You are here

Mathematical Treasures - Stefano di Battista’s Summa arismetice

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Stefano di Battista, or Stefani from Mercatello, an Italian town near the Adriatic, was a reckoning master who wrote Summa arismetice (Plimpton MS 211) around 1522. He wrote in his dedicatory preface that he studied under Luca Pacioli, author of the Suma de arithmetica, the first great general work on mathematics, first printed in Venice in 1494. In Stefani’s commercial arithmetic, he relies heavily on Pacioli’s works with regard to mercantile applications, covering barter, partnership, various forms of discount and exchange, and other similar topics. On these folia from the Summa, he discusses use of the hand in computation.

Folia showing hand arithmetic from 16th-century Italian arithmetic by Stefano di Battista.

The image above has 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 Treasures - Stefano di Battista’s Summa arismetice," Convergence (April 2021)

Mathematical Treasures from the Smith and Plimpton Collections at Columbia University