You are here

Mathematical Treasure: Speidell’s Geometry Manuscript

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

John Speidell (fl. 1600-1634) was an English teacher of mathematics, particularly spherical geometry, who resided in London. In 1627, he published A Brief Treatise of Sphaericall Triangles. Mathematically, he is remembered for publishing the first tables of natural logarithms, New Logarithmes, in 1619 and 1622 (WorldCat). Speidell published A Geometricall Extraction in 1616 and 1617, and An Arithmeticall Extraction in 1628. Both were advertised as problem sets for mathematical instruction (WorldCat).

WorldCat describes Speidell’s manuscript, A geometrical extraction for all affected to the mathemematiks, pictured below, as follows:

Mathematical manuscript largely comprised of a fair copy, without attribution, of the problems, diagrams, and Euclidean references of John Speidell's Geometricall extraction, first published in 1616. Followed by 8 illustrated propositions on measurement, with reference to Edmund Gunter (professor of astronomy at Gresham College, f. 55v) and possibly based on his Description and use of the sector, the crosse-staffe and other such instruments, first published in 1623. The illustrated title page is heavily based on the title page of Gunter's collected works.

The WorldCat entry indicates the publisher of the work as “Levington, 1648.” The reference for the University of Pennsylvania’s copy is LJS 321.

The text consisted of a series of geometric constructions. Some examples are shown below:



The images above were obtained through the courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania Libraries. The complete item can be viewed via the given reference.

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Speidell’s Geometry Manuscript," Convergence (June 2017)