EUCLID. Fl. 300 B.C. Elementa geometriae. Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, May 25, 1482.
Lot 2004
EUCLID. Fl. 300 B.C. Elementa geometriae. Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, May 25, 1482.
Sold for US$ 61,000 inc. premium
Auction Details
EUCLID. Fl. 300 B.C. Elementa geometriae. Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, May 25, 1482.
Lot Details
EUCLID. Fl. 300 B.C.
Elementa geometriae. Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, May 25, 1482. Translated by Adelard of Bath. Edited and with commentary by Campanus of Novara. 136 (of 138) leaves. a10 b-r8 (lacking a1 blank on recto and with printer's address on verso and r8 blank). Incipit leaf with headline printed in red and a three-quarters woodcut vine border. Over 500 woodcut or typemetal shoulder diagrams, 11- and 5-line woodcut vine initials. Folio (293 x 215 mm). Early leather-backed vellum remboitage, manuscript titling to tail-edge. Dampstained, a2 wormed with loss of approximately a dozen words and just touching a shoulder diagram, a2r clumsily reinforced with paper pasted over most of the border and nearly a third of the text, small tear to a3 with loss of a couple of letters, marginal wormhole to first 3 leaves and somewhat from quire p to end, reinforcements at gutter margin in quire r, just touching letters and with associated short closed tears on 2 final leaves, marginal soiling to l7r, binding worn and soiled, starting to come loose.

First edition of Euclid's geometry, the first substantial mathematical work to be printed. The Elements "exercised an influence upon the human mind greater than that of any other work except the Bible" (DSB). Euclid was known in antiquity simply as "the Writer of the Elements." His work was a magisterial compilation of mathematical knowledge to date, including his proof of the Pythagorean theorem (Book I, proposition 47). Books I-XIII are accepted as genuine; Book XIV is attributed to Hypsicles and Book XV to Isidorus Milesius.
Ratdolt's Euclid is one of the most technically ambitious of all Venetian incunables. It is widely acknowledged as a tour-de-force of Renaissance printing, a masterpiece of typographical ingenuity. It yet remains a matter of some bibliographic debate whether the diagrams were achieved with woodcuts or metalcuts. Bühler noted a stop-press correction on o8r; the present copy has the corrected version. In need of cleaning and rebinding, but unpressed and notably well-margined, without shaving to the all-important diagrams. See Curt Bühler in Gutenberg Jahrbuch 1966, pp 102ff; HC *6693; Goff E113; GW 9428; Norman 729; PMM 25.
Provenance: about two dozen lines of early manuscript marginalia primarily in Books II-III; unidentified shelf label "425" on c1r.
See illustration.
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