Essays on Early Medieval Mathematics: The Latin Tradition, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Essays on Early Medieval Mathematics

The Latin Tradition, 1st Edition

By Menso Folkerts


382 pages

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Hardback: 9780860788959
pub: 2003-05-12
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This book deals with the mathematics of the medieval West between ca. 500 and 1100, the period before the translations from Arabic and Greek had their impact. Four of the studies appear for the first time in English. Among the topics treated are: the Roman surveyors (agrimensores); recreational mathematics in the period of Bede and Alcuin; geometrical texts compiled in Corbie and Lorraine from Latin sources from late antiquity; the abacus at the time of Gerbert (pope Sylvester II.); and a board-game invented in the first half of the 11th century (the 'Rithmimachia') to help people to learn mathematics. Included in the volume are critical editions of several texts, e.g. that of Franco of Liège on squaring the circle, Bede and Alcuin on recreational mathematics, and part of Pseudo-Boethius' Geometry I. The book opens with a survey of mathematics in the Middle Ages, and ends with a history of Rithmimachia up to the 17th century, when the game fell into disuse.


'… this book is worth having in your library… includes editions and translations […] of important historical sources… libraries that aim to have a good collection in the history of mathematics should have this one.' Mathematical Association of America on-line 'This book is a welcome addition to the Ashgate Collected Studies series, providing as it does an overview of mathematical texts written in Latin between the eighth and eleventh centuries.' British Journal for the History of Science

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; The importance of the Latin Middle Ages for the development of mathematics; Mathematische Probleme im Corpus agrimensorum; De arithmeticis propositionibus. A mathematical treatise ascribed to the Venerable Bede; The Propositiones ad acuendos iuvenes ascribed to Alcuin; Die älteste mathematische Aufgabensammlung in lateinischer Sprache: Die Alkuin zugeschriebenen Propositiones ad acuendos iuvenes. Ãœberlieferung, Inhalt, Kritische Edition; The names and forms of the numerals on the abacus in the Gerbert tradition; The importance of the Pseudo-Boethian Geometria during the Middle Ages; Die Altercatio in der Geometrie I des Pseudo-Boethius. Ein Beitrag zur Geometrie im mittelalterlichen Quadrivium; The Geometry II ascribed to Boethius; A treatise on the squaring of the circle by Franco of Liège, of about 1050; 'Rithmomachia', a mathematical game from the Middle Ages; Index.

About the Author

Menso Folkerts is Professor of the History of Sciences at the University of Munich, Germany and the author of a second collection in the Variorum series: The Development of Mathematics in Medieval Europe.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / General