Mar 16

The first printed edition of Euclid's Elements

1482, the 1st printed Elements of Euclid

I have been lucky enough to explore at leisure, two editions of the first printed Euclid.

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Here I am pointing to the Latin definition of multiplication. It wasn't that accurate, as it was derived from an earlier Latin translation from Arabic sources.

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Note how the definitions aren't numbered. That was done much later to make them simpler to cite. Some even suggest Euclid's original Elements didn't contain any definitions and they were included later to help people understand the propositions and proofs

Each edition of Euclid's Elements was hand colored according to the wishes of the purchaser/investor. Books were for the wealthy in 1482! Here you can see two different designs side-by-side. My laptop computer appears in the background top left. The spreadsheet showing the green and yellow has over fifty versions of Euclid's definition of multiplication, spanning 16 languages. Having the Latin definition of multiplication on display in digital form made it easier to locate the printed Latin definition of multiplication from 1482.


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I also introduced the 1482 edition of Euclid's Elements to Heiberg's edition from the 1880s. Together, that's 400 years of history.


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Further below is another 1482 edition of Euclid's Elements I've enjoyed. Note how this edition wasn't customised with special colors for the buyer.

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The author holding a 1482 edition of Euclid's Elements, before it was placed on the pillow for a photo session.

See also, Isaac Barrow's pocket sized edition of Euclid's Elements from 1659, also from the State Library of Victoria.

I thank the staff at the State Library of Victoria, Melbourne, and the Fisher Library of the University of Sydney for making these rare books available to me to review and photograph.

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