

Archimedes.
Opera quae extant
Paris, Claude Morel, 1615. fQA31 .A67 L1615.
Archimedes
is widely regarded as the greatest mathematician of ancient Greece.
He lived in the Greek citystate of Syracuse on the island of Sicily
and became quite famous for his mathematical and engineering skills
and not just for running down the street naked shouting “Eureka!”
Unfortunately, many of his works did not survive over the centuries
and only a handful of them were known to exist by the time the printing
press revolution came about. Nevertheless, those few works were
enough to resurrect Archimedes’ fame and influence and they had
a great impact on the development of the scientific revolution.
The Dibner Library has a fine set of the works of Archimedes including
the 1543 incomplete works edited by Niccolò Tartaglia, the exceptional
1544 Latin & Greek edition of the Opera, quae quidem extant,
omnia edited by Thomas Venatorius, the 1558 Latin edition produced
by Federico Commandino, the 1670 German translation by Johann Sturm,
and the 1675 Latin edition produced by Isaac Barrow. The obvious
missing link here is David Rivault’s important 1615 Latin & Greek
edition of the Opera quae extant (printed in Paris by Claude
Morel) which was extremely influential as well as being a nicely
illustrated work. We now have purchased for the Library a copy of
Rivault’s edition, a work that was used by such notable mathematicians
as René Descartes (1596–1650) and Pierre de Fermat (1601–1665) and
had a major impact on the spread of Archimedes’ ideas in the 17th
century. It contains the Greek text with a Latin “trot” running
alongside and has extensive exegetical notes. It was still regarded
as the best edition in 1670 when Sturm made his translation. Mathematician,
courtier as well as man of letters, Rivault (1571–1616) was an intimate
of the great classical scholars Causabon and Scaliger. He was tutor
to the young Louis XIII but lost his job when he beat the King’s
dog for continually interrupting their lessons (good for Louis!).
Galvani,
Luigi, 17371798. Opere edite ed inedite
Bologna, E. dall'Olmo, 1841. qQC517 .G35 1841.
Luigi
Galvani is a major figure in the history of electricity due to his
research into what he called “animal electricity” which led to the
development of the electric pile, or battery, by Alessandro Volta.
Galvani studied comparative anatomy in Bologna and in the 1770s
began to do research on the effects of electrical stimulation on
the muscles of animals. He had success in getting frogs’ legs to
twitch and eventually came to the conclusion that there was a special
form of electricity that was produced in the brain and conducted
through the nerves to the muscles and organs allowing them to move
and perform their vital functions. He finally announced the results
of his work in 1791 in his publication De viribus electricitatis
in motu musculari commentarius (Commentary on the effect of
electricity on muscular motion). Galvani had some twelve special
copies of this work printed for private distribution to others and
the Dibner Library has one of these, the copy that Galvani sent
to Volta. While his colleagues accepted Galvani’s concept of animal
electricity, Volta felt differently and concluded that Galvani’s
use of dissimilar metals created the electric current that caused
the frogs’ muscles to twitch, and this led to his development of
the battery. While the Dibner Library has a number of Galvani’s
important publications, we lacked the important volume of his Opera
edite ed inedite (Bologna, 1841), an odd thing considering the
strong collection in electromagnetic works in the library. We are
happy to report that we have now obtained this posthumous collection
of his published and unpublished works and it is now happily ensconced
in our airconditioned rare book vault. Our new copy is a particularly
nice one in a wellmade contemporary binding and the paper in excellent
condition with the pages being in an uncut state and many of the
sheets are still unopened.
Alberti,
Guiseppe Antonio, 17121768. Trattato della misura delle fabbriche
Venice, Giambattista Recurti, 1757. QA465 .A43 1757.
To
add to our mathematical and engineering holdings, the Dibner Library
obtained an exceptional copy of Giuseppe Antonio Alberti’s Trattato
della misura delle fabbriche (Treatise of measurement in construction)
(Venice, 1757). Alberti was an important engineer for the Vatican
in the 18th century and in this position he had an enormous influence
on Italian civil engineers. The book is a significant work on stereometry,
which is about the measurements of the volume of various solid figures,
such as cylinders, spheres, and wine casks. In it he demonstrates
various methods for measuring and estimating the quantities and
costs of materials for various spaces and structures, including
the many intricate vaults and domes of buildings of the period.
The book is a fine example of the increasing importance of sophisticated
mathematics to the development of civil engineering.
Prony,
Riche, 17551839. Rapport sur la nouvelle et l'ancienne machines
à vapeur
Paris, Mme. Huzard, 1826. TJ464 .P76 1826.
We
have been quite active in building up the Dibner Library’s collection
of early works on steam engineering in recent years and one of our
most recent purchases is a book by Gaspard Riche who later became
Baron de Prony (1755–1839). As a student Prony came to the attention
of the great engineer Perronet, who brought Prony to Paris to be
his assistant. Over the years Prony produced several important works
including the Nouvelle architecture hydralique (1790–1796)
and the Mécanique philosophique (1800), both of which are
in the Dibner Library. Prony lived during turbulent times in France
and survived the Revolution thanks primarily to his friendship with
Lazare Carnot, the engineer and a leading member of the Committee
for General Defense, the Committee of Public Safety (1793–94) and
the Directory (1793–97). In 1794 Prony became professor of analysis
at the newly established École Polytechnique and in 1798 he also
became the director of the famed engineering school, the École des
Ponts et Chaussées, where he had graduated in 1780. In those positions
Prony helped shape and develop the curriculum for future French
engineers and became the leading engineer from 1800 to 1840. After
the restoration of the monarchy, Prony remained in favor with the
authorities and Charles X made him a baron. The work we obtained
is his late (1826) study, Rapport … sur la nouvelle et l’ancienne
machines à vapeur, établies à Paris, au GrosCaillou (Report
on the new and older steam engines established in Paris at GrosCaillou).
This report was commissioned for use in the lawsuit Lecour vs. Edwards,
wherein Edwards was being sued for providing a steam engine that
apparently did not conform to Lecour’s expectations. For this work
Prony developed in full his method for determining the work produced
by a machine. Prony provides us with the details of his interesting
experiments and calculations, so it is quite a seminal work in the
field of mechanical engineering. By the way, Prony used his method
to prove that Edwards’ machine performed beautifully but the masonry
foundation did not allow it to perform as well as it could and it
needed to be repaired and upgraded.
Ditton,
Humphry, 16751715. An institution of fluxions
London, W. Botham, 1726. QA302 .D58 1726.
The
Library’s holdings in history of mathematics and Newtoniana were
strengthened with the purchase of the second edition of Humphry
Ditton’s An institution of fluxions (1726). “Fluxions,” as
we all know, is Isaac Newton’s term for the derivatives of mathematical
functions and the “method of fluxions” is essentially what we call
the differential calculus. The first edition of this work appeared
in 1706 and was one of the first texts on differential calculus
to appear. John Clarke, an accomplished mathematician and later
Dean of Salisbury Cathedral, produced this revised, corrected, and
improved edition twenty years later. Ditton (1675–1715) was headed
for a career in the church but upon the death of his father he was
free to follow his heart and study mathematics. He came to the attention
of Newton who liked him enough to recommend him as the master of
the Royal Mathematical School at Christ’s Hospital in West Sussex.
There he would train poor boys in mathematical and scientific skills
that would prove useful in navigation and trade, and supply apprentices
to merchant and trading companies involved in the expansion of the
British Empire. As a result of his collegiality with Newton, Ditton
met William Whiston, Newton’s protégé and successor as Lucasian
professor at Cambridge (though Whiston would later be dismissed
in 1710 due to his Arian heresy). Together, the two men proposed
that Britain should establish a committee in 1714 to judge and award
a prize for whomever could determine longitude accurately at sea.
That year the Board of Longitude was established and, oddly enough,
Ditton and Whiston presented their prescient but impractical solution
to the longitude problem: set a sequence of moored lightships along
standard shipping routes and at midnight every night the lightships
would send up a rocket that would be visible for 85 miles whereby
passing ships could correct their watches and adjust their deadreckoning.
However, this method depended on the lightships having accurate
clocks and the weather being clear, among other problems, so the
Board did not think this method worthy of the prize, which was not
awarded until 1773 to John Harrison for his chronometer. Ditton
and Whiston’s method was soundly ridiculed by Jonathan Swift and
others in his Scriblerus Club and some have theorized that this
public humiliation led to poor Ditton’s untimely death the following
year.


