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EUCLID (fl. c. 300 B.C.) The Elements of Geometrie. Translated into English by Sir Henry Billingsley (d. 1606), with a preface by John Dee (1527-1608). London: John Day, 1570.
EUCLID (fl. c. 300 B.C.) The Elements of Geometrie. Translated into English by Sir Henry Billingsley (d. 1606), with a preface by John Dee (1527-1608). London: John Day, 1570.

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EUCLID (fl. c. 300 B.C.) The Elements of Geometrie. Translated into English by Sir Henry Billingsley (d. 1606), with a preface by John Dee (1527-1608). London: John Day, 1570.

2° (298 x 206mm). Title within an allegorical woodcut border, showing Time bringing Truth and Antiquity to light [McKerrow & Ferguson 99], folding letterpress 'Groundplat' or table accompanying John Dee's preface, geometrical diagrams throughout, 37 in Book XI with one or more overslips, woodcut initials and ornaments, and portrait of John Day at end. (Short marginal tear in title, first leaves repaired at hinge, light dampstaining.) 19th-century English calf panelled in blind, red sprinkled edges (rebacked, lightly scuffed). Provenance: Joh. Symoson (contemporary inscriptions) -- 'P.S.' (initials in gold on title and last page) -- contemporary annotations in several hands, primarily in Dee's preface (a little trimmed) -- Matthew Staner, 1673, 40 sh (title inscription) -- Peter Pett (possibly lawyer and author, d.1699, founding fellow of the Royal Society, friend of Pepys; title inscription) -- inscription erased from front pastedown -- Strickland Freeman, Fawley Court, Bucks., 1810 (engraved armorial bookplate).

FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST COMPLETE ENGLISH TRANSLATION. The first 'intrusion' of Euclidean theory into English occurs in Robert Recorde's The Pathway to Knowledge (London, 1551), for its application to surveying, land measuring, and building. This full translation by Sir Henry Billingsley, a successful London merchant who later became Lord Mayor, relied on the achievements of two earlier editors, Campanus and Zamberti, and benefitted from the involvement of the Elizabethan mathematician and magus, John Dee. His 'Mathematicall Preface' is considered Dee's most important published work. It sets out practical uses, foreshadows experimental science of the next century, and hints at magic and the supernatural. Dee also contributed many annotations and additional theorems to the work. Printing such a large and complex work with its folding overlays was a monumental task and the printer John Day is commemorated by his portrait at the end and possibly as the bearded figure of Mercury at the foot of the title-page. The overslips were originally printed as six bifolia bound in at the end. Taylor, Mathematical Practioners, 41; Thomas-Stanford 41; STC 10560.

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