I have written (so far?) five books related to telegraphy.



My fifth book

This is an adaptation of a book that was written but never published until now.

It was written by my good friend Andrew ('Andy') Emmerson from Northampton, England, president of the British ‘Telecom Heritage Group’.

During my first early searches for a telegraph (around the end of the 1980s) I got my hands on a photocopy of the first draft version, from 1984, of that booklet.

It is only now (mid 2021), due to a combination of circumstances, that I learned that Andy has reworked the original script and proposed to a publisher in 1993 in order to make it available to (mainly) collectors and historians.

This did not happen because the publisher doubted (rightly so in my opinion) whether there would be interest and demand for it.

But I find his monograph so valuable and well written (including Andy’s personal experiences) that it would be a shame to lose the unique information it contains.

I have therefore consulted with him, and received his approval, to include the content in my website.

Some chapters do go quite deeply into certain aspects that I think are less relevant for most visitors of my website (especially for those outside the UK).

So, with Andy's agreement, I've cut out a few chapters (I've copied everything else literally). I have done this, for example, in the chapters about the operating procedures and code conventions of the British Railways, some 'complicated' technical details (such as wiring in circuits, concentrator working, repeaters, ...), details about faults and testing,

On the other hand, I was allowed to add a lot, both paragraphs and chapters.

The original text had no photos. In order to embellish the text, I have included a lot of photos of apparatus from my collection (or that have ever been part of it). And in an addendum, I have added some more photos that show mainly details of the apparatus and also some amusing illustrations... (well over a hundred in total!). This book (booklet), in English, has 57 pages.

  • Table of contents fifth book


    via fons.vandenberghen@telenet.be



    My fourth book

    This fourth one is only available in Dutch and is fully oriented to the beginning of the telegraph network and services in Belgium and its further growth here in the 19th century. I am calling this the ‘inter-net’. For the people of that time it was a real Revolution, while the actual internet is an Evolution.




    Dit boek beschrijft de opkomst en de evolutie van het telegraafnet in België.

    Ik citeer hier uit de introductie:
    Het woord ‘inter-net’ in de titel heb ik, wegens zijn connotatie met ‘internet’, niet toevallig gekozen De eerste operationele telegraaflijnen dateren van rond 1840 (Wheatstone in 1839 in Engeland, Morse in 1844 in Amerika). Maar vanaf het einde van de jaren 1840 groeiden die enkele lijnen uit tot steeds grotere landelijke netwerken. En vanaf het begin van de jaren 1850 kwamen er al internationale verbindingen tot stand. Zo hadden we in België al in 1851 een verbinding met Frankrijk en vervolgens met Pruisen en Nederland in 1852. En in 1853 kwam daar een verbinding bij met Engeland via een onderzeekabel naar Dover! Kaarten uit de jaren 1860-70 tonen al een uitgebreid spinnenweb van aangelegde kabels over Europa en de wereld. De eerste trans-Atlantische kabel uit 1858 werkte maar heel even, maar in 1865 was ook deze interconnectie een feit. Het overbrengen van berichten tussen steden en grote gemeentes, nationaal en internationaal, gebeurde ‘met de snelheid van de bliksem’, alleen de tijd voor de lokale verdeling kwam er nog bij.
    Men moet zich bewust zijn dat vóór deze periode het overbrengen van berichten hier te lande meestal meerdere dagen kon bedragen. Voor de mensen van toen, en waarvan de overgrote meerderheid natuurlijk ook geen begrip had van het bestaan van de elektriciteit, was dat zoveel als een wonder. Voor hen was hun ‘inter-net’ een enorme technologische Revolutie. Waaraan ik hier wil toevoegen dat voor ons de opkomst en uitbouw van het internet een eerder normale Evolutie is geweest.
    Wie weet nog van waar we komen, hoe het begonnen is? Kijk hier eens mee achterom om te zien hoe de droom om de tijd en de ruimte te overbruggen werd waargemaakt. En dat kan nooit kwaad, want wat heden ontwikkeld wordt, is immers de vrucht van ontelbare inspanningen van pioniers, uitvinders, wetenschapslui, entrepreneurs, optimisten in het verleden. Misschien begrijpen we beter het heden en krijgen we een beter inzicht in de toekomst door eerst eens naar het verleden te kijken.
    Het boek beslaat 84 pagina’s en is rijkelijk geïllustreerd met een 70-tal foto’s van apparaten uit mijn verzameling (allen ooit in gebruik in België in die vroege periode) en ca. 90 illustraties.

    Interesse? Contacteer mij via fons.vandenberghen@telenet.be


  • De inhoudtafel van het vierde boek


    My third one

    Is a book of reference (in English) about the lives, the inventions, the apparatus, the companies,...of 15 famous telegraph inventors in the 19th century.

    You can see the table of contents via HERE.



    This book, intended as a reference work, is primarily written for ‘keen collectors’ of telegraph instruments. Here collectors will find plenty of background information about a number of important inventors of their desirable items. As a bonus I have also included a very large number of photos of devices that once were in my collection. as well as other illustrations that have a link to these inventors (over 800 in total!).

    As I am focusing on the inventors, you will not learn a lot about the telegraphs and other telegraph apparatus as such. I have covered all of this in my second book ’Het Internet van de 19-de Eeuw’ (‘The Internet of the 19th Century’), spread over 434 pages and illustrated with about 650 photos. It is free to download (see the homepage of my website www.telegraphy.eu . That book is in Dutch, but the many images are in an ‘international language’.

    (Note that my 'Flemish English' in the book has been corrected by native speakers.)



    Here is a review from an independent reader (who doesn't know me): Paul Wills, Coatesville, PA - USA

    Great Inventors of Telegraphs - About the lives, the inventions, the apparatus, the companies, … of 15 famous telegraph inventors in the 19th century by Fons Vanden Berghen takes a slightly different approach in presenting the history of telegraphic technology. Rather than writing merely a biography or technical book, he chose to include both subjects in his overview of inventors.

    I say “overview” because it covers many of the important people who contributed to the science of distant communication. The term overview, however, is not sufficient as the author provides much more information than would be expected from a simple overview.

    For example, in each chapter, the reader will find a brief biography of the inventor followed by a description of the challenges that he encountered while turning his idea into a marketable system.

    The author then goes into some technical detail that includes schematics, patent drawings, and detailed photographs to describe how that system worked. He finishes with a collection of historic illustrations and beautiful photographs of restored equipment; about all of which were from his collection.

    What results, then, is an “overview” of inventors that still looks deeper into the personal and technological details about the inventor and his invention(s). This makes it perfect for the person who doesn’t want to read a complete biography of an inventor but still wants more than a cursory paragraph or two. For those who want to go deeper, the author provides a bibliography at the end of each chapter.

    The book starts with the semaphore system developed by Claude Chappe (as well as several other “visual” communications systems) and ends up with Marconi’s wireless telegraph while covering everything in between including printing telegraph systems.

    Supplements are included at the end that provide a summary of other inventors that deserve mention as well as a brief look at the manufacturing of the early telegraph equipment.

    To summarize; lots of interesting reading and plenty of illustrations. What more could the telecommunications enthusiast want?


    Interested in it? Contact me




    My second

    Publication came out in 2012. Part One describes in rather great detail the start and rise of telegraphy in Belgium. Part Two focuses on most of the technologies that ever have been developed in the world of telegraphy during the 19th century. It is richly illustrated with around 650 images of the very numerous telegraphs in my collection. The text is in Dutch… Unfortunately I have not yet found a sponsor who could enable me to bring out an English version. But most of the time the photographs speak for themselves. This book can be downloaded free via HERE.

  • Table of contents second book


    The first one

    Came out at the occasion of my (largest ever) exhibition in Brussels (Passage 44), sponsored by one of the big Belgian banks ‘Gemeentekrediet/ Crédit Communal’ > see also chapter 2 EXHIBITIONS.
    At that time it appeared in Dutch and French versions. In 1999 I was able to find a sponsor that enabled me to bring out an English version. These books are since long out of print. I’ve seen over the years that they appear for sale on eBay but only very occasionally…

  • Table of contents first book
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