The Elements of Geometrie of the most auncient Philosopher Euclide of Megara
Euclid’s Elements of Geometry is a foundational book of mathematics. It teaches the reader what the ancient Greeks discovered about geometry following the logical and systematically sequential process that is the scientific method of mathematics: state axioms, posit theorems, and prove them using only the axioms and previously proved theorems. Knowledge of mathematics and use of its rigorous methods provide the means to advance science in a wide range of fields.
John Dee (1527–1608), one of the uniquely remarkable figures in Elizabethan England, made this point abundantly clear in his mathematical preface to Elements of Geometry, printed by John Day in 1570. Englishmen must learn mathematics to master fields as diverse as navigation, hydrology, architecture, geography, music, astronomy, perspective in art, and astrology. Dee’s voice was heeded. Englishmen about that time and soon after began to make significant improvements, for example, in the art of navigation.
As a notable mathematician, Dee contributed to English advances in navigation and provided practical advice to English navigators. He also was the first to use the term “British Empire” in envisioning the nation’s destiny. Dee assembled the largest library in England, and he was science consultant to Queen Elizabeth as well as her personal astrologer. With his personal interest in alchemy, divination, and Hermetic philosophy, Dee is thought by many to be Shakespeare’s model for Prospero in The Tempest.
Henry Billingsley, an accomplished mathematician and Greek scholar, was responsible for the translation. He was also a prominent political figure, later serving as mayor of London (1596). John Day is considered to be the finest printer in England at the time, and one singularly capable of taking on the large and complex task of printing Euclid. Another of his works was publication of the first edition of John Foxe’s massive Acts and Monuments. The many complex figures in the Elements of Geometry are well integrated with the text—including the use in some thirty-five diagrams of pasted-in paper overslips that unfold to illustrate concepts in solid geometry.
The present copy includes all of the overslips and the large fold-out table in Dee’s preface illustrating the areas of science that depend on knowledge of mathematics.
Chrzanowski 1570e *