448
448
Napier, John (1550-1617)
MIRIFICI LOGARITHMORUM CANONIS DESCRIPTIO, EIUSQUE USUS, IN UTRAQUE TRIGONOMETRIA, UT ETIAM IN OMNI LOGISTICA MATHEMATICA, AMPLISSIMI, FACILLIMI & EXPEDITISSIMI EXPLICATIO. EDINBURGH: ANDREW HART, 1614
Estimate
30,00040,000
LOT SOLD. 75,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT
448
Napier, John (1550-1617)
MIRIFICI LOGARITHMORUM CANONIS DESCRIPTIO, EIUSQUE USUS, IN UTRAQUE TRIGONOMETRIA, UT ETIAM IN OMNI LOGISTICA MATHEMATICA, AMPLISSIMI, FACILLIMI & EXPEDITISSIMI EXPLICATIO. EDINBURGH: ANDREW HART, 1614
Estimate
30,00040,000
LOT SOLD. 75,000 GBP
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The Erwin Tomash Library on the History of Computing

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Napier, John (1550-1617)
MIRIFICI LOGARITHMORUM CANONIS DESCRIPTIO, EIUSQUE USUS, IN UTRAQUE TRIGONOMETRIA, UT ETIAM IN OMNI LOGISTICA MATHEMATICA, AMPLISSIMI, FACILLIMI & EXPEDITISSIMI EXPLICATIO. EDINBURGH: ANDREW HART, 1614
FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, 4to (186 x 143mm.), title within woodcut border, woodcut initials and headpieces, woodcut diagrams, notes on final blank verso by Münchhausen (see provenance), contemporary vellum, modern folding black morocco box by Sangorski and Sutcliffe, small wormholes in upper corner, repaired tear at head of A2
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Provenance

Benjamin Münchhausen, inscription on title-page dated Paris, 20 October 1673; old shelfmarks "O.3.6", "Dupl. D.I.24.4", "2 Shelf 10"; William Cowan (1852-1929), bookplate, sale in these rooms, 12 May 1908, lot 457; booklabel with initials KDD & CHH (designed by Leo Wyatt, in 1975); bought from Pickering & Chatto, London, 1984

Benjamin von Munchhausen (b. 1650), a physician from Danzig, visited England in 1672 and was elected fellow of the Royal Society in April 1684 (Andreas Selling, Deutsche Gelehrten-Reisen nach England 1660-1714, 1990, pp.96, 379).

Literature

Tomash & Williams N3; Dibner, Heralds of Science 106; ESTC S110079; Macdonald, Napier p.137; PMM 116; STC 18349

Catalogue Note

"This is one of the most influential mathematical books ever published. It introduced the world to the concept of logarithms and their use. By simplifying arduous calculation, that is, by reducing multiplication and division to addition and subtraction, logarithms became the fundamental principle behind most of the methods of, and aides to, computation prior to the invention of the electronic computer. They also proved to be a fundamental component of many mathematical systems." (Tomash and Williams)

The invention of logarithms was the greatest achievement of the Scottish polymath John Napier of Merchiston: he also patented agricultural improvements, proposed new military technologies including innovations in artillery and armoured warfare, prophesied the final collapse of the Roman Catholic "anti-Christ" within the century, conducted work on alchemy, and contracted to search for hidden treasure in the grounds of a castle belonging to a knight with a reputation for outlawry and conspiracy. The Descriptio showed how the difference between arithmetical and geometrical progression could be used to simplify a vast range of calculations, and his tables (although different from later Napierian logarithmic tables) introduced the decimal place in its modern use, but it did not provide an explanation of how the tables were made. That was the central burden of the Constructio, which had been written earlier but was only published after Napier's death (see lot 451). The importance of Napier's logarithms was soon recognised by Johannes Kepler, who included a eulogistic dedicatory letter to Napier in his Ephemeris (1620), and the English mathematician Henry Briggs, who went on to develop decimal logarithms in the 1620s. The secretive Swiss instrument maker Jost Bürgi developed a form of logarithmic table independently of Napier at roughly the same time and published his own table of progressions in 1620, but his work lacks Napier's theoretical underpinning. A FINE COPY OF THE FIRST ISSUE OF A KEY WORK IN THE HISTORY OF MATHEMATICAL CALCULATION.

The Erwin Tomash Library on the History of Computing

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