London: printed for J. Mawman and sold by J. Booth, 1826.
First edition of Babbage’s first substantial published work, the first thorough treatise on actuarial theory, complete with folding table of mortality statistics, generally considered the first reliable life table. It serves as an early example of the desire and need for accurate statistics and calculations that would be a driving force throughout Babbage’s life. (He was, after all, the man who reputedly once wrote to poet Alfred Lord Tennyson and demanded he change the lines: “Every moment dies a man, Every moment one is born” to “Every moment dies a man, Every moment one and one-sixteenth is born.”)
❧Origins of Cyberspace 36.
“Babbage was offered the position of director and actuary of the fledgeling Protector Life Assurance Company with the prospect of an annual income of £2500, a substantial improvement on his father’s grudging allowance. He spent several months studying the life assurance business and computed a new set of life tables. The venture was abandoned the day before its scheduled launch on 1 July 1824. Babbage used his actuarial knowledge as the basis for a small popular work, A Comparative View of the Various Institutions for the Assurance of Lives (1826). The book was not intended for the professional actuary but for the general populace unwary of the pitfalls of conveniently misrepresented benefits. It was, at least in part, a work of consumer protection with Babbage self-cast as champion of the exposé” (ODNB).
In this work, Babbage “provided a simple guide to the quantitative basis of life insurance and fulminated against “the disgraceful practices which prevail at some assurance offices” (p. ix), such as allowing lawyers and other interested parties to sell policies on commission. Babbage’s book was translated into German in 1827, and formed the basis for the Life Assurance Bank of Gotha, which also adopted Babbage’s actuarial tables” (OOC).
Kress 24945; A. W. Van Sinderen, ‘The printed papers of Charles Babbage,’ Annals of the History of Computing, Vol. 2, 1980, pp. 169-851980, no. 26; Origins of Cyberspace 36.
8vo (210 x 131 mm), pp. xxxi, 170, [27 of tables, with one folding], contemporary English half calf over marbled boards, gilt red spine label, light wear to extremeties, in all a very fine and clean copy, entirely unrestored.