Lot 367
  • 367


5,000 - 7,000 GBP
93,750 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Collection of c.119 letters by Herschel, Babbage, Lyell, and other philosophers, astronomers, mathematicians, and geologists
  • ink on paper
including autograph letters signed by Dugald Stewart (3, to Francis Horner, on Scottish politics, 8 June 1805 to 1 January 1815) John Playfair (2), J.F.W. Herschel, (6, including an important letter to Lyell discussing Luigi Menabrea's article on Babbage's Difference Engine, explaining it as "a mechanism, which mechanism can add subtract multiply divide and execute any given combination of these rules, or any combination whose succession follows a regular and algebraically state-able or describable law ... with precision and dispatch", and his doubts about Ada Lovelace's notes on the same, another with a printed copy of 'Requiem of the Forty-Feet Reflector', 5 December 1838 to 25 January 1858), George Biddell Airey (3), Charles Babbage (4, one sending Lyell the manuscript of his 9th Bridgewater Treatise, noting his need for continuing revisions including that "I have said too much about the engine which it is difficult to avoid", and discussing his ongoing development of calculating engines, altogether 7 pages, 7 March 1837 to 28 June 1864), Sir Charles Lyell (2, to Horner, as well as a manuscript note on "Fossil skull of the Engis cave near Liege", 1 page), Roderick Murchison (1 letter and a manuscript note on geological strata, 1 page, 1848), William Buckland (4, thanking Lyell for proposed corrections to a book, and commenting that a fossil bone may have belonged "to some gigantic Reptile", 9 pages, 1836-42), Adam Sedgwick (2 letters and a fragment of manuscript from 'The Testimony of the Rocks, 1 page), Hugh Miller (3), Leopold von Buch (3), Benjamin Silliman, Constant Prevost, G. Hartung (3, one describing a visit to California), Leonard Horner (3), Neil Maskelyne; the majority edge-mounted on the rectos of an album with photographic or print portraits on the facing versos, 66 numbered leaves, in a later album, half dark-green morocco, upper cover labelled "D Philosophers, Astronomers, Mathematicians, Geologists", housed in a waxed linen bag

Catalogue Note

Herschel was involved in Babbage's work on calculating engines from its inception. Babbage's original idea came to him when checking astronomical tables with Herschel; on finding errors he exclaimed that "I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam!"