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Mathematical Treasure: Chambers' English Cyclopaedia

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Ephraim Chambers (ca. 1680-1740) was an English encyclopedist who set the standards for modern encyclopedias. His work formed the basis of the eighteenth-century French encyclopedia movement. His Cyclopaedia of Arts and Sciences, published in 1728, was the first of its kind in Europe. This title page is from the second edition, 1738.

This is the frontispiece of Chambers’ Cyclopaedia. Examine the scene to find the various demonstrations and references to mathematics depicted.

On the page shown above can be found discussions of various aspects of calculus.

The plate above accompanies the discussion of “trigonometry”.

The entry on trigonometry provides an eighteenth-century perspective on the discipline.

The images above are supplied through the courtesy of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Collection of the Pennsylvania State University Library and the assistance of Dr. Sandra Stelts, Curator of the Collection.

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Chambers' English Cyclopaedia," Convergence (June 2015)