Sale 20BP02 | Lot 34

[TESLA, NIKOLA] MARTIN, THOMAS COMMERFORD. The Inventions, Researches and Writings of Nikola Tesla: With Special Reference to His Work in Polyphase Currents and High Potential Lighting.

Catalogue: Rare Books, Autographs & Maps
[TESLA, NIKOLA]  MARTIN, THOMAS COMMERFORD. The Inventions, Researches and Writings of Nikola Tesla: With Special Reference to His Work in Polyphase Currents and High Potential Lighting.

Lot Details

Lot 34
[TESLA, NIKOLA] MARTIN, THOMAS COMMERFORD. The Inventions, Researches and Writings of Nikola Tesla: With Special Reference to His Work in Polyphase Currents and High Potential Lighting.
New York: The Electrical Engineer, 1894. Third edition (stated), inscribed in Serbian in Cyrillic script by Tesla in ink on the recto of the first blank "Prijatelju D. Butterfield/Nikola Tesla." [i.e. "My friend D. Butterfield"]. Publisher's apricot cloth lettered in black, housed in in a modern clamshell case. 9 x 5 3/4 inches (23 x 14.5 cm); xi, 496 pp.; frontispiece of Tesla, diagrams throughout. Binding neatly restored without loss, a small ink blot at the head of the front board, slight soiling, else attractive. Hinges reinforced with linen at the time of restoration, retaining the original floral endpapers.
First published in 1894 (an edition of 1893 mentioned in the literature appears to be a ghost) and reprinted twice that year, this is uncommon in all three editions, which collate identically. Martin was an alumnus of Edison's laboratory (1877-1879) and the editor of Electrical World. The book contains a brief biography of Tesla as the first chapter, with the remaining forty-two detailing research and inventions by him. Three of the chapters transcribe important lectures by Tesla before technical audiences. These are: 1. Experiments with alternate currents of very high frequency, and their application to methods of artificial illumination, delivered before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers at Columbia College, N.Y., May 20, 1891 2. Experiments with alternate currents of high potential and high frequency, delivered before the Institution of Electrical Engineers, London, Feb. 3, 1892. 3. On light and other high frequency phenomena, delivered before the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia, Feb., 1893, and before the National Electric Light Association, St. Louis, March, 1893.
The book, which contains details of all of Tesla's inventions and research up to the time of publication, was very well received by its intended audience. It was (and remains) a landmark text in the field of electrical engineering, and one for which both Tesla and Martin received extensive praise at the time. Both men expected to profit from the book, although Tesla freely distributed copies gratis to interested parties.
D. Butterfield, the recipient of this copy, is apparently General Daniel Adams Butterfield. An archive of correspondence between him and Tesla dated 1895 exists at the Nikola Tesla Museum, noting his address as Cold Spring, Putnam County (which appears to have been his summer residence, "Cragside"). At the time this copy was inscribed, he was a wealthy New York businessman. A Union General during the Civil War, he had become Assistant U.S. Treasurer during the Grant administration. Notoriously, he used his position in order to manipulate the price of gold to the advantage of Jay Gould and James ("Diamond Jim") Fisk, who were trying to corner the gold market, by advising them of when the government was selling tranches of the metal. Grant, catching wind of the scheme, secretly released four million dollars worth of gold onto the market, causing the massive collapse in gold prices known as Black Friday, on September 24, 1869, which resulted in a subsequent period of financial turmoil. More creditably, he is generally considered to be the composer of Taps, the bugle call used at the end of burials.
A small slip of paper laid-in opposite the title bearing a typed presentation suggests that the book at some point subsequent passed to August John Pacini, a specialist in dental health, who was the head of the Department of Biophysical Research at the Victor X-Ray Corporation, Chicago (the slip documents the gift of the book by his wife to an unknown institution in 1943).
Despite Tesla's enthusiastic dispersal of the book, it rarely comes to market today in any of the three early editions, and we find no records of an inscribed copy at auction. Indeed, books inscribed by Tesla are in general of the utmost scarcity; the last example we note at auction was a popular 19th century humorous work, A'Beckett's The Comic History of England, entertaining but not especially apposite. The inscription in the present example was inspected (in a digital image) by Milica Kesler of the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia (see papers laid into slipcase).


Estimate: $6,000 - $9,000
Sold for $20,000 (includes buyer's premium)

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Estimate: $6,000 - $9,000
Sold for $20,000 (includes buyer's premium)

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Rare Books, Autographs & Maps

Tue, Nov 24, 2020 at 10am EST