Gauss’s Copy; the Earliest Gramophone Record
Leges Oscillationis oriundae si duo Corpora diversa celeritate oscillantia ita conjunguntur ut oscillare non possint nisi simul et synchronice exemplo illustratae Tuborum linguatorum. Dissertatio Physica...
One folding engraved plate (some foxing) & seven printed tables (five in the text & two on a separate folding sheet). 2 p.l., 40 pp. Large 4to, orig. green patterned boards (some foxing). [Halle]: G. Haack, .
First edition, and a very evocative association copy, of the rare Habilitationschrift by Wilhelm Weber (1804-91) on acoustics, specifically on the acoustic coupling of tongue and air cavity in reed organ pipes; his work in this area led, in a slightly roundabout way, to his close and enormously fruitful association with Gauss, which began in September of 1831. This copy belonged to Gauss — with the “Gauss-Bibliothek” stamp — on title. It is hard to imagine a more appropriate association as it led, in part, to their intimate collaboration and friendship.
Weber met Gauss at a scientific conference organized by Alexander von Humboldt in Berlin in 1828 (this was the only scientific convention Gauss ever attended). Weber delivered a lecture in which he summed up his work on the acoustical qualities of organ pipes. It attracted the attention of both Humboldt and Gauss, both of whom attended the lecture. Gauss immediately recognized the young physicist as a worthy colleague in his new-found interest in geomagnetism. Weber moved to Göttingen in 1831 and in the following six years, the two scientists invented the telegraph, developed a magnetometer, and performed much important research in electricity and magnetism.
Weber here describes for the first time a process in which sound is engraved on a metal plate with a scraper, and reproduced in differing frequencies by passing the scraper across the grooves — the basic principle of the gramophone record. Had this process been known to scientists during the heyday of recording-apparatus research in the 19th century, our present-day phonographs would very likely have been developed at a much earlier date; at least, Edison and Berliner would have been spared some of their abortive experiments.
The plate depicts various reed organ pipes. Fine copy. With the stamp of the Royal Observatory at Göttingen on free front endpaper (with release stamp facing on the front paste-down endpaper) and title.
❧ Gauss: D.S.B., V, pp. 304-06. Weber: D.S.B., XIV, pp. 203-09.
Item ID: 3375