Mathematics in Circulation in Late Seventeenth-Century London:
Evidence from auction catalogues annotated with prices and buyers’ names
Part of my research on the mathematical book trade in early modern Britain is a detailed study of hammer copies of book auction catalogues from 1680–1701. These catalogues, of which more than twenty have survived, are annotated with not only the prices paid for each lot but also the names of the purchasers, giving us an important perspective on who was collecting or trading mathematical books. They allow us to ask, for instance, what effect the buyers’ educational or professional background may have had on the types (classical or practical) and subfields (geometry, trigonometry, algebra, etc.) of the books they bought or whether the prices were influenced by previous ownership. Crucially, they also allow us to compare the prices of mathematical books with those of, for instance, theology or medicine.
The results of this research, which is made possible by the 2021 ‘Katharine Pantzer Junior Fellowship in the British Book Trades’ from the Bibliographical Society of America, will be disseminated via a dedicated website announced here.