Maximilian PLESSNER, Ein Blick auf die grosten Erfindungen 
des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts. 
I. Die Zukunft des elektrischen Fernsehens.

Ferd. Dämmlers Verlagsbuchhanndlung, Berlin, 1892 [1893].


The brochure Ein Blick auf die grossen Erfindungen des zwanzigsten Jahrhunderts:. I. Die Zukunft des elektrischen Fernsehens, published in 1893 by Maximilan Plessner, Captain (ret.) in the Royal Prussian Army, is one of the most unknown documents of the early history of television. It has never been quoted in the recent litterature on this period, and after two years of research André Lange has identified only one existing copy in the Österreichische Zentralbibliothek für Physik (Wien). Only two quotations of the brochure are known, and both dated from 1898: in  "Jan Szczepanik und Maximilian Plessner. Der Erfinder des Telektroskops und sein Vorläufer", Vom Fels zum Meer, Stuttgart, Mai 1898, pp. 160-165, and in B. SCHÖFFLER,  Die Phototelegraphie und das elektrische Fernsehen, W. Braumüller, Wien, 1898, p. 27. Although Plessner’s contribution to the history of television can be considered as minimal, this brochure is of great interest, as demonstrated by Nils Klevjer Aas' abstract and comments.

Inauguration of the  Siegessäule, the Column of Victory (Berlin, 1873). Rather than a commemoration column for the celebrating the memory of the victory of the Prussian Army over France, Maximilian Plessner was considering the use of the hyaloscope - some kind of VRC - which should have allowed to show recording of the Great Berlin Parade of 1870 to the young generations.  (Source of the picture : site Deutsches Kaiserreich)

The originality of this contribution is less on the technical proposal – Plessner is only one of the many since 1878 proposing an apparatus based on the selenium properties – than in its insights on the interest for television and its views on the possible social uses of such a technology. The hyaloscope suggested by Plessner to record events (such as the celebration of the victory of the Prussian Army over France) is probably the first insight of what will be call half a century latter the videocassette recorder (VCR) or magnetoscope.With his exemple of the possible recording of the 1870 parade of the victorious Prussian Army, Plessner also anticipate the propaganda use of film and television. Its considerations on the probable demographic effects of television were probably to optimistic but not without interest. And the final addendum by Plessner about Edison's kinetograph makes this brochure the first text where the parallel progress of cinema and television are confronted, even in a very brief manner.

As underlined by Nils Klevjer Aas’ reading of the brochure, the document is also interresting as a testimonial of the deluded and frustrated “inventor”, probably autodidact but convinced of the decisive aspect of its own contribution. In this sense, the Plessner’s brochure is of the same nature as the one of his predecessors, Adriano de Paiva’s La télecopie électrique basée sur l’emploi du sélénium (1880) and Le télectroscope (1881) by Constantin Senlecq and also announce the Mark Twain article “The Austrian Edison Keeping School Again” (1898) in defence of the Polish inventor Jan Szczepanik.

The book y  R. Ed. Liesegang, published one year before Plessner own publication, has launched the German word "Fernsehen".



Translation, abstracts and comments by Nils Klevjer AAS


Histoire de la télévision       © A. Lange

Dernière mise à jour : 23 janvier 2003