Charles Petzold

Top Dollar for Turing's Paper

March 14, 2008
New York, N.Y.

I occasionally receive printed catalogs specific to Antiquarian Science from Jeff Weber Rare Books, and I always find them fascinating. Not all of the items are expensive, but the more interesting of them surely are.

For example, the Antiquarian Science catalog for Winter 2007 lists a book entitled The First Six Books of The Elements of Euclid in which coloured diagrams and symbols are used instead of letters for the greater ease of learners by Oliver Byrne, published in London in 1847. Jeff Weber Rare Books is selling a copy of this for $9,500.

Some of the most expensive items in the recent catalog are for periodicals rather than books:

But the most expensive item in the catalog are the three issues of the Proceedings of the London Mathematical Society containing Alan Turing's paper "On Computable Numbers, with an Application to the Entscheidungsproblem" with the corrections. "This is the seminal paper on computing," the catalog says, "written when Maunchly [sic] and Eckert were virtually unknown and the ENIAC was ten years in the future." A bargain at $25,000.

A reproduction of Turing's entire paper on computable numbers is scattered throughout my new book The Annotated Turing along with some helpful hints on what it all means.

Coming June 10, 2008!

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