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Archives of American Mathematics Spotlight: The New Mathematical Library Records

Archives of American Mathematics Spotlight: The New Mathematical Library Records

By Robin Howard and Kristy Sorensen

The Archives of American Mathematics is pleased to make an online inventory of the New Mathematical Library Records available to researchers. This collection documents the work of editor Anneli Lax to bring engaging mathematical texts to young students of mathematics, and provides an inside look at the work of mathematical publishing.


A handwritten note by Anneli Lax describing a September 18, 1974 meeting at which the transfer of the New Mathematical Library from Random House to the Mathematical Association of America was discussed. From the New Mathematical Library Records, ca. 1929, 1957-1997, Archives of American Mathematics, Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

The New Mathematical Library (NML) is a series of monographs on various mathematical topics. They are not textbooks, but are meant as supplements for the interested high school or early college student. The monographs are written by individual mathematicians, and at the NML?s beginning, most of the authors had not written for the high school level prior to their work in the series.

The first monographs appeared in 1961 and were originally published for the School Mathematics Study Group Monograph Project, begun in 1958 to remedy the perceived shortage of well-written mathematical materials for young people. Initially published by Random House and the L.W. Singer Company in conjunction with Yale University, the Mathematical Association of America took over publication in 1975.

The NML was intended as a temporary project, set to come to an end after the publication of approximately thirty monographs or after commercial American publishers began to produce similar books for high school students. Instead, books are still being published in the NML series as of 2003, though at a slower pace than during its height in the 1960s.


A letter from Ivan Niven to Anneli Lax regarding the publication of his book, Numbers: Rational and Irrational, the first book in the New Mathematical Library series. From the New Mathematical Library Records, ca. 1929, 1957-1997, Archives of American Mathematics, Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin.

Anneli Lax, the NML?s technical editor for almost forty years, was born Anneli Cahn on February 23, 1922, in the Kattowitz, part of Germany at the time, but part of Poland soon after. Her family left Kattowitz for Berlin in 1929 to escape discrimination against Germans, but in 1933, to escape discrimination against Jews, moved to Paris, Palestine, and finally, in 1935, to the United States. She studied mathematics at Adelphi College and, following her graduation in 1942, she became an assistant researcher in New York University?s Aeronautics Department and joined NYU?s Courant Institute as a graduate student in 1943.

While at NYU, Lax met and married mathematician Peter Lax. In 1955 Lax received her PhD and in 1961 NYU appointed her to the faculty of the Department of Mathematics, where she stayed until her retirement in 1992. Dr. Lax accepted the position of technical editor of the New Mathematical Library series at its inception in 1958, and remained editor until her death in 1999. The MAA renamed the series the Anneli Lax New Mathematical Library in her honor in the year 2000.

This collection reflects the progress of the New Mathematical Library, specifically under the editorship of Anneli Lax. It includes correspondence with authors and publishers, outlines and drafts of monographs, and various production records.

The online inventory for the New Mathematical Library Records is available here:

http://www.lib.utexas.edu/taro/utcah/00387/cah-00387.html

The Archives of American Mathematics is located at the Research and Collections division of the Center for American History on the University of Texas at Austin campus. Persons interested in conducting research or donating materials or who have general questions about the Archives of American Mathematics should contact Kristy Sorensen, Archivist, k.sorensen@mail.utexas.edu, (512) 495-4539.

Web page: http://www.cah.utexas.edu/collectioncomponents/math.html

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