The Invention Of The Difference Engine, Which "Ranks Among The Most Celebrated Icons In The Prehistory Of Computing"
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. Copy of a letter to Sir Humphry Davy, Bart. President of the Society, &c. &c. on the application of machinery to the purpose of calculating and printing mathematical tables... London: House of Commons , 1823].
First edition, offprint version, after the extremely rare privately printed version from the year before. [1]-6, [2] pp. Folio (12 5/8 x 7 3/4 inches; 319 x 197 mm). Docket title on verso of last leaf. This present copy is the separate printing of the British government’s reprint of Babbage’s letter to Davy in the year 1822. This separate printing includes for the first time, the text of the letters from the Treasury and Royal Society. This government version was published both in Volume 15 of the House of Commons’ Sessional Papers and as the present separate offprint. The two different government printings can be distinguished by the pagination. The present version has page numbers [1]-6, whereas the other is paginated 9-16. (Van Sinderen 1980, no. 18(n)). We could find no copies of this on OCLC, and only once at auction in the past 20 years.

Unbound and self-wrapped. Stitched at inner margin as issued. Contemporary ink number "145" on front page, "157" on recto of final leaf. Fine, in quarter cloth over boards custom chemise, with silk ties.

"It is on the invention of automatic calculating engines that Babbage's posthumous fame largely rests. For all his other interests it is the engines, their design and construction, that dominated his working life... By May 1822 Babbage had completed a small experimental version of his difference engine, so called because of the mathematical principle on which it was based, the method of calculating finite differences. Following the favourable recommendation of the Royal Society in May 1823, and the advocacy of influential supporters, Babbage secured government financial backing for his proposal to construct a larger, fully engineered machine, Difference Engine no. 1. In June 1823 in a private interview with the chancellor, F. J. Robinson, he was granted £1500 from the Civil Contingency Fund to prosecute the venture... Babbage had [his associate] Clement assemble a small section of the engine as a demonstration piece. The assembly, which worked impeccably, represented about one-seventh of the whole machine and was ready towards the end of 1832. This section of Difference Engine no. 1, transferred to the Science Museum, London, in 1862, is the first known automatic calculator and ranks among the most celebrated icons in the prehistory of computing." (Dictionary of National Biography).

HBS # 67812 $2,850