Bibliothèque numérique / Digital library
The price of the arithmometer : 1998
The price of the arithmometer
/ By Stephen Johnston
A number of commentators noted that one of the primary disincentives to the expansion of the market for the arithmometer was its elevated price. There is also at least one comment that the improvements that had been made had allowed the price to be reduced. It would therefore be useful to make some sort of effort to establish what the price was at different times.
General comments on price
In the first report on the arithmometer by Francoeur, he notes his conclusion that the machine ‘sera toujours d’un prix élevé’ (1822/1920, p.661).
The 1854 Lemoyne report needs to be checked; certainly the quotes in Jacomy-Régnier show that he was saying some interesting things about how the price might be altered if it was made for very many possible purchasers.
Reuleaux (Dingler’s Journal, 165 (1862), 334-362, p. 362) says ‘Der Preis des Arithmometers ist hoch’.
An English promotional sheet
of post-1862 (with ScM
The French promotional leaflet of post-1865 (repro’d in the Brunsviga catalogue?) gives no price but does say that ‘Le prix modéré de la machine à calculer varie suivant la grandeur.’
Dietzschold (presumably in his publication of 1882) apparently considered the Thomas machine as ‘sehr teuer’ (very expensive); Hartmut Petzold, Rechnende Maschinen (1985), p. 104.
Specific machine prices
1854 Lemoyne, as quoted in Jacomy-Régnier, says that a machine cost 300fr. I shall need to check what capacity he had in order to compare this with the 1856 figures of Cosmos.
1854 Report of the 24th Meeting of
the British Association, September 1854 (
1856 Cosmos 8 (1856). The inner leaves of the cover sheets list ‘Spécialités recommandées par le Cosmos’ and include the arithmometer under ‘Instruments de Mathématiques’: 10-figure (5x0x10) 250fr, 16-figure (8x0x16) 500fr.
1862 F. Reuleaux gives the following prices
Note that there does not appear to be any mention here of the quotient effacer which, to judge by the later listings and prices, would have been listed separately and cost more.
post-1862 English leaflet (with ScM
Note that these
are prices in
1864 Prussian Statistical Office bought a 6 figure machine for 300fr (Petzold p. 106)
1865 Prussian Statistical Office bought an 8 figure machine for 500fr (Petzold p. 106)
1866 Henry Brunel paid £12 for an arithmometer (perhaps a 12-figure with quotient, since he subsequently refers to his small machine)
1867 F.A.P. Barnard purchased an 8x9x16 machine for 500fr (with single or double effacer?). This was equivalent to $140.50, and including shipping etc the total cost was $167.89. (Peggy Kidwell art.)
1868 Henry Brunel bought a 16-figure machine with quotient eraser for £20. He also ordered through Adie a 12-figure machine with quotient eraser, expecting the price to be £16
1869 Henry Brunel ordered a 16-figure with quotient effacer for £20 through Adie
1872 English leaflet gives prices in
6x7x12 (with quotient effacer) 16
8x9x16 (with quotient effacer) 20
10x11x20 (with quotient effacer) 32
These are the same prices as the earlier English leaflet, but the quotient effacer models have been added.
c.1875 Thomas Egleston (Columbia School of Mines) bought a 10x11x20 machine which he recalled in 1892 had cost $100. (Peggy Kidwell art.) This seems a suspiciously low figure, given that the dollar price of the smaller capacity machine bought by Barnard in 1876 was $140. Perhaps Egleston misremembered? Depending on whether the Barnard machine has a single or double effacer, and using the English prices as a guide, we might expect Eggleston’s machine to have cost $280 or $224.
1876 Prudential purchased 10
arithmometers, 4 of the 6-figure machines @ £16 (serial no. 1452, 1455, 1457,
1458) and 6 of the 8-figure machines @ £20 (serial no.
1878 Sebert (1879/1920), p.707 gives a 16-figure machine as 500fr
* With the Authorization of the author