The Revealing Hand-Written Notes of an Early Modern Polymath
• Number of titles: 70
• Languages used: Latin
• Title list available
• MARC records are available
• Location of originals: Zentralbibliothek Zürich; Universitätsbibliothek Basel
This source edition of Gessner’s private library contains those seventy eight books that Gessner read most carefully and annotated by hand. The majority have been reproduced from the rich holdings of the Zentralbibliothek Zürich, while other important copies included in this edition are held by the University Library of Basle. The marginalia in these books are so numerous that they almost constitute a new set of sources, which are of interest not only to historians and philologists but also to those who study the history of early modern medicine and the natural sciences.
This second part of The Augustus De Morgan Collection contains 954 titles, totaling 128,750 pages, and is dominated by a large number of papers and articles by 19th-century mathematicians and scientists, many of whom were in touch with De Morgan, including Ampère, Babbage, Boole, Cayley, Cauchy, Gauss, Herschel, Lagrange, Laplace, Legendre, Libri, Poisson, Stokes and Sylvester. Several of these items were complementary offprints sent directly to him by the authors. A geometrical paper published in 1846 represents the first appearance in print of James Clerk Maxwell, then aged just fourteen, while a small pamphlet on trigonometry from 1861 was authored by the Reverend Charles Dodgson, better known to the world as Lewis Carroll. Also present are over 80 works by De Morgan himself, several of which shed further light on other items in the collection.
Although dominated by papers, pamphlets and shorter works from the 19th century, this section of the De Morgan Library also contains the substantial ‘oeuvres’ or collected works of famous mathematicians from the 17th and 18th centuries. The oldest of these is the five-volume Mathematica hypomnemata (1605-8) by the Dutch mathematician Simon Stevin, with Opera mathematica of Francois Viète (1646), Pierre de Fermat (1679) and John Wallis (1693-99), as well as Jakob (1744) and Johann Bernoulli (1742).
But the most significant item in this section of De Morgan’s library is undoubtedly a first edition of Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica (1687), which introduced Newtonian physics to the world, including the three laws of motion and the theory of universal gravitation. This section also contains several other copies of Newton’s masterpiece, including the second and third editions, as well as the first English translation (1729), and a copy of the famous French translation by Émilie du Châtelet from 1759. Also of interest to Newton scholars are De Morgan’s multiple copies of the various editions of the Commercium epistolicum (1712), the infamous Royal Society report compiled anonymously by Newton regarding his priority dispute with Leibniz over the invention of calculus. Another important work related to the early history of calculus is The analyst (1734), a controversial and influential attack on the mathematical and philosophical foundations of the subject by the philosopher George Berkeley.
Despite the bulk of this part of the collection being concerned with mathematics, it also contains a number of non-mathematical items, including The Religion of the Dutch (1680), The Massacre of Glenco [sic] (1703), and The political condition of the English peasantry during the Middle Ages (1844), all reflecting De Morgan’s strong interest in history. His interest in matters concerning weights and measures is also reflected by several items, such as a 24-page abstract of the 1825 Act of Parliament that established the Imperial system of units. But perhaps most tellingly, his fascination with mathematical bibliography is illustrated by an offprint of his own 37-page article on the subject, published in the Dublin Review in 1846, with which is included a contemporaneous letter from fellow bibliophile Anthony Panizzi, initially De Morgan’s professorial colleague at University College London, but by then the Keeper of Printed Books at the British Museum Library.
Natuurkundige Commissie Archives Online is a primary source collection. The collection title is derived from the committee sent out to explore the natural resources of Indonesia (the then Dutch East Indies) in the mid-19th century. The materials collected by the Natuurkundige Commissie voor Nederlandsch-Indië were archived at the museum that later became Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden, The Netherlands. Thanks to Metamorfoze restoration and digitization project funded by the Royal Library of the Netherlands between 2007-2012, the archive is in good condition and almost entirely digitally available here.
The collection of the Natuurkundige Commissie Archives Online consist of three parts:
1. The Verhandelingen, three magnificently typeset and illustrated volumes in which the committee’s findings were published between 1839-1847
2. Over 1500 drawings and (often stunning) illustrations
3. Over 13,500 handwritten documents, such as field books, notes, shipping lists, and correspondence
Natuurkundige Commissie Archives Online is an invaluable resource for the history of science, natural history, biodiversity, history of colonialism. On behalf of Naturalis, Brill is proud to publish this collection in Open Access.
This first part of The Augustus De Morgan Collection comprises 320 items printed before the 17th century from the library of the nineteenth-century mathematician and logician Augustus De Morgan (1806–1871), held at the Senate House Library in London. This part of the collection features books on a range of mathematical subjects, from pure geometry to astronomy to commerce. It contains works of all sizes, from two 8-page pamphlets to a 1493-page opus on trigonometry. Several books contain letters, learned annotations, or idiosyncratic illustrations, sometimes serious but often humorous.
The most famous item in this part of The Augustus De Morgan Collection is a first edition of Nicolaus Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium caelestium (1543), the groundbreaking treatise that marked the introduction of the heliocentric system of astronomy in use today. Other highlights of this collection include eleven early printed editions of Euclid’s Elements, beginning with the renowned editio princeps published in Venice by Erhard Ratdolt in 1482, and including Henry Billingsley’s English translation of 1570, with John Dee’s “very fruitfull præface”. Ten sixteenth-century copies of books by the Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde include original editions of a medical work, The Urinal of Physick (1548), The Castle of Knowledge (1556) on astronomy, and The Whetstone of Witte (1557) on algebra.
Also included are 24 incunabula, the earliest of which are two books from 1474: an early edition of Regiomontanus’ Calendarium and a copy of Paolo de Venecia’s Logica Parva, the most widely read work on logic in fifteenth-century Italy. Other early gems include Luca Pacioli’s Summa de arithmetica, geometria, proportioni et proportionalità (1494), the first comprehensive survey of mathematics ever printed, as well as the first published account of double-entry bookkeeping, several versions of Sacrobosco’s thirteenth-century Sphaera Mundi, and Johannes Widmann’s 1489 Behe[n]de und hubsche Rechenung auff allen Kauffmanschafft, a German book on commercial arithmetic containing the first printed appearance of the + and – signs.
Furthermore, the Collection showcases famous treatises, such as Ptolemy’s Almagest and William Gilbert’s De magnete, alongside obscure and little-known rarities, including several erroneous attempts to square the circle, and an extremely rare 1501 book on logic, Sum[m]ule totius logice by Jodocus Trutvetter, one of only two copies known to exist in the UK.
Noteworthy Manuscripts from the Collection
Highlights from Adrian Rice: The Whetstone of Witte (1557) by the Welsh mathematician Robert Recorde. The De Morgan Collection contains several books written by Recorde, including an original edition of his medical work, The Urinal of Physick (1548) and a book on astronomy, The Castle of Knowledge (1556). But The Whetstone of Witte is particularly noteworthy in the history of mathematics. Not only was it the first book on algebra to have been composed in English, but it also introduced Recorde’s symbol of = to represent equality. Recorde explained he had chosen two horizontal parallel lines, in his words, “bicause noe .2. thynges can be moare equalle.”
Perhaps the most famous item in this section of De Morgan’s library is a first edition of Nicolaus Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium caelestium (1543), the groundbreaking treatise that marked the introduction of the heliocentric system of astronomy in use today. The title page of De Morgan’s copy contains his handwritten remark:
“Aug. 4, 1864. I have this day entered all the corrections required by the Congregation of the Index (1620) so that any Roman [Chris]tian may read the book with a good conscience.”
An extremely rare 1501 book on logic, Sum[m]ule totius logice by the German philosopher Jodocus Trutvetter, one of only two copies known to exist in the UK.
Leonard Digges, A Geometrical Practise, Named Pantometria (London: H. Bynneman, 1571). A book of practical and theoretical geometry by a man described by the ODNB as “a key figure in the establishment of the role of the mathematical practitioner.” This item stands out among De Morgan’s books for early hand-colouring of the title page. De Morgan’s copy is inscribed as having been bought in 1584 by one John Levitt.
De Morgan Library
Almost 3,800 items on mathematics and its history, printed between 1474 and 1870, predominantly in English. Arithmetic is especially well represented, but algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, logarithms, probability, annuities, functions, astronomy and, to a far lesser extent, mechanics are all present. The collection includes multiple editions of popular or significant works, most notably Euclid’s Elements, and numerous bound pamphlets. Mathematical and astronomical landmarks jostle with obscure titles. Several items are extremely rare or, indeed, unique. De Morgan’s annotations enhance a significant minority. This is the Library’s founding collection.