Ueber den Schachspieler des herrn von Kempelen. Nebst einer Abbildung und Beschreibung seiner Sprachmaschine. Carl Friedrich Hindenburg.
Ueber den Schachspieler des herrn von Kempelen. Nebst einer Abbildung und Beschreibung seiner Sprachmaschine.
Ueber den Schachspieler des herrn von Kempelen. Nebst einer Abbildung und Beschreibung seiner Sprachmaschine.
Ueber den Schachspieler des herrn von Kempelen. Nebst einer Abbildung und Beschreibung seiner Sprachmaschine.
Kempelen’s Chess Machine and the First Picture of the Speaking Machine

Ueber den Schachspieler des herrn von Kempelen. Nebst einer Abbildung und Beschreibung seiner Sprachmaschine.

Leipzig: In der Johann Gottfried Muellerschen Buchhandlung (Müller), 1784. With 5 illustrations of knight’s tour and one engraved illustration of the speaking machine. First edition. Printer’s device on title page. In contemporary cardboard. Title vignette on spine. [11], 12–56 p. and 1 mounted plate (on p. 51). Bookplate of Poul Hage (1906–1984; Danish chess player) and “doublette” vignette of Lothar Schmid (1928–2013; German chess grandmaster) on inner pastedown. Collection stamp on title page verso and recto. Occasional foxing throughout. Overall in good condition.

One of the earliest book on von Kempelen’s chess automaton and his speaking machine, with the first picture of the machine ever printed, by Carl Friedrich Hindenburg (1741–1808) the German mathematician.

Wolfgang von Kempelen (1734–1803) the Hungarian inventor, best known for constructing the “Turk” a chess automaton and the speaking machine. This book is an early account of both contrivances, and it contains the first picture made of the “Sprachmaschine”.

Von Kempelen constructed the chess playing machine in 1770 and it was first exhibited at the Schönbrunn Palace in Austria. It was able to play chess game and the knight’s tour from any starting point on the board. In fact it was a mechanical illusion that allowed a human chess master hiding inside to operate the machine. For eighty years it was exhibited by its various owners all over Europe and North-America until its destruction in a fire in 1854. During this time many statesman and famous chess masters were defeated by the Turk such as Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin. It is also recorded that Philidor, who was considered the best chess player of his time, won a match against the “machine” in Paris in 1793. It remained unknown who directed it when it was in von Kempelen’s possession, but it is known that after his death it was purchased by Johann Nepomuk Mälzel and the operators were Johann Allgaier, Boncourt, Aaron Alexandre, William Lewis, Jacques Mouret, and William Schlumberger.

In this book Hindenburg mentions about the Turk that it was even able to converse with the spectators using a letter board, in English, French and German and it could answer to questions about his age, marital status and secret working. The book contains the table of the Turk’s solution of the knight’s tour after the older masters de Montmort, Moivre, de Mairan and as well a recent one by Leonard Euler.

Von Kempelen’s speaking machine was a manually operated speech synthesizer that was built over the period 1769–1791 and operated from 1783 onward. The construction of the latest model is discussed by von Kempelen in “ Mechanismus der menschlichen Sprache nebst der Beschreibung seiner sprechenden Maschine” (1791).

Hindenburg writes that the machine’s speech is “loud and intelligible even if less human than the vox humana register on an organ, more oboe-like and somewhat plaintive”. He even gives details on the sound of the German word “Schachspieler”. In his book, von Kempelen rather mentions French words and utterances because of the difficulties with the final plosives and with fricatives in general. According to him, after practice, the operator could produce utterances like “Je vous aime de tout mon coeur” or something more formal "Josephus Secundus Romanorum Imperator Semper Augustus”.

Extremely scarce and early work about von Kempelen’s chess automaton and his speaking machine.

[Bibl.: Broecke, Marcel P.R. van den: Wolfgang von Kempelen’s Speaking Machine as a Performer. In.: Sound structures. Studies for Antonie Cohen. (Publication in Language Sciences, 13.) Dodrecht, Foris. 1983. pp. 9–19.]

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Price: €6,000.00