You are here

Mathematical Treasure: Jean Prestet's New Elements of Mathematics

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Jean Prestet (1648-1691) was a French Oratorian priest and mathematician. He is particularly remembered for his work in number theory and combinatorics (Wikipedia). In 1694, Prestet's Nouveaux élémens des mathématiques was published. This book, like Prestet's 1675 Élémens des mathématiques, was an innovative contribution to the teaching of algebra at that time. The later work consists of two volumes: the first covers arithmetic up to the use of progressions; the second volume focuses on the solution of indeterminate equations and discussed the works of the mathematicians Diophantus and Viète.


A very busy scene serves as the frontispiece. The viewer should attempt to discern the mathematical activities taking place in the illustration.

The first page of text begins with general comments on mathematics and geometry.

Page 81 begins a discussion of “powers”.

Examples are also provided for the reader to solve.

These images were obtained through the courtesy of ETH-Bibliothek Zürich. The book may be viewed in its entirety at e-rara:

See another Mathematical Treasure: Jean Prestet's Élémens des mathématiques (1675), here in MAA Convergence.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Jean Prestet's New Elements of Mathematics," Convergence (February 2018)