1752 Construction et Usages des Instrumens de Mathematique, Nicholas Bion. Paris.


A handsome (likely) contemporary binding houses this wonderful practical mathematics work from The Enlightenment, filled with thirty-seven fold-out plates illustrating the instruments and concepts discussed. This is a well-regarded work, and the fourth edition (here) was expanded with additional information. This copy has some notable scientific provenance.

Details from the Erwin Tomash Library -

“Nicholas Bion was the king’s engineer for mathematical instruments. It is surprising how little is known about his life beyond the fact his workshops were in Paris. His name is very well known, but it is difficult to determine if his fame rests on the quality of his instruments or on this respected work. Only a few of his original instruments appear to have survived.”

“The work is encyclopedic and gives descriptions of the mathematical instruments commonly available at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Bion interpreted mathematical broadly, for the work contains information on devices used in a variety of scientific and engineering fields. It is composed of a preface giving definitions of mathematical terms, followed by eight separate books:

1. rulers and protractors

2. the sector: containing a line of equal parts (“B” in his figure 1), line of planes (“C”), line of polygons (“D”), line of chords (“F”), line of solids (“H”) and line of metals (“G”).

3. the compass (including both proportional compass and beam compass)

4. surveying devices (quadrants, chords, chains and sighting devices)

5. water levels and gunner’s instruments (gunner’s compass and quadrant)

6. astronomical instruments (large quadrants and micrometers for measuring)

7. navigational instruments, including, for example, the Jacob’s staff and the mariner’s quadrant, which were, by then, no longer in use

8. sundials of all forms at all orientations, the nocturnal and a water clock”

About the Fourth Edition -

“This fourth edition was published after Bion’s death in 1733, the printing being supervised by his son. It uses the same frontispiece as the second edition (1716) but also includes an idealized engraved portrait of Bion—done posthumously (c. 1740) by De Larmessin, the King’s engraver. The content of the second edition has been further augmented with an additional chapter to Book 6 on octants and other astronomical instruments; two very small additions to Book 7 (dignified by being given their own chapter); and a completely new Book 9, which describes a miscellaneous collection of devices from water pumps to burning glasses.” - Tomash Catalog

Provenance -

The first blank unpaginated endpaper has a catalog number from E. Weil (1059 10633) a noted rare book dealer focused on scientific works in the early 20th century.

This copy also resided in the Erwin Tomash Library (evidenced by his ticket on the pastedown), which focused on the History of Computing (many of the books were sold on at his passing).

Physical Attributes -

Measures approx. 26 x 20 x 5 cm, quarto. Paper size is approx. 25 x19 cm. Mottled leather binding, resembling the "cat's paw" style, with double fillet border, in blind, to the boards. Spine with five raised bands; five compartments with a central flower, corner leaves and filet border, and one compartment with the title on Morocco in gilt "USAGES DES INSTRUM". All edges red.

A frontis, a portrait, and thirty-seven fold-out plates.

Pages - (1), frontis, [2], portrait, [6], 448, [12], (1)

Collation - 4, A to Lll4, Mmm2

OCLC #690576063

Condition -

See pictures. Binding with some corner/bump wear, edge wear, occasional rub, crazing at joints, 4" crack at bottom of front joint, and chipping at top and bottom of spine (endbands exposed, especially at bottom).

"Erwin Tomash" ticket on pastedown. "E.Weil 1059 10633" on blank unpaginated endpaper. Name at bottom of title page (Maire d'Hurecour...). Some toning and fox/rust spots throughout, not excessive. Occasional thumb mark in fore-edge margin. Mostly the text block is quite clean with wide margins. Occasional deckled edge to plates. Marginal annotation p.50, 143, 146, 243. Less than 1 cm. top margin hole 169. Chip at bottom right corner of last plate. Several binder's marks at verso of rear flyleaf.

An attractive book (binding and woodcuts), complete, with some scientific provenance (Erwin Tomash Library).

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