Alembic Blog

A Bus to the Moon: The New Luna Conveyance Company

Elon Musk eat your heart out. In celebration of tonight's full moon we have an unusual 19-century cartoon depicting "the New Luna Conveyance Company", an omnibus service ferrying passengers “to the Moon” and advertising routes “to the Seven Stars” and “the Milky Way”.

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"The Difficulty Would be Stupendous": The Future of Automation in 1928

A lot has changed since 1928, when this unusual book, Automation or, The Future of Mechanical Man by Henry Stafford Hatfield, evaluated the potential of many types of automation that we now take for granted.

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A Rare Victorian Prosthetic Hand by J. Gillingham & Son

Our new email catalogue was released today, and one of the stand-out items is this rare and exquisitely articulated right hand and arm by J. Gillingham & Son, the UK’s most important prosthetics firm of the 19th and early 20th centuries and “the equivalent today of some of the most advanced companies working on prosthetics”.

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Chic Parisian Infographics of the 19th Century

"Gas fittings" is not a term that screams elegance. Then again, the French have a way of making anything chic, as attested to by this remarkable statistical manuscript. 

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Atomic Reactors Serve Peace: A Soviet-Era Czech Guide to Nuclear Power

For many people nuclear energy conjures horrific images - barrels of radioactive waste that can't be safely stored, or the hulking sarcophagus of Chernobyl. But during the 1950s nuclear power had very different connotations. For the men and women who lived through the Second World War, the atomic bombing of Japan, and the rise of the Cold War, nuclear energy for civilian use represented the hope for a better future, one that would be powered by almost unlimited supplies of clean, inexpensive power. It would be "Atoms for Peace" instead of war, as President Dwight D. Eisenhower put it in a speech to the UN in 1953.

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A Look Inside the Brunels' Thames Tunnel

In a city that's famous for its tunnels, one stands out. The Thames Tunnel between Rotherhithe and Wapping was the first tunnel to be successfully constructed under a body of water. It was designed and built by the engineer Marc Brunel, whose soon-to-be-famous son, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, also worked on the project. Among the new technologies involved was Brunel's innovative tunneling shield, which supported the structure of the tunnel as workers dug it out and paved the sides. This was the precursor to modern tunnel boring machines, such as those used to build Crossrail today.

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Carriages Without Horses Shall Go: One of the First Books About Cars

There's no question that automobiles were one of the most transformative technologies of the 20th century, and the rise of autonomous vehicles will continue that tradition of innovation. But in the 1890s cars were little more than a novelty, and few were prescient enough to predict the automotive revolution. One who did was the British engineer Alfred Robert Sennett, whose book "Carriages Without Horses Shall Go" was one of the first books on automobiles. 

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Victorian Machines & Manufacturing: The Boy's Book of Industrial Information

New in the shop is The Boy's Book of Industrial Information, a delightful illustrated children's book on Victorian technology.
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"Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman!" The Birth of a Classic.

New in stock this week is a superb first edition of one of the most popular scientific memoirs of the 20th century, Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman!. It was this volume of humorous short stories, depicting Feynman as an outsider and prankster, that cemented his popularity. But it's a book that almost wasn't written, and the story of its publication is as fascinating as the ones within its covers.

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Los Alamos to Princeton: Top Secret Manhattan Project Lectures

This book is rather unassuming - it bears the ownership signature of a Princeton student and looks like it could be any mid-century educational text in an inexpensive brown binder. But in fact, this is a rare and highly classified set of lectures printed for high-level employees of Los Alamos during the Manhattan Project. How it came to be in the possession of a Princeton student a year before its contents were declassified is a fascinating story.

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