Euclid, Elementa geometriae (Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 1482).


Erhard Ratdolt was apparently the first publisher of scientific and mathematical material, and this first edition of Euclid bears the first printed mathematical diagrams. These were crafted by Ratdolt himself, who was also famous for his initials and borders. It is still unclear what method he used to get these figures into the text, although he describes the pains he went to in the dedication, but there are over four hundred throughout the volume. In spite of Ratdolt’s diligence in producing the diagrams the text is not authoritative, as it relies heavily on the 13th-century Latin of Campanus, itself based on Arabic translations of the original Greek. Many classical works came to Renaissance Europe from the Middle East where they had been preserved and studied following the fall of the Roman Empire, but this did mean that there was plenty of scope for errors to enter texts, an example here being the fact that Ratdolt refers to Euclid as 'Euclid of Megara'. In fact this attribution belonged to another ancient Greek philosopher with a similar name.

Donated by Richard Pendlebury (Fellow d.1902)