Lot 289
Sold for £4,780 (US$ 8,034) inc. premium
Lot Details
Autograph draft of a letter signed (“John Wallis”), headed “For Mr Samuel Morland at Leyden”, hoping he received his letter enclosing “Des Cartes´s Algebra” and asking for his help in publishing his works in Holland (“...I have heretofore published divers Treatises in Mathematicks severally. Some of them small pieces, & likely inough to be lost. And most of them out of print, & not to be bought. I have been desired by some, (& I am not averse to it,) to have them all reprinted together in my life time, rather than to have them done imperfectly afterwards, as Posthumous works use to be. which may be done in two midling Volumes in Folio. And some that have been printed in English (especially my last Treatise of Algebra) put into Latine, for the benefit of forraigners, who do not understand English. Now because I find that books of such-nature are more readyly undertaken & better done in Holland, than in England (where our Printers & Book-sellers do more affect English Books,)...I desire you will please to discourse it with some of the Printers or Book sellers at Leydon or Amsterdam...”), and asking him to inquire into terms, adding that “I think, by this time my name is so well known in the World, that they need not much fear but that the books will in a reasonable time be sold off”; together on the verso with an autograph draft of a letter signed (“John Wallis”), “To Mr Thomas Salmon, at the Lord Commissioner Mainards house in Lincolns Inne fields London”, asking him to forward the letter to Morland; both texts containing revisions and written respectively on the recto and verso of one sheet from a stationer´s ‘foul paper´ bifolium with the right-hand edge untrimmed, two pages, folio, very minor staining at left-hand edge, guard, but overall in fine and original condition, 30 May 1689

“TO HAVE THEM ALL REPRINTED TOGETHER IN MY LIFETIME”: JOHN WALLIS ON PUBLISHING HIS COLLECTED WORKS. In the event, they were not to be published in Holland – for long the natural place for such an undertaking – but at Oxford, where Dr Fell had recently revivified the University Press. Oxford issued three volumes of the Opera mathematica, in 1693 (vol.ii), 1695 (vol.i) and 1699 (vol.iii). The same press is currently issuing The Correspondence of John Wallis, the first volume of which, covering the years 1641-59, and edited by Philip Beeley and Christoph J. Scriba, appeared in 2003. The recipient of the main letter would appear to be the son and namesake of Wallis´s fellow mathematician and parliamentarian cryptographer, the inventor Sir Samuel Morland. The recipient of the forwarding letter can be identified as the musicologist Thomas Salmon, advocate of the modern octave system, who in 1688 issued a work on temperament, A Proposal to Perform Music in Perfect and Mathematical Proportions, to which Wallis contributed; Salmon´s address as that of the Lord Commissioner of the Great Seal, Sir John Maynard. American Book Prices Current lists no letter by Wallis having been sold at auction, although a series of eight were included among the Trumbull Papers, now in the British Library (see the Sotheby´s catalogue, 14 December 1989, p.141, for an illustration of Wallis´s hand).
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