Spring ’22 Book Club Announcement
Jacquard’s Web- How a hand loom led to the birth of the Information Age.
by James Essinger
Jacquard’s Web is the fascinating story of how Joseph-Marie Jacquard, a master silk-weaver in Napoleonic France, invented a loom that was to spark the beginning of today’s Information Age.
This astonishing new loom enabled the master weavers of Lyons to create their beautiful silk fabrics 25 times faster than had ever been possible before. This device used revolutionary punched cards t store instructions for weaving the required pattern or design. The loom proved an outstanding success, and these cards are now righty viewed as the world’s first computer programs.
In this previously untold story, James Essinger brings to light a series of historical links that reveal the extraordinary relationships between the nineteenth-century world of weaving and today’s computer age. Along the way, he introduces a cast of colorful, passionate, and often eccentric characters. These include two of the most intriguing people in the history of science and technology: Charles Babbage, the great Victorian scientists and thinker, and the beautiful and witty Countess of Lovelace, Lord Byron’s daughter, who played a crucial role in developing Babbage’s work.
The book also tells the stories of the other pioneers who helped transform the technology of the punched-card loom np the modern computer. People such as Herman Hollerith, the brilliant German-American inventor. Thomas Watson, the founder of IBM; and Howard Aiken, who built one of the world’s computers. James Essinger concludes by bringing the story completely up-to-date with the latest developments in the World Wide Web and the fascinating phenomenon of artificial intelligence.
silk workers in France
How does “virtual” book club work?
Many of you have joined us in the past for Virtual Book Club so this will be a review, but if you are inviting a friend to join, or this is your first time thinking of joining in, please find below some common questions we’ve tried to answer ahead of time for you. We’ve also included a link to our video library where you can access past video discussions to get a sense of our format.
Facebook LIVE Videos
Where do I get my own copy of the book?
If you have a copy already, you’re ready to go! If not you can order it right here from
Order here from Red Stone Glen
How will the book club work?
Each week we’ll read between 40-50 pages, in preparation for discussion and sharing in our Facebook Live chat. Prior to our first meeting, review the schedule and have the first reading completed on your own in order to participate in discussions.
Do I need to have a Facebook account to participate?
No. You just need to go to our Red Stone Glen Facebook page and click on the Live link to join in the conversation. If you arrive to the page and you do not see the link blinking “LIVE” just hold tight and we’ll begin our live stream shortly.
What if I can’t make it to the Facebook Live get together?
No problem! Every Live discussion will be archived and available on our Facebook page under “videos.” Book discussion videos will be archived within 48 hours of the live broadcast once we begin.
How many times will Virtual Book Club Meet?
We’ll meet once a week for 6 weeks. Discussions will be LIVE on Wednesday evenings at 7 pm EST.
Where can I find discussion questions, and where can I ask my own questions?
We encourage you to ask questions and offer feedback, engaging with other book club members, in the comments section for each chapter. Our friend Deb Fingerlow will be joining us once again, posting links in the comment sections and answering questions while we are streaming live. We will continue to monitor feedback and questions for the week following.
Do I need to register to participate?
No registration is necessary for the weekly book discussion group, and there is no cost to participate. How easy is that?!
Why belong to a book club?
For the same reason we come together to learn to weave. For knowledge. For community. For connection. So, do your reading, brew a cuppa tea or coffee, and come join us. And don’t forget to share with your friends and guild members so they can join in too.
We will be meeting weekly beginning February 23rd on Wednesday evenings at 7 pm. We hope that you are able to join us every week, but certainly understand if your schedule does not permit you to be there. This is the joy of this format utilizing Facebook live, if you are unable to attend live the videos are all saved for you to enjoy at a time that works best for you.
- Week 1 February 23rd
- Chapter 1 – The engraving that wasn’t
- Chapter 2 – A better mousetrap
- Chapter 3 – The son of a master-weaver
- Chapter 4 – The Emperor’s new clothes
- Week 2 March 2nd
- Chapter 5 – From weaving to computing
- Chapter 6 – The Difference Engine
- Chapter 7 – The Analytical Engine
- Week 3 March 9th
- Chapter 8 – A question of faith and funding
- Chapter 9 – The lady who loved the Jacquard loom
- Week 4 March16th
- Chapter 10 – A crisis with the American Census
- Chapter 11 – The first Jacquard looms that wove information
- Chapter 12 – The birth of IBM
- Week 5 March 23rd
- Chapter 13 – The Thomas Watson phenomenon
- Chapter 14 – Howard Aiken dreams of a computer
- Chapter 15 – IBM and the Harvard Mark I
- Week 6 March 30th
- Chapter 16 – Weaving at the speed of light
- Chapter 17 – The future
- Appendix 1: Charles Babbage’s vindication
- Appendix 2: Ada Lovelace’s letter to Charles Babbage, 14 August 1843
- Appendix 3: How the Jacquard loom worked