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The Principles of Mr. Harrison's Time-Keeper, with plates of the same. Published by order of the Commissioners of Longitude
- London: Printed by W. Richardson and S. Clark; and sold by John Nourse and Mess. Mount and Page, 1767. Quarto. (10 1/4 x 7 7/8 inches). [4], v-xvii, [1], 19-31pp. Half-title. 10 engraved folding plates. Expertly bound to style in half 18th century russia over period marbled paper covered boards, spine with raised bands in six compartments, ruled in gilt on either side of each band, morocco lettering piece in the second compartment. A navigational rarity: the first edition of the primary account of the invention of the marine chronometer. In 1714, the Board of Longitude offered a substantial reward of £20,000 to anyone who could find an accurate method for determining longitude at sea. In 1730, clockmaker John Harrison completed a manuscript describing some of his inventions, including a chronometer "accurate enough to measure time at a steady rate over long periods, thus permitting the measurement of longitude by comparison of local solar time with an established standard time" (Norman). On the strength of his descriptions, Harrison obtained a loan from George Graham, a leading maker of clocks and watches, for the construction of his timekeeper. After numerous attempts, involving instruments in several different shapes and sizes, most of which Harrison himself or his son William tested on ocean voyages, Harrison succeeded in constructing a chronometer that was both accurate and convenient in size. The chronometer was successfully tested on two voyages to the West Indies in 1761 and 1764. Following these successful trials Harrison felt that he had a right to the prize, but the Board of Longitude hedged, insisting on a demonstration and full written description of his invention. To that end, a demonstration took place on 22 August 1765, in the presence of the astronomer-royal Nevil Maskelyne and a six-member committee of experts appointed by the Board, and the present work was published. It records the results, along with Harrison's own description of his timekeeper. Still unsatisfied, the Board awarded Harrison only half the prize money, and continued to raise obstacles, subjecting his chronometer to extreme and unrealistic tests, and requiring him to build yet two more examples. It was not until 1773, after direct intervention by King George III, that the 80-year old inventor was paid the remainder of the prize money. Several of his earliest chronometers are preserved at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. Although Harrison's chronometer was soon supplanted by simpler mechanisms, the timekeeper "revolutionized the science of navigation, as it gave navigators their first means of observing true geographical position at any given moment during a voyage. There was no comparable advance in navigational aids until the development of radar in the twentieth century" (Norman). Grolier/Horblit 42b; Norman 995. [Attributes: First Edition; Hard Cover]
      [Bookseller: Donald A. Heald Rare Books (ABAA)]
Last Found On: 2013-11-13           Check availability:      AbeBooks    

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