Elementorum liber decimus.

Paris, Michel de Vascosan, 1551.


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to, ff. (xviii) 140. Theorems in Roman letter, explanations in Italic, a little Greek, printed diagrams illustrating text throughout. Contemporary autograph of repeated and partially inked or written over on title page (one dated 1551) and inside rear cover, C19 armorial blind-stamp of double horse shoes surmounted by plumed helmets with motto ‘Je maintiendrai’ on second f.e.p., autograph of Sir Rowland Hill (1795-1879) on fly, C19 armorial bookplate inside front cover. Light waterstain to lower blank margins of first few gatherings, slight age yellowing, a good, clean copy in contemporary limp vellum, lacking ties, in 1/4 morocco folding box.

First edition of Pierre de Montdoré’s translation and commentary on the tenth book of Euclid’s elements, dedicated to the Cardinal du Bellay. In his 36 page preface Montdoré explains that whilst the earlier books of Euclidian geometry are relatively easy for students, the tenth is considerably more complex: the book of ‘irrational magnitudes,’ based on Archimedes’ ‘method of exhaustion’. Its main achievements are the classification of irrational straight lines, making for much easier reference and the calculation of complex areas by a primitive form of integral calculus. Montdoré systematically explains these by reference to the earlier books and to other authors, especially Proclus. In his preface he fulsomely praises the work of Pythagoras but is scathingly dismissive of Ramus (named in contemporary manuscript) whose Latin version of the Elements had appeared in 1545.

Montdoré (b. 1570), poet, mathematician, master of the Court of Requests and Royal Librarian at Fontainebleau was a protestant humanist scholar from Orleans, much admired by Montaigne. Ultimately his religious beliefs cost him his position and his splendid library and collection of mathematical instruments was pillaged after the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. Sir Rowland Hill, inventor and entrepreneur, is celebrated as creator of the world’s first mass postal service, ‘the penny post’, but as a young man he taught mathematics at his father’s groundbreaking experimental school, becoming an expert in trigonometry. Doubtless the present volume was put to good use.

BM STC Fr. p. 157. Thomas Stanford IV:XII.


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