This book was originally written solely by W. W. Rouse Ball in 1892 and revised most recently by H. S. M. Coxeter, whose name currently appears as co-author. It has — thanks to the updated material by Coxeter — remained fresh and interesting for over a century while retaining its original nineteenth century charm.

Mathematics has made considerable progress since 1892, thanks in part to the computer, and this powerful tool has facilitated such recent work as the discovery of new prime Mersenne numbers. There is, of course, much more to enjoy in the book, and the classical mathematics of Rouse Ball’s day includes such delights as magic squares, continued fractions, two cool chapters on geometrical recreations, and a chapter on map coloring problems.

The book is rich in lively historical mathematics, original references, and supplemented by a generous supply of nice, clear illustrations. If I had to choose a favorite chapter, my choice would be the one on calculating prodigies, that is, those individuals who perform amazing calculations in their heads, as I have long been fascinated by such mental gymnastics. Rouse Ball thoughtfully reveals some of the clever techniques used in these peculiar calculations.

Upon reading this book you will enjoy some terrific mathematical adventures and easily choose your own special favorite chapter. As an added bonus, since this is a Dover publication the price is very modest.

Let us hope that some of today’s readers will shed light on some of the remaining unsolved problems and continue to revise this wonderful book in future years. Happy reading!

In spite of having studied chemistry (Wayne State University and The University of Kansas) and had a professional career in both academic and industrial research, Dennis’ greatest personal interest in science is mathematics. Now retired, he is a voracious reader, and with his wife Sally, they enjoy traveling in their sports car, bluegrass music, and the wonders of Wisconsin. Dennis may be contacted at denniswmgordon@cs.com