London: Charles Whittingham for William Pickering, 1847.
1st Edition. Hardcover. 8vo - over 7¾ - 9¾" tall. Very Good. Item #003806
4to (236 x 186 mm).  viii-xxix , 268 pp. Including half-title, four-line woodcut initials, color diagrams throughout printed in red, blue, yellow and black. Contemporary three-quarter calf over cloth, spine-ends and raised bands with gilt-decoration, gilt-lettered red morocco spine-label, original blue endpapers (extremities rubbed, corners bumped). Some pale brown spotting of text as usual*, minor age-toning of paper, but in all a better-than-average, crisp and clean copy. ----
FIRST AND ONLY EDITION OF BYRNE'S SPECTACULAR RENDERING OF EUCLIDEAN GEOMETRY USING FOUR-COLOR PRINTING, AND "THE MOST ATTRACTIVE EDITION OF EUCLID THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN" (Oechslin). 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).
"This truly visual Euclid discards the letter-coding native to geometry texts. In a proof, each element names itself by consistent shape, color, and orientation; instead of talking about angle DEF, the angle is shown - appropriately enough for geometry" (Tufte). 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).
"According to Julie L. Mellby, graphic arts librarian at Princeton University, in her online article "Euclid in Color," Byrne's Euclid was exhibited in London at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Praise was given for its beauty and the artistry of the printing, which may have influenced future publications and artwork. However, the book was sold for an extravagant price by contemporary standards, placing it out of the reach of educators who were supposed to make use of this new way of teaching geometry."
*Virtually all copies of this print show more or less heavy brown spotting (or foxing) due to the used paper stock, but this copy is less affected than most copies we have seen.
References: Janet Ing, Charles Whittingham, Printer, 46; Keynes, Pickering, pp. 37, 65; R. McLean, Victorian Book Design and Colour Printing p. 50-51 (illustration facing p. 53); E. R. Tufte, Envisioning Information, p.84; P. Lynch, That's Maths: The rebel who brought Technicolour to Euclid, Irish Times, February 20, 2014; W. Oechslin, ed., Oliver Byrne: The Elements of Euclid (Cologne, Germany: Taschen America LLC, 2013), p.15; J. L. Mellby, Euclid in Color, Princeton University Library, Princeton, New Jersey, 2008. - Visit our website to see more images!
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