You are here

Mathematical Treasure: Leurechon’s Mathematicall Recreations

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Mathematical recreations and puzzles were popular in seventeenth century France.

One of the books satisfying this need was Récréations mathématiques (1624), written by the Jesuit priest and mathematician Jean Leurechon (1591-1670) under the pen name Hendrik van Etten. This book eventually went through 30 editions. The first English edition, Mathematicall Recreations, was published in London in 1633. William Oughtred assisted with the translation.


The “Table of Contents” provides information on the type of problems and puzzles considered in the book.

On page 48, the solution to the geometric problem of drawing a circle through three noncollinear points in a plane is undertaken. Note that the solution figure has been drawn separately and pasted into the book. The second problem of “making” a circle into a square is more of a party trick rather than a mathematical exercise, with the solution extending onto the following page.

Page 48 of  Mathematicall Recreations, 1633

Page 49 of  Mathematicall Recreations, 1633

For images from a later edition of this book, see: Mathematicall Recreations in English

The images above were supplied through the courtesy of the United States Library of Congress and may be viewed at its website.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Leurechon’s Mathematicall Recreations," Convergence (June 2017)