New York: De Witt & Davenport, . First edition. With 82 text figures. Gilt spine, somewhat sunned. Pale yellow endpapers. Some foxing. Contemporary ink signature to front flyleaf. A very good, tight copy of an uncommon study of mechanics. Publisher’s pictorial green cloth stamped in gilt. Octavo. 182 oo, Item #16981
Oliver Byrne (1810 – 1880) is best remembered for The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid (1847). The work, inspired by the pedagogy of Pestalozzi, was intended to simplify Euclid’s geometry and present it in a more appealing form. The beautiful color diagrams, executed by Byrne, earned him the moniker, “the Matisse of Mathematics.” “Byrne’s 1847 Euclid was one of the first multicolor printed books and is today the most renowned and valuable of his works. Many consider it the most attractive edition of Euclid’s Elements ever produced. Byrne’s Euclid was extremely difficult and expensive to produce, requiring exact registration of the pages in order to print each color, the typeface, and the vignettes; therefore, only one thousand copies were originally published…[It] was an extraordinary example of Victorian printing and was described by…Ruari McLean in Victorian Book Design as “‘one of the oddest and most beautiful books of the whole century,’” (Hawes and Kolpas).
Byrne also wrote works on calculus, textbooks for young students, and practical texts on mechanics, math, and finance, including guides for railroad workers, metalworkers, and spinners. He was a dedicated Irish republican and penned several works in support of republican efforts, including Freedom to Ireland: The Art and Science of War for the People (1853). Hawes, Susan M. and Sid Kolpas. Oliver Byrne: The Matisse of Mathematics. Mathematical Association of America (website).