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The Notebook Series for 1879-1886 comprises several sets of technical notes and drawings. They are arranged in the following order: (1) Menlo Park Notebooks, (2) New York Notebooks, (3) Fort Myers Notebooks, (4) Lamp Factory Notebooks, (5) Pocket Notebooks, (6) Technical Scrapbooks, (7) Unbound Notes and Drawings, (8) Oversize Notes and Drawings, (9) Undated Notes and Drawings. All of the bound notebooks except for the technical scrapbooks and the pocket notebooks are standard-size, 6 inch x 9 inch notebooks containing between 280 and 290 pages. Edison began using these notebooks in November 1878, and he continued to use them throughout the remainder of his life.
For a discussion of the numbering systems used for Edison's notebooks, click here.
Menlo Park Notebooks, 1878-1882. These notebooks are the principal sources for documenting the invention and development of Edison's system of electric lighting and power. They also contain much material on the telephone, as well as scattered entries detailing work on electric railways, batteries, ore separation, telegraphy, and various other technologies. The entries in the early notebooks are primarily by Edison, Charles Batchelor, and Francis Upton. As the staff of the laboratory expanded, many other individuals began making entries in the notebooks. A few of the books contain entries from 1883, 1884, and 1885. The notebooks are numbered from 1 to 249. Approximately 70 books are missing from the set.
New York Notebooks, 1884-1886. These ten notebooks were used at Edison's New York City laboratory, which was located above the offices of Bergmann & Co. at Avenue B and 17th Street. Most of the notes, drawings, and calculations are by Edison. There are also some entries by John F. Ott, Ezra T. Gilliland, H. DeCoursey Hamilton, Montgomery Waddell, and other laboratory assistants. The books deal with a wide variety of subjects, including electric lighting and power, telephony, telegraphy, mining, and the phonograph. Several books contain entries pertaining to Edison's search for a new force and his attempt to convert heat directly into electricity.
Fort Myers Notebooks, 1886. These seven notebooks were generated at Edison's winter home in Fort Myers, Florida, which he constructed shortly before his marriage to Mina Miller in February 1886. Most of the entries are by Edison. There are also some entries by Mina Miller Edison, whose name also appears in these books as a witness. Many of the notes and drawings concern phonoplex and multiple telegraphy, Edison's search for a new force, and his attempts to convert heat directly into electricity. There is also material relating to electric lighting, electric railways, spectroscopy, hearing aids, and numerous other items. One book contains notes about the layout of the grounds at the Fort Myers home.
Lamp Factory Notebooks, 1886. These seven notebooks contain notes, drawings, and calculations relating to experiments performed at Edison's lamp factory in Harrison, New Jersey. Most of the entries are by Edison and John F. Ott. One book contains entries by Mina Edison. Another book was used primarily by Ezra T. Gilliland. In addition to the lamp experiments, these books also contain notes and drawings pertaining to telephones and phonographs, along with some material dealing with the phonoplex and with other systems of railway telegraphy.
Pocket Notebooks, 1878-1886. These are a group of miscellaneous books, generally measuring about 3 to 4 inches in width and 6 to 7 inches in height. Included among the pocket notebooks is a set of six journals kept by Charles P. Mott between March 1880 and March 1881 to record daily activities at the Menlo Park Laboratory. The other eight pocket notebooks were used primarily by Edison. The entries relate to a wide variety of topics, including electric lighting, telephony, telegraphy, the phonograph, and hearing aids.
Technical Scrapbooks, 1881-1888. These seven disbound scrapbooks contain notes and drawings by Edison, which he subsequently gave to his attorneys and draftsmen to work into patent applications. Most of the material concerns electric lighting but there are also entries relating to telephony, telegraphy, electric railways, and other topics.
Unbound Notes and Drawings, 1879-1886. This set of technical notes and drawings relates primarily to electric lighting. Other topics include telephony, telegraphy, and electric railways. The documents are arranged in chronological order.
Oversize Notes and Drawings, 1879-1886. This is a set of technical documents, primarily drawings, that are too large to fit in standard-size document folders. Most of the material relates to electric lighting. A few drawings concern telephones and electric railways. The documents appear in chronological order, but many of them are undated. Included also among the oversize notes and drawings is a separate set of Menlo Park machine shop drawings, dating from 1879 and 1880. These drawings were produced by the staff of the laboratory's machine shop prior to the production of experimental devices and models. Almost all of the drawings relate to work on the electric light, but there are a few miscellaneous drawings of the telephone.
Undated Notes and Drawings. These technical documents relate primarily to electric lighting. Other topics include telephony, telegraphy, and electric railways. The notes and drawings are arranged in the following order: (a) Menlo Park period, 1879-1881; (b) New York period, 1882-1886; (c) drafts of caveats and patent applications.
Laboratory notebooks and other technical notes and drawings can also be found in the Charles Batchelor and Francis R. Upton collections (Special Collections Series).