[D8822AAZ], Letter from Harlan Hoge Ballard to Alfred Ord Tate, July 12th, 1888


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[D8822AAZ], Letter from Harlan Hoge Ballard to Alfred Ord Tate, July 12th, 1888

Editor's Notes

[nickel-in-slot] "Returning your letter for your reference, permit me to say that I never had the presumption to imagine that I could suggest any improvement on any instrument that Mr. Edison has devised--particularly one which I have not yet seen. I will mention what was on my mind, however, since it can do no harm and may possibly suggest something of advantage. ### My first thought was to combine with a phonograph a slot etc for the "drop-in-a-nickel" business. ### This is evidently a good plan but Mr. Gilliland advises me that I have been anticipated in it, and that such a combination has already been patented. ### The other idea is this. Suppose an ornithologist (for instance) wishes to make a book on birds. By means of type & lithography he can now present to his readers the descriptions and the pictures of the birds. Now, by means of the phonograph, he should be able to reproduce their songs--particular notes, trills, etc. I see no way that these phonograms can be sold in connection with the book except in separate packets just as plates are often issued separate from the text, in portfolios. ### Now it occurred to me 1st that Mr. Edison could probably invent some method by which there could be on the culinder or tablet containing the musical phonogram, sufficient reading matter (whether ink print from type or some lithographic process) to enable the owner of the tablets to identify the different songs at a glance. Of course the same is true of all other phonographic reproductions. The owner, having many, must be able to distinguish them by the eye. Quite likely this point has been anticipated. If not some one will have to attend to it, the first throught then is the phonograms must be labeled, and if the best process for doing this could be patented, Mr. Edison could largely control not only the sale of the phonographs themselves but also the slae and manufacture of all phonographic publications. ### The second point is whether the present copyright law, will protect anyting phonographically reprduced or published, as well as it does printed publications and if the present law would not cover such reproductions, whether it would not be wise, if possible, to secure such an amendment to the status[?], before the phonographs are puton the market as would protect them. ### To illustrate, suppose Mr. Edison has a phonogram of a sentence spoken by H.W. Beecher, or a phonographic song by Patti--would it not be to his interest to provide some means by which the general reproduction & publication of these, could be under his own control, rather than be the free privilige of any one? ### I make this explanation to clear myself from the suspicion of unreasonable presumption." H.H. Ballard [Marginalia: "Ans July 14/88"]





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Thomas A. Edison Papers, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University
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