[The following note describes a series of volumes and folders and has no documents attached to it. For that reason, a "no Documents found" message will appear if the "List Documents" button at the bottom of the note is used. To see the documents in the volumes and folders described here, use the "Which Series Notes?" button to enter the Series Notes or use the "Next Text" button to move to the first item in the series.]
The technical records of Edison's laboratories and shops were kept in a variety of ways throughout the inventor's career, particularly during the years before 1878. The earliest drawings and notes at the Edison National Historical Park are contained in Edison's pocket notebooks. These pocket-sized books were also used extensively during the 1870s by Edison and his staff as account books and several of the books contain a mixture of both financial and technical material. (Those pocket notebooks which are exclusively financial can be found in the Accounts Series.)
A pocket notebook in which Edison entered specifications and drawings for printing telegraph apparatus in October 1870 concludes with the note: "all new inventions I will here after keep a full record." This determination to keep a "full record" of his inventive activity led to the creation of at least four ledger-sized volumes - the "Newark Shop Notebooks" - which were begun in late July and early August of 1871. Most of the early entries in these books are signed and dated by Edison, and the names of his father, Samuel, and his business associate, Joseph Murray, frequently appear as witnesses. The entries in the Newark Shop Notebooks continue through March 1872. Three of the four books also contain entries for the period April 1874-September 1875.
A second set of notebooks, which Edison called the "Experimental Researches," was begun in October 1875. The six numbered volumes in this series cover the period October 1875-March 1879 and contain both original entries and notes, drawings, and patent caveats that were copied from other notebooks and from unbound pages.
Other notebooks of varying sizes were also used to keep the records of the laboratories and shops at Newark and Menlo Park. Fifteen such books, covering the years 1870-1880, have been organized under the title "Miscellaneous Shop and Laboratory Notebooks." Some of these are books of original entry, while others are scrapbooks containing a mixture of experimental notes and drawings, production drawings, patent specifications, and, occasionally, newspaper and journal clippings. Two of the volumes (Cat. 1170 and Cat. 1171), covering the years 1873-1877, are labeled "Experimental Researches," but they are not part of the numbered set of "Experimental Researches" discussed above.
After Edison's move to Menlo Park in 1876, he and his staff began using soft-cover tablet notebooks to record their experiments. They subsequently removed the individual pages from the notebooks so that material relating to the same subjects could be gathered together and so that tracings could be made. A set of eleven unbound volumes ("Unbound Notebooks, Volumes 8-18") was created by Edison and his associates from the pages of these notebooks and from various other loose pages. Page and volume numbers were written on the back of each page, possibly in 1880 when many of the drawings and notes from this set were removed for use as exhibits in the Telephone Interferences (see Litigation Series).
Other notebooks at the Edison National Historical Park may at one time have been considered part of this series. For example, one bound notebook (Laboratory Notebook, Cat. 1175) contains faint penciled page/volume numbers similar to those in Unbound Notebooks, Volumes 8-18.
Not all of Edison's loose notes and drawings were pasted into scrapbooks or assigned page/volume numbers. The Edison National Historical Park holds hundreds of pages of unbound technical material for the period 1873-1878. This material has been collected together and organized under the title "Unbound Notes and Drawings." The documents have been arranged by year and, within each year, they have been subdivided into subject categories such as "telegraph," "phonograph," and "telephone." Among the material in this series is a set of notes and drafts for a proposed book or series of essays by Edison on telegraphy and related electrical subjects (NS-74-002).
The notebooks and unbound notes and drawings that were generated prior to 1875 relate primarily to telegraphy. Later material includes notes and drawings relating to the electric light, the phonograph, the telephone, the electromotograph, the electric pen, etheric force, ore mining, batteries, and various electrical and chemical topics. Most of these notes and drawings are by Edison and Charles Batchelor, although much of the material on the acoustic telegraph and telephone is by James Adams and by Edison's nephew, Charles P. Edison.
Documents relating to Edison's technical work can also be found in other series in the edition. Reproductions of drawings no longer at the Edison National Historical Park are part of the legal records presented in the Litigation Series. The documents in the Litigation Series also include testimony by Edison, his associates, and his rivals, which provides valuable information about Edison's inventive activities. A few notes and drawings can also be found in the Miscellaneous Scrapbook Series. The scrapbooks in the Miscellaneous Scrapbook Series and in the Menlo Park Scrapbook Series contain newspaper and journal clippings that provide a useful context for Edison's work. Caveats, patent applications, and other patent-related material can be found in the Patent Series. Courtesy of Thomas Edison National Historical Park.