Astrolabes are not here but in Astronomy.
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Chronology : 2020 to now
1502 Summa by Pacioli
2019 SOLD for $ 1.21M by Christie's
Luca settles permanently in Venice in the 1470s as a Franciscan friar. Venice is a city of merchants. He reads the works of his most important predecessors including Fibonacci. He continues to teach and prepares a compilation of the whole knowledge in terms of arithmetic, geometry and study of proportions, to which he adds the best accounting practices of the Venetian trade.
In the best tradition of the antique and Arabic science which includes for example Euclid, Aristotle, Ptolemy and Avicenna, Pacioli is a compiler. He relies among other sources on the Liber Abaci prepared in 1202 by Fibonacci, which demonstrated that the Indo-Arabic numbering system is much better than the Roman numerals.
Pacioli does not omit anything about arithmetic and its applications. He promotes the double entry bookkeeping already practiced by some merchants, separating the recordings of debit and credit. He illustrates the position of fingers to identify high numbers in the decimal system. He defines the perfect proportions in the arrangements of elementary geometrical figures.
Luca writes his textbook in Italian and not in Latin, to ensure that it will be well understood by the merchants. His book titled Summa di arithmetica, geometria, proporzioni e proporzionalita, published in Venice in 1494, is the first arithmetic treatise in the vernacular. Of middle class origin, Pacioli wants above all to provide a guide of good practices for the merchants.
He succeeded beyond all hope. Merchants follow his recommendations, constantly maintaining a situation analysis of their business. The clarity of their accountings puts an end to the mistrust of their clients.
A copy announced in superb condition of the first issue of the first edition in its original binding was sold for € 550K by Finarte on June 20, 2019. lot 507. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
Leonardo da Vinci buys in the following year a copy from the same issue. Without doubt at his request, Luca joins the court of Ludovico Sforza in Milan in 1496. The collaboration of the mathematician and the artist is early interrupted by the wars of Italy but it is fruitful, deepening and applying the concept of golden ratio. Paganinus publishes their joint work in 1509 in Venice under the title Divina proporzione. Leonardo reuses in his Last Supper the geometrical principles proposed by the mathematician. A direct influence by Pacioli on Dürer is also very likely.
On June 12, 2019, Christie's sold for $ 1.21M at lot 1 a complete copy of the second issue of the first edition, printed circa 1502 by Paganinus after a few typographical reworks. This book is in its original state : it was not trimmed and has kept its period vellum wrapper. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
This June 12 we will offer at auction Luca Pacioli’s Summa de Arithmetica: The Birth of Modern Business in #NewYork. Known to represent "the pinnacle of mathematical knowledge in the Renaissance" Pacioli's book is considerably an icon of the history of all human knowledge. pic.twitter.com/RYSyANDl4V— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) February 21, 2019
1607 Galileo's Compass
2018 SOLD for £ 470K by Sotheby's
The proportional compass was used for geometry calculations related to Euclid's postulates. With complex scales on its two rulers, Galileo adds from 1597 new practical applications : calculation of the optimal elevation of the gun, calculation of the powder load with respect to the size and metal of the bullet. He includes with each delivered compass a handwritten manual prepared by copyists.
In 1606 the commercial success of his compass remains important. Galileo has his manual printed in Italian as a 28 x 19 cm folio book.
Jealousies between scientists are not a recent phenomenon. The young Baldassare Capra had not accepted that Galileo did not recognize his skill in the discovery of a new star that could question the principle of Aristotle on the inalterability of the sky. Reciprocal insults lead to hatred.
In 1607 Capra adapted in Latin the instructions for use of the proportional compass to claim as his own the recent developments, in a 19 x 14 cm quarto book. Galileo is angry. His copy of this book in which he annotated all the errors of interpretation made by Capra is preserved in the Biblioteca di Firenze.
The trial required by Galileo against Capra at the University of Padua is easily won by the real inventor. A witness tells that he had a compass from Galileo as early as 1597, when Capra was only 17 years old. Capra refuses a request from the court to demonstrate his competence in the use of the instrument. The copies of Capra's book are destroyed.
Galileo is upset once again : 30 copies that were already distributed could not be retrieved. He publishes in the same year as a counter-attack a new book in Italian, the Difesa, 24 x 17 cm quarto, detailing his arguments against Capra's slanders.
A copy of each of these three books were listed in the sale of the Tomash Library by Sotheby's on September 18, 2018. Lot 197, sold for £ 162K, is the 1606 user's manual. Lot 101, sold for £ 50K, is Capra's book. Lot 198, sold for £ 470K from a lower estimate of £ 300K, is the Difesa in a presentation copy inscribed by Galileo to one of the three administrating judges of the University of Padua. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
1942 Notebook by Turing
2015 SOLD for $ 1.02M by Bonhams
He was a visionary in artificial intelligence at the time when the first modern computers were developed around John von Neumann. During the war, working on the logic of algorithms, he broke the encryption of German Enigma machines previously considered as inviolable.
On April 13, 2015, Bonhams sold for $ 1.02M a highly rare notebook, lot 1. The scientific thoughts by Turing, written after 1942, are laid at the start and end of the book, while the intermediate pages were used for personal notes by his eminent student Robin Gandy after the ignominious death of Turing (who was pardoned posthumously in 2013 by Queen Elizabeth II).
Both autographs by Turing are unpublished developments. They bring a new vision on the thinking process of one of the most profound scientists of our time, who found through a method of enforcing simplifications the solutions of problems that his illustrious predecessors had just managed to define.
The first of them is a review of Peano's axioms concerning the completeness and consistency of mathematics. After Hilbert, Turing also addresses the third problem of Peano on decidability, meaning the possibility of establishing an algorithm to decide whether a mathematical proposition is true or false. This text is anticipating his involvement with Enigma but certainly helps to understand the thinking process that enabled the deciphering.
The second scientific text of the book is a study of the role of the mathematical notation. Turing appreciated that a complex formulation makes it more difficult to find the solution. His approach is based on the search for a universal language of mathematics by Leibniz. Such researches make him a precursor of computer programming.
1942 Enigma M4
2019 SOLD for $ 800K by Sotheby's
The solution existed in their own country. In 1918 an engineer working in Berlin invented an enciphering machine in a high level of complexity. By its process of changing throughout the connected network the settings applicable both in transmission and in reception, messages must be inviolable.
The extreme subtlety of Enigma lies in the fact that the coding of a letter changes continuously by the action of the rotors according to an algorithm that applies to all machines. The basic plugboard wiring and the initial position of the rotors are renewed very frequently, even daily on the most secret networks, by instructions transmitted to the operators.
When hitting a key, the electrical signal is transmitted through the three rotors to another component named the reflector and passes back through the rotors to light a small bulb which reveals the reading value of the letter. The German military developed additional complications such as the interchangeable rotors or the movable reflector.
The control of the Atlantic is a key for winning the war. What could not be avoided happened: in 1941, a U-Boot was captured with its Enigmas. The concerned Kriegsmarine ordered a higher complexity of the Enigma. The M4 distributed from May 1941 to February 1942 have their three automatic rotors plus a fourth narrower rotor set by hand across 26 positions. Most of them were destroyed in the sinking of their submarines in the Atlantic war.
An M4 in full matching numbers was sold for $ 365K by Bonhams on October 21, 2015, lot 285. Another M4 made in 1944 was sold for $ 435K by Sotheby's on December 12, 2017, lot 67.
An M4 made in 1942 was sold for $ 800K from a lower estimate of $ 300K by Sotheby's on December 17, 2019, lot 37. This example had been seized from the naval base at Trondheim in 1945 during the German surrender. It is complete and fully operational but not in matching numbers according to the usual practice of the operators to swap the rotors. It is housed in its original oak case.
1966-1967 Apollo Guidance Computer
2021 SOLD for $ 750K by Sotheby's
At that time a Cray computer was occupying a whole room in specialized labs, the software engineering was in infancy and had to rely upon punch cards, and nobody took a real attention to the failures of the recently developed integrated circuits.
NASA subcontracted immediately the development of the Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) to the MIT Instrumentation Laboratory which had an experience with US Navy missiles. The hardware was entrusted to Raytheon. The initial design named Block I was the first ever computer made of IC semiconductor chips. It was tested from 1966 to 1968 on Apollo unmanned and early manned orbital missions and on ground flight simulators.
The Block II reaches a spectacular size shrinking, 61 x 31 x 14 cm for a weight of 32 Kg only, an achievement which was made possible by the progress of the integrated circuits. The very complex algorithms needed for the landing were fitted with thousands of NOR gates from a single part type in modules associated with rope cabling. ROM and RAM were associated with hand made core rope memories. 57 units were produced.
A former NASA technician saved from scrap an AGC Block II made in 1966-1967 by Raytheon, which had been used in a 1968 NASA Lunar ground test crewed by astronaut Jim Irwin and others. It has been restored at the time of the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 and re-activated by a replica of the interface box. The rework was made easier by the unexpected fact that most of the electronics of that specific AGC had not been potted.
This set was sold for $ 750K from a lower estimate of $ 200K by Sotheby's on July 20, 2021, lot 44. Please watch the video shared by the auction house to introduce the sale.
Flight model Block IIs were used without failure on the Command and Lunar modules of the manned Lunar Apollo missions, on Skylab station and on the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz joint mission that marks the end of the most brilliant phase of the space exploration.
1976 Apple Founding Contracts
2011 SOLD for $ 1.6M by Sotheby's
The concept is viable and some production can be scheduled. Wozniak completes the design of the Apple I on March 1, 1976, having prepared alone the hardware, the circuit boards and the operating system. He is disappointed : Hewlett Packard is not interested. Steve Jobs convinces him to start a business of their own.
The would be entrepreneurs are 25 and 21 years old. The role of the senior partner is played by Ronald Wayne, a 41 years old enthusiast of engineering. The team of three creates the Apple Computer Company on April 1, 1976, with 45 % of the shares to both Wozniak and Jobs and the remaining 10 % to Wayne.
The Apple I model is released on April 11. Its first retailer will be the Byte Shop, a specialized chain created a few months earlier by Paul Terrell. After harsh negotiations, Terrell rejects an idea of Jobs to sell modules : he will only accept 50 fully operational computers.
In the mean time Wayne appreciates that the new company can be successful but he is not a businessman and will not take a risk. He withdraws from the Apple company on April 12. The Apple I is available from July 1976 at the Byte Shop for the unit price of $ 666.66 defined by Wozniak.
A set made of three Apple founding documents previously owned by Wayne was sold by Sotheby's on December 13, 2011 for $ 1.6M from a lower estimate of $ 100K, lot 241. It is made of the April 1 contract signed by the three partners, a later amendment and the Registrant's copy of County of Santa Clara Statement of Withdrawal signed by Wayne.
1976 Apple I
2014 SOLD for $ 900K by Bonhams
The rapid sequence of events that led in 1976 to the production by Jobs and Wozniak of the Apple 1 has become legendary. After the helpful meeting by Wozniak with the electronics enthusiasts of the Homebrew Computer Club in Palo Alto, the two Steves design their machine.
We also know the condition set by Paul Terrell who had just founded his specialist Byte Shop retail operation : he agrees to take 50 motherboards at $ 500 each on the condition that the manufacturing time is less than thirty days. The two Steves mobilize their relatives to meet this requirement in their apartments and garages, without having time to arrange a workshop. In July, the Apple 1 was available for $ 666.66, a figure chosen by Wozniak to bring good luck.
The serial numbers from 01-0011 to 01-0070 were not assigned by Apple and do not fully match with the units sold by Byte Shop. Yet they remain a good indicator of the very first production, before a change of source of the PCB.
These examples of the first personal computer obviously appeal to the museums, provided they are in working condition.
One of the 50 units supplied to Byte Shop was sold for $ 900K by Bonhams on October 22, 2014, lot 286. The motherboard is accompanied by its original Apple 1 cassette interface and is still functioning without having undergone repairs. It was acquired by the Henry Ford Museum in Michigan.
2016 SOLD for $ 815K by CharityBuzz with no identified buyer's premium
This key step does not prevent to continue later to try new solutions. An Apple I that just surfaced has however some features that undoubtedly anticipate the production. The most obvious is the heat sink which is too small. Wozniak and Jobs were not thermal engineers and it is only through powering prototypes and not by calculations that they could appreciate that this element was undersized.
This motherboard was nevertheless used and Apple joined the same accessories and documents as on regular models : interface cassette, BASIC tape, user manuals, warranty.
The Apple Computer cassette bears a handwritten inscription identifying the reentry code after reset and the words "Good luck !!". A friend of Jobs who became one of Apple's first permanent employees is recognizing his handwriting. It appears plausible that this specimen has been assembled either by him or by Jobs during the early development phase and sold by him after about one year.
This Apple I was sold for $ 815K with no identified buyer's premium by CharityBuzz on August 25, 2016. It is not working. It would probably be easy to reactivate it by changing some electronic parts but its historical value rather invites to leave it in its original condition.
Here is the link to the mini website dedicated to this lot. Please watch the video shared on YouTube by CharityBuzz.
1980 Apple II Manual
2021 SOLD for $ 790K by RR Auction
In 1980 the Apple II reference manual is a spiral bound volume of 196 pages 15 x 22 cm. One of them has been inscribed by Steve Jobs. In these few autographed words, 'Steven' Jobs provides to a teenager a clear vision of the impact of the Apple machines on our civilization : "Julian, Your generation is the first to grow up with computers. Go change the world !".
The boy was the son of the UK distributor of Apple II. He was busy with his computer with the user manual in his hands when Jobs, accompanied by his angel investor Mike Markkula, went to visit his father at home. Markkula co-signed the inscription. Julian could not know at that time how scarce the autographs and signatures are.
This book was sold for $ 790K on August 19, 2021 by RR Auction, lot 7001.
1990-1991 and 2021 NFT www Source Code by Berners-Lee
2021 SOLD for $ 5.4M by Sotheby's
Providing the CERN staff worldwide with an easy access to scientific information would be highly beneficial to their research. In parallel to his professional duties, Berners-Lee conceives in 1989 to join hyper-text to the Internet. He is authorized by his boss to develop this project. His system is complete with all necessary protocols and languages for the texts and their remote access (HTTP, HTML, URL).
It works. This mesh of informations looks like an infinite spider web. Berners-Lee designates in 1990 his HTML browser as the WorldWideWeb. The web software is offered by the CERN to the public domain on April 30, 1993. 'Sir Tim' was knighted in 2004.
Our global computer based civilization was born with Berners-Lee's web. A promising recent development is the NFT, the first protocol able to offer a guarantee of authenticity to a digital file, whatever it is, including artistic and historical.
On June 15, 2021 Sir Tim minted an NFT-supported digital file gathering elements of his invention from the key period 1990-1991. It edits in totality the original 9,555 line source code of the World Wide Web and the user guide in HTML. Sir Tim added a graphic and a video representations of the code and a 2021 letter reflecting about his creation process for that invention.
The Berners-Lee 1/1 file of the www source code was sold for $ 5.4M by Sotheby's on June 30, 2021, lot 1. Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.