Collection of original mechanical drawings, descriptions, and autograph memoranda

Thomas Alva EDISON

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Item#: 124976 price:$35,000.00

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EDISON, Thomas Alva. Collection of original mechanical drawings, operational descriptions, and internal autograph memoranda signed. [West Orange, New Jersey]: circa 1921-29. Six separate items altogether. Ledger sheet (8-1/2 by 11 inches); sheet of drafting paper (15 by 10 inches); sheet of lined tablet paper (8-1/2 by 11 inches); eight sheets of photocopy paper (8-1/2 by 11 inches); and two sheets of lined notepaper (each 5 by 8 inches). Housed in two custom chemises and a clamshell box. $35,000.

This extraordinary collection includes Edison’s original preliminary sketch relating to his phonograph record player (together with a copy of the 1929 patent), the original mechanical drawing of Edison’s “Edging Machine” (accompanied by a hand-written description of its operation), and two signed internal memoranda in Edison’s hand regarding cylinder and disc inventories and best sellers.

Arguably the most famous inventor of all time, Edison is of course famous for having patented exceptionally important inventions including the photograph, movie camera, and light bulb. This superb representative collection of original Edison materials includes Edison's original preliminary mechanical sketch relating to his phonograph record player (together with a copy of the 1929 patent); an original mechanical drawing by C.H. Frost of Edison's "Edging Machine," accompanied by a hand-written description of its operation by Jaffrey P. Buchanan, manager of Edison's Record Disc Division; and two internal memoranda to Buchanan regarding cylinder and disc inventories and and best sellers.

Edison's sketch, made with dark pencil on ledger paper, relates to his favorite invention, his phonograph record player. Although undated, it was executed in the early 1920s. By 1924 record sales, both cylinders and discs, had decreased with the advent of competition from radio. Operations were cut back, and Edison began experimenting with long-playing records. These were introduced in October 1926 along with four new console disc players. Attachments were also offered by Edison so that competitors' discs could be played. In this drawing, Edison has sketched two large discs and, in the upper right, two gears. Each disc is attached to a long arm, with dimensions and calculations penciled in. Included is a photocopy of U.S. Patent Number 1,708,692, "Phonograph," whose turntable can be set to operate at two different speeds.

C.H. Frost's intricate mechanical drawing of Edison's Record Edging Machine, dated February 14, 1921, is accompanied by a hand-written description by Buchanan: "The machine consists of two heads carrying quill shafts on which are mounted the tool holders… In the operation of the machine… the first motion of cams clamp the record between plates. As the plates move back, the tool operates upon the edge and at the end of travel the edge is beveled by the second tool, whereupon the record is moved to the opposite extreme and beveled on the opposite side… and the record is then ready to be ejected, which is done by rotation of the feed wheel."

The first of the two internal memoranda, dated 1924, reads, "Buchanan. How about inventory of Amberal record promised. Bradshaw has given me list of 300 best sellers of Amberal & one of 350 2nd best sellers. That is all we will keep in stock. Before printing these lists I want full inventory just like disc & operated in the same manner. When will it be ready. Edison." The second one, dated September 9, 1927, reads, "Blinne-Buchanan. Where are the reports on the time test records— I have not seen them. T.A. Edison."

Items generally fragile, with minor edge-wear. A splendid collection, representing the workings of one of the great inventive minds of the 20th century.

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