"THE CLEAREST AND MOST COMPREHENSIVE SYSTEM .. IN ANY LANGUAGE" (1673 - 1674)

KERSEY, John

The Elements of that Mathematical Art commonly Called Algebra, expounded in Four Books. [bound with] KERSEY, John The Third & Fourth Books of the Elements of Algebra.

Published: London: Printed by William Godbid, for Thomas Passinger ..

Date: 1673 - 1674

first edition 4to. [10], 323pp., title page printed in red and black, engraved portrait frontispiece plate ... [and] first edition 4to. [4], 416pp., title page printed in red and black, numerous woodcut figures, the two volumes bound together in modern half tan calf over thick boards (the originals?), spine panelled by gilt highlighted raised bands, panels gilt decorated or lettered and with a black morocco label gilt, marbled sides, portrait and title page a little chaffed and chipped at edges (without encroachment into the printed areas), mark from an old tape repair in their gutter margin, light foxing (mainly around the edges) throughout and occasional minor marginal water stains, minor worm trace in gutter margin of the last few gatherings. Generally a very good copy.

Note
WING K352 and K353 ESTC r35421 and r14712 Collation: vol.1: portr., pi1, b4, A-Rr4, Ss2; vol.2: [*]2, A-Fff4 Kersey (bap. 1616 - 1677), mathematician, was employed, probably in the 1630s, as tutor to Alexander and Edmund Denton, grandsons of the royalist Sir Alexander Denton, kt (1596–1645) of Hillesden House, Buckinghamshire. In the 1673 dedication of his Elements of … Algebra to his former pupils, Kersey expressed gratitude to the family which "gave both birth and nourishment to his mathematical studies"; his reference to Charles I as "of ever-blessed memory" might or might not have been from conviction. By 1650 Kersey was established in London ... as teacher of mathematics and surveyor, and had made the acquaintance of Edmund Wingate, author of Natural and Artificiall Arithmetique (2 vols., 1630). Wingate's stock of his Arithmetique was becoming exhausted, and he had sufficient confidence in Kersey's ability to ask him to revise and augment the first part of this work for reprinting as a self-contained volume. In this second edition of over 480 pages, published as Arithmetique Made Easie (1650), Kersey added a seven-chapter appendix. He "framed totally anew, the Rules of Division, Reduction … delivered the Doctrine of Fractions … newly framed the Extraction of … roots". There were eleven further editions by the end of the century, and from 1704 the work was edited by George Shelley (1666–1736) and continued to appear until 1760. This success encouraged Kersey to embark on his major work, the two-volume Elements of that Mathematical Art Commonly called Algebra (1673–4). It was ready in 1667, and his friend John Collins (1626–1683) made strenuous efforts to persuade booksellers to undertake the printing, but times were hard and paper dear. A prospectus was issued early in 1672. In May Isaac Newton (1642–1727) promised to subscribe, and by July had procured three other subscriptions from Cambridge. Richard Towneley (1629–1707) of Towneley, near Burnley, Lancashire, likewise subscribed and canvassed support. Kersey based his work mainly on English authors, including Harriot, Oughtred, John Wallis, and Isaac Barrow. Since the subject had only recently attracted attention, his list of all signs and abbreviations is especially interesting. Negative numbers he regarded as fictitious. By 1676 Collins reported that sales were good, and the book became a standard authority used by later authors, such as Edward Cocker. According to one writer, it was judged "to be the clearest, and most comprehensive system … in any language (Granger, A biographical history of England, (1769), v.2., p.363–4)" [O.D.N.B.]. The work was reissued in 1717 together with lectures on geometry by Halley

£1400

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