Lot #5073
Ted Nelson Self-Published Book: Literary Machines, Edition 87.1

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Estimate: $200+


Scarce unsigned book: Literary Machines, Edition 87.1 by hypertext pioneer Ted Nelson. Self-published, 1987. Staple-bound softcover, 7.75 x 8.5, 263 pages. In fine condition, with toning and staining to the covers and spine edges.

Literary Machines is Nelson's fleshed-out concept for a sophisticated networked hypertext system. An actual software implementation, the storied Project Xanadu, was later attempted by Autodesk in the late 1980s and early 1990s, before the partly competing concept of the World Wide Web gained traction. This Edition 87.1 is mid-timeframe, self-published; the editions spanned 1981-1993, with the last produced by Mindful Press/Eastgate Systems.

Despite Nelson's unrealized project, his influence on the emergence of hypertext since the 1960s was profound. He and hypertext/mouse/networking implementer Doug Engelbart were already friends and collaborators by the time Engelbart gave his 'Mother of all Demos' in 1968. In a 1999 book, Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee recalled his first meeting with Nelson: '[P]erhaps the greatest treat of the summer [of 1992 was to finally meet] Ted Nelson...We talked about all manner of things.'

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Apple, Jobs, and Computer Hardware
  • Dates: #644 - Ended August 18, 2022