London: Richard & John Taylor, 1843.
First edition of “the most important paper in the in the history of digital computing before modern times” (Allan George Bromley). In 1840 Babbage traveled to Torino to present to a group of Italian scientists an account of his Analytical Engine. Babbage’s talk, complete with drawings, models and mechanical notations, emphasized the Engine’s signal feature: its ability to guide its own operations. It also included the first computer programs though Babbage did not use that word. In attendance at Babbage’s lecture was the young Italian mathematician Luigi Federico Menabrea (later Prime Minister of Italy), who prepared from his notes an account of the principles of the Analytical Engine, which he published in French in 1842 (Bibliothèque universelle de Genève). “After the appearance of Menabrea’s paper, the daughter of Lord Byron, Augusta Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, became interested in preparing an English translation. The resulting collaboration between Byron’s celebrity daughter and Babbage is one of the more unusual in the history of science. At Babbage’s suggestion, Lady Lovelace added seven explanatory notes to her translation, which run three times the length of the original. Because Babbage never published a detailed description of the Analytical Engine, Ada’s translation of Menabrea’s paper, with its lengthy explanatory notes, represents the most complete contemporary account in English of the intended design and operation of the first programmable digital computer. Her annotated translation has been called ‘the most important paper in the in the history of digital computing before modern times’ (Bromley 1982, xv). Babbage considered this paper a complete summary of the mathematical aspects of the machine, proving ‘that the whole of the development and operations of Analysis are now capable of being executed by machinery’ (Babbage 1889, ). As part of his contribution to the project, Babbage supplied Ada with algorithms for the solution of various problems. These he had worked out years ago, except for one involving Bernoulli numbers, which was new. Ada illustrated these algorithms in her notes in the form of charts detailing the stepwise sequence of events as the hypothetical machine would progress through a string of instructions input from punched cards (Swade 2000, 165). These procedures, and the procedures published in the original edition of Menabrea’s paper, were the first the first published examples of computer ‘programs’.” (Hook & Norman: Origins of Cyberspace, p.150).
In: Scientific Memoirs, Selected from the Transactions of Foreign Academies of Science and Learned Societies, Vol. 3, 1843, pp. 666-731 with 1 folding chart. The complete volume, offered here, in a fine contemporary half calf, a water stain to the first six, and last seventy, pages - otherwise fine and clean with no stamps or other markings. 8vo: 212 x 135 mm. (6), 734 pp. and 10 plates. Rare in such good condition.