Mathematical Treasures at the Linda Hall Library

Cynthia J. Huffman (Pittsburg State University)


This article introduces the physical and digital collections of the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City. At least 75 of its digitized rare books relate to the history of mathematics and can be used in classrooms.



Mathematical Treasures at the Linda Hall Library – Introduction

Cynthia J. Huffman (Pittsburg State University)

Imagine being able to hold a 1482 first edition Euclid’s Elements of Geometry in your hand—one of the first mathematics books to be printed after Gutenberg introduced movable type printing to Europe. (A) Or, to explore the “pop-up” figures in the first printed English translation of the Elements. (B) Or, to lay out multiple versions of a work such as the Elements for comparison. (C) Would you like to investigate a book that Sir Isaac Newton once owned and heavily dog-eared? (D) Or, to touch where Galileo himself made a correction in a book? (E) Or, from the comfort of your own home or office, virtually look through the pages of Disquisitiones Arithmeticae by Gauss? (F) Or, maybe you want to download images of Cardano’s Ars Magna to use in your algebra course. (G) This article will enlighten you as to how these experiences and more can be yours, if you visit the Linda Hall Library either virtually or in person.

(A) Page from 1482 first printed Euclid's Elements of Geometry     (B) Pop-up diagram from Billingsley's English Euclid.

(C) Several rare Euclids at the Linda Hall Library.

(D) Book dogeared by Isaac Newton.     (E) Book corrected by Galileo Galilei.

(F) Title page of Gauss's Disquisitiones Arithmeticae     (G) Page 66 of Cardano's Ars Magna.

The purpose of this article is to share with teachers and researchers the amazing mathematical treasures available, either in person or online, at the Linda Hall Library. The author has made several trips there to gather pictures of original sources which she then included in lectures in various mathematics classes. In addition, she has taken students on tours of the rare book room in the library to see the books themselves. So, when one of the librarians mentioned the research fellowship program, the author could not pass up the opportunity to spend several weeks working with the books and helping the library to increase its digital collections in the history of mathematics.

This article begins with background about the Linda Hall Library and its services. Next is an index of select mathematical treasures one can find at the library. Clicking on the name of a work will take the reader to a page with information and images for classroom use. Each page also includes the call number of the work in case the reader wishes to visit the library and view the book in person. In addition, if the complete work is included in the Linda Hall Library Digital Collections, a link is provided.

Mathematical Treasures at the Linda Hall Library – Linda Hall Library

Cynthia J. Huffman (Pittsburg State University)

The Linda Hall Library (LHL) is an independent research library specializing in engineering, science, and technology located in Kansas City, Missouri. Opened in 1946, the library collections number over one million volumes, including a History of Science Collection, which contains many rare books from the history of mathematics. The LHL Digital Collections provide access to nearly a quarter of a million images from the History of Science collection, including over 75 complete mathematical works.

Exterior of Linda Hall Library in Kansas City.     Sculpture that originated with Tsar Nicholas II.

In addition to access to extensive open stacks and a spacious reading room, visitors to LHL can also peruse the current exhibitions in two gallery areas, as well as visit the William N. Deramus III Cosmology Theater. The exhibitions focus on a theme and typically involve rare books. Some of the past exhibitions have online versions, including two on astronomy and one on Napoleon’s expedition to Egypt, which has information on mathematicians Gaspard Monge and Joseph Fourier. Patrons can also request to look at books and other material from the closed stacks. Complete runs of many journals, serial publications, monographs, conference proceedings, and other reference materials can be found in LHL. For mathematics, this includes important journals such as Acta Academiae Scientiarum Imperialis Petropolitanae (the transactions of the imperial academy of sciences in St. Petersburg, in which Euler published many articles), Acta Mathematica (founded by Mittag-Leffler in Stockholm), and Journal de Mathématiques Pures et Appliquées (founded by Joseph Liouville).

Follow the link for more information about using the library. The library also hosts lectures and other events on a regular basis. Up-to-date information can be found by visiting the LHL webpage at or by liking the LHL Facebook page.

The LHL History of Science rare book collection contains a wealth of information for those wanting to take a firsthand look at resources in the history of math. A Rare Book Room has windows showing into the climate-controlled vault and a Reading Room where visitors can sign up as a “reader”. In order not to damage the precious materials, readers are given training in how to handle the valuable books with clean hands and resting on foam cradles, how to turn pages, and how to hold down pages in order to photograph particular pages. In addition to the vault, which contains over 10,000 volumes, there is a caged area with over 10,000 “medium rare” books and periodicals.

Linda Hall Library Rare Book Reading Room     Class tour of the Linda Hall Library.

If you plan on visiting the Linda Hall Library, information about hours of operation and directions can be found here. Class tours can be scheduled so that students can have the opportunity to see original sources firsthand. Information about tours can be found here.

It is also possible to take a virtual tour of a portion of the history of mathematics collection at LHL through the Digital Collections. The Linda Hall Library’s digital collections in the history of science contain nearly a quarter of a million images. Visit the webpage and hover over the word “Collections” to see the list of digital collections, including History of Mathematics. Over 75 important works in the history of mathematics are completely digitized and available online. The use of LHL images is encouraged, especially for educational use. Information about image rights and reproduction, as well as information about requesting an image, can be found here. Fees may apply for requests to publish images.

Research fellowships are available for those interested in spending an extended period of time with the collections at the Linda Hall Library. Fellowships supporting projects using the LHL collections, including research in the history of mathematics, are available for time periods of one month up to nine months. More information on LHL Fellowships can be found at

The author would like to extend special thanks to Cindy Rogers, LHL History of Science Department, for her patience in retrieving books from the vault for the author and her knowledge of books and history; to Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., UMKC and LHL, for his expertise on the history of science and emblematic science; and to the LHL Digital Collections Team, especially Sally Crosson, for the timely provision of professional images. Thanks also go to Pittsburg State University for sabbatical support, to LHL for the opportunity to be immersed in the mathematical treasures at LHL during a Research Fellowship in the fall of 2015, and to the friendly LHL staff for being so helpful.


Mathematical Treasures at the Linda Hall Library – Index of Images

Cynthia J. Huffman (Pittsburg State University)

Below is a list of selected images from the following books at the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City. Click on the title of the document to go to a page containing the images from that book, where more information is provided. For hundreds of other "mathematical treasures" from a wide array of institutions, museums, and individuals, visit the Index to Mathematical Treasures in Convergence.

Author Title Date
Agnesi, Maria Gaetana Instituzioni analitche ad uso della gioventu italiana (Foundations of Analysis for the Use of Italian Youth) and Analytical Institutions (in Italian and English, 13 images) 1748 and 1801
Algarotti, Francesco Il newtonianismo per le dame ovvero dialoghi sopra la luce e i colori and Le Newtonianisme pour les dames, ou, Entretiens sur la lumiere, sur les couleurs, et sur l'attraction / traduits de lÌtalien and Il newtonianismo per le dame, ovvero Dialoghi sopra la luce, i colori, e l'attrazione (in Italian and French, 2 images) 1737, 1738, and 1739
Berkeley, George The Analyst (8 images) 1734
Bombelli, Rafael  L'algebra parte maggiore dell’aritmetica divisa in tre libri (6 images) 1579 (first 1572)
Cardano, Girolamo Ars Magna (4 images) 1545
Caswell, John A Brief (but full) Account of the Doctrine of Trigonometry, Both Plain and Spherical (2 images) 1685
Cavalieri, Bonaventura Geometria indivisibilibus (10 images) 1635
De Moivre, Abraham Doctrine of Chances (5 images) 1738 (first 1711/1718)
Du Châtelet, Émilie  Institutions de Physique (10 images) 1741
Du Châtelet, Émilie  Principes Mathématiques de la Philosophie Naturelle (6 images) 1759
Euclid Elementa Geometriae (4 images) 1482
Euclid Elements (in Arabic, 4 images) 1594
Fibonacci (aka Leonardo Pisano) Liber Abaci (7 images) 1837 edition (first 1202)
Fibonacci (aka Leonardo Pisano) Practica Geometriae ed Opuscoli (3 images) 1862 edition (first 1220)
de Fontenelle, Bernard A Panegyric upon Sir Isaac Newton (in English, 2 images) 1728
Galilei, Galileo Discorsi e Dimostrazioni Matematiche intorno à due nuoue Scienze and Mathematical Discourses Concerning Two New Sciences (in Italian and English, 8 images) 1638
Harriot, Thomas Artis Analyticae Praxis (6 images) 1631
l'Hospital, Guillaume Francois de Analyse des Infiniment Petits (14 images) 1696
Jurin, James A defence of Sir Isaac Newton (2 images) 1734
Köbel, Jacob Geometrei (4 images) 1535
Lagrange, Joseph-Louis Traité de la Résolution des Equations Numérique (7 images) 1808 (first 1798)
Morland, Samuel The Description and Use of Two Arithmetic Instruments (11 images) 1673
Oughtred, William Elementi Decimi Euclidis Declaratio (8 images) 1662
Oughtred, William Theorematum in Libris Archimedis de Sphaera & Cylindro Declaratio (3 images) 1663
Pacioli, Luca


Divina Proportione (3 images)




Pacioli, Luca Euclid’s Elements (7 images) 1509
Pacioli, Luca Summa de Arithmetica, Geometria, Proportioni et Proportionalita (5 images) 1494
Reisch, Gregor Margarita Philosophica (14 images) 1517 (first 1503)
Simson, Robert Sectionum Conicarum (5 images) 1735
Simson, Robert The Elements of Euclid (7 images) 1756
Simson, Robert Opera Quaedam Reliqua (5 images) 1776
Stoeffler, Johann Elucidatio fabricae vsusque astrolabii (3 images) 1524 (first 1513)
Torricelli, Evangelista Lezione Accademiche (Academic Lectures) (2 images) 1715
Torricelli, Evangelista Opera Geometrica (4 images) 1644
van Ceulen, Ludolph Vanden Circkel (4 images) 1596
van Ceulen, Ludolph De circulo et adscriptis liber (8 images) 1619
van Ceulen, Ludolph Surdorum quadraticorum arithmetica (4 images) 1619
Viète, François Opera Mathematica (8 images) 1646
Voltaire Élémens de la philosophie de Newton (7 images) 1738