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BABBAGE, Charles.

On the Economy of Machinery and Manufactures.

Availability: In stock

Published: London Charles Knight, 1832

Stock Code: 74487

OR On display in 43 Dover Street


First edition. Large paper presentation copy inscribed by the author on the front blank, "To Mr. Bartholemew sic with Mr Babbages Compliments". Large paper copies such as this (measuring over 180 mm in height) were produced especially for presentation and are scarce, with Babbage himself referring to "a few in the hands of the author's friends" (p. 167). Yale has a large-paper copy inscribed "R. Whitcombe from the author", but this is the only presentation copy that we know of in which Babbage signs his own name rather than using a generic salutation.
On The Economy of Machinery and Manufactures was Babbage's most successful lifetime publication, selling 3,000 copies. Prompted by the demands for precision in the construction of his first calculating engine, Babbage made a detailed survey of factories and workshops both in England and Europe. An encyclopaedic record of craft, manufacturing, and industrial processes, as well as an analysis of the domestic organization of factories, the work demonstrates Babbage's remarkable prescience. He proposed many scientific management techniques for the first time, including subdivided work, cost accounting and merit pay systems. He advocated the decimalization of currency, foresaw the role of tidal power as an energy source, and predicted the exhaustion of coal reserves.
"The book is at once a hymn to the machine, an analysis of the development of machine-based production in the factory, and a discussion of social relations in industry It was at once translated into French and German, both translations being published in 1833. Throughout the world the book had much effect, becoming the 'locus classicus' of the discussion of machinery and manufacturing" (Anthony Human, Charles Babbage, Pioneer of the Computer). "Economy was a turning point in economic writing and firmly established Babbage as a leading authority of the industrial movement" (ODNB).
Babbage is hailed as the first pioneer of computing. He found in the contemporary factory the organisational model for his analytical engine, which had a "mill" for grinding calculations and a "store" for intermediate results, strikingly analogous to the central processor and memory in a modern computer.

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Octavo (222 x 140 mm). Original purple cloth rebacked and printed paper label to style. Housed in a black cloth flat-back box by the Chelsea Bindery.


Cloth a little mottled and rubbed, rebacked as noted and with wear to the corners and edges skilfully repaired, faint spotting to endpapers and blanks, title perhaps washed, else clean, bright and untrimmed.


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