Lot 1572
  • 1572

Pacioli, Luca (c. 1445-1517).

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  • Pacioli, Luca (c. 1445-1517).
Somma di aritmetica geometria proporzioni e proporzionalita. Venice: Paganinus de Paganinis, 10-20 November 1494


The work is dedicated to Guidubaldo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino (1472-1508), and in this magnificent copy the 12-line initial C on f.2 and the 10-line Q on f.3 are handsomely painted and heightened in gold (see illustrations), the first with the arms of Guidubaldo lettered "G.D." (Guidubaldus Dux) and the second lettered "G.V.D." (Guidubaldus Vrbinatis Dux), with a picture of a Franciscan (Pacioli) presenting a book to the Duke, who in the Latin dedication is termed "Grecis Latinisque litteris ornatissimum: & mathematice discipline cultorem ferventissimum".

Guidubaldo was the son of the first duke of Urbino, Federigo da Montefeltro, and the husband of Elisabetta Gonzaga. His brilliant court is described most famously in the pages of Castiglione, but he is well-known as the patron of writers and of painters - Raphael, who was from Urbino, painted him, and a picture of St George by Raphael was sent to England in 1504 to Henry VIII, who had conferred the Garter on Guidubaldo. It was Castiglione who acted as ambassador on this occasion. (This picture, sold amongst the effects of Charles I by the Roundheads, is now in the Louvre.)

The Montefeltro library at Urbino was famous, as were the interests of the dukes: as Montaigne remarked on visiting Urbino in 1581, "Ils sont de père en fils tous gens de lettres, et ont en ce palis une belle librairie". In an age when libraries could be built up by one individual and then quickly dispersed, the remarkable assemblage of books begun by Duke Federigo, which famously included many manuscripts from Vespasiano da Bisticci and others from Cardinal Bessarion, but also had printed books, continued to grow during the reign of his son, and more remarkably has survived, albeit not in Urbino. Federigo had a librarian, and the librarian even had an assistant. Most of the texts were in Latin, but some were in Greek, and Guidubaldo received an education in both classical languages.

In 1502-1504 and again in the four years after 1516 under Guidubaldo's successor, Francesco Maria I della Rovere, the library was damaged by warfare, and manuscripts were pilfered. The library was packed up and removed to Forlì, and when recovered by Guidubaldo was found to lack some manuscripts, which, in some cases at least, were replaced by printed books.

The last duke of Urbino was Francesco Maria II della Rovere, himself a scholar, and when he died in 1631 the library contained eighteen hundred or so manuscripts and thousands of printed books. At his death sine prole the fief reverted to the Pope and in accordance with the last duke's will, the library was divided between the city of Urbino (manuscripts) and Castel Durante, another ducal palace, which was to have the printed books. In 1658 the manuscripts were removed to Rome by Pope Alexander VII, and were added to the Vatican library. In 1666 the printed books too were taken to Rome to form the Biblioteca Alessandrina. Both these groups are still in Rome. 

How this volume came into the Macclesfield Library is not determinable: there is no later indication of provenance, and the binding is English and of the eighteenth century.


HC (+ Add) 4105; BMC v 457; Klebs 718.1; Goff L315; Smith p. 54; Riccardi ii, 226; Sander 5367; Goldsmiths 5; Ivo Schneider, "The market place and games of chance in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries" in C. Hay (editor), Mathematics from manuscript to print 1300-1600 (Oxford, 1988), pp. 220-235

Catalogue Note

the dedication copy of the first printed book on algebra and one of the most famous of such. "Pacioli's prominence in the mathematical literature is undisputed..." (Ivo Schneider, op. cit., p. 230).