1565 Elements, Euclid. Italian, 2nd edition of Tartaglia's translation. Venice


1565 Euclid’s Elements (Megarense Philosopho), this printing being the second edition of the 1st translation into a modern European language (Italian) by Tartaglia. A wonderfully important work, filled with woodcuts illustrating the mathematical concepts, some quite complex.

Euclid’s Elements is the foundation for modern geometry and was for many centuries the go-to textbook for mathematics (until the concepts found their way into other texts). This is one of the earliest translations into a modern language (previously it had been taught from Latin translations).

About Euclid’s Elements

Euclid's Elements is a mathematical and geometric treatise consisting of 13 books attributed to the ancient Greek mathematician Euclid in Alexandria, Ptolemaic Egypt circa 300 BC. It is a collection of definitions, postulates (axioms), propositions (theorems and constructions), and mathematical proofs of the propositions.

The books cover Euclidean geometry and the ancient Greek version of elementary number theory. The work also includes an algebraic system that has become known as geometric algebra, which is powerful enough to solve many algebraic problems, including the problem of finding the square root of a number. Elements is the second-oldest extant Greek mathematical treatise after Autolycus' On the Moving Sphere, and it is the oldest extant axiomatic deductive treatment of mathematics. It has proven instrumental in the development of logic and modern science. According to Proclus, the term "element" was used to describe a theorem that is all-pervading and helps furnishing proofs of many other theorems.

Euclid's Elements has been referred to as the most successful and influential textbook ever written. Being first set in type in Venice in 1482, it is one of the very earliest mathematical works to be printed after the invention of the printing press and was estimated by Carl Benjamin Boyer to be second only to the Bible in the number of editions published, with the number reaching well over one thousand. For centuries, when the quadrivium was included in the curriculum of all university students, knowledge of at least part of Euclid's Elements was required of all students. Not until the 20th century, by which time its content was universally taught through other school textbooks, did it cease to be considered something all educated people had read.

About the Translator

Niccolò Fontana Tartaglia (1499/1500– 13 December 1557 in Venice) was an Italian mathematician, engineer (designing fortifications), a surveyor (of topography, seeking the best means of defense or offense) and a bookkeeper from the then-Republic of Venice (now part of Italy). He published many books, including the first Italian translations of Archimedes and Euclid, and an acclaimed compilation of mathematics.

His edition of Euclid in 1543, the first translation of the Elements into any modern European language, was especially significant. For two centuries Euclid had been taught from two Latin translations taken from an Arabic source; these contained errors in Book V, the Eudoxian theory of proportion, which rendered it unusable. Tartaglia's edition was based on Zamberti's Latin translation of an uncorrupted Greek text, and rendered Book V correctly. He also wrote the first modern and useful commentary on the theory. Later, the theory was an essential tool for Galileo, just as it had been for Archimedes.

About the Printer

Printed in Venice in 1565 by Curzio Troiano Navo.


Provenance (page 44 and page 188, top margin) appears to attribute the 17th century owner as “Giosepe Borghese in 1644”. The Borghese were a leading family in Italy in the 17th century.

Additional Photos of the Book

You can view 54 photos of the book hosted on the photo sharing site Flickr: https://flic.kr/s/aHskUSpHoE

Complete Title

Euclide Megarense Philosopho,

solo introduttore delle scientie mathematice.

Diligentemente rassettato, et alla integrita ridotto, per il degno professore di tal Scientie Nicolo Tartalea Brisciano.

Secondo le due tradottioni.

Con una ampla espositione dello istesso tradottore di nuono aggiunta.

Talmente chiara, che ogni mediocre ingegnoo senza la notitia, over sussragio di alcun 'altra scientia con facilita sera capace a poterlo intendere.

Physical Attributes

Small quarto. Measures 21 x 15 x 3 cm. Leather spine. Pasteboards with paper wraps (ink wash design). All edges painted red. Pages – (1) 315 (each leaf numbered singularly, 630 pages in modern numbering), colophon, (1). Two printer’s marks, and many mathematical woodcuts. Four raised bands on spine, with compartments bordered by double gilt fillets. A single gilt floral decoration centers four of the compartments, with the fifth containing a gilt title on black leather base framed by gilt fillets.


Please see the pictures. I’m going to over-describe the work so you are secure in knowing exactly what you are buying, but the over-riding theme is that it is a complete and sound work, with many clean pages. I’d rate it a 7, passing grade but not head-of-the-class. If content, rather than condition, is your driving factor than I believe you’ll find this a price effective and pleasing addition to your collection.

The boards show evidence that a vertical and horizontal strap were wrapping the book, which misshaped the boards (especially the front, barely the back) and caused a light corresponding wave on pages below (to about page 75).

The boards show a lot of shelf wear, the pasteboards showing through at the corners and edges. Front and rear joints cracked. Crease in the middle of the spine from when the book is fully opened (not a hollowback).

Hinges cracked as well. Mostly the cords are holding the front and rear boards on.

What I believe is an old library number decorates the endpaper, wrote on the pastedown and ghosted onto the free front endpaper. Free front endpaper shaken (a little loose).

Moisture mark at the top-right 1/3 of the book strong at the front and fades out about page 80.

Title page shows extensive repair and is pasted to another paper. Repair looks quite old. Pasting element used yellowed the page. No lack of text.

I checked the pagination and all pages are still extant, there are no missing pages.

Occasional spots and soiling throughout the book.

Two wormholes extend from the top-edge but stay mostly within the top margin for only about 10 pages each. Predominately free of wormholes.

Annotation at the top margin of page 9.

Additional annotations in all the margins of pages 44, 46 and 47, including an ownership inscription.

Quarter sized spot on page 80.

Pages misnumbered from 120 to 125, the printers references printed at the bottom and the text show no gap.

Foxing dots at the top of pages 180-221.

Additional ownership annotations, matching the earlier, at the top margin of 187v and 188r.

Pages 200-205 are browned.

Page 203 is printed as a number twice, no 202.

Pages 215-219 are brown.

Ownership inscription again to pages 261v and 262r.

277 and 288 dog eared.

278 another quarter sized browning dot.

278 moisture stain begins and continues through end.

Page 315 has stains and one word rubbed out.

Last page, colophon, and rear free endpaper are very browned/stained (3 leaves).

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