(Exhibitions – London 1851) Babbage, Charles
The exposition of 1851 ; or, views of the industry, the science, and the government, of England. Second edition, with additions.
London, John Murray 1851.
8vo. xvi + 289 + (5)pp, with 16pp publisher’s adverts. Publisher’s blind-stamped cloth. Spine slightly marked, but a good, clean copy. Mid nineteenth century engraved bookplate of Alexander Thomson of Banchory.
A scarce and sought-after book by Charles Babbage (1792-1871), the controversial designer of the first mechanical calculating machine. In it Babbage offers sharp criticism of the management of the Great Exhibition of 1851, particularly in regard to the building’s site (he would have preferred a site on the east side of Hyde Park, close to Park Lane) and to the pricing of goods offered for sale in the exhibition building. Babbage had initially expected to play a role in the organisation of the exhibition, and he had also been disappointed by his having been refused permission to display at it his Difference Engine no.1, and his book therefore combines ungracious remarks about the exhibition itself with broader expressions of unhappiness about the attitudes of Britain’s ruling elite, particularly in the fields of science and political economy. On a more positive note, Chapter 13, on “calculating engines”, provides a description of the current state of development of Babbage’s Analytical Engine. For the present second edition Babbage added the text of a chapter from Weld’s History of the Royal Society, and a review and a supplementary note relating to Weld’s book by Augustus de Morgan. each generally supportive of Babbage’s attempts to secure government funding for his calculating machines. Norman, Origins of Cyberspace 67.