First Edition, Uncut in Original Boards
Attempt to Analyse the Automaton Chess Player of Mr. De Kempelen. with an Easy Method of Imitating the Movements of that Celebrated Figure, Illustrated by Original Drawings, to which is added, a Copious Collection of the Knight's Moves over the Chess Board.
London: Printed for J. Booth, 1821.
[WILLIS, Robert]. An Attempt to Analyse the Automaton Chess Player of Mr. De Kempelen. With an Easy Method of Imitating the Movements of that Celebrated Figure, Illustrated by Original Drawings, to which is added, a Copious Collection of the Knight's Moves over the Chess Board. London: Printed for J. Booth, 1821.
First edition. Octavo (8 3/4 x 5 1/2 inches; 222 x 145 mm). 40 pp. With half-title and ten engraved plates including frontispiece.
Publisher's original drab boards. Printed paper label on spine. All edges uncut. Some minor chipping along edge of paper label, but generally complete. Head and tail of spine with some minor chipping and shelfwear. Corners a bit rubbed and bumped. Some splitting along top and bottom of spine, but binding is still tight. Overall a near fine copy with the near complete paper spine label.
Robert Willis was an engineer and architectural historian. "In 1820 he went with his sister Mary to London's Spring Gardens to scrutinize Wolfgang von Kempelen's automaton chess player. Having established that there was ample room for an adult to lurk within, mimicking machine intelligence, he published in 1821 an exposé which Edgar Allan Poe passed off as his own in 1836." [Oxford DNB].
"The English academic Robert Willis was the first Cambridge professor to win widespread recognition as a mechanical engineer and his work on the mechanics of human speech. Prior to attending college, Willis invented an improvement to the harp pedal and in 1821 published this work analyzing the famous automaton chess player of Wolfgang von Kempelen. The "Mechanical Turk" or "Automaton Chess Player" was a fake chess-playing machine unveiled in 1770 by Wolfgang von Kempelen (1734-1804) to impress the Empress Maria Theresa. The mechanism appeared to be able to play a strong game of chess against a human opponent, as well as perform the knight's tour, a puzzle that requires the player to move a knight to occupy every square of a chessboard exactly once. In fact the Turk was a mechanical illusion that allowed a human chess master hiding inside to operate the machine. With a skilled operator, the Turk won most of the games played during its demonstrations around Europe and the Americas for nearly 84 years, playing and defeating many challengers including Napoleon Bonaparte and Benjamin Franklin. Although many had suspected the hidden human operator, the hoax was only revealed in the 1820s, when Willis presented his findings in this work." (Chrsities).