Henry Briggs.

Published by London: William Jones, 1624
Condition: Very Good Hardcover
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Briggs, Henry. ARITHMETICA LOGARITHMICA SIVE LOGARITHMORUM CHILIADES TRIGINTA. London: William Jones, 1624. Very good in worn contemporary calf. The text is in remarkably nice condition, complete, and without markings, with almost no foxing and just minor traces of dampness, somewhat more so on the few final leaves. The second free endpaper has an ownership inscription dated 1835, and below, an ownership name crossed out in ink. There are 96 pages of Latin text followed by 300 pages (unpaginated) of Briggs’ logarithm tables. The preliminary matter consists of the title page, verso blank (with an early ownership monogram, “J:J.”,) a two-page dedication, a two-page note to the reader, and one page of errata, verso blank. The following 88 pages are divided into thirty-two short chapters, with many engraved diagrams, covering topics which range from the initial definition of the logarithm, the reason for the choice of 0 as the logarithm of 1, methods for the computation of logarithms, followed by the use of logarithms in solving various geometric problems, and the final chapter discussing the five Platonic solids. Briggs was one of the two greatest English mathematicians of his day and became the first professor of geometry at Gresham College, London, in 1596 at the time of its founding. He was studying ellipses due to his interested in astronomy and was immediately excited by the first reports of Napier’s development of logarithms because of the short-cuts in tedious computation that they promised. He visited Napier in Scotland and together they discussed ways of improving the calculation of the logarithms and the advantages of establishing 0 as the logarithm of 1. Brigg’s first work on logarithm Logarithmorum Chilias Prima was published in London in 1617 shortly after Napier’s death. His next work, this extensive mathematical treatise, with the table of logarithms of the integers from 1 to 20,000 and from 90,001 to 100,000, computed to 14 decimal places, became widely known throughout Europe and was the primary means for the spread of this powerful computational technique and found still to be serviceable for hundreds of years following its publication. It is astonishing to realize that a book containing over one million hand set numerical digits could have been published early in the 17th century. A number of Briggs’ letters survive as do some contemporary references which refer to him as “the mirror of the age for excellent skill in geometry” and “that he was a man of amiable character.” We are indebted to the recent translation of Arithmetica Logarithmica into English, with annotations, by Ian Bruce of the University of Adelaide which is available on the Internet. Bruce points out in his General Note on the Translation that although Briggs’ mathematics was profoundly advanced for his time, its presentation can be difficult for the modern reader because “there was a very limited mathematical frame-work for new ideas outside classical Greek geometry” and that algebraic notation was not available to Briggs in the early 1620s so that he was forced into “laboured attempts” to describe his operations with numbers by use of words and with tables of figures. The publication date of this folio is also notable, as it follows by just one year the ‘First Folio’ of Shakespeare’s plays, and, in fact, Briggs’s life (1561-1630) is almost coextensive with Shakespeare’s (1564-1616.) Because of the complexities required in the printing of the logarithm tables, it is very likely that the work of printing this folio would have begun in the year 1623 or even before. Thus the two folios can then be seen as an interesting pairing, representing peaks of both humanistic and mathematical achievement to mark a singular moment of English intellectual history. [Norman, OOC 2]. Bookseller Inventory # COB090007

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Bibliographic Details


Publisher: London: William Jones

Publication Date: 1624

Binding: Hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good

Edition: 1st Edition

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