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Mathematical Treasure: John Peckham's Perspectiva

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University)

John Peckham (ca. 1230-1292) was an English Franciscan friar who eventually became the Archbishop of Canterbury. Although his main field of activity was theology, he also studied optics and astronomy. His manuscript Perspectiva became a standard university text on perspective. After the invention of printing, it is known that at least nine editions of this work were published during the period 1482-1627. Paschasius Hamellius (d. 1565) and Georg Hartmann (1489-1564) both contributed to later editions and Hamellius is often considered the author of the 1556 edition featured here. This is its title page.

The Perspectiva influenced both Leonardo da Vinci and Johannes Kepler. The opening page of text:

A diagram illustrates the action of the human eye.

The images above are presented courtesy of the History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: John Peckham's Perspectiva," Convergence (May 2019)