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The Art of Computer Programming, Volumes 1-4A Boxed Set [Hardcover]

by Donald E. Knuth
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 3, 2011 0321751043 978-0321751041 1

The bible of all fundamental algorithms and the work that taught many of today’s software developers most of what they know about computer programming.

—Byte, September 1995


Countless readers have spoken about the profound personal influence of Knuth’s work. Scientists have marveled at the beauty and elegance of his analysis, while ordinary programmers have successfully applied his “cookbook” solutions to their day-to-day problems. All have admired Knuth for the breadth, clarity, accuracy, and good humor found in his books.


I can’t begin to tell you how many pleasurable hours of study and recreation they have afforded me! I have pored over them in cars, restaurants, at work, at home… and even at a Little League game when my son wasn’t in the line-up.

Charles Long


Primarily written as a reference, some people have nevertheless found it possible and interesting to read each volume from beginning to end. A programmer in China even compared the experience to reading a poem.


If you think you’re a really good programmer… read [Knuth’s] Art of Computer Programming… You should definitely send me a résumé if you can read the whole thing.

Bill Gates


Whatever your background, if you need to do any serious computer programming, you will find your own good reason to make each volume in this series a readily accessible part of your scholarly or professional library.


It’s always a pleasure when a problem is hard enough that you have to get the Knuths off the shelf. I find that merely opening one has a very useful terrorizing effect on computers.

Jonathan Laventhol

In describing the new fourth volume, one reviewer listed the qualities that distinguish all of Knuth’s work.

[In sum:] detailed coverage of the basics, illustrated with well-chosen examples; occasional forays into more esoteric topics and problems at the frontiers of research; impeccable writing peppered with occasional bits of humor; extensive collections of exercises, all with solutions or helpful hints; a careful attention to history; implementations of many of the algorithms in his classic step-by-step form.

—Frank Ruskey

These four books comprise what easily could be the most important set of information on any serious programmer’s bookshelf.

Frequently Bought Together

The Art of Computer Programming, Volumes 1-4A Boxed Set + Concrete Mathematics: A Foundation for Computer Science (2nd Edition) + Hacker's Delight (2nd Edition)
Price for all three: $275.45

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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

This boxed set consists of the following four volumes:   


0201896834 / 9780201896831 Art of Computer Programming, Volume 1: Fundamental Algorithms

0201896842 / 9780201896848 Art of Computer Programming, Volume 2: Seminumerical Algorithms

0201896850 / 9780201896855 Art of Computer Programming, Volume 3: Sorting and Searching

0201038048 / 9780201038040 Art of Computer Programming, Volume 4A: Combinatorial Algorithms

About the Author

Donald E. Knuth is known throughout the world for his pioneering work on algorithms and programming techniques, for his invention of the TEX and METAFONT systems for computer typesetting, and for his prolific and influential writing (26 books, 161 papers). Professor Emeritus of The Art of Computer Programming at Stanford University, he currently devotes full time to the completion of his seminal multivolume series on classical computer science, begun in 1962 when he was a graduate student at California Institute of Technology. Professor Knuth is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the ACM Turing Award, the Medal of Science presented by President Carter, the AMS Steele Prize for expository writing, and, in November, 1996, the prestigious Kyoto Prize for advanced technology. He lives on the Stanford campus with his wife, Jill.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 3168 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (March 3, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321751043
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321751041
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 7.1 x 7.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #14,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Donald E. Knuth was born on January 10, 1938 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He studied mathematics as an undergraduate at Case Institute of Technology, where he also wrote software at the Computing Center. The Case faculty took the unprecedented step of awarding him a Master's degree together with the B.S. he received in 1960. After graduate studies at California Institute of Technology, he received a Ph.D. in Mathematics in 1963 and then remained on the mathematics faculty. Throughout this period he continued to be involved with software development, serving as consultant to Burroughs Corporation from 1960-1968 and as editor of Programming Languages for ACM publications from 1964-1967.

He joined Stanford University as Professor of Computer Science in 1968, and was appointed to Stanford's first endowed chair in computer science nine years later. As a university professor he introduced a variety of new courses into the curriculum, notably Data Structures and Concrete Mathematics. In 1993 he became Professor Emeritus of The Art of Computer Programming. He has supervised the dissertations of 28 students.

Knuth began in 1962 to prepare textbooks about programming techniques, and this work evolved into a projected seven-volume series entitled The Art of Computer Programming. Volumes 1-3 first appeared in 1968, 1969, and 1973. Having revised these three in 1997, he is now working full time on the remaining volumes. Volume 4A appeared at the beginning of 2011. More than one million copies have already been printed, including translations into ten languages.

He took ten years off from that project to work on digital typography, developing the TeX system for document preparation and the METAFONT system for alphabet design. Noteworthy by-products of those activities were the WEB and CWEB languages for structured documentation, and the accompanying methodology of Literate Programming. TeX is now used to produce most of the world's scientific literature in physics and mathematics.

His research papers have been instrumental in establishing several subareas of computer science and software engineering: LR(k) parsing; attribute grammars; the Knuth-Bendix algorithm for axiomatic reasoning; empirical studies of user programs and profiles; analysis of algorithms. In general, his works have been directed towards the search for a proper balance between theory and practice.

Professor Knuth received the ACM Turing Award in 1974 and became a Fellow of the British Computer Society in 1980, an Honorary Member of the IEEE in 1982. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the National Academy of Engineering; he is also a foreign associate of l'Academie des Sciences (Paris), Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi (Oslo), Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften (Munich), the Royal Society (London), and Rossiiskaya Akademia Nauk (Moscow). He holds five patents and has published approximately 160 papers in addition to his 28 books. He received the Medal of Science from President Carter in 1979, the American Mathematical Society's Steele Prize for expository writing in 1986, the New York Academy of Sciences Award in 1987, the J.D. Warnier Prize for software methodology in 1989, the Adelskøld Medal from the Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1994, the Harvey Prize from the Technion in 1995, and the Kyoto Prize for advanced technology in 1996. He was a charter recipient of the IEEE Computer Pioneer Award in 1982, after having received the IEEE Computer Society's W. Wallace McDowell Award in 1980; he received the IEEE's John von Neumann Medal in 1995. He holds honorary doctorates from Oxford University, the University of Paris, St. Petersburg University, and more than a dozen colleges and universities in America.

Professor Knuth lives on the Stanford campus with his wife, Jill. They have two children, John and Jennifer. Music is his main avocation.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
371 of 458 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful books September 1, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Since reviews of the book content can be found elsewhere, I thought I'd review the actual collection that I bought - these four books and the box that they came in.

They are beautiful, the off-white coloured dust jackets make a pleasing change to the other pure white books that I have on my desk, and the box sets the set apart from everything else.

Also, since purchasing this set, the following things have happened.

1) My IQ increased by 1 point as soon as I placed the box on my bookshelf
2) The Women in my IT department increased their rating of me by 1.5. Apparently I'm now an 8 (9 if I take my glasses off) my colleagues report that this is a 0.5 increase in rating over a non-boxed collection of these books.
3) I have found that taking one book out, opening to a random page and inhaling deeply, when combined with a double-shot coffee, will ensure good spirits and coding karma for at least the next 4 hours.

My only complaint about this set is the fact that they are fairly snugly fit in the box. this requires actually tipping the box forward to select a book, you cannot fit your finger over the top of any one book to pull it out. The exaggerated action of doing this, however invokes jealous looks and dreamy eyes from my male and female/gay colleagues respectively so is worth it.

in short: buy this set!
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56 of 67 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A joy to read - forever May 28, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I had read Knuth in college a couple of decades ago, as part of a course. Reading the books again after all these year, without the academic pressure - Just curling up in bed, on a Saturday afternoon, opening just about any chapter, marveling at the sheer beauty of the algorithms Knuth has put together, and the way Knuth has put them together - is such a pleasure

This set is sure to be a standard reference book on your wall. I bought mine because of that last volume, which was not available in the book store near me. I plan to take my time to read through volumes 1-3, at leisure over the next several weekends, when I get a few hours to spare at home, before I hit that last volume.

I was expecting a book with a good glossy cover (talk about judging a book by its cover!). The contents are simply fabulous, and the print quality and the paper inside are great.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow reading December 17, 2012
By Berdy
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I decided to read these back to front. It has been a slow process due to how dense each sentence is. There is no filler or fluff. Having Google next to me helps whenever I have gotten stuck on words or meanings. Most searchers are math concepts that I have to review. If you have the drive, I recommend reading these. The book is like jaw breaker. You can't just quickly chew the information, you have to slowly melt the information.

But I've heard they make good reference books as well.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Every Developer Should Read These June 3, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Dr. Yale Patt once told me that anybody who reads through these volumes and completes all the exercises will become an incredibly valuable software developer, and thinker in general. After spending a few weeks with these books, I realize that he was correct, although completing all of the exercises may be impossible in any reasonable amount of time.

Do yourself a favor. Buy these books, read through them, and try to complete the exercises. I promise you will become a significantly better programmer, regardless of your current skill level.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars got calculus? April 19, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I am a Computer Science major and am currently working through calculus classes. These books definitely require someone who knows their math to read. This is pure Computer Science blended with higher level mathematics. Come prepared!
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Since receipt of volume 4A two days ago, I have been dipping into this and that topic via the indexes ...

What an excellent authoritive masterful survey - up to 2011 - of combinatorial exhaustive search techniques ...

And, some focus on application to business usable sorting and searching techniques ...

Excellent and comprehensive chapter on bitwise tips and techniques, and all sorts of other obscure techniques such as resolution and radix sorting that may not be obvious to information systems graduates who don't have to study algorithms in depth.

(Must confess I've seen earlier editions of volumes 1 to 3 before!)

Donald Knuth is not averse to explaining some things in terms of history or heuristic ... the only heuristic explanation I'm familiar with he doesn't raise are the ones based on the laws of thermodynamics. There is this argument that to understand sorting algorithms one must consider the entrophy gains and losses as the system becomes more ordered and the consequent radiated heat somewhere else in the universe. The related argument from nuclear cell division DNA replication - in science fiction called sometimes the life force - is that when one duplicates information there is a consequent 'life force' heat side effect from the physical law of the conservation of information in quantum mechanics equations. The heuristic explanation then is that if we can minimise the heat from the sorting, we'll have found the best sorting algorithm. Now quicksort wastes more fractions of distinguishment than multi-pass-N-way merge sorting in theory ... so there is more tiny fractions of wasted bits caused by the comparisions.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars recent purchase
First I have to Thank the development and design team for such a great user experience. My purchase was confirmed immediately, sent immediately and I was notified through the... Read more
Published 17 days ago by Yadira Sedler
5.0 out of 5 stars Art but not textbook
These volumes (except for the last one) were first written years ago and the coverage shows it. Many topics are out of date and hopefully promised future editions will provide... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Linda
5.0 out of 5 stars Excelent work!
Although I just reviewed the books and read few parts, it seems that the work talk by itself...Great structure and excellent topics for programming.
Published 2 months ago by Vladimir A. Fajardo R
5.0 out of 5 stars Tough, but worth it
I had read chapters of these books before, and finally decided to by them. They goes into incredible depth concerning why
some techniques work and some do not. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Michael Teter
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best!
I purchased this set for my son's birthday. He is a computer science grad and really wanted to have this definitive collection. When the collection arrived I checked it out. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Michael Perkins
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have for the programmers out there
Amazing set of books. I'm so excited to finally get them. Came just as stated. Can't wait to dive in!
Published 5 months ago by amy chastain
5.0 out of 5 stars The king of algoritms!
The book illustrates every problem widely. The author shows the tasks' importance and their perfect solutions. I am working on a project which requires perfect searching. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Orkhan
5.0 out of 5 stars It's good
For anyone in CS or ECE, it's your best friend. I can learn enough and find the real art through it.
Published 7 months ago by Junning Jiang
5.0 out of 5 stars The art of algorithms
It's written by D.E. Knuth, need I say more. This is a must have for every software engineer on your Christmas list.
Published 7 months ago by Thomas J. Fournier
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow - The Basics of Understanding COmputer Science -
At first, I assumed this collection of books would be dry and a basic re-hash of intermediate-level concepts - however, the reader is taken down a carefully notched path leading to... Read more
Published 8 months ago by TheTrainer
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Topic From this Discussion
Release date?
March 14. If you check the publisher line, it has the publish date in parentheses. :)
Mar 12, 2011 by Sarah Spain |  See all 2 posts
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