(NAPIER’s rods) Neperische Rechnungstäfelein No. 951 a (manuscript title on lid). No place, publisher and date (maybe Nuremberg, G. H. Bestelmeier ca 1800). A complete set containing 33 engraved and hand-coloured narrow lengthy cardboard strips (94 x 27 mm) and a four-page folded manual with printed text. Loosely contained in original wooden box covered with stone marbled paper on sides and lid, bottom with a block printed paper with a blue veined ground and a repetitive pattern made of black triangles, the movable lid with a mounted, cut-out and hand-colored engraved label with manuscript title and numbering. Size: 110 x 120 x 25 mm. Slightly rubbed. Very fine complete set.

Very rare German set of Napier’s rods by a German manufacturer as described in G. H. Bestelmeier: Magazin von verschiedenen Kunst- und andern nuezlichen Sachen zur lehrreichen und angenehmen Unterhaltung der Jugend, als auch für Liebhaber der Kuenste und Wissenschaften, ... Nuremberg, Bestelmeier 1807. Nr. 951 a. “Neperische Rechnungstaefelein, deren sind in einem Kästchen 33 Stück beisammmen; diese sind wegen ihrer Grösse von bequemern Gebrauch, als die gewöhnlichen Rechnungsstaebe. 36 kr.“ Napier’s bones or rods were manually-operated calculating device created by John Napier in the early 17th cent. for the calculation of products and quotients of numbers. Looking to ease his own difficulties in calculating logarithmic tables, and impatient with the tedious and error-prone process of working with large numbers, Napier invented several mechanical methods of simplifying and speeding up multiplication, the most famous being special rods, later known as Napier’s bones / rods. He published in 1617 a description of these in his Rabdologiae, the title of which Napier derived from the Greek ραβδoς (rod) and λόγος (word). The reason for publishing the work is given by Napier in the dedication, where he says that so many of his friends, to whom he had shown the numbering rods, were so pleased with them that they were already becoming widely used, even beginning to be used in foreign countries. In the next centuries a lot of inventors tried to improve and facilitate the work with Napier’s rods, starting with Wilhelm Schickard in the early 1620s up to the late 1650’s when the famous German scientist Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) developed his Organum Mathematicum, Mathematische Orgel or cista which was later described by his pupil Gaspar Schott (1608-1666). The Napier’s rods were in use in mathematics until the midth 19th century. Charles Babbage (1791-1871), the computer pioneer, was directly inspired by John Napier’s logarithms and other number tables. Such tables took years to calculate and check. Despite this effort there were often errors in the printed versions which resulted in wrong answers to calculations. Babbage’s ‘difference engine’ was intended to solve these problems, by calculating the numbers and producing printing plates automatically. He also experimented with different coloured papers and inks to make the tables as clear to read as possible.

5400,- EUR

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