University Publications of America has readied part one of the "Thomas A. Edison Papers," about 30,000 pages of material on 28 reels of microfilm, along with a 125-page guide.
Included are business records, drawings, plans, schemes for inventions, family memorabilia and other papers dealing with Edison's early years, 1850 to 1878.
Among his earliest inventions were telegraphic equipment, the electric pen -- a precursor to the mimeograph (it was a flop), the phonograph and equipment that led up to the incandescent lamp.
The collection was released Monday on the 138th anniversary of Edison's birth.
The inventor of hundreds of technological breakthroughs that helped lay the foundations for the age of electricity, recorded sound and motion pictures, was born in 1847 in Milan, Ohio.
Edison left behind 3.5 million pages of laboratory notebooks, business records and correspondence with entrepreneurs and financiers such as Henry Ford, Jay Gould and J.P. Morgan -- a historical gold mine that, because of its massive quantity and dispersal around the world, has not been widely disseminated.
Five years ago, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Park Service, the New Jersey Historical Commission and Rutgers University joined forces as cosponsors of the Thomas A. Edison Papers Project. Rutgers professor Reese V. Jenkins was appointed director and editor.
He and a team of reseachers have completed the first stage of their task: the selection and arrangement of Edison documents covering 1850 to 1878.
Edison's prolific activities -- he applied for 107 patents in 1882 alone -- earned him the nickname "The Wizard of Menlo Park," after the New Jersey town where he had set up shop.
The inventor, who went on to found what eventually became the General Electric Co., moved his organization to West Orange, N.J., in 1887. He died in 1931.
John Moscato, president of the publishing firm -- which is housed in a cavernous four-story former department store on Frederick's Market Street -- anticipates that part one of the "Edison Papers" will sell 200 or more sets.
In terms of microfilm projects, that would put it in the best-seller range, he said. Sets are run off from a master copy when orders are received. A set sells for $1,675, and university and research libraries are expected to be the main customers.
Five parts are still to be published, Moscato said, a project that should take another 15 years, given the mass of material. Only about 10 percent of all the materials in the archives will be microfilmed.
"We're latecomers to the project," he said. "We got involved one year ago, when they decided on us as the publisher for the microfilm editon of the project, accompanied by a book-sized printed guide.
"We sent a microfilm camera and operator to the Edison National Historic Site in West Orange, and we had access to the original documents stored in an underground vault. Here at UPA we processed the film, put it all together, printed the guide, and so on. But all of the editorial work is the responsibility of the project itself."
Moscato, whose firm was founded more than a decade ago in Washington and has been in Frederick the past five years, has undertaken similar projects before.
"Usually our research staff does all the work on our projects, in fact. And we do everything here except the binding of books. We do our own camera work, processing, developing, duplicating . . . ." Moscato said.
The Frederick company over the years has published microfilmed editions of declassified State Department papers, records of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and documentary series on blacks, women and labor.
The company also publishes books on intelligence-gathering operations. Thomas F. Troy, a former CIA analyst, edits their bimonthly newsletter, "Foreign Intelligence Literary Scene.