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AUCTION 22

 

Laying the Panama to Peru Cable


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239.     INDIA RUBBER, GUTTA PERCHA, AND TELEGRAPH WORKS COMPANY, LIMITED. Central and South American Cable Expedition, 1881-1882. Pacific Side. Presented by the India Rubber, Gutta Percha, and Telegraph Works Co., Limited. N.p., n.d. [London? 1882]. [i-v] vi-xv [1, blank], 1-450, [2], 1-54 pp. 8vo (22 x 14 cm), original blue cloth, beveled edges, a.e.g., lettered in gilt on upper cover: “Presented by The Indian Rubber, Gutta Percha and Telegraph Works Co., Limited, Central and South American Pacific Side. 1882 Cable Expedition. No. 14.” A fairly disreputable copy of a very rare book (we found no copies on OCLC or in the British Library). Covers abraded, text block separated from binding, title browned and with one small hole. Occasional contemporary manuscript corrections (pp. 375-379, 387-389, 393-397, 403-419, 444-445). Signed presentation copy, on front free endpaper: “To Martin L. Hillings by Key West, Silverton 9th Sept. 1884, Robert Kaye Gray.” Gray (1851-1914) was a Scottish engineer who served as Telegraphic Engineer-in-Chief for the India Rubber, Gutta Percha, and Telegraph Works and was involved in the 1881-1882 laying of the Central and South American Telegraph Company’s cable. It seems likely the manuscript corrections are those of Gray.

     First edition. Not in standard sources. In 1878 American entrepreneur James Scrymser incorporated the Mexican Cable Company, and in 1879 the Central and South American Cable Company. By 1881 his network of telegraph lines ran from the USA through Mexico and on to Panama, and the cable of 1881/82 was designed to continue his connections down the west coast of Central and South America from Panama to Peru.  Cable manufacture at that time was a British monopoly, so Scrymser ordered the cable to be made and laid by the India Rubber, Gutta Percha, and Telegraph Works Company of London.

      The original contract for 2,726 nautical miles of cable was signed on August 13, 1881, and the work was completed exactly one year later on August 13, 1882. The book contains a general introduction to the project and is followed by the diaries of the Engineers on the various ships, including Robert Kaye Gray, who was in overall charge. Following the diaries are documents relating to the expedition and technical reports.

      Books such as this were not published for general circulation; they were intended as a detailed technical record of the expedition to be kept by the participants for future reference. (Historical context provided by Mr. Bill Burns of Long Island, New York).

($150-300)

Sold. Hammer: $150.00; Price Realized: $180.00

Auction 22 Abstracts

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