Rare ALS in German, signed “Benz & Cie.,” one page, 8 x 11, Benz & Co. letterhead, November 21, 1896. Letter to the German astronomer Max Wolf, a pioneer in the field of astrophotography, about sending him the construction plans for an engine and offering further details on the project, in part (translated): “Herewith please find the layout chart for the 2 HP motor. From this you will see that the exhaust gas line is requiring only a short channel of about 400 mm depth and 250 mm width. The channel for the cooling water pipe as well as for the filling line for gasoline shall be appr. 150-200 mm deep and wide. So it would be possible to start laying cement floors.” Crease passing through a portion of his signature, a few office notations, small holes to upper left, and slightly trimmed edges, otherwise fine condition. An extremely boldly penned and attractive letter.
A decade after patenting his groundbreaking Motorwagen, the first automobile designed to generate its own power, Karl Benz dominated the burgeoning automotive industry, presenting constant innovations that set him apart from the growing field of competitors. Around the time of this letter, continuing an impressive series of firsts—production and sale of the first commercially available automobile in 1888; participation in the world’s first automobile race in 1894; invention of the first truck in 1896, which became the basis for the first motor bus—Benz was granted a patent for his design of the first flat engine. With horizontally opposed pistons that balanced each other with respect to momentum, his boxer engine design continues to be used today by Porsche, Subaru, and several high-performance engines in racecars, as well as BMW motorcycles. Writing to astronomer Max Wolf, then serving as director of the new Königstuhl Observatory and professor of astrophysics at the University of Heidelberg, this is a remarkable letter discussing one of his legendary motors. Pre-certified John Reznikoff/PSA/DNA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.