Posted by John Bidwell
Monday, February 14, 2011 5:58:00 PM
Robert Simson (1687-1768). Sectionum conicarum libri V. Edinburgh: T. & W. Ruddiman, 1735. Purchased as the gift of Rudy L. Ruggles, Jr., and on the Dannie and Hettie Heineman Fund, 2009.
A self-taught mathematician, Simson was a professor at the University of Glasgow and an authority on ancient Greek geometry. His treatise on conic sections contains instructions on how to plot ellipses, parabolas, and hyperbolas — geometrical exercises useful to astronomers who study the laws of planetary motion. This copy is in a Scottish “herringbone” binding, elaborately tooled in gilt with gilt edges and gilt endpapers, almost certainly intended for presentation to the English mathematician William Jones or to Jones’s patron, the second earl of Macclesfield. Both Jones and Macclesfield were accomplished scientists and ardent book collectors. No doubt Simson commissioned the binding from a local shop in hopes of making a good impression on a bibliophile who might further his academic career.