.

Unlike von Kempelen’s fraudulent chess-playing Turk automaton , Kempelin's speech synthesizer actually worked.  Kempelen's synthesizer was the first that produced not only some speech sounds, but also whole words and short sentences. He believed that it was possible to acquire skill in using the machine within three weeks, especially if one chose to synthesize sentences in Latin, French, or Italian. German von Kempelen considered much more difficult to synthesize because of its many closed syllables and consonant clusters.

"The machine consisted of a bellows that simulated the lungs and was to be operated with the right forearm (uppermost drawing). A counterweight provided for inhalation. The middle and lower drawings show the 'wind box' that was provided with some levers to be actuated with the fingers of the right hand, the 'mouth', made of rubber, and the 'nose' of the machine. The two nostrils had to be covered with two fingers unless a nasal was to be produced. The whole speech production mechanism was enclosed in a box with holes for the hands and additional holes in its cover.

"The air flow was conducted into the mouth not only by way of an oscillating reed, but also through a narrow shunting tube. This allowed the air pressure in the mouth cavity to increase when its opening was covered tightly in order to produce unvoiced speech sounds. Driven by a spring, a small auxiliary bellows would then deliver an extra puff of air at the release.

"With the left hand, it was also possible to control the resonance properties of the mouth by varied covering of its opening. In this way, some vowels and consonants could be simulated in sufficient approximation. This was not really a simulation of natural articulation, since the shape of the mouth of the machine in itself remained constant. Some vowels and, especially, the consonants [d t g k] could not be simulated in this way, but only feigned, at best. An [l] could be produced by putting the thumb into the mouth.

"The function of the vocal cords was simulated by a slamming reed made of ivory (leftmost drawing). Although the effective length of the reed could be varied, this could not be done during speech production, so that the machine spoke on a monotone.

"Two of the levers to be actuated with the right hand served the production of the fricatives [s] and . . . as well as [z] and . . . by means of separate, hissing whistles (right drawing). A third one effectuated the production of a rattling [R] by dropping a wire on the vibrating reed (middle drawing)." (http://www.ling.su.se/staff/hartmut/kemplne.htm, accessed 12-14-2008).

Kempelin's final version of the machine, which differs slightly from the version shown in the book, is preserved in the Deutsches Museum, Munich, in the department of musical instruments.

Because Kempelin's speech synthesizer required a human for its operation it was not literally an automation but may be thought of as a forerunner of robotic or computer speech synthesizers.

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Earliest Precursor to the Dust Jacket? 1791

According to Mark R. Godburn

"the earliest known detachable paper cover issued by a publisher is on a 28-page pamphlet called Time: An Apparition of Eternity, by John William Gerar de Brahm, published in Philadelphia in 1791. The wrapping is a simple rectangular paper printed with a presentation paragraph to the reader and signed by the author. It was folded around all four sides of the pamphlet and sealed with wax.

"Many of these early detachable covers and containers can be considered precursors to dust jackets—at least with a little imagination. But it took a revolution in the way books were bound before publishers began to issue dust jackets on new books."

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The First National Code of Descriptive Cataloging--Early Use of Cards in Cataloging Books 1791

The French Revolutionary government issued the French Cataloging Code of 1791 for the cataloging of libraries seized from religious houses. These books were ordered to be brought to literary depots at several locations in Paris. The code was published by the Imprimerie nationale as a 15-page pamphlet entitled Instruction pour procéder à la confection due Catalogue de chacune des Bibliothèques sur lesquelles les Directoires ont dû ou doivent incessamment apposer les scellés. The staff at each literary depot was to record on cards the basic particulars about each item held. These cards were then bound up in bundles and sent to the Paris Bureau de Bibliographie. Because of wartime shortages, the blank backs of confiscated playing cards were used to record the information. This may be the earliest documentation of the use of cards for the production of library catalogs.

The title page was transcribed on the card and the author’s surname underlined for the filing word. If there was no author, a keyword in the title was underlined. A collation was added that was to include number of volumes, size, a statement of illustration, the material of which the book was made, the kind of type, any missing pages, and a description of the binding if it was outstanding in any way. The collation was partly for the purpose of identifying valuable books that the government might offer for sale in order to increase government revenue.

After the cards were filled in and put in order by underlined filing word, they were strung together by running a needle and thread through the lower left hand corners to keep them in order.

Joseph Smally, "The French Cataloging Code of 1791: A Translation," The Library Quarterly, 61 Number 1 (January 1991) 1–14.

(This entry was last revised on 06-28-2014.)

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François-Xavier Laire Writes the First Catalogue of Incunabula Resembling Modern Bibliographies 1791

The first catalogue to describe 15th century printed books in bibliographical detail resembling modern bibliographies was the catalogue of the library of Archbishop of Sens Étienne Charles de Loménie de Brienne written by his librarian François-Xavier Laire. Laire's catalogue, issued in 2 volumes in Sens in 1791, and entitled Index librorum ab inventa typographia ad annum 1500 chronologicè dispositus cum notis historiam typographico-litterarium illustrantibus, described the composition of each book, its collation, etc.

Loménie de Brienne owned 1,332 incunabula, including 4 block books, 2 copies (both on paper) of the Gutenberg Bible, the 1459 Fust & Schöffer Psalter, and a copy of the first Durandus, the last two of which were on vellum. Besides his career in the church, Loménie de Brienne became finance minister to Louis XVI, and was instrumental in the downfall of the ancien régime by his attempts to find accomodation to the French Revolution. Financial reverses caused by the revolution forced him to sell his collection, and the catalogue states that the collection was to be sold en bloc, but if no buyer could be found after 6 months, the collection would be dispersed at auction. The sale occurred in Paris in March 1792, and owing to the political disruption that impacted all French libraries at the time, the results must have been mixed. Loménie was arrested at Sens on 9 November 1793, and died in prison in 1784, either of an apoplectic stroke or by poison.

Bigmore & Wyman I, p. 415. Pollard & Ehrman 212. 

(This entry was written in the Mediterranean near Crete on the Oceania Riviera on 06-10-2015.)

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Jeremy Belknap Founds the First Historical Society in the United States January 24, 1791

On January 24, 1791 American clergyman and historian Jeremy Belknap founded the Massachusetts Historical Society, the first historical society in the United States.

"As he [Belknap] envisioned it, the MHS would become a repository and a publisher collecting, preserving, and disseminating resources for the study of American history. Through their pledges of family papers, books, and artifacts the founding members made the Society the nation's most important historical repository by the end of their initial meeting. With the appearance of their first title at the start of 1792, they also made the MHS the nation's first institution of any description to publish in its field."

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Thomas Jefferson Describes Printing as a Way to Preserve Information February 18, 1791

In a letter to Ebenezer Hazard written during Jefferson's tenure as Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson wrote concerning the preservation of information:

". . . let us save what remains: not by vaults and locks which fence them from the public eye and use in consigning them to the waste of time, but by such a multiplication of copies, as shall place them beyond the reach of accident."

Jefferson's idea of preserving texts by distributing copies had been anticipated by exponents of the new invention of printing by movable type in the second half of the fifteenth century who believed, and rightly so, that printing an edition of a text that might survive in only one or a handful of manuscript copies was a way of safeguarding the existence of the text.

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The Optical Telegraph: Faster than a Messenger on Horseback March 2, 1791 – 1794

On March 2, 1791 inventor Claude Chappe sent his brother the first transmission over their optical telegraph: “si vous reussissez, vous serez bientôt couvert de gloire” (If you succeed, you will soon bask in glory). The initial experimental line ran between Brulon and Parcé.

Having been appointed Ingénieur-Télégraphiste and charged with establishing a line of stations between Paris and Lille, a distance of 230 kilometres (about 143 miles), Claude Chappe succeeded in completing his first optical telegraph, or semaphore telegraph. The Chappe telegraph was used to carry dispatches for the war between France and Austria, and communicated news of a French capture of Condé-sur-l'Escaut from the Austrians less than an hour after it occurred. 

Chappe's system was the first widely adopted system to transmit messages overland faster than a messager or horseback can carry a message over a good road system. That speed had remained essentially fixed since Roman times. The first symbol of a message to Lille would pass through 15 stations in only nine minutes. The speed of the line varied with the weather, but the line to Lille typically transferred 36 symbols, a complete message, in about 32 minutes. Paris to Strasbourg with 50 stations was the next line and soon others followed. 

"In the Chappe system messages were encrypted and translated by semaphore signals built on the tops of towers miles apart. A telegrapher in the next tower would read the semaphore signals through a telescope and retransmit the message to the following tower. This process would be repeated, with error-correction checks in place at each repetition, until the message reached the end of the line. Because optical telegraph systems using semaphores required that messages be continually restransmitted from tower to tower, there was no fail-safe way to eliminate error. Furthermore it was necessary to encrypt all messages so that the operators would not be privy to secret information. Thus only the directors of the system and the inspectors were allowed to know the code for message signals. The two operators in each signaling tower knew only the limited set of control codes used for error correction, clock synchronizations, etc. The actual codes were written in codebooks. Claude Chappe's 1795 codebook had 8,940 words and phrases. By 1799 he had added four supplementary codebooks with additional words and phrases, and names of places and people. Thus each message had to include a citation of the code book employed" (Norman, From Gutenberg to the Internet [2005] 174).

"All signals on the semphore telegraph were passed one at a time, in strictly synchronus fashion. The operators were required to check [by telescope] their neighboring stations every few minutes for new signals, and reproduce them as quickly as possible. The operator then had to verify that the next station inline reproduced the signal correctly, and set an error signal if it failed to do so. Each symbol had to be recorded in a logbook, as soon as it was carried to completion. Since no symbolic or numeric code system for representing the semaphore positions was described this was done in the form of little pictograms. . . " (Hotzmann & Pehrson, The Early History of Data Networks [1995] 87).

The Chappe optical telegraph eventually covered France with "a network of 556 stations stretching a total distance of 4,800 kilometres." It was be used for military and national communications until the 1850s.

"By 1824, the Chappe brothers were promoting the semaphore lines for commercial use, especially to transmit the costs of commoditiesNapoleon Bonaparte saw the military advantage in being able to transmit information between locations, and carried a portable semaphore with his headquarters. This allowed him to coordinate forces and logistics over longer distances than any other army of his time. However because stations had to be within sight of each other, and because the efficient operation of the network required well trained and disciplined operators, the costs of administration and wages were a continuous source of financial difficulties."

(This entry was last revised on 02-28-2015.)

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Jews Receive Full Citizenship in France September 27, 1791

France's Assemblée nationale granted full rights of citzenship to all Jews living in France on Septembe3r 27, 1791.

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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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Jacob Perkins Invents Steel Engraving Circa 1792 – 1819

In 1792 American inventor Jacob Perkins invented steel engraving for the process of banknote printing. In America Perkins was unable to commercialize the process successfully. Motivated by a £20,000 prize offered by the British government for development of unforgable banknotes, in 1818 Perkins moved to England. He and associates "set up shop in England, and spent months on example currency, still on display today. Unfortunately for them, Sir Joseph Banks thought that 'unforgable' also implied that the inventor should be English by birth. Sir Joseph Banks's successors awarded future contracts to the English printing company started with Charles Heath" (Wikipedia article on Jacob Perkins, accessed 10-21-2012).  

In 1819 Perkins received British patent No. 4400 for: "Certain Machinery and Implements Applicable to Ornamental Turning and Engraving, and to the Transferring of Engraved or Other Work from the Surface of One Piece of Metal to another Piece of Metal, and to the Forming of Metallic Dies and Matrices; and also Improvements in the Construction and Method of Using Plates and Presses for Printing Bank Notes and other Papers, whereby the Producing and Combining various Species of Work is effected upon the same Plates and Surfaces, the Difficulty of Imitation increased, and the Process of Printing facilitated; and also an Improved Method of Making and Using Dies and Presses for Coining Money, Stamping Medals, and other Useful Purposes."  The patent included six large folding engineering drawings.  

In England Perkins entered into business arrangements with English engraver, currency and stamp printer, book publisher and illustrator Charles Heath. To produce steel engravings engravers such as Heath had to use special plates supplied by Perkins. These plates had to be printed on presses designed and provided by Perkins; both the plates and the presses were described in Perkins's patent. The publisher who first recognized the aesthetic and economic advantages of steel engraving was Longman, who issued twenty books containing, all together, around seventy steel engravings beginning in 1821. Longman's first production using steel engravings was the edition of Thomas Campbell's The Pleasures of Hope issued by Longman on January 10, 1821. Heath's four engraved illustrations for this work, including its engraved title page, were dated 1820. According to Longman's ledgers, 3000 copies of this edition were printed, and in November 1824 a further 3000 copies were printed from the same plates, reflecting the extreme durability of steel engravings compared to engravings from copperplates. There was also a printing dated 1822, as I have a copy in my collection bearing that date. 

Roughly twenty years later in 1840 Perkins's methods reached true mass production when they were used to print the world's first adhesive postage stamp. The process, which proved the extreme durability of steel plates compared to any other available graphic reproduction medium of the time, remained in use until 1879:

"Henry Courbould made a drawing of Queen Victoria from the Medal struck on her accession to the throne for which Perkins, Bacon and Petch paid him £12.00. A piece of steel 3" square x 9/16" thick was annealed several times to remove the carbon and when completely soft the background was engraved with the aid of the geometric lathe, followed by the engraving of Queen's head and the inscription "Postage - One Penny". After hardening, the die became harder than it had been originally and 240 impressions were transferred to the printing plate using the Roll Transfer Press. This Master Die 1 was in use from 1840 to 1855 with master Die 2 being used until 1879 - a tribute to the excellence of Jacob Perkins' plate hardening system. It was proved that fully 400,000 imprints could be taken from a single plate without signs of wear. Altogether, over twenty-two thousand million stamps for Great Britain and the Colonies were printed by the Perkins' process during these years" (http://www.bphs.net/GroupFacilities/J/JacobPerkinsPrinting.htm, accessed 06-24-2012).

Hunnisett, Engraved on Steel. The History of Picture Production using Steel Plates (1998) 112.

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The Bibliothèque nationale de France Becomes the First Free Public National Library 1793

By an act of the revolutionary French National Convention, the Bibliothèque nationale de France became the first free public national library in the world in 1793.

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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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Henri Grégoire Proposes a National Bibliography of France 1793 – 1794

French Catholic priest and revolutionary leader Henri Grégoire (Abbé Grégoire) published Instruction Publique. Rapport sur la bibliographie, delivered at the Convention nationale, seance du 22 Germinal, l'a 2 de la République. I have two different typeset versions of this pamphlet in my library, both of which consist of 16pp.  That with the colophon: DE L'IMPRIMERIE NATIONALE on the last leaf would appear to be first.

Grégoire believed that a French national bibliography would furnish material for :

1) a new history of France

2) a dictionary of pseudonymous and anonymous literature

3) a new geneological table of human knowledge

4) paleography of the French language, "which will be from now on the language of liberty."

By exchanging duplicates of rare and very expensive volumes, including specifically incunabula printed on vellum, the Bibliothèque nationale could be completed. (p. 11)

Abbé Grégoire hoped that the French government would sponsor this project, which it did not.  Had it done so, this would have been the first government-sponsored national bibliography.

Grégoire also condemned the recent destruction of libraries during the Revolutionary violence, and celebrated the arrival in Paris of a copy of Titus Livius, Historiae Romanae decades, edited by Joannes Andrea Bussi, bishop of Aleria. Venice: Vindelinus de Spira, 1470.  ISTC No.: il00238000. To Grégoire the copy was notable not only because of its rarity but because during a seige a bullet broke through its covers and margins without damaging the text (Grégoire p. 11).

An English translation of Grégoire's work was published in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin Bache in 1794: National Convention. Report on the means of compleating and distributing the National Library Made in the name of the Committee of Public Instruction, the 22d germinal, second year of the Republic. (April 11, 1794.) 

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The "First Printer of National Liberty" Issues the Printing Manual for the French Revolution 1793

In 1789 the printing industry in Paris exploded. In the first few years of the French Revolution the industry was swept by a new generation of small printers, most of them former printing-shop workers or small book dealers who seized the opportunities opened by the declaration of freedom of the press and commerce, bought a few presses, and entered into the fast-paced world of revolutionary cultural agitation through the production of political ephemera. In 1793 French printer, bookseller and politician Antoine-François Momoro published Traité élémentaire de l’imprimerie, ou le manuel de l’imprimeur. Because of Momoro's revolutionary political connections, his work has been called the printing manual for the French Revolution. It was intended to put practical knowledge of printing within the reach of a wide audience, and to thus encourage the proliferation of printing. Written in an informal style, it remains "the single best source of 18th century printing shop slang." The famous profile cameo portrait engraving of Momoro, shown in front of bookcases and with his type case and printing press, characterizes him as "Premier Imprimeur de la Liberté nationale."

"The Paris bookseller François Momoro was thirty-three years old when the Revolution began. He had arrived in Paris from his native Besançon in 1780. In 1787 he was admitted as a bookseller by the Paris Book Guild. His bookshop stocked a mere eleven titles, which he estimated in 1790 to have a total value of 19,720 livres . Momoro was one of the myriad of small Parisian book dealers with little hope of advancement within the Old Regime book guild. But with the declaration of the freedom of the press in August 1789 Momoro's career prospects suddenly opened up before him. Embracing the revolutionary movement wholeheartedly, he quickly opened a printing shop at 171 rue de la Harpe and boldly declared himself the 'First Printer of National Liberty'. Within a year he had added four presses, ten cases of type, and a small foundry for making type characters; his business assets now totaled 30,108 livres . In the publishing and printing world Momoro was still a very small fry. But he was soon to make a big name for himself in ultrarevolutionary politics.

"Momoro understood the power of the press, and he believed in unleashing its revolutionary potential. . . . .He also used his press to launch a career in radical revolutionary politics, soon becoming the official 'Printer for the Cordeliers Club.' His printing business evolved along with the revolutionary politics of the Parisian sections, serving as a propaganda machine, first for the Cordeliers Club and then, by the winter of 1794, for the Hébertists. He produced pamphlets, minutes of meetings of the Cordeliers, and handbills and posters for several of the Parisian sections, and he also did a significant business by sending the publications of the Paris Cordeliers out into the provinces to be read before the tribunals of provincial clubs.

"When he was arrested in February 1794, the police inventoried his commercial stock. With the exception of a few sheets of a Manuel du républicain —found literally under the presses—Momoro's entire stock consisted of pamphlets, handbills, and, most important, sectional posters. His business was devoted exclusively to, and depended almost entirely on, the printed ephemera that sustained the revolutionary political life of the Paris sections. . . . (Hesse, Publishing and Cultural Politics in Revolutionary Paris, 1789-1810 [1991], accessed 10-10-2011).  

Momoro became radicalized during the Revolution and made powerful enemies, which eventually resulted in his arrest as an agitator, and decapitation by the guillotine in March 1794:

"After working for the fall of the Girondists in the struggle between the Commune and the Convention, he participated in attacks on DantonRobespierre (whom he accused of modérantisme), and the Committee of Public Safety. Pushed onwards by a report by Saint-Just to the Convention denouncing the "complot de l’étranger" woven by the Indulgents and Exagérés, the committee decided on the arrest of the Hébertistes on 13 March 1794. The Revolutionary Tribunal condemned Momoro to death, and he loudly replied "You accuse me, who have given everything for the Revolution!" He was guillotined with Hébert, RonsinVincent and other leading Hébertistes the following afternoon, 4 Germinal, Year II (24 March 1794)" (Wikipedia article on Antoine-François Momoro, accessed 03-05-2014).

Momoro was one of the very few printers who were victims of repression during this period of the revolution.

"Those arrested were principally journalists and men who had a political role like the printer Momoro who was condemned to death in the year II (1793-1794), not because he was a printer but because he was a political militant and a support of Hébert. An examination of the archives of the Revolutionary Tribunal and of the registers of arrests kept in the police archives (Cartons 1 to 12, AA) yields the following figures : 8 printers and booksellers condemned to death, 14 acquitted by the Revolutionary Tribunal; 13 sentenced to prison. Since there were more than four thousand printers and booksellers in Paris during the Revolution (figures taken from P.Delalain’s census), we can speak of a relative clemency on the part of the tribunals. This situation may be explained in great part by the refusal of printers and bookmakers to get politically involved. After all, most of them considered books and prints to be a means of earning their living and bringing in profit. But if we consider that journalists belonged to the same group as booksellers and printers because they often edited their own newspapers, then the figures change and give a much more terrible image of the repression: 19 condemned to death, 11 liberated, 18 acquitted.

"These figures are given by J.D.Mellot, E.Queval and V.Sarrazin in « La liberté ou la mort ? Vues sur les métiers du livre parisien à l’époque révolutionnaire », Revue de la Bibliothèque Nationale, N°49, Autumn 1993, pp.76-85" (Lise Andries, CNRS Paris, "Radicalism and the book in Paris during the French Revolution," undated, accessed 03-10-2014). 

The standard bibliography of the history of printing, Bigmore & Wyman, A Bibliography of Printing (new edition: 2001) II, 48. erroneously states that the first edition of Momoro's printing manual was published in 1786. The first edition appeared in 1793 and was reissued with a cancel title in 1796.

(This entry was last revised on 01-24-2015.)

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The Metric System is Promulgated 1793 – 1794

The Commission Temporaire des Poids et Mesures Républicaines (Temporary Commission on Republican Weights and Measures) in Paris published Instruction sur les mesures déduites de la grandeur de la terre, uniformes pour toute la république, et sur les calculs relatifs à leur division décimale in An II [1793/94].

In 1788 the French Academy of Sciences, at the suggestion of French diplomat Talleyrand, proposed the establishment of a new universal decimal system of measurement founded upon some “natural and invariable base” to replace Europe’s diverse regional systems. This project was approved by the National Assembly in 1790 and a basic unit or “meter” (metre) of measurement proposed, which was to be a decimal unit one ten-millionth of the distance between the terrestrial pole and the Equator. In 1791 the French national assembly voted to replace the old French unit of length (toise) with this new unit. In the summer of 1792 Jean Baptiste Delambre and Pierre François André Méchain embarked from Paris to establish the definitive length of the meter by taking geodetic measurements along the Dunkink-Barcelona meridian.

In August 1793, while Méchain and Delambre were still carrying out their task, the French National Assembly “affirmed the decimal system and the meridianal definition of the meter, ordered the continuation of the work, and decreed that the Academy provide for the manufacture, distribution, and explanation of provisional meters for general use while it prosecuted its measurements. This provisional meter was defined as a ten-millionth of ninety times the average degree in France as determined by Lacaille [in 1739-40] . . . It differed from the definitive meter by about a quarter of a millimeter” (Heilbron, pp. 227-228). The definitive meter, as determined by Méchain and Delambre, would not be announced until the publication of Delambre’s Base du système métrique decimal (1806-10).

The new metric system was first  set forth in two works issued in An II (Year Two) of the Republic (1793/94) by the Imprimerie nationale. The first was Instruction sur les mesures, which emphasized mathematics and theory; the second was an abridged version containing a shorter and simpler presentation of the system. On p. xxxii of Instruction sur les mesures the commission announced that these two versions would be followed by a third, which “will only present a précis of the system, and which will be printed partly in octavo format for distribution, and partly as a broadside to be displayed in public places for viewing by all citizens.” I have not been able to find a record of this third version.

Both Instruction sur les mesures and its abridged version were also re-issued by several other French publishers throughout the country; these provincial editions, of which I have never seen a definitive listing, are often confused with the true first edition.

The unnamed author Instruction sur les mesures was French minerologist and crystallographer René Just Haüy, a member of the Temporary Commission.

Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science & Medicine (1991) no. 1499. Dibner, Heralds of Science, no. 113 (citing a copy published in Macon in 1794). Heilbron, “The measure of enlightenment,” in Frängsmyr, Heilbron and Rider, eds., The Quantifying Spirit in the Eighteenth Century (1990), 207-242.

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Christian Konrad Sprengel Issues the Founding Work of Floral Ecology 1793

In 1793 German theologist and naturalist Christian Konrad Sprengel issued Das entdeckte Geheimniss der Natur im Bau und in der Befruchtung der Blumen from Berlin through Friedrich Viewig dem aeltern, publishers. Sprengel's work, with its 25 plates engraved after drawings by the author, made a fundamental contribution to our understanding of the role insects play in plant fertilization, and is recognized as one of the founding works of what is now known as pollination or floral ecology. 

Although J. G. Kölreuter had established the role of insects in the pollination of flowering plants in the 1760s, this phenomenon aroused little interest until nearly three decades later, when Sprengel, an amateur botanist, began observing the pollination of geraniums. After spending six years examining the relationship between flowers and their pollinating insects, Sprengel concluded that floral structure in entire orders of flowering plants can be interpreted only by analyzing the role of each part in relation to insect visits. He realized, as Kölreuter had not, that the entire structure of the flower was geared to this method of fertilization, and was the first to describe and illustrate, in nearly 500 species, the principal adaptive floral mechanisms concerned in pollination. In an important corollary, Sprengel noted the great frequency of dichogamy (the maturation at different rates of male and female organs in the same flower), and concluded that Nature did not intend any flower to be fertilized by its own pollen. Darwin recognized the importance of Sprengel’s work, which he read in 1841, and elaborated upon Sprengel’s observations in the Origin of Species (1859), Orchids (1862) and Cross and Self Fertilization (1876).

In December 2013 a digital facsimile of Darwin's extensive manuscript notes preserved in his copy of Sprengel at Down House was available from the Internet Archive at this link.

Dibner, Heralds of Science 30. Norman 1990. Nissen (botany) 1883. Morton, History of Botanical Science, pp. 326-328. 42702

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Lazaro Spallanzani Discovers Echolocation or Biosonar 1794

Anton Maria Vassalli published Lettere sopra il Sospetto di un Nuovo Senso nei Pipistrelli . . . Con le Risposte dell’Abate Antonmaria Vassalli in Torino (Turin) at the Stamperia Reale in 1794. The 64-page booklet included letters to Vassalli by Italian biologist and physiologist Lazaro Spallanzani containing Spallanzani's first description of echolocation, or biosonar.

Spallanzani published his own small edition of the letters in Pavia a few days or weeks later. Also in 1794 the original letters were reprinted in Pisa in the Giornale dei literrati with the addition of  new letters on echolocation between Spallanzani and Pietro Rossi, Professor at University of Pisa.  A few months later the original letters were reprinted in Milano together with other new letters in the Opuscoli scelti sulle scienze e sulle arti.

"The problem of obstacle avoidance by bats flying in the dark is often known to European zoologists as 'Spallanzani's bat problem'. This is because the whole subject owes its place in the thoughts of scientists to the incisive thinking and masterly experimentation of Lazaro Spallanzani. . . . In 1793, when Spallanzani was sixty-four years of age, he had occasion to notice that a captive owl became quite helpless if the candle which lighted his room were blown out as it flew too close to the flame. Impressed by the complete disorientation of the owl, which crashed into the walls and other obstacles, Spallanzani repeated the observations with bats and soon realized that they were not at all inconvenienced by the darkness. This was the beginning of a long series of ingenious experiments by which within a year or two Spallanzani learned almost as much about the orientation of bats as others were able to discover in 140 years after his death. Yet only a regrettably small proportion of his observations and conclusions became widely enough known to win any general acceptance among zoologists, and even today much of his work remains unpublished" (Griffin, Listening in the Dark: The Acoustic Orientation of Bats and Men [1958] 57-58).

Gedeon, Science and Technology in Medicine, 340.

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Filed under: Natural History, Science

Isaiah Thomas Issues the First American Book Printed on Wove Paper 1795

In 1795 American printer and printing historian Isaiah Thomas of Worcester, Massachusetts, issued the first American book printed on wove rather than laid paper. It was a duo-decimo volume of poems by the English poetess and novelist Charlotte Smith entitled Elegiac Sonnets and Other Poems. The First Worcester Edition, from the Sixth London Edition, with Additions. In January 2015 I was able to obtain a copy for my collection, and to examine the quality of the paper first hand. It is quite good; the paper on which the plates were printed is significantly inferior with the result that the plates are browned while the text remains clean.

On p. xiii Thomas included an unusual "Advertisement" in which he discussed features of the copperplate engravings and the paper used in the edition, which Thomas seems to say that he manufactured himself. The reference to the "Columbian press" in Thomas's last paragraph would apply to printing in Columbia as a poetic name for America rather than the famous Columbian Press invented by George Clymber in 1813.

"The Editor of this (Worcester) Edition, intended to have published it nearly four years since, at which time he had the plates engraved in his Office in this town. His being employed in printing alrger and heavier volumes has prevented these Sonnets appearing from his Press til now,—As the Letter Press has been delayed, he could have wished the Engravings had been also ; as in the fancy of engraving in this country, four years' additional experience to the artist would doubless have produced more delicate work than what is now presented. The lovers of this Art, will, however, be enabled, in some measure, to mark the progress of Engraving by a comparison of the Plates now executed with these, and the Editor doubts not but a proper allowance will be made for work engraved by an artist who obtained his knowledge in this country, by whom these plates were executed, and that done by European engravers who have settled in the United States.

"The making of the particular kind of paper on which these Sonnets are printed, is a new business in America; but lately introduced into Greatbritain; it is the first manufactured by the Editor.

"On the whole, the Editor hopes for the candor of those who wish well to the productions of the Columbian Press--their favorable acceptance of this, and other volume sprinted in this country, will doubtless raise an emulation to produce others, better executed, on superior paper, and with more delciate engravings.


Worcester, Masssachusetts, October, 1795"

Hunter, Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft (1947) 519.

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Nicholas Jacques Conté Invents Modern Pencil Lead 1795

During the Napoleonic wars, France, under naval blockade imposed by Great Britain, was unable to import pure graphite sticks from England. Nor could France import English pencils or the inferior German pencils. To solve this problem, in 1795 Nicholas Jacques Conté, an officer in Napoleon's army, discovered a method of mixing powdered graphite with clay and forming the mixture into rods that were fired in a kiln. By varying the ratio of graphite to clay, the hardness of the graphite rod could also be varied.

"This method of [pencil lead] manufacture which had been earlier discovered by the Austrian Joseph Hardtmuth of Koh-I-Noor in 1790 remains in use."

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Friedrich August Wolf Argues that the Poetry of Homer Shoud be Studied as a Product of Oral Tradition 1795

In 1795 German Philologist Friedrich August Wolf published, in Halle "E Libraria Orphanotrophei," Prolegomena ad Homerum Volume 1 (all published)This began the scholarly investigation of the oral sources of the epic poems attributed to Homer.

"In 1788 Villoison published the marginal scholia to the Iliad found in the codex now known as Venetus A (Marc. gr. 454). They contained a vast fund of new information about the Alexandrian critics of Homer, and this information stimulated F.A. Wolf to write Prolegomena ad Homerum, one of the most important books in the whole history of classical scholarship (1795). While Robert Wood, in his Essay on the original genius of Homer, had already seen in 1767 that the usual picture of a literate Homer writing down his poems could not be a complete explanation of the present form of the Homeric poems, it was left to Wolf to demonstrate, with the help of the newly found scholia, that the textual problems in Homer were not of the same type as in other authors, and that an explanation for this state of affairs could be provided on the assumption that the text of Homer was not written down until the time of Solon or Pisistratus. Wolf's book marked the beginning of serious discussion of what is traditionally called the Homeric Question" (Reynolds & Wilson, Scribes and Scholars 3rd ed [1991] 198).

(This entry was last revised on 04-26-2014.)

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Carl Friedrich Gauss & Adrien-Marie Legendre Discover the Method of Least Squares 1795 – 1809

Though Adrien-Marie Legendre was the first to publish the method of least squares in 1805, Carl Friedrich Gauss is credited with developing the fundamentals of the basis for least-squares analysis in 1795 at the age of eighteen.

"An early demonstration of the strength of Gauss's method came when it was used to predict the future location of the newly discovered asteroid Ceres. On January 1, 1801, the Italian astronomer Giuseppe Piazzi discovered Ceres and was able to track its path for 40 days before it was lost in the glare of the sun. Based on this data, it was desired to determine the location of Ceres after it emerged from behind the sun without solving the complicated Kepler's nonlinear equations of planetary motion. The only predictions that successfully allowed Hungarian astronomer Franz Xaver von Zach to relocate Ceres were those performed by the 24-year-old Gauss using least-squares analysis.

"Gauss did not publish the method until 1809, when it appeared [in Hamburg] in volume two of his work on celestial mechanics, Theoria Motus Corporum Coelestium in sectionibus conicis solem ambientium" (Wikipedia article on Least squares, accessed 08-24-2009).

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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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Alois Senefelder Invents & Develops Lithography 1796 – 1819

In 1796 German actor and playwright Alois Senefelder invented lithography (from Greek λίθος - lithos, 'stone' + γράφω - graphο, 'to write') as a cheaper way of publishing his plays. Lithography was the first planographic printing process, and the first radically new method of printing since Gutenberg’s invention of printing by movable type.

Senefelder experimented with a new etching technique using a greasy, acid resistant ink as a resist on a smooth fine-grained stone of Solnhofen limestone from Bavaria (Bayern), halfway between Nuremberg (Nürnberg) and Munich (München). He discovered that this could be extended to allow printing from the flat surface of the stone alone. Gradually he brought his technique into a workable form, perfecting both the chemical processes and the special form of printing press required for using the stones. Senefelder called it Steindruckerei (stone printing) or chemical printing, but the French name lithographie (lithography) became more widely adopted. With the composer Franz Gleißner, in 1796 Senefelder started a publishing firm using lithography. The two collaborated for about 30 years. In his A Complete Course of Lithography (1819) p. 13-14 Senefelder described how how he and Gleissner decided in 1796 to apply Senefelder's new printing process to publishing music as a first commercial venture:

"A page of wretchedly printed music from a prayer-book, which I accidentally met with at a shop at Ingolstadt, suggested to me the idea that my new method of printing would be particularly applicable to music printing; I, therefore, resolved on my return to Munich, to go directly to Mr. Falter, a publisher of music, to offer him my invention, and beg his assistance. My natural shyness alone prevented me from executing this plan immediately; I had twice passed his door, without having the courage to enter the house, when I accidentally met an acquaintance, to whom I had occasionally communicated something of my invention; and, conversing with him, I learned that Mr. Gleissner, a musician of the Elector's band, was just about to publish some pieces of sacred music. This was most welcome news to me, as Mr. G. was a particular friend of mine.

"Without further delay, I called on Mr. Gleissner, to whom I communicated my new invention, offering him, at the same time, my services for the publication of his music. The specimens of music, and other printing, which I showed him, obtained his and his wife's highest approbation; he admired the neatness and beauty of the impressions, and the great expedition of the printing; and, feeling himself flattered by my confidence, and the preference I gave him, he immediately proposed to undertake the publication of his music on our joint account. I had, in the mean time, procured a common copper-plate printing press, with two cylinders; and, though it was very imperfect, it still enabled me to take neat impressions from the stone plates. Having, therefore, copied the twelve songs, composed by Gleissner, with all possible expedition, on stone, I succeeded in taking, with the assitance of one printer, 120 copies form it. The composiing, writing on stone, and printing, and had been accomplished in less than a fortnight; and in a short time we sold of these songs to the amount of 100 florins, though the whole expense of stones, paper, and printing, did not exceed 30 florins, which left us a clear profit of 70 florins."

According to Hans Schneider, Makarius Falter (1762-1843) und sein Münchner Musikverlag I:Der Verlag im Besitz der Familie (1796-1827); Verlagsgeschichte und Bibliographie (1993) p. 75, the title of Senefelder's first commercial publication by means of lithography was 12 Neue Lieder für's Klavier. . . von Franz Gleissner. .  . München, 1796. As Senefelder recounts in his Complete Course of Lithography p. 20 the following year Falter issued his first lithographed edition of music: Mozart's IIme Partie de Grand Opera Die Zauberflöte (Munich, 1797; Schneider  p. 81.) This was drawn on stone by Senefelder and printed at Mr. Falter's house by two soldiers whom Senefelder had instructed in the process of printing. "But these workmen, not entering into the spirit of the art, spoiled a great deal of paper, so that Mr. Falter at last prefrred printing again from copper." Nevertheless Falter continued to issue music printed both by lithography and copper plate engraving. 

In 1799 Senefelder met with German composer and music publisher Johann Anton André in Munich. Senefelder agreed to collaborate with André, and granted André's firm the right to use the new printing method. This occurred for the first time in 1800 when a 10-page selection from André's own opera Die Weiber von Weinsberg came off the press

On June 20, 1801 Senefelder received British patent no. 2518 for "A New Method and Process of performing the Various Branches of the Art of Printing on Paper, Linen, Cotton, Woollen and other Articles." This patent, with 18 pages of text and 9 figures on a large folding plate, represented Senefelder's earliest technical description of the process of lithography. It may be worthy of note that, as the specification of the patent indicated, Senefelder foresaw the wide range of applications of his process beyond strictly printing on paper. By 1803 Senefelder adapted zinc plates as substitutes for limestone in the process of lithography. Zinc plates eliminated the necessity of using smooth fine-grained limestone, and made it possible to lithograph larger plates with zinc plates that were much lighter in weight, and thus more manageable in the press than stones of equivalent dimensions.

In order to promote the virtues of lithography for reproducing art works, in 1808 Senefelder issued from his press in Munich an edition of the prayer book with Albrecht Dürer's drawings as Albrecht Dürers Christlich-Mythologische Handzeichnungen.  Three centuries earlier, in 1512 Maximilian I, archduke of Austria and Holy Roman Emperor, had appointed Dürer artistic advisor for his print projects. Like all rulers of his age, Maximilian was acutely aware of his personal status; he became the first ruler to recognize the potential of the print as an effective way of perpetuating his name and dynasty. Among Dürer's commissions for the emperor, were forty-five pages of marginal drawings to the manuscript Prayer Book of Maximilian (1515). These revealed a light-hearted and witty side to Dürer's graphic work. Dürer's drawings for Maxmilian's prayer book remained unpublished until Senefelder's edition. Frequently this small folio volume from 1808 has been considered the first book printed entirely by lithography. It contained a lithographed portrait of Dürer, a lithographed title in black and violet, 2 pages of lithographed text in Senefelder's hand, and 43 lithographs by Johan Nepomuk Strixner reproducing each drawing in the single color in which Dürer drew it, the single colors per drawing, including violet, sepia, red, black or green. However, the honor for the first book printed by entirely by lithography may be assigned to Johann Anton André's  Thematisches Verzeichniss sämmtlicher Kompositionen von W.A. Mozart (1805).

In 1817 when Anglo-German bookseller, inventor, lithographer, publisher and businessman Rudolph Ackermann set up his lithographic press in London his first publication was an English version of Senefelder's first lithographic book: Designs of the Prayer Book. Published September 1, 1817 at R. Ackermann's Lithographic Press.  The following year Senefelder published a manual of lithography in Munich entitled Vollständiges Lehrbuch der SteindruckereyThis outstanding and comprehensive manual, which included many different examples of lithography, also introduced  chromolithography, with a two-color lithographic reproduction of the first page of the 1457 Mainz Psalter reproducing its large two-color initial letter. Senefelder's book was translated into French and published Paris in 1819 as l'Art de la lithographie en construction pratique contenant la déscription claire et succincte des différents procédés à suivre pour déssiner, graver et imprimer sur pierre; precédée d'un histoire de la lithographie et de ses progrès. The same year the book appeared in English, published in London by Ackermann as A Complete Course of Lithography: ... Accompanied by Illustrative Specimens of Drawings. To Which is Prefixed a History of Lithography. Of the three editions of Senefelder's textbook, it has been argued that the English edition had the most impact in spreading the technique of lithography around the world.

Twyman, Lithography 1800-1850 (1970) 26-27, 257.

(This entry was last revised on 02-17-2015.)

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Amerlia Simmons Writes the First American Cookbook Written by an American 1796

Amelia Simmons, characterizing herself on the title page as “An American Orphan,” published in Hartford, Connecticut, American Cooke, or the Art of Dressing Viands, Fish, Poultry and Vegetables, and the Best Modes of Making Pastes, Puffs, Pies, Tarts, Puddings, Custards and Preserves, and All Kinds of Cakes, from the Imperial Plumb to Plain Cake, Adapted to this Country, and All Grades of Life.

This was the first cookbook written by an American published in the United States. “Numerous recipes that adapt traditional dishes by substituting native American ingredients such as corn meal and squash are printed here for the first time, including 'Indian Slapjack,' 'Johny Cake,' and 'Squash Pudding.' Simmons's 'Pompkin Pudding,' baked in a crust, is the basis for the classic American pumpkin pie. Although this popular work was published in many editions, only four copies of the original edition are known to have survived” (American Treasures of the Library of Congress, accessed 12-29-2008).

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Binny & Ronaldson Open the First American Type Foundry 1796

In 1795 Scots Archibald Binny and James Ronaldson opened the Binny & Ronaldson type foundry in Philadelphia. This was the first type foundry in the United States.

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Giovanni Battista Venturi Begins Scientific and Art Historical Studies on Leonardo da Vinci 1797

In 1797 Italian physicist Giovanni Battista Venturi published Essais sur les ouvrages physico-mathématiques de Léonard de Vinci, avec des fragmens tirés de ses manuscrits. . . . This brief work, with one folding engraved plate, is considered the beginning of the modern Leonardo studies. Venturi, who lived in Paris for much of his life, had access to the Leonardo da Vinci manuscripts which had been moved by order of Napoleon, after his conquests in the Italian peninsula, from the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan to the Institut National in Paris.  Venturi organized the codices and gave them the letters by which they are known today. His studies inspired him to claim that “il faut donc placer Léonard à la tête de ceux qui se sont occupés des sciences Physico-Mathématiques et de la vraie méthode d’étudier parmi les Modernes.” In his 56 page book, Venturi presented excerpts, translated into French, of some of the manuscripts’ most important sections on physics, mathematics and geology together with essays and notes of his own on the texts. Venturi intended this work to be the prelude to a more ambitious three-volume edition of Leonardo’s complete writings on mechanics, hydraulics and optics; however, this was never published.

Venturi is best known for his researches on the Venturi effect described in his treatise on hydraulics, Recherches expérimentales sur le principe de la communication latérale du mouvement dans les fluides appliqué a l'explication de differens phenomenes hydrauliques, also first published in 1797. Verga, Bibliografia Vinciana, No. 273. 

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Frenchman Louis-Nicolas Robert Invents the First Papermaking Machine, but it is Developed in England by John Gamble, the Fourdriniers & John Dickinson 1798 – 1840

In 1798 French soldier and mechanical engineer Louis-Nicolas Robert invented the first papermaking machine. After completing his military career, in 1790 Robert became indentured at one of the Didot family's Paris publishing houses. First working under Saint-Léger Didot as a clerk, he later switched to a position as "inspector of personnel" at Pierre-François Didot's hand paper-making factory in Corbeil-Essonnes in the suburbs of Paris. This establishment dated back to 1355, and supplied paper to the Ministry of Finance for currency manufacture. Both Robert and Didot grew impatient with the quarrelling workers, vatmen, couchers, and laymen, so Robert was motivated to find a way to mechanize the traditional labor-intensive process of making paper by hand. 

Handmade paper was made one sheet at a time, by manually dipping a rectangular frame or mould with a screen bottom into a vat of pulp. The frame was removed from the vat, and the water was pressed out of the pulp. The remaining pulp was allowed to dry; the frame could not be re-used until the previous sheet of paper was removed from it. Robert's machine had a moving screen belt that would receive a continuous flow of stock and deliver an unbroken sheet of wet paper to a pair of squeeze rolls. As the continuous strip of wet paper came off the machine it was manually hung over a series of cables or bars to dry. This continuous, unbroken sheet of paper later had to be cut. 

Robert applied for a French patent for his machine on September 9, 1798; it was granted on January 18, 1799. According to the French patent database, bases-brevets19e.inpi.fr, in which the patent is recorded as dossier 1BA95, the patent, which was granted for 15 years, was entitled "machine à faire le papier, d'une très grande étendu". The database records that Robert transferred the patent to Léger Didot on June 27, 1800.  The database includes a reproduction of the first page of the manuscript of the patent; as of October 2015, I was unable to determine whether or not the patent was ever printed.

Because of disagreements between Robert and his partners, St. Leger and François Didot, and also because of financial disruptions caused by the French Revolution, François Didot attempted to have the papermaking machine developed in England, sending his English brother-in-law, John Gamble, then employed in the office of the British Commissioner for exchanging prisoners-of-war in France, to London to develop the technology. Gamble left Paris in March 1801, and only a month later received an English patent for the papermaking machine. The patent spcification No. 2487 was granted for an "Invention of Making Paper in single Sheets, without Seam or Joining, from One to Twelve Feet and upwards Wide, and from One to Forty-five Feet and upwards in Length." Gamble's specification was, according to Clapperton, essentially a translation of Robert's patent. The title of the specification, with its emphasis on the production of very large sheets, indicates that the original market for the product was expected to be wallpaper.

In London Gamble was introduced to Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier, of the firm of Bloxam & Fourdrinier, the leading wholesale stationers in London, who took great interest in the invention, and set about trying to improve it. In 1802 the Fourdriniers hired the young English engineer Bryan Donkin to improve the machine and oversee its development at mills which they opened at St. Neots, Huntingdonshire, and at Frogmore and Two Waters, Hertfordshire. Undoubtedly they began manufacturing paper there shortly thereafter, and while tracing the earliest surviving examples of machine-made paper is difficult as there are few records, the first book printed on machine made paper was issued as early as 1804, and copies of that have survived. 

On August 14, 1807 Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier and John Gamble were granted a new British patent  for "Prolonging the Term of Certain Letters Patent assigned to Henry and Sealy Fourdrinier for the Invention of making Paper by means of Machines." The cost savings from machine papermaking were apparently evident almost at once. In his Chronology of the Origin and Progress of Paper and Paper-Making, 5th edition (1876) American printer and printing and papermaking historian Joel Munsell wrote on p. 62 that in 1806

"The patentees of the Fourdrinier machine laid a statement before the public containing a comparative estimate of the expense attending sevent vats, and that attending a machine employed upon paper sized in the engine, preforming the same quantity of work as seven vats, at the rate of twelve hours a day. The expense of seven vats per annum for £2,604: 12s.; a machine doing seven vats' work was £734:12s.; balance saved by the machine per annum, £1,870. The expense of making paper by hand at this time was 16s. per cwt.; by machine, 3s 6d."

Nevertheless, like many new technologies, machine paper-making did not immediately catch on in the British paper industry, and, as had happened with other new technologies, some of the original inventors failed to benefit:

". . .of the early pioneers who invented, developed, and financed the machine through the difficult years of its evolution, Louis Robert, Henry Fourdrinier, Didot St. Leger and Gamble, all died in comparative poverty. Robert died at 66 while managing a small school at Vernouillet, on the 28th August, 1828, leaving a wife and six children. Didot, who had returned to France, died in 1829 near the same village; and Henry Fourdrinier died on the 9th September, 1854, at the age of 88, . . . near Rugeley. John Gamble was still living in 1857, and there does not appear to be any authentic date of his death. These four men, who where so intimately connected with, and who gave so much of their lives and fortunes to, the development of the Fourdrinier machine, lived to see many successful paper-mills in which hundreds of paper-making machines were operating, from which they they themselves werre able to get nothing at all. The Bryan Donkin Company alone had built 197 paper-making machines before Henry Fourdrinier died, and by that time many other engineering firms were also building this type of machine. The Fourdrinier firm, of which Henry Fourdrinier was the head, lost at least £60,000 in the first ten years of the development of the machine, and became bankrupt in the process. Leger Didot lost his paper-mill and his business. Gamble lost his paper-mill at St. Neots to Matthew Towgood; and Robert was left completely out of it by everybody, and eventually got nothing but a statue and memorial many years after he died" (Clapperton, The Paper-Making Machine. Its Invention, Evolution and Development  [1967] quote 12-3, see also 34-44).

In July 1809 English paper dealer and inventor John Dickinson of Aspley, Hertfordshire, patented the cylinder-mould papermaking machine, receiving British patent No. 3191 for "Certain Improvements on my former Patent Machinery for Cutting and Placing Paper, and also certain Machinery for the Manufacture of Paper by a new Method." Dickinson's concept, which he developed through his partnership with George Longman, who provided the initial working capital, was the first to allow for commercially viable machine production of paper, and of the early inventors in papermaking, Dickinson was the only machine paper-maker to a develop a business that remained financially successful for generations. However, Dickinson's machine was apparently not functional originally, and, according to Coleman p. 191 Dickinson initially installed machines of the Fourdrinier type at his mills.

Dickinson's process consisted of a perforated cylinder of metal, with a closely fitting cover of finely woven wire, which revolved in a vat of pulp. The water from the vat was carried off through the axis of the cylinder, leaving the fibers of the pulp clinging to the surface of the wire. An endless web of felt passed through what was known as a 'couching roller' lying upon the cylinder drew off the layer of pulp which when dried became paper. Clapperton, op. cit. 54-77.

Saint-Leger Didot (Leger Didot), then living in England, further improved the technology in 1812 when he was granted British patent No. 3568 for "Certain other Improvements upon the Said Machines for the Making of both Woven and Laid Paper." In 1806 Henry Fourdrinier had obtained patent No. 2951 for a method of making a machine for manufacturing paper of an indefinite length, laid and wove, with separate moulds. However, Fourdrinier's patent for the endless chain-mould machine did not accompany his specification with drawings and did not describe the machine in much detail. Thus Didot and his associates, including Fourdrinier, thought it appropriate to patent a more detailed specification at this time. Clapperton, op. cit., 54-58.

Only a few years after machine-made paper was widely available paper manufacturers desired to make machine-made paper resemble hand-made or laid paper, and in 1825 stationers and inventors John Phipps and Christopher Phipps of London received British patent No. 5075 for "An Improvement or Improvements in Machinery for Making Paper." In their specification they described "the employment of a roller the cylinder part of which is formed of 'laid' wire. . . the effect produced by said roller is that of making impressions upon the sheet of paper upon which said roller passes and thus the paper so made has the appearance of 'laid' paper." This device was known as a "dandy roll."

Around 1820 the quantity of paper made by machine exceeded the quantity of paper made by hand. The earliest discussion and illustrations of papermaking machinery other than the patents involved that I have found is in John Nicholson's The Operative Mechanic, and British Machinist; being a Practical Display of the Manufactories and Mechanical Arts of the United Kingdom (London: Knight and Lacey, 1825), 365-377. Nicolson featured mainly Dickinson's process and reproduced images of his machine from Dickinson's patent. (It is possible that some of the material in Nicolson's volume was adapted from the Mechanics Magazine, also published by Knight and Lacey beginning in 1823.

Even though the Fourdriniers were to a large extent responsible for developing the essential papermaking technology they went bankrupt in 1810 from excessive development costs, and never profited from their effort. Their patent technically extended to 1824, but they received no royalties after they declared bankruptcy. In June 1837 the Fourdriniers were able to have their case for compensation on their expired patent brought before The House of Commons. The official review was published as Report from the Select Committee on Fourdrinier's Patent; with the Minutes of Evidence, and AppendixThat the Fourdriniers were crucial in developing a significant industry in Britain was evident from the testimony, and in 1840 £7000 was paid to Henry Fourdrinier and his family.

In reading through Richard Herring's Paper and Paper-Making Ancient and Modern (London, 1855) I found that Herring made a critical comparison between paper made by hand and paper made by machine and also included in his book samples of hand-made paper and machine-made paper so that users of the book could make comparisons. Herring's comparison of the two paper-making modalities may be the first published, and is also most probably the first to include samples.

Though paper-making by machine became a very large industry, the earliest monograph specifically on the technique of machine-made paper subject that I had identified in 2016 is Carl Hofmann, A Practical Treatise on the Manufacture of Paper in All its Branches. Philadelphia: Henry Carey Baird, 1873. On the title page Hofmann characterized himself as "Late Superintendent of Paper-Mills in Germany and the United States, Recently Manager of the Public Ledger Paper-Mills near Elkton, MD." He cited no prior studies on the subject except articles in trade journals. Hofmann's work, extensively illustrated with 125 engravings and 5 large folding plates, was expanded in several French editions. Only one edition seems to have been published in English. 

Over a century later, in 1976 Janet Fourdrinier sold at auction the original color engineering drawings of Robert's papermaking machine, which were presumably acquired by the Fourdriniers when they purchased Gamble's patent in 1804. Besides the signature of the original artist, the drawings bore the signature of John Gamble, These drawings were purchased by paper dealer, collector and papermaking historian Leonard B. Schlosser. After Schlosser's death the drawings were reproduced in color in their original size and published in a limited edition by Henry Morris of the Bird & Bull Press with an explanatory introduction in Nicolas Louis Robert and his Endless Wire Papermaking Machine with Facsimiles of the Inventor's Original Drawings of the first Paper Machine, Including a chapter on the papermaking historian Leonard B. Schlosser (2000).

Clapperton, The Paper-Making Machine. Its Invention, Evolution and Development (1967).

Coleman, The British Paper Industry 1495-1860 (1958) Chapter 7, "Mechanisation" and pp. 235-45

(This entry was last revised on 03-24-2016.)

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Tsar Paul I Suppresses Private Printing in Russia 1798

Private printing presses were suppressed in Russia by the order of the Tsar, Paul I in 1798.

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Napoleon's Imprimerie Nationale, the First Printing Presses in Africa since 1516 1798 – 1799

During his Egyptian Campaign Napoleon Bonaparte established printing presses (Imprimerie Nationale) at Alexandria, Cairo, and Giza (Gizah) from 1798 to 1789. These were probably the first presses on the continent of Africa since Samuel ben Isaac Nedivot and his son Isaac, set up the first press on the African continent in Fez, Morocco, and operated the press from 1516 to about 1526. When the French were driven out of Egypt in 1801 Napoleon's presses ceased operation.

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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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Pajot des Charmes Introduces Bleach in Paper Production, Facilitating Recycling of Paper 1798 – 1799

In 1798 French chemist C. Pajot des Charmes, formerly Inspector of Manufactures, published l'Art du Blanchiment des toiles fils et cotons de tout genre in Paris, illustrated with 9 plates. The following year English chemist translator, journalist, publisher, scientist, and inventor William Nicholson translated the volume into English as The Art of Bleaching Piece-Goods, Cottons, and Threads, of Every Description, Rendered more easy and general by Means of he Oxygenated Muraiatic Acid; with the method of rendering painted or printed Goods perfectly white or colourless. To which are added, the most certain Methods of bleaching Silk and Wool; and the Discoveries made by the Author in the Art of bleaching Paer. Illustrated with Nine Large Plates, in quarto, representing all the utensils and different manipulations of the bleaching process. An elementary work composed for the use of manufactuers, bleachers, dyers, callico printers, and paper-makers. The translation was published in London in 1799, with an appendix by Nicholson concerning English equivalents to French measuring units, and updates on the bleaching process.

Of primary concern to this database was Pajot des Charmes' discussion of the use of bleach in the production of paper, particularly in the production of recycled paper. This was significant as prior to the introduction of bleaching any recycled paper was typically dark grey from the residual ink.

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Pierre-Simon Laplace Issues "Traité de méchanique céleste" 1799 – 1827

French mathematician and astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace published Paris Traité de méchanique céleste in 5 volumes with several supplements from 1799 to 1827. This work was "a treatise on celestial mechanics in the tradition of Newton’s Principia. Here Laplace applied his mathematical theories of probability to celestial bodies and concluded that the apparent changes in the motion of planets and their satellites are changes of long periods, and that the solar system is in all probability very stable. He gave methods for calculating the movements of translation and rotation of heavenly bodies and for resolving problems of tides, from which he deduced the mass of the moon” (Dibner, Heralds of Science [1980] no. 14). Laplace’s system of celestial mechanics (a term he coined) marked an advance over that of Newton, who had posited the necessity of a Deity in the universe to correct planetary irregularities; Laplace on the other hand, when asked by Napoleon why his system contained no mention of the Creator, replied “I had no need of such a hypothesis.”

The bibliographical makeup of Mécanique céleste is among the most complex of science classics; see Horblit and the Norman library catalogue for collations and paginations. Two issues of Vols. I-II exist, one with the imprint of Crapelet and Duprat alone and the French Republican date “An VII”; and one dated “1799” with the additional imprint reading “Berlin: chez F. T. de la Garde, Libraire,” printed for European distribution. The third volume contains a single separately paginated supplement (“Supplément au Traité de mécanique céleste . . . présenté au Bureau des Longitudes, le 17 août 1808”); the fourth volume has two separately paginated supplements (“Supplément au dixième livre du Traité de mécanique céleste. Sur l’action capillaire” and “Supplément à la théorie de l’action capillaire”). The fifth volume’s supplement,  (“Supplément au 5e volume du Traité de mécanique céleste . . .”) appeared in 1827. It is not unusual for sets to be lacking one or more of the supplements. Vol. V, comprising a series of addenda to the first four volumes, appeared twenty years after Vol. IV; according to Laplace’s “Avertissement” to this volume, each of its five books was issued separately in the month indicated on its part-title.

Horblit, One Hundred Books Famous in Science no. 63. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1277. Carter & Muir, Printing and the Mind of Man (1967) no. 252.

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