Babbage’s Difference Engine: 1823 OFFPRINT

Babbage’s Difference Engine: 1823 OFFPRINT

Stock Number: 2405211001


Separate government printing of Babbage's letter to Davy and the Royal Society's recommendation to fund the project



Country of manufacture

UK and Ireland

Categories: Bookshop, Scientific, Technology, Scientific Books, Early Technology, Calculating


[BABBAGE, Charles], Mr. Babbage’s Invention. Copies of the Correspondence Between the Lords Commissioners of His Majesty’s Treasury and the President and Council of the Royal Society, relative to an Invention of Mr. Babbage (Ordered by the House of Commons to be printed, [London]), 1823

Folio; pp. [8]

An exceptionally scarce and important document in the history of computing. This is the sole separate printing of the parliamentary record (Sessional Papers) containing Babbage’s celebrated letter to Humphry Davy, as well as the favourable response of the Royal Society. Only one other copy is recorded worldwide, at the University of Illinois. 

Although many calculating machines predate Babbage’s Difference Engine, the Engine marks a decisive break: Babbage wanted not only to mechanize calculation, but to automate it. Specifically he wanted to automate the compilation and printing of astronomical and other mathematical tables.

The present document marks the moment when Babbage’s Difference Engine went from an inventor’s dream to a reality – albeit one only ever partially completed. Having created a model of his Difference Engine in the early 1820s, Babbage sought public support, writing with extensive detail of the project to the most famous scientist in the land – Humphry Davy. The Royal Society’s response was decisive: a grant to Babbage was made, and production began in earnest.

Near fine condition: stab-stitched as issued; docket title printed orthoganally to rear of last sheet (see top image); presented in an attractive large-format folder with a paper title to the cover.

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GB Boris Jardine Rare Books

Boris Jardine Rare Books specializes in history of science and technology, and scientific instruments.

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