Title page of De arte supputandi libri quattuor
Cuthbert Tunstall’s De arte supputandi was the first ever English publication on arithmetic. Linked neither to holy scripture nor predominantly to classical learning, its relevance to this exhibition owes principally to its author. As well as being a church leader, diplomat, and royal adviser Tunstall was a key figure in the circle of English friends that surrounded Erasmus. Like others in that circle, Tunstall combined expertise in mathematics with a deep knowledge of Greek, Latin, and holy scripture. Erasmus particularly appreciated Tunstall’s assistance in the revision of his New Testament (1516-17) through the loan of a Greek manuscript and by suggesting emendations. Although Tunstall quickly turned his attention elsewhere after publishing his arithmetical treatise, its standing was such that he subsequently enjoyed the honour of being the dedicatee of Simon Grynäus’ pioneering edition of Euclid’s Elements.
This copy was owned by one of the next generation of humanists, the Queens’ Fellow and politician Sir Thomas Smith, whose signature appears several times on the end paper flyleaf, with further annotations throughout the volume. Title page also features 16th century presentation inscription of Clement Smith, nephew of Sir Thomas and himself a Fellow of Queens' from 1576-1611.
Author: Cuthbert Tunstall
Title: De arte supputandi libri quattuor [On the art of reckoning] (London: Richard Pynson, 1522)