These four books have been reprinted by Gordon and Elizabeth Roberts in modern editions, faithfully recreating the pages just as they appeared and were read by our forebears centuries ago. To this end, although all the books are newly typeset using modern digital technology, the typography is exactly as the originals.
They are available by placing an order by email to the Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org who will place the order with the publisher.
The sole edition of Robert Recorde’s – The Whetstone of Witte was printed at London by John Kingston in 1557. One of Recorde’s concerns in this book is to develop not only a means of representing powers of numbers, but also a means of naming them. Prior to the development of a numerical index notation, the names given to the powers was of considerable importance. Hence in these pages we find terminology which is now archaic, for instance the strange word zenzizenzizenzike, the name for the eighth power of a number. It is generally acknowledged that Recorde’s treatise on algebra, in the section entitled The arte of cossike numbers, is the first to be printed in the English language. Although this work owes much to the German mathematicians Christoff Rudolff and Michael Stifel, it does have one well known claim to originality; the first use of two parallel lines as the sign for equality (because noe 2 thyngs, can be moare equalle). Recorde’s invention of the equals sign =, together with his adoption of the + sign (which betokeneth more) and the minus sign − (which betokeneth less) placed him at the very forefront of European practice.
The first edition of Robert Recorde’s – The Castle of Knowledge, was printed at London by Reginalde Wolfe in 1556. The work is a treatise on the celestial sphere, written in the form of a dialogue between a master and a scholar. It is an original and exhaustive study intended to modernise Proclus and Sacrobosco. It deals chiefly with Ptolemaic astronomy but also includes some geographical information as understood in Recorde’s time. In the preface to the reader he extols the heavens as God’s handiwork and consequently meet for study. He also praises the rare wisdom and practical knowledge that astronomy bestows, thereby soliciting approval of both the old heaven and the new earth. Recorde’s writings reflect the strong traditions which he, in common with most educated people of his time, found difficult to discard. These Aristotelian and Ptolemaic traditions postulated that the sub-lunary realm, the seat of the base elements, was subject to change and corruption; in contrast, the heavenly or celestial realm was necessarily pure, immutable and eternal.
The first edition of Robert Recorde’s – The Pathway to Knowledge was printed in London, at the sign of the Brazen Serpent, by Reynold Wolfe in 1551. This book is the earliest work on geometry in the English language and was used as a standard textbook well into the middle of the seventeenth century. Recorde’s prose is delightfully rhythmical and his poetical phrasing perhaps made learning less of a chore than otherwise for his studious readers. That he well knew this book, although modelled after Euclid, was breaking new ground is evidenced by his statement in the preface to the theorems: ‘For nother is there anie matter more straunge in the english tongue, than this whereof never booke was written before now, in that tongue, and therefore oughte to delite all them, that desire to understand straunge matters, as most men commonlie doo’.
The first edition of Robert Recorde’s – The Grounde of Artes was printed in London, at the sign of the Brazen Serpent, by Reynold Wolfe in 1543. The book teaches the rules and operations of arithmetic and provides many simple examples. It was probably intended as a textbook for the rapidly increasing number of mercantile clerks, but also for mariners engaged in the newly important science of celestial navigation. Recorde first shows how to carry out numerical operations using pen and paper, which in his time was a comparatively new and potentially confusing way of performing calculations. He goes on to demonstrate arithmetic done with counters, the centuries-old method of manipulating tokens on a ruled board. Finally, he shows how to indicate numbers with the hands, a system practised by merchants in market halls and on quaysides since antiquity.
The Life and Times of a Tudor Mathematician
Gareth Roberts and Fenny Smith
September 2012 ISBN 9780708325261 £60 • Hardback • 216x138mm
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