The world’s oldest surviving transmission recording made by Scottish television pioneer John Logie Baird has been saved by the University of Glasgow.
The phonovision shellac disc, dating back to September 20, 1927, is the world’s oldest surviving 78 rpm video recording and features images of Baird’s famous ventriloquist dummy Stookie Bill, which he used when developing his revolutionary mechanical scanning broadcasts.
The collection, which also includes the log books used by Benjamin Clapp while conducting Baird’s transatlantic television trials and the world’s first known use of the acronym TV, was put up for sale in April 2015 and looked almost certain to go to a private collector overseas.
But a temporary export bar was placed on its sale until today (September 29) and the University of Glasgow can now confirm it is currently in the process of buying the collection.
The purchase of the collection is being made possible with the financial support of a successful local businessman, who wishes to remain anonymous, who lived for 20 years in Logie Baird’s home town of Helensburgh in Argyll and Bute.
He chose to help with the acquisition in order to keep the collection in the UK.
Commenting on the purchase he said: “I am delighted the collection has been saved and is now coming home. It charts such an important period of modern engineering history so I felt it could not, and should not, leave these shores to move abroad. It needs to be shared for future generations.”
He continued: “John Logie Baird was a Helensburgh man and a Scottish pioneer who helped change the world, and with his ties to the University of Glasgow I think it is only right and proper that this important collection should be coming to the university and hopefully it will help inspire future pioneering engineers.”
The Baird items, which are still in the process of being bought thanks to a generous donation by the University of Glasgow, will be an important addition to the university’s John Logie Baird archives.
Baird was a student at the University of Glasgow from 1914-1915 where he studied engineering.
He cut short his studies when he tried to voluntarily sign up for war duties in 1915, but was turned down on health grounds.
Professor Anton Muscatelli, principal of the University of Glasgow, said: “I am delighted this important, historical collection will be coming to the University, greatly enriching the collection already owned by the University.
“We’re proud of the fact that John Logie Baird is an alumnus of the University of Glasgow and so it is fitting and immensely exciting that these important items, which catalogue the world changing work he was conducting at the time of his engineering break through, are preserved here in Scotland and at the university where he studied.”
Ed Vaizey, culture minister, added: “It’s fantastic news that the John Logie Baird collection has been saved for the nation.
“He and his team made the UK a world leader in 1920’s television technology, including the first-ever transmission of trans-Atlantic television pictures. This collection will be incredibly important for the study of the history of television, and I’m delighted that it will remain in the UK.”