Reading Mathematics in Early Modern Europe: Studies in the Production, Collection, and Use of Mathematical Books. Philip Beeley, Yelda Nasifoglu, and Benjamin Wardaugh, eds. New York, NY: Routledge, 2021. Hardcover, 348p. $160 (ISBN 978-0-367-60925-2). Ebook, 348p. $44.05 (ISBN 978-1-003-10255-7).

Lena Newman


Mathematics in print was not a good business proposition, at least not for printers in London in the seventeenth century. In his chapter, “‘A Design Inchoate’: Edward Bernard’s Planned Edition of Euclid and Its Scholarly Afterlife in Late Seventeenth-Century Oxford,” Philip Beeley details the winding path of a proposed edition of Euclid’s Elements, showing just how many hands, how many years, and how much convincing it took for a project of clear academic importance to be realized in a final, printed form. Beeley, along with Benjamin Wardaugh and Yelda Nasifoglu, is one of the editors of Reading Mathematics in Early Modern Europe: Studies in the Production, Collection, and Use of Mathematical Books, an engrossing new book published last year by Routledge. The editors write, “By defining and illuminating the distinctive world of early modern mathematical reading, this volume seeks to close the gap between the history of mathematics as a history of texts and history of mathematics as part of the broader history of human culture” (i)—an ambitious academic project, and one that is realized quite successfully here. Each of the 11 chapters in the book is an essay that supports that argument from a different angle. Some focus on the history of specific mathematical concepts and on their textual transmission, and evolution, over time. Others zoom in on historic figures in the field and the textual artifacts they left behind. All of the chapters engage with the transmission of mathematics at the material level in some way and are grounded in the analysis of early modern texts, diagrams, and the material evidence of readers’ interactions with them.

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