Hamish Riley-Smith

Rare Books And Manuscripts

Thomas Masterson

Arithmeticke 1592-1595 First edition

Elizabethan merchant's arithmetic

His First Booke of Arithmeticke. Shewing the ingenious inuentions, and figuratiue operations, by which to calculate the true solution or answeres of Arithmeticall questions: after a more perfect, plaine, briefe, well ordered Arithmeticall way, than any other heretofore published: verie necessarie for all men. [with] His Second Booke of Arithmeticke. [with] His Addition to his First Booke of Arithmeticke. [with] His Third Booke of Arithmeticke.

London, Richard Field 1592, 1592, 1594, 1595

Quarto, four parts in one volume, contemporary calf, 18.0 x 13.2 cm, blind ruled, rubbed and worn, spine with four raised bands, (2) + 21pp; (3) + 43pp + 36-95pp + 94-141pp + (1p) errata; (6) + 108pp; (3) + 68pp, without the first blank and A3 in the First Booke, without the title to the Third Booke, titles with woodcut coat of arms, woodcut initials and devices to chapter endings, mathematical diagrams and tables, some light browning and old water staining, some early ink ownership annotations on the front blanks and on the blank recto of the title to the Addition, some ink annotations in a few margins and especially in the First Booke pp.4,6, 7,8.

Provenance: Ffrancis Pearce [see pp.57,58 3rd Book]; Walter Thompson of St Martin’s Le Grand within Allowsgate; James Thompson died 1684; Francis Thompson; Ffrancis Thompson 1673 Rector of St Matthews, Ffrgday Street, & St Peter’s Cheap, London; [recto of title Addition to First Booke] Mr Sutton, St Mary Overy 1673 [front blank]

Rare. STC, 17648, 17648.3, 17648.7. Smith, Rara Arithmetica, pp.400-403.

First edition of this rare Elizabethan merchant’s arithmetic and text-book. Thomas Masterson was an English mathematician of the latter part of the 16th century, of whom little is known. The First Book is dedicated to Robert Devreux, Earl of Essex [1566-1601], the last of Queen Elizabeth’s favourites and friend of Francis and Anthony Bacon, intrigued with James VI of Scotland to support a rising against the Queen with Shakespeare’s patron the Earl of Southampton as an accomplice. He was seized, sent to the tower and beheaded. The Second Book is dedicated to Sir William Webbe, Lord Mayor of London [in 1591] and the Third Book to Sir John Puckering, Lord Keeper of the Great Seal of England and formerly Speaker of the House of Commons. In the dedication to the first book Masterson writes I have vndertaken to write and publish sixe bookes of the Arte of Aithmeticke, of which only three and the additions ever came to print.
The short First Book covers numeration, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions with examples. The long Second Booke is a collection of practical problems representing the mercantile activities of London at the end of the 16th century. The author describes this Second Book on the title as profitable to those which are giuen to marchants, then to others and in ‘To the Reader’ Masterson states I have placed needful questions, applied to paying, receiuing, buying, selling, bartering, mixtions, exchanges, companies, interests, &c, with the artificiall order of working, to find the things in them required…
Masterson explains in ‘To the Reader’ in the Addition to the First Book that I have made this addition unto my said first booke, containing not only a plaine exposition of the same from point to point, but also a large declaration how the questions propounded in my aforesaid second booke, may be answered by the said first booke many different wayes, comprehending therein in amanner, how all the notable briefe operations are wrought in my said first and second bookes: all after so plaine and easie method, that thou shalt need no other teacher to understand the same.
In the Third Book Masterson states thou hast the definitions with their declarations, and the instructions with their examples, that are expedient and needful to be ha and perfectly knowen, for the further attaining to the true vnderstanding of this Art.
The few similar earlier writers in English in the 16th century and their books were Robert Recorde’s The Ground of Artes 1542, The Castle of Knowledge 1551, The Whetstone of Witte 1557; Humphrey Baker’s The Well Spring of Sciences 1562, Leonard and Thomas Digges’s Pantometria 1571, Stratioticos 1572, Dionis Gray’s The store-house of Breuitie in woorkes of Arithmeticke 1577 and Thomas Hylles’s The Arte of vulgar arithmeticke 1592.


Thomas Masterson - Arithmeticke 1592-1595 First edition
Thomas Masterson - Arithmeticke 1592-1595 First edition

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