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John Logie Baird TV transmission saved for UK by anonymous donor

Published 29/09/2015

An asking price of £78,750 was put on the 'treasure trove' archive earlier this year (Department for Culture, Media and Sport/PA)
An asking price of £78,750 was put on the 'treasure trove' archive earlier this year (Department for Culture, Media and Sport/PA)
John Logie Baird showing the apparatus with which the world's first successful demonstrations of instantaneous, moving scenes by wire and wireless were made

An anonymous donor has stepped in to prevent a recording of John Logie Baird's first transmission of trans-Atlantic television pictures being sold to private collectors overseas.

The materials, which include a disc featuring what has been described as one of the world's earliest surviving video recordings, will now be stored at the University of Glasgow along with much of the Scottish inventor's other work.

An asking price of £ 78,750 was put on the "treasure trove" archive earlier this year and an export bar was placed on the lot until today to see if any British buyers would step in.

A businessman from Baird's hometown of Helensburgh, Argyll and Bute, donated funds to the university which is now in the process of buying the recording and radio log books used by assistant Benjamin Clapp that contain the world's first-known use of the acronym TV.

The donor, who wants to remain anonymous, 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.

"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 phonovision shellac disc, dating back to September 20 1927, is the world's oldest-surviving 78rpm video recording and features pictures of Stookie Bill, the ventriloquist's dummy Baird used when developing his revolutionary mechanical scanning broadcasts.

It was recorded during his transatlantic television trials but was not actually transmitted until February 9 1928, marking one of Baird's earliest television broadcasts.

The University of Glasgow already owns a vast collection of Baird's work. He was a student at the university from 1914, studying engineering.

He cut short his studies when he tried to voluntarily sign up for national service in 1915 but was turned down on health grounds.

Professor Anton Muscatelli, principal of the University of Glasgow, said: " 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 breakthrough, are preserved here in Scotland and at the university where he studied."

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said: " 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."

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