NAPIER, John (1550-1617). Mirifici logarithmorum canonis descriptio. Edinburgh: Andrew Hart, 1614.
4o (194 x 143 mm). Woodcut title-page border, numerous woodcut diagrams in text. (Some very minor pale spotting.) Modern half morocco gilt. Provenance: 19th-century bibliographical notation on front flyleaf; Samuel Maynard, London (bookseller's label on title-page verso).
EXCEEDINGLY RARE FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE, PRESENTING NAPIER'S INVENTION OF LOGARITHMS. "His 'Description of the Wonderful Table of Logarithms' is unique in the history of science in that a great discovery was the result of the unaided original speculation of one individual without precursors and almost without contemporaries in his field. Napier began work on his tables in 1594, but it was twenty years before he was ready to publish them, in this thin quarto volume of ninety pages" (PMM). Napier's logarithms reduced multiplication and division to a simple process of addition and subtraction, and the extraction of roots to division. "The idea of using logarithms in mathematics was accepted almost instantly, and the slide rule, one of the most important offspring of logarithms, lasted for more than 300 years, until solid-state electronics finally replaced it" (Shurkin, p. 30). Napier's invention was immediately adopted by mathematicians both in England and on the continent, including Briggs (see lot***) and Ursinus, who introduced logarithms to Kepler.
The Norman copy is of the first issue, with m1 verso blank and pages 14-15 misnumbered 22-23, respectively. The second issue contains an "Admonitio" on M1v stating the author's intention of publishing an improved form of logarithm, and the pagination is often corrected. Dibner Heralds of Science 106; Grolier/Horblit 77a; PMM 116; Joel Shurkin, Engines of the Mind: A History of the Computer, (New York, 1984), pp. 28-31; STC 18349; Norman 1573.