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. By Oliver Byrne.
London: William Pickering, 1847. Small 4to, xxix, 268 pp., color diagrams throughout printed in red, blue, yellow and black; wood-engraved initials. Original half brown morocco, gilt-lettered backstrip, a very bright and clean copy without the usual heavy foxing and staining. First edition of Byrnes presentation of Euclidean geometry, in which colours are substituted for the usual letters to designate the angles and lines of geometric figures. Tuftes copy ($15,000, 2010) was described thus: 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). "Color serves as a label most notably of all in Oliver Byrne's 1847 edition of Euclid's Geometry. 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, Envisioning Information, p.84). 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). Against McLean's conclusion that it is a "decided complication of Euclid", Edward Tufte finds that "A close look, however, indicates that Byrne's design clarifies the overly indirect and compicated Euclid, at least for certain readers" (ibid.) "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.51.
(Item Id: 107051)