Both as a canonical mathematical text and as a representative of ancient thought, Euclid’s Elements of Geometry has been a subject of study since its creation c. 300 BCE. It has been read as a practical and a theoretical text; it has been studied for its philosophical ramifications and for its perceived potential to inculcate logical thought. For the historian, it is where the history of mathematics meets the history of ideas; where the history of the book meets the history of practice. The study of the Elements enjoyed a particular resurgence during the Early Modern period, when around 200 editions of the text appeared between 1482 and 1700. Depending on their theoretical and practical functions, they ranged between elaborate folios and pocket-size compendia, and were widely studied by scholars, natural philosophers, mathematical practitioners, and schoolchildren alike.
In this talk, I will present some of the preliminary results of the research we have been conducting for the AHRC-funded project based at the History Faculty ‘Reading Euclid: Euclid’s Elements of Geometry in Early Modern Britain’, paying particular attention to how the books were printed, collected, and annotated. I will concentrate on our methodologies and introduce the database we have been building of all the early modern copies of the text in the British Isles, as well as the ‘catalogue of book catalogues’.