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Byrne: Six Books of Euclid Hardcover – May 25, 2010

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About the Author

Werner Oechslin (b.1944) studied art history, archaeology, philosophy and mathematics. After doctoral studies in Zurich in 1970 he taught at MIT and Harvard University. Since 1985 he has been a professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, where he led the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture from 1986 to 2006. His research focuses on architectural theory and the cultural history of architecture. His most recent publication is Palladianismus: Andrea Palladio - Werk und Wirkung (2008). He is the founder of Bibliothek Werner Oechslin in Einsiedeln.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Taschen; Box Pck Ha edition (May 25, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 3836517752
  • ISBN-13: 978-3836517751
  • Product Dimensions: 10.1 x 8.3 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #791,113 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

48 of 48 people found the following review helpful By J. Cooper on July 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Oliver Byrne's 1847 printing of Euclid's Elements, in which letters and symbols are replaced with yellow, red, blue, and black diagrams, was a tremendous technical printing feat in the mid 19th century, and remains the most unique Elements ever printed. Instead of "triangle ABC is equal to triangle ACD," the triangles are drawn out, in identifying colors, with an equals sign between. Boldly-colored shapes are queerly compared on every page, making the book as surreal as it is playful. Byrne took one of the most important works of Western thought and made a book, a physical book, as unique and memorable as its intellectual content. Edward Tufte's effusive praise for the work is well-deserved.

This reprinting, for the first time in 160 years (!), is a remarkable page for page copy of the original. The corrigenda page and matching errors in the text are preserved - as they of course should be - and the last page even has the "Chiswick: printed by C. Whittingham." type at the bottom. It's such an exact replica, I don't know how they did it. The originals tend to be foxed and browned, but Taschen either found a copy in incredible condition to emulate, or they recreated the whole thing from scratch (?!). The print and paper colors are near-perfectly replicated. The only noticeable difference between this and an 1847 original is the missing thickness of the diagrams. They look thick and painted in the original, while they are flat and printed in the Taschen edition - they're no longer tactile. All in all, though, mark me down as very impressed.

The binding and clamshell case look good on the shelf, and in the case is also an informative (though dry) booklet on Byrne's work.

If you're looking for a more typical copy of Euclid's Elements, I recommend Green Lion Press's edition, which contains all 13 books in a single volume.
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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Ed Pegg Jr TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 27, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Byrne book is absolutely gorgeous. Over 130 years ago, Byrne had the idea of removing almost all words from Euclid, and replacing the words with visually obvious color pictures.

His demands on the publishers were tremendous. No color printing of this magnitude had been done before (in the 1800's), and they feared the high cost of the book and the high printing cost would bankrupt them.

They were right. This book destroyed them. It remained an obscure collectors item. Most mathematicians know nothing about this book, and are stunned when they see the pages.

The pages aren't viewable here, but are available at the publisher's site. Well worth a look.

Oh... and Euclid's Elements. Most famous math book in the past 2500 years. This is arguably the best presentation of this material ever made.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Rob Hardy HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on November 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Euclid's Elements played important and contradictory roles in the life of Bertrand Russell. He was introduced to them in his adolescence, and was inspired ever after to pursue mathematical knowledge. His enthusiasm for Euclid did not last, however. By the time he was thirty he had come to realize that Euclid was not the logically or mathematically perfect foundation he had hoped. He thought that it was an embarrassment that Euclid, 2000 years on, should still be used as a textbook. In an essay on Euclid, Russell was to write, "His definitions do not always define, his axioms are not always indemonstrable, his demonstrations require many axioms of which he is quite unconscious." A particular problem, Russell said, is that Euclid required figures, and the figures helped an observer hurtle over logical steps that ought to have been taken into account within the proofs they illustrate. (This is to skip over the objection to Euclid's famous Fifth Postulate, which his system demands and which equally valid non-Euclidean systems disallow.) I don't know that Russell ever got sight of _The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid in Which Coloured Diagrams and Symbols Are Used Instead of Letters for the Greater Ease of Learners_ which was published in 1847. In it, the author Oliver Byrne concentrated on the diagrams, but in a way that no one had before. With lines, solid regions, and corners of angles colored red, yellow, blue, and black, Byrne took the diagrams, colored in the important parts, and rewrote the proofs with few words or letters, just the colored parts quoted from the diagram. The original publication with colored woodcuts is a rarity now, and if you have a spare $20,000 you might be able to get one.Read more ›
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Charles J. Budde on April 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I first encountered Oliver Byrne's illustrations of Euclid while looking for rare books. The original copy was 'available' for $1700 on bid. I have admired this work and its depictions. Now I own this beautifully rendered copy. This is a boxed set and would make a lovely gift for anyone interested in illustrations, mathematics, history, etc. Very well done. I am very happy with this purchase.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Vincent Poirier on May 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
There's something about a beautifully crafted book. When well thought out, the physical elements will support and enhance the content.

It all matters: the paper on which it is printed, the design governing the choice of typeface, the spacing between the letters and the lines, the economy with which every bit of ink on the page serves to convey information--what Edward Tufte would call a low ink to data ratio.

For over two thousand years, Euclid's Elements formed the core of what has today become western liberal education. Without Euclid we would simply not be who we are, but that doesn't mean his theorems are always easy to grasp. During the Renaissance and through the age of sailing ships, gentlemen had the time to devote understanding his work but when Industrial Revolution quickened the pace of life businessmen and engineers wanted to get it learned more quickly.

And while Euclid himself famously told King Ptolemy that there was no royal road to geometry, in 1847 Oliver Byrne decided there was. He replaced the letters traditionally used to identify points, lines, and angles with shapes and colours. He replaced in the text itself the phrase "take the line drawn between point A and point B" with the phrase " take ---" where "---" was an actual black line (or red or yellow) that referred to a line in a drawing near the text.

Unfortunately, he stretched the printing technology of the time and his book could not be produced economically; the second half was never published. Byrne's work was soon forgotten and when technology caught up, no one continued his work. Perhaps because Euclid fell out of favor as part of the basic curriculum, perhaps because this particular inspiration never hit anyone. Who knows?
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