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 YEAR: 1948
 ITEM: Periodical
 PUBLISHER: American Telephone and Telegraph Company
RARITY: Exceedingly Rare   Click here for further information on our rarity scale Information on the rarity of this item is unknown.

A mathematical theory of communication

A view of the vintage A mathematical theory of communication an important part of computer history
This monograph (B-1598) is an offprint from the Bell System Technical Journal, vol. 27, pp. 379-423, July-October, 1948. New York: American Telegraph and Telephone Company, 1948. Quarto, original printed wrappers with punched spine holes. Mild soiling to wrappers, written name at top of cover "CE Hamilton" and written note "This is the First Published account of Information Theory by Shannon".

Claude Elwood Shannon (1916-2001) was a brilliant mathematician and electrical engineer. His genius was publicly recognized in 1940 when he won the Alfred Nobel prize for his master’s thesis A symbolic analysis of relay and switching circuits. Today he is considered the founder of information theory, a title predominately due to his seminal paper A mathematical theory of communication which was published in 1948. He worked on the theory between the years 1940 and 1948 while employed at Bell Telephone Laboratories and in it he used the term information to mean “a logarithm of the number of available choices” and regarded it as a physical unit—that is, a binary digit or bit. [Tina Jayroe, Univ. of Denver, Oct. 2008]

It is hard to underestimate the influence of this work. This book not only was a seminal influence in the field of computing but was also extraordinarily influential in the field of human communication.

In the short period between June 1948 and September 1949, this work appeared in at least four publications.

  1. It was first printed as an article in the July-October, 1948 issue of the Bell System Technical Journal. There are copies of this issue of the Bell System Journal available, however they are rare and expensive. Bound copies can be purchased for anywhere between $3,400 and $5,000.
  2. The article then appeared as a monograph (B-1598) printed by Bell Telephone System Technical Publications. Bell Telephone would often reprint important articles from their Journal as separate monographs.
  3. The article next appeared as the lead article in Scientific American magazine in July 1949.
  4. The book, which was published in September 1949, included a new section by Warren Weaver that applied Shannon's theory to human communication. Copies of the first edition are available and they generally run from $100 on up.

Shannon, or the editor of the book, must have foreseen the theory's influence since the title of the book was slightly altered from the original article. The title of the article was changed from "A mathematical theory of communication" (with most of the words lowercase) to "The Mathematical Theory Of Communication"!

Related Items
      Related Item 1: The Mathematical Theory of Communication (book)

      Related Item 2: Scientific American 1949 July

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Click on any of the images below to see the slideshow.
Cover of Monograph B-1598 Shannon's famous model of communication. A page that shows how messages can be checked for accuracy.