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Mathematical Printed Collection

1,000 items (dispersed).

The Library has a wide range of printed works which chart the history of mathematics, from ancient times to the nineteenth century.

All the eminent Greek mathematicians are represented in early or significant editions:

  • Pythagoras, with two editions of Hierocles’ commentary on his Carmina Aurea, printed by Bartholomaeus de Valdezoccho (Padua, 1474) and Arnold Pannartz (Rome, 1475)
  • Aristotle, with the first edition of the complete works in Greek (Aldus, Venice, 1495–98)
  • Euclid, with copies of the first edition of the Elements, printed by Ratdolt in a Latin translation (Venice, 1482), the first edition of the Greek text printed by Hervagius (Basel, 1533), and the first English translation by Sir Henry Billingsley (1570)
  • Archimedes, with the first edition by Hervagius (Basel, 1544). Boethius made Latin redactions of a number of Greek scientific writings in around 500 ad. The Library has over fifty editions of his works, the earliest being the De Consolatione Philosophiae (Savigliano, 1470)

Medieval and Renaissance writers in the collection include:

  • the thirteenth-century redactor Johannes Campanus, with editions from 1490 onwards
  • the Aristotelian scholar Nicole d’Oresme, Bishop of Lisieux
  • the German astronomer and mathematician Johann Müller, known as Regiomontanus, represented by three editions from 1474–76
  • the French logician Pierre de la Ramée (Petrus Ramus), several copies of whose Arithmeticae Libri Duo are to be found within the Christie Collection
  • the Italians Girolamo Cardano and Niccolò Tartaglia. Among the former’s works is De Subtilitate Libri XXI (Nürnberg, 1550), while Tartaglia is represented by Quesiti et Inventioni Diverse (Venice, 1546)

The great expansion of mathematical studies in the seventeenth century is reflected in the number of editions of Galileo Galilei, Marin Mersenne, René Descartes, Blaise Pascal and Gottfried Leibniz.

For Galileo the Library holds first editions of Il Saggiatore (Rome, 1623), Dialogo… sopra i Due Massimi Sistemi del Mondo (Florence, 1632), and Discorsi e Dimonstrazioni Matematiche (Leiden, 1638).

Pascal’s important contributions to mathematical science are represented by first editions of Traitez de l’Équilibre des Liqueurs et de la Pesanteur de la Masse de l’Air (Paris, 1663), Traité du Triangle Arithmétique (Paris, 1665), and Lettres… contenant quelques unes de ses inventions de Géometrie (Paris, 1659); in the last, written under the pseudonym of Amos Dettonville, Pascal provided solutions to the problems of cycloids that he had challenged other mathematicians to solve.

British mathematicians of the sixteenth, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries include:

  • Robert Recorde (the Library holds a first edition of his Whetstone of Witte (1557) in which he introduced the equals sign)
  • Leonard Digges, whose interest in military mathematics is witnessed by a first edition of Stratioticos, published posthumously by his son Thomas in 1579
  • John Napier, who published the first table of logarithms in 1614
  • John Wallis, who made important contributions to calculus and whose collected Opera Mathematica were published in three folio volumes in 1693–9
  • Sir Isaac Newton, who is represented by first editions of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (1687), Opticks: or, a Treatise of the Reflexions, Refractions, Inflexions and Colours of Light (1704) and The Method of Fluxions and Infinite Series (1736). Copies of the Latin edition of Optice (1706) and Method of Fluxions are of additional interest in that they were formerly owned by James Prescott Joule

Among later mathematicians, attention should be drawn to the works of:

  • Leonhard Euler (with some eighteen editions between 1736 and 1812)
  • Jean Le Rond d’Alembert (represented by sixteen editions between 1743 and 1805)
  • Gaspard Monge, whose Feuilles dAnalyse Appliquée à la Géométrie (1800) established the algebraic methods of three-dimensional geometry
  • Carl Friedrich Gauss (1777–1855), arguably the most important figure in nineteenth-century mathematics
  • Augustin-Louis Cauchy (1789–1857), author of Cours d’Analyse de l’École Royale Polytechnique (Paris, 1821)

Finding aids

Recorded in general printed-book catalogue.


The John Rylands Library

Using the reading rooms in the John Rylands Library

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