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E. G. Ziegenbalg’s Danish Translation of Euclid’s Elements

Author(s): 
Toke Lindegaard Knudsen (State University of New York at Oneonta)

As Latin ceased to be the language of mathematical discourse in early modern Europe, classic texts needed to be translated into the various vernacular languages. For instance, the first translation of Euclid’s Elements into the Danish language appeared in 1744[1] under the title Euclidis elementa geometriæ, det er, Første Grund til Geometrien, i det danske Sprog oversat (Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, That is, the Foundation of Geometry, Translated into the Danish Language). This brief article introduces the translator, Ernest Gotlieb Ziegenbalg[2] (1716–1758), who is likely little-known, not only among the readers of Convergence but perhaps also to historians of Scandinavian science. Additionally, I highlight some notable characteristics of the printed volume as well as of the copy in my library. The book is a beautiful production with a distinctive formatting style aimed at sensibly presenting the material to students learning geometry. As such, the book not only naturally belongs among Convergence’s Mathematical Treasures, but also deserves attention for its pedagogical approach to presenting Euclid’s Elements to students.

Title page of the Euclid translated into Danish by E. G. Ziegenbalg.
Figure 1. The first page of Ziegenbalg’s translation of Euclid’s Elements. All photos of the book in this article show
the author’s personal copy and were taken by Michael Forster Rothbart.


[1] Heath [1926, i:113] incorrectly gives 1745 as the year of publication.

[2] Elsewhere other forms of the name, including Latinized ones, are used, such as Gottlieb Ernst Ziegenbalg [e.g., Jeyaraj 2019], Ernst Gottlieb Ziegenbalg [e.g., Nielsen 1912], Ernestus Gottlieb Ziegenbalg [e.g., Worm 1773, 643], and Ernestus Theophilus Ziegenbalg [e.g., Walchio and Ziegenbalg 1738].

Toke Lindegaard Knudsen (State University of New York at Oneonta), "E. G. Ziegenbalg’s Danish Translation of Euclid’s Elements," Convergence (October 2021)