Alan Turing’s Wartime Composition Book Heads to Auction

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A young Alan M. Turing

Bonham’s offered British codebreaker Alan Turing’s composition book at auction on April 13th. The previously unknown wartime manuscript, consisting of 56 pages of mathematical and logical notes from Turing, is likely the only extensive manuscript by Turing in existence. An extreme rarity as such, Bonham’s did not release an official estimate for the lot. [Note: the manuscript went for over $1 million to an anonymous bidder (link)]

Alan Turing was the pivotal figure in British WWII codebreaking, leading the efforts at Bletchley Park that solved the German Enigma codes and significantly aided Allied war efforts. By solving the Enigma codes, Turing and his crew probably shortened WWII by two to four years. His work in early computing was essential as well and he is considered the father of computer science. Turing was recently featured in the award-winning film The Imitation Game, where he was portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Alan Turing manuscript

From Bonham’s lot description for Turing’s composition book, “The manuscript sheds light on the problems that were of fundamental importance to Turing’s work in the field of computer science, including deep issues in the foundations of mathematics such as the interpretation of symbols, and his quest to develop a universal language with the aim of allowing mathematics to be executed by machines rather than people. More than anything, the manuscript sheds light on Turing’s great potential, giving us a glimpse into the types of work that he might have gone into had his life not tragically been cut short.”

Turing committed suicide – or possibly died from accidental poisoning – when he was only 41 years old.

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Bonham’s is also offering a German Engima machine – the source of the codes solved by Turing – at the same auction (lot 2), which is estimated at $140,000 – $180,000.

The Bonham’s auction is one of several major auctions occurring during Rare Book Week in New York City.

Browse related collectible books:

Books by Alan Turing

WWII Rare Book Room

Reprinted with permission from Fine Books & Collections, Nate Pedersen author

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This entry was written by and posted on April 20, 2015 at 7:36 pm, filed under Rare Finds and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink

2 Responses to “Alan Turing’s Wartime Composition Book Heads to Auction”

  1. John RxB

    Amber, what is Your Opinion of the Film that was made? Is it, at all, accurate on His Life?Is it worth seeing? Someone told me about it, with many details, and it sounds worthwhile. i don’t know the lead Actor very well, although i’m familiar with some of His work. Was His Behavior, or any details, similar to Turing’s personality? “Thanks” for any information You can supply. i rarely go out to Films and don’t want to spend time on some fabrication of Reality.Sincerely, ~john

    Reply
    • Amber

      John, while I’d love to be able to answer your question, this article was written by Nate Pedersen of Fine Books & Collections, and I’ve not seen the film myself! I do plan to, as those who are in the know have indicated that the film is quite true to the story of Turing. While there are no extant audio or video recordings of Turing to go by, his family contributed anecdotes to help refine Turing’s character as performed by Cumberbatch. I do hope that helps!

      Reply

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