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J. M. Elford’s Marine Telegraph; or, Universal Signal Book
Charleston, SC., 1823.. Handcolored plate and handcolored ill. on front pastedown. “So composed as to enable vessels at sea, provided with only two sets of the six telegraphic flags, described in the plate, to make 7569 signals ... and to act as telegraphs to each other ... Being also the key to the patent telegraph, invented by the author, capable of making 9330 progressive changes, by using the figures from 1 to 6 only.” This is quite an early American signal book. Truxtun and Porter had previously developed systems for naval use, but as far as I know this is the earliest American merchant system. Winterthur has a manuscript copy of Elford’s Signal system dated 1818. It was followed in 1832 by Parker’s signal book and then, in 1847, by Rogers’ system. Elford’s marine visual system depended on six uniquely patterned flags, and on a “conversation flag.” These are illustrated in this book, along with a glossary of words and sentences, and their numerical equivalents, which would be signaled by means of the flags. A sheet of testimonials has been pasted on the inside of the front board. At the bottom of this sheet is a tipped in paper listing “Agents.” Lemuel Moody of Portland is the first name. It would be interesting to know if he used Elford’s system to signal from his observatory. The front blank is inscribed, “Ship Marengo of New Orleans.” On the following blank is a hand colored illustration with manuscript showing the four flags that would signal Marengo’s identifying number. I have had this book twice before. Both of those copies ended at page 75, followed by a three page “Supplement.” In this copy the “Supplement is four pages long. It is followed by an 8 page dictionary listing ships and their identifying number. Rare. Worldcat shows only six libraries holding copies, none of which conform to this issue in terms of pagination. Bound in marbled boards with old linen over calf backstrip. Inner hinges cracked. sewing tight. Handcolored plate and illustrations are clean.
      [Bookseller: Ten Pound Island Book Co.]
Last Found On: 2013-11-29           Check availability:      IOBABooks    

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