Elementa in artem geometriae (Latin, translated by Aelard of Bath, edited and with commentary by Campanus of Novara). Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 25 May 1482
Chancery folio (10 7/8 x 8 1/8 in.; 276 × 206 mm). Types 7:92G (Preface and Propositions), 3:92G (Proofs), 6:56G (Diagrams), 7B:100R (Headlines: capitals only), fine white-on–black ornamental woodcut initials; three-part white-on-black woodcut border (a2r); more than 500 typemetal marginal diagrams; red printing (heading, a2r). collation: a10 b–r8 : 137 leaves, lacking only blank r8. Some soiling to first few leaves, marginal diagrams slightly shaved on a few leaves, few very small wormholes on last few leaves, small paper repair with loss of 7 letters on A1. Full red morocco gilt, spine gilt in 6 compartments, edges gilt; spine laid down, some rubbing at extremities. Half-morocco drop-box.
Pierpont Morgan Library (red morocco gilt bookplate, accession number 23234 on verso of A1; sold in the sale of Morgan Library duplicates, Sotheby’s London, 8 June 1971, lot 11)
Goff E-113; Hain-Copinger 6693*; GW 9428; BMCV 285 (IB.20513); Klebs 383.1; Redgrave 26; Thomas-Stanford 1A; PMM 25; Dibner Heralds of Science 100; Grolier/Horblit 27
first edition of the "medieval euclid." Campanus’s recension of the Elements, whose earliest witness is a manuscript dated 1259, became the standard version of the high and late Middle Ages. It was based on but enlarged from the translation from the Arabic made by Adelard of Bath about one hundred twenty years earlier, the so-called Adelard version II. Campanus’s recension continued to be printed at least as late as 1558. Its textual history both in manuscript and print remains to be closely studied, and there is no modern edition. Books I–XIII are the Elementa proper; book XIV is the supplement of Hypsicles of Alexandria (2nd century b.c.) and XV the supplement assigned to the school of Isidore of Miletos, architect of Hagia Sophia (6th century a.d.). Goff, GW, and most of the other standard incunable literature have given to Campanus an apocryphal forename, Johannes.
Ratdolt’s Euclid was the first substantial mathematical work to be printed, and is one of his technically most advanced and accomplished productions. His dedication to the doge of Venice expresses his amazement that hitherto no major work of mathematics had been printed in Venice, the reason being the difficulty of supplying the diagrams without which much of mathematics, and especially geometry, can hardly be understood. He points out that, by his own invention, he has been able to remedy this, so that diagrams can now be printed "as easily as letters." These diagrams have traditionally been identified as woodcuts (BMC, GW), but it seems much more probable that they were in fact cast in typemetal.
Euclid’s Elements is the only writing of classical antiquity to have a continuous history of textbook use from the pre-Christian era to the twentieth century. Sir Thomas Heath, editor of the standard modern edition, remarked, "No work presumably, except the bible, has had such a reign; and future generations will come back to it again and again as they tire of the variegated substitutes for it, and the confusion arising from their bewildering multiplicity."
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