Stoicheion Bibl. XV Ek ton Theonos Synousion. Proklou bibl. IV.

Basle, J. Herwagen, 1533.


EDITIO PRINCEPS. Folio pp. (vi) 268, 115 (i). Greek letter, title page with printer’s device repeated on verso of final leaf. First leaf of text within woodcut ornamental border (early manuscript Greek index in outer margin), woodcut headpieces and initials, printed mathematical diagrams throughout. Very extensive early Greek manuscript annotations and corrections to the whole of the first 61 pages (Book I) and the last 115 (Proclus’ commentary in Greek and Latin) with numerous manuscript diagrammatic worked examples, very clear and legible. A very good, crisp, clean, widemargined copy, stamp erased from the verso of title page, in polished North European calf, c. 1700.

An important copy of the editio princeps of Euclid’s Elements together with the first edition of Proclus’ commentary. The systematic and close annotations to Book I and the Proclus commentary, where the text has actually been illustrated by way of precise geometric illustrations, make this an extremely valuable copy in determining how both texts were received and used (and the relationship between them) in the first generations after their publication. It is highly unusual to find either of them consistently annotated in the same (or any) hand from beginning to end and even more so where, as here, the annotations constitute a critical commentary and do not just emphasise or note repetition of the text. Book I is the single most important book, in which Euclid outlines all of the fundamental ideas he will expand on in the rest of the work. The volume provides a rare window into the mathematical thought processes of its day. This is the first edition to have printed illustrations incorporated in the text, rather than in the margins, so it is the first in which extensive marginal worked examples were in fact possible.

A work of international, cooperative scholarship, the Greek text was edited by the German Simon Grynaeus, Professor of Greek at Basle, with the assistance of the first Latin translation made directly from the Greek by the Italian Bartolomeo Zamberti, and two Greek manuscripts provided by the Frenchmen Lazare Baif and Jean Ruel. To this Grynaeus added Proclus’ commentary on Book I from a manuscript provided by John Claymond, first President of Corpus Christi, Oxford. The work opens with a long dedication to Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of Durham, author of the first printed English arithmetic whom Grynaeus had met through Tunstall’s good friend Thomas More and to whom Grynaeus presented a copy of the present work in thanks for More’s favour during Grynaeus’ visit to England. In fact this was the only comprehensive edition of the Greek text until David Gregory’s in the early 18th century and it formed the basis of all later editions and translations until the 19th century.

“Euclid’s ‘Elements of Geometry’ is the oldest mathematical textbook in the world still in common use today. (…) [It] is a compilations of all earlier Greek mathematical knowledge since Pythagoras, organized into a consistent system so that each theorem follows logically from its predecessor, and in this lies the secret of its success. (…) The ‘Elements’ remained the common school textbook of geometry for hundreds of years and almost one thousand editions and translations have been published.” Printing and the Mind of Man p. 14 on the first Latin edition.

Proclus’ commentary on Book I, here printed for the first time, is of great value in its own right. First, it is a unique source of information on the geometrical knowledge of the thousand years prior to Euclid, otherwise almost certainly lost to us. Second, it is perhaps the earliest significant contribution to the philosophy of mathematics linking it to all sorts of intellectual speculation; Morrow p. xxxii describes it as “one of the most valuable documents in ancient philosophy.” It had not been reprinted up to modern times. The quintessential Renaissance volume and one of the corner stones of modern thought.

BM STC Ger. p. 288. Thomas-Stanford no. 7. Norman 730. Adams E 980. Stillwell II 210. Graesse II “édition encore aujourd’hui indispensable.”


Print This Item Print This Item