Invitation from Cyrus Field to view Robert Dudley's paintings of the Atlantic Telegraph Expeditions as reproduced in Russell's book.
Invitation from Cyrus Field to view Robert Dudley's paintings of the Atlantic Telegraph Expeditions as reproduced in Russell's book. (From a copy advertised by Tavistock Books.)
Russell Spines of large paper and regular paper

For the large paper copies the binder, probably Leighton Son & Hodge, created a new die for the spine decoration, tying the design beautifully to the design of the regular version.

Russell comparing anvil plates in the two versions

Comparing the hand-colored version of the plate of the forge on the deck in the large-paper copy to the tinted copy in the regular edition.

Atlantic Telegraph title page
Russell Cable passed

Comparing the hand colored verion in the large paper copy with the regular version of this plate.

Atlantic Cable Coiling the Cable

Coiling the cable in the large tanks at the works at Greenwich. Lithography by Day & Son after drawing by Robert Dudley. From Russell (1866).

Atlantic Cable paying out machinery litho

Paying-out machinery for lowwering the Atlantic cable from Russell (1866). Lithograph by Day & Son after Robert Dudley.

Atlantic Telegraph whale crossing the line

H.M.S. Agamemnon laying the Atlantic Telegraph Cable in 1858. A whale crosses the line.

Atlantic Cable spine and upper cover
Creative Commons LicenseJeremy Norman Collection of Images - Creative Commons

This image shows the elaborately gilt spine of the publisher's binding on Russell's The Atlantic Telegraph (1866). The designer and producer of this elaborately gilt and embossed cloth binding, were not credited, but may have been Leighton Son & Hodge. The binding was probably the most elaborate edition binding on a work concerning science or technology published in Victorian England.

Russell Large paper copy upper cover

Over my more than 50 year career I have owned several copies of the regular edition of Russell's book on the Atlantic Telegraphy.  However, this is the first copy of the large paper edition that I ever owned. I was attracted to this copy by the fine condition of the original cloth binding, or which you see the upper cover here. I think it it is a very tasteful adaptation of the ornately decorated cover of the regular edition.

Russell Atlantic Telegraph regular paper over large paper binding

Russell's book on laying the Atlantic Cable may be unique among works on science or technology in that it was issued as a deluxe illustrated book in regular format with tinted lithographed illustrations, and on large paper with the plates hand-colored. Here you see copies of the upper cover of both versions in my collection. For the large paper copies the elaborately decorated upper cover of the regular edition was inlaid into the larger cover of the large paper version.

Detail map of Manhattan, New York, New York, United States,London, England, United Kingdom,Sandfield, Nova Scotia, Canada,Cape Ray, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada,St. John

A: Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, B: London, England, United Kingdom, C: Sandfield, Nova Scotia, Canada, D: Cape Ray, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, E: St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, F: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, G: Heart's Content, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, H: County Kerry, Ireland

Cyrus Field's Three Attempts to Lay the Atlantic Cable, and the Book About Them

1854 to 7/27/1866
Atlantic Cable upper cover
Creative Commons LicenseJeremy Norman Collection of Images - Creative Commons

Elaborately tooled cloth binding on W. H. Russell's The Atlantic Telegraph (1866). The center of the binding is a cross-section of the cable with a color-printed onlay. The rest of the design incorporates elements signifying Great Britain and America intertwined by the elaborate lacing of the cable.

In New York in 1854 entrepreneur and promoter Cyrus Field organized the New York, Newfoundland, and London Electric Telegraph Company with the intention of laying an Atlantic Cable. Working with Samuel Morse and the Brett brothers, the company laid a cable from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to Cape Ray on the west coast of Newfoundland in 1855. The next challenge was to lay a 400 mile cable across Newfoundland to St John’s on its east coast. This was completed in 1856. At the end of this cable was a telegraph station at Trinity Bay.

In 1856 Field in New York and Charles BrightJohn Brett, and Jacob Brett in England formed The Atlantic Telegraph Company to lay and exploit commercially a telegraph cable across the Atlantic ocean. 

"The project stemmed from an agreement between the American Cyrus Field and the Englishmen John Watkins Brett and Charles Tilston Bright, and was incorporated in December 1856 with £350,000 capital, raised principally in London, Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow. The board of directors was composed of eighteen members from the UK, nine from the U.S. and three from Canada. The original three projectors were joined by E.O.W. Whitehouse as chief electrician. Curtis M. Lampson served ably as vice-chairman for over a decade. 

"The board recruited the physicist William Thomson (later Lord Kelvin), who had publicly disputed some of Whitehouse's claims. The two enjoyed a tense relationship before Whitehouse was dismissed when the first cable failed in 1858" (Wikipedia article on Atlantic Telegraph Company, accessed 12-25-2012).

The first attempt to lay the Atlantic Cable used the American navy vessel Niagara and the British steam and sail powered battleship HMS Agamemnon. The Niagara was then the largest navy ship in the world: 345 feet long, 55 feet wide and 5,800 tons. On August 11, 1857 the cable snapped, and an inquiry was held on August 20 to assess the causes of failure. One conclusion arising from this was that any future expedition should commence mid-ocean with the two ships splicing their respective halves of the Atlantic cable before sailing in opposite directions towards Newfoundland and Ireland.

On August 16, 1858 communication was established on the Atlantic Cable. The first message sent from Cyrus StationValentia Island, Ireland, to the Directors Atlantic Co, New York read as follows:

"Europe and America United by Telegraph! Glory to God in the Highest! On earth peace and good will to men!" 

In 23 days of operation a total of 271 messages, totalling 14,168 letters, were sent from Newfoundland to Valentia Island and 129 messages totalling 7,253 letters were sent from Valentia Island to Newfoundland. However, on the 18th September 1858 the cable failed.

On March 4-5, 2014 Christie's in New York auctioned the original transcript of the first telegraph message to be sent across the Atlantic Cable. According to their description, the message was sent to director Watts Sherman (1812-1865). Sherman, a prominent New York banker and co-founder of Duncan, Sherman & Co., was among the Honorary Directors, who also included luminaries such as August Belmont and Peter Cooper.

Using the steamship Great Eastern, the attempt to lay the second Atlantic Cable was undertaken in July 1865. The cable snapped after twelve hundred miles.  On July 27, 1866, twelve years after the project began, the Great Eastern laid the third and successful Atlantic Cable, connecting the cable at Heart’s Content, a fishing village in Newfoundland, with the Telegraph Field (also known as Longitude Field) Foilhommerum Bay, Valentia Island, in western Ireland. Communication by electric telegraph between Europe and America was finally established on a permanent basis. The first message sent over the cable was “A treaty of peace has been signed between Austria and Prussia."

The year the cable was successfully connected W. H. Russell issued an excellent illustrated book, entitled The Atlantic Telegraph, with spectacular lithographs after drawings by Robert Dudley. Also of note was the beautiful and unusual cloth gilt publisher's binding for the edition. A fine example of that along with selected lithographs are the source of the illustrations for this entry.

From time to time I wondered if Cyrus Field might have somehow sponsored Russell's deluxe book. In 2020 Tavistock Books advertise a copy with an invitation from Cyrus Fields to an exhibition of the pictures by Robert Dudley that illustrated the book. This suggests a possible connection.

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