First Edition of the First Complete English Translation, With All Thirty-Seven Geometric Figures with Overslips
EUCLID. Elements of Geometrie. Faithfully (now first) translated in the Englishe toung, by H. Billingsley, Citizen of London. Whereunto are annexed certaine Scholies, Annotations, and Inventions, of the best Mathematiciens, both of time past, and in this our age. With a very fruitfull Præface made by M. I. Dee, specifying the chiefe Mathematicall Scie[n]ces, what they are, and wherunto commodious: where, also, are disclosed certaine new Secrets Mathematicall and Mechanicall, untill these our daies, greatly missed. London: Imprinted...by John Daye , 1570.
First edition of the first complete English translation of Euclid’s Elementa (first published in Venice in 1482 by Erhard Ratdolt), and with all thirty-seven geometric figures with overslips, some figures with multiple overslips Folio (11 3/4 x 8 1/4 inches; 297 x 210 mm). [28], 203, 205-464, [1, colophon and portrait] leaves (number 204 omitted in foliation) and with the folding letterpress “Groundplat” or table accompanying John Dee’s preface. Title within allegorical woodcut border (McKerrow and Ferguson 99) showing, at top, Time bringing Truth and Antiquity to light, and with the figures of Ptolomeus, Marinus, Aratus, Strabo, Hipparchus, Polibius, Geometria, Astronomia, Arithmetica, and Musica on the sides, and Mercurius at the bottom. Woodcut geometrical diagrams throughout, with a total thirty-seven with overslips in Book XI. Some of these 37 figures have multiple overslips. Woodcut portrait of John Day on colophon leaf. Decorative woodcut head- and tail-pieces and initials. The overslips were originally printed as six bifolia bound in at the end (and are often found defective or lacking).

Contemporary full brown calf neatly rebacked to style with early red morocco spine label, lettered in gilt. Ruled in blind on front boards. Board edges ruled in gilt. Some minor marginal, dampstaining and light soiling. A tiny wormhole ot outer margin, only occasionally touching text, mainly marginal notes. some minor marginalia. Boards with a few scuffs and scratches. Overall, an excellent copy, very clean overall and on strong paper.

“Euclid’s ‘Elements of Geometry’ is the oldest mathematical textbook in the world still in common use today. Its author was a Greek mathematician living about 300 B.C. who founded a mathematical school in Alexandria in the reign of Ptolemy I. The ‘Elements’ is a compilation of all earlier Greek mathematical knowledge since Pythagoras, organized into a consistent system so that each theorem follows logically from its predecessor; and in this simplicity lies the secret of its success. Of the thirteen books into which it is divided, nos. 1 to 4 are on plane geometry; 5 and 6 on the theory of proportion due to Eudoxus and its application; 7 to 9 on the properties of numbers; 10 on irrational quantities; 11 to 13 on solid geometry culminating in the proof that there are only five regular solids; books 14 and 15 were added later but are not by Euclid...The ‘Elements’ remained the common school textbook of geometry for hundreds of years and about one thousand editions and translations have been published” (Printing and the Mind of Man 25, citing the 1482 first edition).

This first English Euclid is the result of a collaboration between the haberdasher Henry Billingsley and the occultist, mathematician, alderman and traveler John Dee. Due to Dee’s erudition in things arithmetical, it had been presumed that Dee was responsible for the translation of Euclid, as well as the preface, here offered. It now seems certain that Billingsley must be given full credit for the translation. Billingsley studied at both Oxford and Cambridge but earned a degree at neither (common at the time). Billingsley’s subsequent career career was chiefly mercantile, though he ultimately became Lord Mayor of London (1597) and a Member of Parliament for the City (1603). Dr. Dee was England’s great alchemist.

Honeyman 1008. Horblit Library 342. STC 10560. Thomas-Stanford 41.

HBS # 68270 $95,000