Euclid Elementorum Libri XV, [with] Posteriores Libri IX

Frankfurt, Nicholas Hoffmann for Jonas Rhodius, 1607


Thick 8vo. Pp. [cxxvi] 671 [i], 680.  2 volumes in one. Roman and Italic letter. First titlepage in red and black ink, both t-ps with printer’s woodcut device. Many diagrams of geometric and mathematical figures. Fraying to fore edge of first t-p and following few pages, creasing at end. Light marginal foxing and the odd ink spot, general age yellowing (poor quality paper). A good copy in nicely decorated C15 liturgical leaf over pasteboards, double column, Gothicised Roman letter, frequent Lombard decorated initials in blue and red, yapp edges, upper joint split but sound. Two C17 autograph to rear f.e.p ‘Christiane Weischen’. C19 to front pastedown ‘Schwarzman’, repeated with variants. Label of Einar Josefson of Stockholm, Chief District Justice, Chairman of the Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation and a collector of rare books. Later label with the Catholic maxim ‘non nova sed nove’ and initials ‘CL’.

A striking copy of Christopher Clavius’s translation of and commentary on Euclid’s Elements (Books I – VI) and Posteriores (VII – XVI), hailed by Brunet as one of Euclid’s most comprehensive and best commentaries – ‘un des plus amples et des meilleurs commentaires d’Euclide’ (p 1089). This mathematical treatise on Euclidean geometry and number theory was one of the first mathematical works to be printed and has been instrumental in the development of logic and modern science. Most well-known, perhaps, of the mathematical phenomena Euclid discusses is Book 1 Proposition 47: the Pythagorean Theorem. The sixteenth book is by François de Foix-Candale (1512-1594), a French mathematician and alchemist. Uncommonly, this copy contains both volumes, usually published and sold separately.

 Although Euclid’s Elements comprises 13 Books, it was common for Medieval translations to include 15, as Clavius does. Book XIV is now attributed to Hypsicles of Alexandria (ca.190 BCE—ca 120 BCE), and Book XV to Isidore of Miletus ( 532), the architect who designed the Cathedral of Holy Wisdom in Constantinople.

 There is an ‘Epistola Dedicatoria’ by Jonas Rhodius, addressed to Johannes Hartmann Beyer, a German physician and mathematician. Following this is the Preface, written by Clavius, and a list of additions included here. The mathematical diagrams within the text illustrate its meaning and provide a charming addition to a technical work.

 The Elements and Posteriores are no mere translations; Clavius provides mathematical commentary on Euclid’s theories, and even goes beyond Euclid to introduce his own mathematical proposals, such as his own proof of Euclid’s fifth postulate and his solution to the problem of squaring the circle. Clavius’s translation is said to be one of the greatest achievements in the history of Renaissance mathematics, and Clavius himself was called ‘the Euclid of the 16th century’.

 Clavius was a Jesuit German mathematician and astronomer who modified the modern Gregorian calendar after the death of its primary author. As well as these editions, he produced his own mathematical and astronomical treatises. The significance and influence of Clavius’s translation for many seventeenth-century mathematicians cannot be overstated. The year of this edition’s publication, Clavius’s translation of Euclid was itself first translated into Chinese, the first European text in mathematics to be translated in China.

BMC Ger C17th I E628; Brunet II 1089; Graesse II 512; Not in Riccardi, Thomas-Standford, or Honeyman.
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