PIERRE FARDOIL’S CALCULATOR is shaped like an astrolabe, has four dials, a darkened brass patina and fits comfortably into the palm of your hand. It is a true pocket calculator, invented some 80 years before the French Revolution. King Louis XVII was not yet born – and mass production of calculators was still 175 years in the future – when French horologist Fardoil began his designs for the first practical and portable pocket adding machine.
Fardoil’s calculator and the accompanying pear-cased pocket watch were two of the earliest instruments offered in Auction Team Breker’s 700-lot sale of antique Science & Technology in Cologne, Germany, on May 30, 2015. Attracting interest from collectors and institutions internationally, the world’s first pocket calculator sold for 67.600 Euro / 74,360 US$ (Lot 20).
The previous lot in the auction – an Arithmomètre by Thomas de Colmar of circa 1852 – was also of historic interest for being the first calculator produced in series. De Colmar’s machines are usually found in plain ebonised cases, Breker’s example however was housed in a deluxe presentation case with Boulle inlay intended as a “Souvenir de l’Inventeur” for an important patron. The calculator multiplied its pre-sale estimate three-fold to sell for 46.700 Euro / 51,370 US$ (Lot 19).