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Mathematical Treasure: 15th Century Compendium of Arithmetic

Author(s): 
Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

Little is known about the scribe Rolandus Ulysbonensis (fl. 15th century) except that he was born in Lisbon and served as a canon at Sainte-Chapelle, Paris, in 1425. He compiled the manuscript Compendium artis arismetice (c. 1424) at the command of John of Lancaster, Duke of Bedford and son of Henry IV of England. The dedication indicates John’s interest in France. The manuscript (Plimpton MS 173) is based on the existing mathematical sources of the time and provides insights into the mathematics curriculum of French universities. Folio 13 provides an example of the writing style of the manuscript:

Folio 13 from Compendium artis arismetice by Rolandus Ulysbonensis, c. 1424

Folio 43 (verso) contains a geometric progression in its left margin:

Folio 43 (verso) from Compendium artis arismetice by Rolandus Ulysbonensis, c. 1424

Folio 68 contains a table of basic multiplication facts:

Folio 68 from Compendium artis arismetice by Rolandus Ulysbonensis, c. 1424

The images above have been obtained through the kind cooperation of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library of the Columbia University Libraries. These and more images may be accessed via Digital Scriptorium, a digital collection of medieval and early Renaissance manuscripts made available by a consortium of cooperating university libraries headed by the University of California, Berkeley. 

Index to Mathematical Treasures

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: 15th Century Compendium of Arithmetic," Convergence (June 2018)

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