• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 2013

    Important Scientific Books: The Richard Green Library

    17 June 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 321

    The Telephone Directory. [Volume 1, Number 1]. New Haven, Connecticut: [Printed by O.A. Dorman for] The Conn. District Telephone Co., November 1878.

    Price Realised  


    The Telephone Directory. [Volume 1, Number 1]. New Haven, Connecticut: [Printed by O.A. Dorman for] The Conn. District Telephone Co., November 1878.

    4o (183 x 145 mm). 20 leaves, paginated [2] 3-40. Text within rule borders, 8 wood-engraved vignettes (most for advertisements), various decorated display types used in title, headings and advertisements. (First and last leaves slightly discolored, faint dampstain to upper margins of first and last leaves, occasional very faint spotting, faint vertical crease to text leaves.) Stab-stitched in original light blue printed wrappers (inside covers also printed), original metal ring at head of spine (light spotting, small crease to upper fore-corner of upper wrapper and light vertical crease to center); quarter morocco folding case. Provenance: Robert Honeyman (his sale, Sotheby's London, Part VII, 19-20 May 1981, lot 2970); Robert A. Hefner (sold Christie's New York, 17 May 1996, lot 42).

    Contents: Pages 1-8: Title, directions for use of battery bell, push button, and magneto call bell phones, and guidelines for use of the district messenger (a large proportion of the first phone calls were devoted to ordering messengers) and district phone system; p. 8: printer's advertisement; pp. 9-25: alphabetical "List of Subscribers to the Telephone System of the Connecticut District Telephone Co." (the list, containing 391 names, is printed on rectos only, ads on all versos); pp. 26-28: advertisement for Watkin's Automatic Signal Telegraph; pp. 29-39: "Business Directory," printed on rectos, short essays on "Progress in Electric Lighting," "The Microphone," "The Bell Telephone at the Paris Exposition," and "The Telephone Patents" (a circular letter from the president of Bell Telephone, Gardiner G. Hubbard) on versos. Inside lower wrapper: "Additional names of subscribers received too late for classification," listing 16 names.


    The commercial potential of the telephone was recognized and developed with terrific speed during the months following the celebrated first intelligible phone transmission of a human voice by Alexander Graham Bell on March 10, 1876. On February 12, 1877, less than a year after this momentous conversation and the issue of Bell's telephone patent, the first newspaper report was transmitted by telephone. In 1878, the invention of the microphone by David Edward Hughes rendered the telephone commercially viable, and in July of that year the Bell Telephone Company was formed, which as the first phone organization retained the patents for issuance of all telephones. Although an inter-city phone line had been laid between Boston and New York in April 1877, New Haven was the seat of the first commercially available phone service, in operation by January 1878: "The earliest company to put into practical use this wonderful discovery was the Connecticut District Telephone Company of New Haven, Conn., they being the first company to connect all wires to a central office, thus putting their subscribers within instant speaking communication with each other. The immense advantages of this system were soon appreciated by the public, and the result has been that the Company have now between four and five hundred subscribers, extending over nearly fifty miles of wire to the different sections of the city as well as Fair Haven, West Haven and Westville" (Telephone Directory, p. 38).

    The instructions provided in the Directory for correct use of the telephone, the first such directions ever published, include much sound advice: "Never take the Telephone off the hook unless you wish to use it....Should you wish to speak to another subscriber... you should...commence the conversation by saying 'Hulloa!' When you are done talking, say 'That is all!', and the person spoken to should say 'O.K.' ... While talking, always speak slow and distinct, and let the telephone rest lightly against your upper lip, leaving the lower lip and the jaw free..." The push button phone bore slightly different requirements: "After speaking, transfer the telephone from the mount to the ear very promptly ... When replying to a communication from another, do not speak too promptly ... Much trouble ensues from both parties speaking at the same time.... No subscriber will be allowed to use the wire for more than three minutes at a time, or more than twice in an hour, without first obtaining permission from the main office... Any person using profane or otherwise improper langauge, should be reported at this office immediately." (pp. 4-5).

    Although an initial telephone directory, consisting of a single sheet containing about 50 names, is believed to have been issued in New Haven in February 1878, no copies of it are known. WE HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO TRACE ANY OTHER COPIES OF THE PRESENT FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST PHONE BOOK.

    Contact Client Service
    • info@christies.com

    • New York +1 212 636 2000

    • London +44 (0)20 7839 9060

    • Hong Kong +852 2760 1766

    • Shanghai +86 21 6355 1766