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Mathematical Treasure: Popular Spanish Arithmetic and Algebra

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Juan Perez de Moya (1513-1596) was a Spanish priest and mathematician. He was known through his writing and teaching as a popularizer of science and mathematics. He wrote several influential books on mathematics including the second known algebra text published in the Spanish language, Compendio de la Regla de la cosa o Arte Mayor, in 1558. Four years later, in 1562, Perez de Moya included nearly all of the Compendio in his book, Arismetica pratica y especulativa. This book was so popular that by 1875, it had gone through thirty editions. The images shown below are from the 1609 edition.

Included in his section on “speculative mathematics” is a consideration of the game of Rithmimachia (or Rithmomachia).

Another of Perez de Moya’s influential texts was his Tratado de mathematicas, published in 1573.


The “Table of Contents” shows that the book is divided into three parts: the first part deals with arithmetic and algebra; the second part, geometry; and the third, astronomy.


Maria Rosa Massa Esteve, "Spanish 'Arte Mayor' in the Sixteenth Century," in Pluralité de l'algèbre a la Renaissance (Rommevaux, Spiesser, and Massa Esteve, eds.), Paris: Honoré Champion, 2012, pp. 103-126. Also available via ResearchGate:

These images are obtained through the cooperation of the Hispanic Society of America Museum and Library.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Popular Spanish Arithmetic and Algebra," Convergence (August 2017)