Nikola Tesla (1856-1943).

Typed letter signed ('N. Tesla') to William T. Schley, 46 East Houston Street, New York, 20 May 1896.

In English. One page, 178 x 172mm, laid onto a mount with an engraved portrait.

On repeating an experiment in photography. 'I was sorry to hear of the unsatisfactory condition of Mrs. Schley and wish to say that I shall prepare the apparatus for taking another photograph Friday or Saturday next at your pleasure ... Hoping that we shall be successful in taking the photograph'. Tesla has been laid down with a cold, 'from which I have not yet recovered, and which has made it impossible for me to attend my duties'.

The letter is most likely to refer to an application of fluorescent ('vacuum tube') lighting, on which Tesla was working at this time, featuring the Tesla Coil for the first time. Tesla is reported to have said that 'photographs obtained by the light of such powerful tubes show an amount of detail which no picture taken by the sun or flash light is capable of disclosing'. The famous picture of Tesla reading a book in front of a giant Tesla Coil was taken at an earlier demonstration of this lighting system – perhaps the missed opportunity for a photograph to which this letter refers: the photograph was in fact first published (in the Electrical Review) on the very day this letter was sent. Alternatively, the 'photograph' referred to here could conceivably be an X-ray image, to which Tesla had first applied the apparatus two months previously, after hearing of Roentgen's discovery of radiography.
Special notice
Brought to you by
More from
Eureka! Scientific breakthroughs of the 20th century
Place your bid Condition report

A Christie's specialist may contact you to discuss this lot or to notify you if the condition changes prior to the sale.

I confirm that I have read this Important Notice regarding Condition Reports and agree to its terms. View Condition Report