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The Papers of Thomas A. Edison

Hardback
, 1,032 pages

9 halftones, 589 line drawings, 6 maps

ISBN:
9781421417493
December 2015
$115.00

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The Papers of Thomas A. Edison

New Beginnings, January 1885–December 1887

Volume 8

Two decades after the American Civil War, no name was more closely associated with the nation’s inventive and entrepreneurial spirit than that of Thomas Edison. The restless changes of those years were reflected in the life of America’s foremost inventor. Having cemented his reputation with his electric lighting system, Edison had decided to withdraw partially from that field. At the start of 1885, newly widowed at mid-life with three young children, he launched into a series of personal and professional migrations, setting in motion chains of events that would influence his work and fundamentally reshape his life.

Edison’s inventive activities took off in new directions, flowing between practical projects (such as wireless and high-capacity telegraph systems) and futuristic ones (exploring forms of electromagnetic energy and the convertibility of one to another). Inside of two years, he would travel widely, marry the daughter of a prominent industrialist and religious educator, leave New York City for a grand home in a sylvan suburb, and construct a winter laboratory and second home in Florida. Edison’s family and interior life are remarkably visible at this moment; his papers include the only known diary in which he recorded personal thoughts and events. By 1887, the familiar rhythms of his life began to reassert themselves in his new settings; the family faded from view as he planned, built, and occupied a New Jersey laboratory complex befitting his status.

The eighth volume of the series, New Beginnings includes 358 documents (chosen from among thousands) that are the most revealing and representative of Edison’s work, life, and place in American culture in these years. Illustrated with hundreds of Edison’s drawings, these documents are further illuminated by meticulous research on a wide range of sources, including the most recently digitized newspapers and journals of the day.

Paul B. Israel is the director and general editor of the Thomas A. Edison Papers Project at Rutgers University. Louis Carlat and Theresa M. Collins are associate editors and Alexandra R. Rimer and Daniel J. Weeks are assistant editors of the project.

"A mine of material... Scrupulously edited... No one could ask for more... A choplicking feast for future Edison biographers—well into the next century, and perhaps beyond."

"A triumph of the bookmaker's art, with splendidly arranged illustrations, essential background information, and cautionary reminders of the common sources on which Edison's imagination drew."

"In the pages of this volume Edison the man, his work, and his times come alive... A delight to browse through or to read carefully."

"What is most extraordinary about the collection isn't necessarily what it reveals about Edison's inventions... It's the insight into the process."

"Those interested in America's technological culture can eagerly look forward to the appearance of each volume of the Edison Papers."

"His lucidity comes through everywhere... His writing and drawing come together as a single, vigorous thought process."

"Beyond its status as the resource for Edison studies, providing a near inexhaustible supply of scholarly fodder, this series... will surely become a model for such projects in the future... The sheer diversity of material offered here refreshingly transcends any exclusive restriction to Edisonia."

"In its superabundance of detail—steely facts and figures, great plates of text riveted with nouns and graffitied with cryptic drawings (Edison was an untrained but natural draftsman)—the book has the same kind of physical impact as that which stuns you when you enter his laboratory in West Orange, N.J."

"For those who want to delve deeply into Edison’s life and business dealings, this is another essential key to the puzzle."

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