27 October 2010
EUCLID -- BYRNE, Oliver (c.1810-c.1880). The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid in which coloured diagrams and symbols are used instead of letters for the greater ease of learners. London: Charles Whittingham at the Chiswick Press for William Pickering, 1847.
4° (234 x 182mm). Half-title, xxix, 268 pp. Four-line wood-engraved initials. Colour diagrams throughout printed in red, blue, yellow and black. (Very occasional faint spotting.) Contemporary calf, spine gilt with red morocco lettering-piece, marbled edges (extremities very lightly rubbed).
AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE COPY OF BYRNE'S SPECTACULAR RENDERING OF EUCLIDEAN GEOMETRY USING FOUR-COLOUR PRINTING. The stark use of primary colours was envisaged by Byrne as a teaching aid. 'Each proposition is set in Caslon italic, with a four line initial engraved on wood by Mary Byfield: the rest of the page is a unique riot of red, yellow and blue ... attaining a verve not seen again on book pages till the days of Dufy, Matisse and Derain' (McLean). Byrne's depiction of Pythagoras is a classic, with the squares being visually interpreted in vivid blocks of colour. In a technical tour-de-force, Whittingham skillfully aligned the different colour blocks for printing to produce 'One of the oddest and most beautiful books of the whole century' (McLean). A CLEAN, FRESH COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION of a book which is often found browned and spotted. 'THE MOST ATTRACTIVE EDITION OF EUCLID THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN' (Werner Oechslin, in an essay to the Taschen reprint, Cologne: 2010). Ing, Charles Whittingham Printer 46; Keynes, Pickering pp. 37, 65; McLean, Victorian Book Design p.51.
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