Mathematical Treasures - Jacob Kobel's Rechenbuch

Frank J. Swetz (Pennsylvania State University)

Jacob Köbel (ca. 1460–1533) was a German reckoning master who wrote several influential books. His Rechenbuch was first published in 1514 and went through many revisions and editions during his own lifetime and after, remaining a German classic for many years. Although Köbel's Zwey rechenbüchlin was first published in 1514, the copy featured here was published in 1537. The title's Mit … Visirbüch means Köbel's book on gauging was included in this edition; we focus on the "reckoning" portion of the book.


As was the usual case for reckoning books of this period, the first considerations concerned numeration: the writing and reading of numbers.



The book contains many examples, most accompanied by illustrations. Here is an example of one problem situation.


Near the end of his work, Köbel included a table of mathematical terms in both German and Latin.



Editor's note: For information about the various editions of Köbel's Rechenbuch, especially those in the George Arthur Plimpton Collection at Columbia University, see David Eugene Smith's Rara Arithmetica (1908), pp. 100–114, available via Google Books.

The images above are provided courtesy of Columbia University Libraries, George Arthur Plimpton Collection.

Index to Mathematical Treasures