You are here

Mathematical Treasure: The Venerable Bede's Computus

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Bede (673-735), later to be known as “The Venerable Bede,” was an English monk, historian, and active preserver of ancient literature. He wrote a computus, a church directed arithmetic devoted to finding the date of Easter, entitled De ratione temporum (On reckoning time). It served as a proto-mathematics book for many centuries. Here are images from a Spanish manuscript from about 1180 (Plimpton MS 251, folios 2v and 3v):

Folio 2 (verso) of De ratione temporum by Bede, circa 1180

Folio 3 (verso) of De ratione temporum by Bede, circa 1180

The images above have been obtained through the kind cooperation of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of the Columbia University Libraries. These and more images may be accessed via Digital Scriptorium, a digital collection of medieval and early Renaissance manuscripts made available by a consortium of cooperating university libraries headed by the University of California, Berkeley. 

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: The Venerable Bede's Computus," Convergence (June 2018)