Saturday, November 12, 2011

Billingsley's note on Euclid, modernized spelling and punctuation/sentence structure

[thanks for the comment pointing out that this is not Dee--he only wrote the preface!] The Translator to the Reader

There is nothing, gentle reader (the Word of God alone set apart) which so much beautifies and adorns the soul and mind of man, as does the knowledge of good arts and sciences: as the knowledge of natural and moral Philosophy. The one sets before our eyes the creatures of God, and in the earth beneath: in which as in a glass, we behold the exceeding majesty and wisdom of God, in adorning and beautifying them as we see: in getting unto them such wonderful and manifold proprieties, and natural workings, and that so diversely and in such variety: farther in maintaining and conserving them continually, whereby to praise and adore him, as we are taught by Saint Paul. The other teaches us rules and precepts of virtue, how, in common life amongst men, we ought to walk uprightly: what duties pertain to ourselves, what pertains to the government or good order both of a household, and also of a city or commonwealth. The reading likewise of histories conduces not a little to the adorning of the soul and mind of man, a study of all men commended: by it are seen and known the arts and doings of infinite wise men gone before us. In histories are contained infinite examples of heroical virtues to be followed by us, and horrible examples of vices to be eschewed by us. There are many other arts which beautify the mind of man, but of all other, none do more garnish and beautify it than those arts which are called Mathematical. Unto the knowledge of which no man can attain, without the perfect knowledge and instruction of the principles, grounds, and Elements of Geometry. But to be perfectly instructed in them requires diligent study and the reading of old ancient authors. Amongst which, none for a beginner is to be preferred before the most ancient Philosopher Euclid of Megara. For of all others he has in a true method and just order gathered together whatsover any before him had written of these Elements, also inventing and adding many things of his own: whereby he has in due form accomplished the art: first getting definitions, principles, and grounds, whereof he deduces his Propositions or conclusions, in such wonderful wise, that that which goes before is of necessity required to the proof of that which follows. So that without the diligent study of Euclid's Elements, it is impossible to attain unto the perfect knowledge of Geometry, and consequently of any of the other Mathematical sciences. Wherefore considering the want and lack of such good authors hitherto in our English tongue, lamenting also the negligence and lack of zeal to their country in those of our nation, to whom God has given both knowledge and also the ability to translate into our tongue and to publish abroad such good authors and books (the chief instruments of all learnings): seeing moreover that many good wits both of gentleman and of others of all degrees, much desirous and studious of these arts, and seeking for them as much as they can, sparing no pains, and yet frustrated of their intent, by no means attaining to that which they seek. I have, for their sakes, with some charge and great travail, faithfully translated into our vulgar tongue, and set abroad in Print, this book of Euclid. Whereunto I have added easy and plain declarations and examples by figures, of the definitions. You will also find manifold additions in this book in due place: Scholies, Annotation, and Inventions, which I have gathered out of many of the most famous and chief Mathematics, both of old time and in our age: as by diligent reading in its course, you shall well perceive. The fruits and gain which I require for these, my pains and travail, shall be nothing else but only that only that you, gentle reader, will gratefully accept the same: and that you may thereby recreate some profit: and moreover to excite and stir up others learned, to do the like, and to take pains in that behalf. By this means our English tongue shall no less be enriched with good Authors than are strange other tongues--as the Dutch, French, Italian, and Spanish--in which are read all good authors in a manner, found amongst the Greeks or Latins. Which is the chiefest cause, that amonst them do flourish so many cunning and skillful men, in the inventions of strange and wonderful things, as in these our days we see there do. Which fruit and gain if I attain unti, it shall encourage me hereafter, in such like sort to translate, and set abroad some other good authors, both pertaining to religion (as I have already partly done), and also pertaining to the Mathematical Arts. Thus, gentle reader, farewell.

[under construction, corrections and suggestions welcome]


  1. this is great, but it is not Dee but Billingsley :-(

  2. oh haha this is the translator to the reading, thanks for the correction. here's a wikipedia page for the gentle reader