Philadelphia: Franklin Institute, 1831. 1st Edition. FIRST EDITION report by F. W. [John] Herschel, Chair of a Committee appointed by the Council of the Royal Society. The report gives a positive review of the progress Charles Babbage had made to date in constructing his Difference. Engine.
Babbage was friends with the astronomer John Herschel. Herschel would often bring Babbage mathematical tables to review. “The tables were prepared by human "computers" and invariably were replete with errors. In 1821, the two of them were reviewing a set of tables, becoming progressively frustrated with the number of errors, when Babbage exclaimed, "I wish to God these calculations had been executed by steam!" (Swade. The Difference Engine: Charles Babbage and the Quest to Build the First Computer, 10).
“Shortly after his meeting with Herschel, Babbage came up with the idea for a "calculating Engine." By 1822, he had built a working prototype… The devices available in Babbage's time required entry of the numbers, rotating a lever, and then transcribing the result. The transcription was still prone to errors, so the automation of the calculations didn't really help. Babbage envisioned a machine that would compute whole sets of numbers and print the results without human intervention.
“He didn't tackle multiplication or division right away. He made use of a technique called "method of Differences" to do complex calculations using only addition and subtraction. Hence his invention came to be called a "Difference Engine… The Difference Engine consisted of two major parts—the calculating mechanism and the printing and control mechanism. In March 1831, he did get approval for £12,000 pounds to provide for a location to build it” (ibid). Item #1552
CONDITION & DETAILS: Philadelphia: Franklin Institute. Likely original boards, re-backed at the spine with original label attached. Though very tightly attached, the boards are rubbed and scuffed, particularly at the edge tips, and the spine label is chipped. 8vo. 9.25 x 7.5 inches. Tiny blind stamp on title page. Early ownership signatures on front board and another on front pastedown. The interior is well-toned and has some spotting. Withal, a very attractive, primitive looking copy.