Aritmetica mercantileVenice, Erhard Ratdolt, 2 Aug. 1484
FIRST EDITION. Small 4to. ff. (i) 116 (i). Gothic letter. White-on-black decorated initials, mathematical tables. Slight yellowing, a little marginal finger-soiling, centre bifolia of a few gatherings strengthened at gutter, couple of marginal tears, one repaired, single small worm hole to text. A good, well-margined copy in modern vellum. Occasional C16 ms. maniculae or annotations, C16 ms. ‘yhs Maria Longo asumpta est mihi’ to upper margin of b4.
A clean, large copy of the first edition of the second printed treatise on commercial arithmetic. ‘Edizione rarissima’ (Riccardi). Pietro Borgo (fl. late C15) was a Venetian mathematician of whom little is known. Intended for the use of merchants, ‘Aritmetica’ was printed in a portable format suitable for quick consultation; given the practical nature of this work, well-preserved, complete copies are rare. Unlike its predecessor ‘Larte dela merchadantia’ (Treviso, 1478), it was reprinted well into the C16. The poem on fol.1 introduces the purpose: how to make with ease all sorts of calculations useful to merchants and spot mistakes in accounting, thus earning money and honours. On the verso is a table of abbreviations. The work proceeds from basic arithmetic rules (e.g., the numerical representation of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions, etc.) to operations in general, operations applied to money and weights, fractions, and complex calculations, mixing different reference units, for the sale, purchase and exchange of the most common items contemporary merchants would be handling, i.e., pepper, oil, wine, bread, grain, cloves, cloth, gold and silver. Included are also the calculations of expenses required for commercial shipments, according to the subdivision among the participants of the 24 ownership shares (‘carature’) of the mercantile ship. The final sections mention the issue of exchange when, for instance, a Venetian merchant carries out business in Naples. All calculations are painstakingly reproduced numerically in the form of sidenotes. The early annotator of this copy corrected a couple of arithmetical mistakes and noted the death (undated) of Maria Longo, probably a close relative, on a margin. A handsome, large copy of this rare work.Goff B1034; Tomash & Williams B208; ISTC ib01034000; Smith, Rara Aritm., p.16; BMC V, 289; GW 4936; Riccardi I/1, 163: ‘edizione rarissima’.