The Elements of Euclid: viz. the First Six Books, Together with the Eleventh and Twelfth

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by Euclid

The Elements of Euclid

Title page from The Elements of Euclid, George Wythe Collection, Wolf Law Library, College of William & Mary.

Author Euclid
Editor {{{editor}}}
Translator Robert Simson
Published Glasgow: Printed by Robert and Andrew Foulis, Printers to the University
Date 1756
Edition {{{edition}}}
Language English
Volumes {{{set}}} volume set
Pages [8], 431, [1] pages, includes diagrams (woodcuts)
Desc. 4to (26 cm.)
Location Shelf N-3
  [[Shelf {{{shelf2}}}]]

Euclid (fl. 300 BC) was a Greek mathematician who is often referred to as the “Father of Geometry”. His specific date of birth and death are unknown, but many historians estimate that he lived sometime around 300 BCE.[1] Despite the uncertainty surrounding his biographical details, his presence in history resonates deeply due to his works in the field of mathematics, especially in geometry.

Elements, Euclid’s most well-known and influential work, presents definitions, postulates, and mathematical proofs on a wide range of mathematical concepts.[2] Many of these concepts were based on prior mathematical findings and therefore were not entirely "new." But Euclid’s presentation of these concepts in a single, logically coherent framework created a system that served as a pillar of mathematics for two thousand years.[3] Elements enjoyed enormous critical acclaim and was considered to be highly relevant until the early twentieth century.[4] Euclid's Elements has been referred to as the most successful and influential textbook ever written.[5] Elements was one of the earliest mathematical works to be printed after the invention of the printing press, and may be second only to the Bible in the number of editions published, with the number reaching well over one thousand.[6]

Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as "Euclid by Simpson. 4to." This was one of the titles kept by Thomas Jefferson and later sold to the Library of Congress in 1815. Based on Millicent Sowerby's entry in Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson,[7] both George Wythe's Library[8] on LibraryThing and the Brown Bibliography[9] list the 1756 English edition published by Foulis and translated by Robert Simson. Jefferson's copy no longer exists to conclusively verify the edition. It is possible that Wythe instead owned Simson's Latin translation, also published by Foulis in 1756. As a noted Greek and Latin scholar, Wythe often collected Greek classics in the original language as well as in multiple translations. He owned a second version of Euclid which Jefferson listed in his inventory Euclid. Eng. 8vo.; was Jefferson making a language distinction between that version of Euclid and the "Euclid by Simpson"? Since we cannot definitively say which of the Simson editions Wythe owned, the Wolf Law Library chose to purchase both versions to illustrate the frequent problems in precise edition identification.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in a modern full leather binding of brown calf, raised bands, and gilt lettering on a red spine label. Purchased from Peter Rhodes Books.

Images of the library's copy of this book are available on Flickr. View the record for this book in William & Mary's online catalog.

See also


  1. Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. "Euclid", accessed October 03, 2013.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Dirk Jan Struik, "Ancient Greek Mathematics," in A Concise History of Mathematics, 4th rev. ed. (New York (N.Y.): Dover, 1987), 51.
  4. Charles Lutwidge, and Amit HagarDodgson, "Introduction," in Euclid and his Modern Rivals (Mineola, N.Y: Dover Publications, 2004), xxviii.
  5. Carl B. Boyer, and Uta C. Merzbach, "Euclid of Alexandria," in A History of Mathematics, 2nd ed. (New York: Wiley, 1991), 119.
  6. Lucas N. H. Bunt, Phillip S. Jones, and Jack D. Bedient, "Greek Influence," in The Historical Roots of Elementary Mathematics (New York: Dover Publications, 1988), 142.
  7. E. Millicent Sowerby, Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson (Washington, D.C.: The Library of Congress, 1952-1959), 4:20 [no.3702].
  8. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on November 11, 2013.
  9. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at: