29 October 2013
EUCLID -- BYRNE, Oliver (ca 1810 - ca 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.
4o (233 x 185 mm). Half-title. Four-line wood-engraved initials. Color diagrams throughout printed in red, blue, yellow and black. (Some spotting as often, dampstained.) Contemporary half roan (worn). Provenance: William W. Hubbell (ownership inscription in ink dated 1851); Walter Hubbell (ownership inscription in ink dated 1881); George Edward Dimock (bookplate on front pastedown); acquired from Goodspeed's Bookshop, 1975.
BYRNE'S SPECTACULAR RENDERING OF EUCLIDEAN GEOMETRY USING FOUR-COLOR PRINTING. The stark use of primary colors 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 so in vivid blocks of colour. In a technical tour-de-force, Whittingham skillfully aligned the different color blocks for printing to produce "One of the oddest and most beautiful books of the whole century" (McLean). "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.70, illustration facing p.53.
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