Skip to main content

David Loggan, Cantabrigia illustrata (Cambridge, 1690).

Originally from Gdansk, David Loggan (1635-1700?) moved to England in the middle of the 17th century and became engraver to Oxford University, and subsequently to Cambridge University. He produced two volumes of architectural engravings, showing views of the colleges of the Universities, Oxonia illustrata and Cantabrigia illustrata.

Diophantus, Arithmetica (Toulouse: Bernard Bosc, 1670).

When reviewing his copy of Diophantus in 1637, Pierre de Fermat wrote his famous 'Last Theorem' in the margin, together with a note to the effect that he had discovered a proof that was too lengthy to fit in the margin. When his son Samuel published this edition of Diophantus he incorporated all of his father’s marginal notes in the text. This was just as well as the original was eventually lost, so the statement reproduced here is the earliest extant expression of the theorem.

Robert Hooke, Micrographia (London, 1665).

Hooke (1635-1702) made many contributions to 17th century science but Micrographia was his masterpiece. Although not the first publication of microscopical observations, it was the first great work devoted to them, and its impact rivaled that of Galileo's Sidereus nuncius half a century earlier. For the first time descriptions of microscopical observations were accompanied by profuse illustrations. Above all, the book suggested what the microscope could do for the biological sciences.

Inigo Jones, The most notable antiquity of Great Britain, vulgarly called Stone-Heng on Salisbury plain (London, 1655).

In this posthumous publication an argument put forward by Inigo Jones was reconstructed from notes he had made when surveying the monument at the personal request of James I. The conclusion that Stonehenge was not built by the ancient Britons, but was, in fact, a Roman temple of the Tuscan order to the sky god Coelus, seems rather more like a justification for Jones’s introduction of neo-classical architectural principles to Britain, than a considered appraisal of the site itself.

Edward Benlowes, Theophila, or, Loves sacrifice (London, 1652).

The poet Edward Benlowes often lavished gifts of books on his protégés and on his old college. This volume is Benlowes's own copy of his major poetical work, Theophila, which describes the soul's longing for and eventual union with God.

A true & faithful relation of what passed for many yeers between Dr John Dee ... and some spirits (London, 1659).

John Dee was, and remains, one of the College's most infamous and intriguing alumni. He proceeded BA from St John’s in 1545 and became a Fellow of the College before moving to Trinity as one of its original Fellows in 1546. A polymath and humanist who wrote over 80 scholarly works and was involved in calendar reform, providing medical and legal advice to Elizabeth I, describing comets and drawing up geographical descriptions of newly explored territories, he is also remembered for practising astrology and communicating with spirits.

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (London: Andrew Crooke, 1651).

The frontispiece to a work could act as a guide to the subject matter and argument of a volume, and the best might achieve a succinctness and impact that the text itself might lack. That to Thomas Hobbes’s major work on political theory is a prime example.

Jacob Colom, L'ardante ou flamboyante colom de la mer (Amsterdam, 1644).

The north coast of Britain as seen through the eyes of a Dutch pilot, from a book of navigational charts produced by Jacob Aertsz Colom. It is possible to pick out Hartlepool and Sunderland on the diagram below, as well as Scarborough and Whitby. Colom was struggling to assert his own business against the monopoly that W.J. Blaeu held in the Dutch market for printed maps, and was not against using a cheap pun to do so.

Joannes de Laet, L'histoire du Nouveau Monde, ou, Description des Indes Occidentales (Leiden: Elzevir, 1640).

Detail from a French translation of Beschrijvinghe van West-Indien, a description of North and South America full of charts, and botanical, zoological and ethnographical illustrations originally published in 1630. One of the charts was the first to show New York, which was founded in 1626, under the original name of New Amsterdam. The book was written by Joannes de Laet who was director of the Dutch West India Company.

The booke of common prayer (Edinburgh: Robert Young, 1637).

The title page of Archbishop Laud's edition of the Book of common prayer, the introduction of which into the Scottish church started a chain of events which helped precipitate the Civil Wars of the 17th century.

Subscribe to