JF Ptak Science Books Post 2657
I was browsing though a volume of Annals of Philosophy1 (1822) for my business, looking for interesting and significant contributions. Making my way nearly to the end I was not able to come away with anything of particular importance, though there were enough bits in it to make it an interesting purchase for someone, and to probably get a nice blog post out of it. (My main "hook" in the volume's story for the blog was a happenstance opening of the volume to a page exhibiting two short articles "Definition of a Straight Line" followed a paragraph late by "Black Urine".) Nearly at the end of the book, though, I came upon a very unexpected "find": "A Letter to Sir Humphrey Davy, Bart., President of the Royal Society, &c &C, on the Application of Machinery to the Purpose of Calculating and Printing Mathematical Tables...London, 1822" by Charles Babbage (appearing on pp 383-388). This appeared as a book review in the "Analysis of Books" section of the Annals with the running header of "Mr. Babbage's Letter to Sir H. Davy", and published in November 18222.
[The beginning of the article in the Annals...; the full text appears below]
This is a review of a 12-page paper--an open letter--written by Babbage to Davy on July 3, 1822, which was the first public discussion and detailed description of Babbage's Difference Engine. (I should note that the printers of this privately-printed paper and that of the Annals are the same.) This paper would make its way to the Royal Society which in turn, on May 1 1823, advocated the support (and funding) of Babbage's machine.
The original publication of the Babbage letter is a great rarity, and I would say that for me finding that would be impossible if I wasn't willing (and of course not able) to afford the very high entry price for the item. So, finding this in the Annals, finding a review of this very important and rare publication issued just months following the original paper was fascinating.
And I nearly missed it.
Most of the contents of this review are quotes taken from Babbage's work. A review of the paper also appeared in the British Critic, 1822 (full text found here: http://babbagedifferenceengine.blogspot.com/2014/09/article-in-british-critic-october-1822.html)
The full text of the rriginal Babbage paper is here: https://sites.google.com/site/babbagedifferenceengine/babbagelettertosirhumphrydavy
Other papers of interest in the volume include: M. Prechtel, "On the Foundational State of the Magnetic Phenomena of the Electrical Connecting Wire", pp 1-6;Charles Sylvester, "On the Specific Gravity of Gases", pp 29-31; [Anonymous] "Definition of a Straight Line", p 71; [Anonymous], "Black Urine", pp 71-2; T. Weaver, " Geological Remarks", pp 81-93; William Buckland, "Account of Fossil Teeth and Bones discovered in a Cave in Kirkdale", pp 133-146 and concluded pp 173-195; [Note on] "Frauenhofer's Experiments on the Illuminating Power of the Prismatic Rays", p 157; William Hyde Wollaston, "On the Finite Extent of the Atmosphere", pp 251-256; James Smithson, "Some Improvements of Lamps", pp 363-364;
1. Annals of philosophy, natural history, chemistry, literature, agriculture, and the mechanical and fine arts, edited by Thomas Thomson, printed in London for Baldwin, Craddock, and Joy, 1822; volume IV, July to December, 1822. Vii, (ii), 480pp, 6 engraved plates (half folding). Provenance: R. Crum Brown for the University Library of Edinburgh, with their bookplate.
2. The full title of Babbage's work as it appeared in 1822: Letter to Sir Humphry Davy, Bart, President of the Royal Society, &c.&c. On the Application of Machinery to the Purpose of Calculating and Printing Mathematical Tables, from Charles Babbage, Esq. M.A. F.R.S. Lond. and Edin., Member of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, Secretary of the Astronomical Society of London, and Correspondent of the Philomathic Society of Paris. 4to 12pp Baldwin & Co. 1822. July 3, 1822