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Exhibition 'Marvellous Invention: Four Hundred Years of Logarithms' (August - October 2014) - library collections

Napier, John. The Construction of the Wonderful Canon of
Logarithms. 1889. T/NAP.

John Napier introduced the concept of logarithms in Mirifici
Logarithmorum Canonis Descriptio in 1614. Their use spread
quickly as a computational aid and they were included on slide
rules used to make calculations. Displayed here is a 19th century
English translation of Napier.

Briggs, Henry. Mathematical Tables. 1706. T/BRI.

Academics often annotated their books, and this book is particularly heavy
with notes, though almost all of them appear as endpapers. The writer
is unknown, but likely wrote them in the 18th century. The final lines are:
“How short & easy by Logarithms! How tedious & difficult by common
Arithmetic!” The book annotated is an edition of Mathematical Tables by
Henry Briggs, who worked closely with Napier.

Dunn, Samuel. Tables of correct and concise logarithms. 1784. T/DUN.

Better remembered for his work on longitude and navigation, Samuel
Dunn wrote for the 18th century gentleman scholar. Tables of correct and
concise logarithms… contains a generous introduction to the subject of
logarithmetic, or the use of logarithms for calculation. Dunn makes specific
reference to how logs can be used for astronomy, surveying, and finding

Babbage, Charles. Tables of the logarithms of the natural
numbers from 1 to 108000. 1844. T/BAB

Babbage is best known for his contribution to computing.
Like many mathematicians of his time, however, logarithms
were key to his work; his tables of logarithms were known for
their accuracy and reprinted until the 20th century. Babbage’s
Difference Engine was intended in part to create accurate
logarithms; a prototype can be seen in the middle gallery.

Tables of Logarithms. 1857. T/SOC

Logarithms have been crucial to the study of mathematics since their
discovery and were always taught by professors. This copy of the popular
1857 Tables of Logarithms belonged to Augustus de Morgan, who was the
first mathematics professor at London University and edited this edition.

Handbook of the Exhibition of the Napier Relics, 1914. LE/NAP os.

Not only did Museum founder Lewis Evans attend the celebrations
for the 300th anniversary of the logarithm in Edinburgh, but
he also loaned several sets of Napier’s bones and slide rules. His
exhibition handbook contains a list of items loaned, neatly ticked
off, presumably to confirm their safe return. Two can be seen in the
low display case on the opposite side of the door.

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