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The Annotated Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions Reprint Edition

26 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465011230
ISBN-10: 0465011233
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Editorial Reviews Review

The product of an agreeably dotty cleric named Edwin Abbott Abbott and first published in 1884, Flatland distills all that the Victorian era knew of higher mathematics--and then some--into a witty, complex novel of ideas.

Ian Stewart, the author of the equally witty sequel, Flatterland--which adds to Abbott's store of science the key discoveries made since--does a superb job of explaining the original book's enigmas, allusions, ironies, implausibilities, and what Douglas Hofstadter would call "metamagical themas." Among other things, Stewart comments on Abbott's comments on such things as the nature/nurture controversy, the fourth dimension and beyond, the role of multidimensional spaces in economic systems, infinite series and perfect squares, celestial mechanics, and other matters close to the hearts of cosmologists and science buffs alike.

Stewart's notes make an entertaining and learned addition to an already classic bit of writing--one that has never been out of print since its first publication. For both devoted Abbott fans and newcomers to his work, this is the edition to have. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In The Annotated Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, Ian Stewart (Does God Play Dice?) introduces and explains Edwin A. Abbott's 1884 math-geek classic. Stewart, a mathematics professor at Britain's University of Warwick, discusses Abbott's milieu and friends (including George Eliot and H.G. Wells), Victorian literary conventions (e.g., his protagonist gains understanding of the three-dimensional world in a dream), the low social status of Flatlandian women, Abbott's class and political affiliations, and a host of other entertaining and enlightening tidbits. Photos and illus.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (July 22, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465011233
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465011230
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #282,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

90 of 90 people found the following review helpful By audrey pierce TOP 500 REVIEWER on March 31, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I first read Flatland as an undergraduate mathematics major. It was an epiphany. With spectacularly clear words and explanations Abbott related, in a first person narrative, the thoughts and experiences of A. Square as he explained his own two-dimensional world and explored others of varying dimension. After reading it, I looked at the world in a new way. It was one of the first books I ever wrote in; I was so excited with thought that I underlined, punctuated, and jotted ideas down in the margins -- breaking a lifelong habit of respecting books by treating them like sacred objects. I was grateful to Abbott for his ideas and his lucidity. Breaching biology and time, he had awakened in me a new appreciation of the aesthetics of science and mathematics. Now, here comes Ian Stewart to make this wonderful book even more interesting!

This book is a pleasure in so many ways. The quality of the paper and typesetting are exceptional, the layout is clear, the annotator is a talented writer, and the volume is generously augmented with photo reproductions and line drawings. Stewart's text is just wonderful. While the preface begins with a question: "What is Flatland and why should it be annotated?" and continues with Professor Stewart's reasoning and motivation in tackling this subject, the introduction focuses on Flatland's author, Edwin Abbott Abbott. Stewart is a fine writer and I learned a lot in both sections. But that is just an appetizer. Stewart states in the preface that his intellectual pursuit of all things Flatland led him down many paths and, taking his cue from long-time interesting thinker Martin Gardner, he lets the information flow.
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68 of 68 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh VINE VOICE on June 2, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Flatland is a novel originally published in 1884 by Edwin A. Abbott. It is told from the point of view of A. Square, that four-sided resident of the titular country. The first part of the book consists of a description of what it is like to live in a two-dimensional world. The second part concerns A. Square's encounter with a sphere and his subsequent "visions" of pointland, lineland and spaceland.
The purpose of this novel is two-fold: to introduce the casual reader into the concepts of multi-dimensional spaces (i.e. what will become the concept of four dimensional space-time) and to provide social commentary on Victorian society. I cannot comment much on what he achieves in terms of opening the eyes of the Victorian reader to the ills of that society; however, I find his ability to illuminate the concepts of dimensionality extra-ordinary. As a math and physics teacher, I am always looking for ways to open my students' minds to visualizing what they are doing. Even after well over 100 years, few people have approached Abbott's clarity in helping people visualize the difference between different dimensions. One of the best examples: a square only "looks" like a square to someone who can see in three dimensions. A square itself, trapped in a plane, would see another square (or, indeed, any figure) only as a line. This leads to intriguing thoughts on what creatures who live in higher dimensions than our own see as they look at us.
Of course, the story of Flatland alone is wonderful but Stewart's annotation and commentary take the book to another level. On nearly every page, Stewart offers insight and background into the text. Unable to resist the pun: he added another dimension to the book. Having read Flatland many years ago and enjoyed it, I felt I understood the book much better this time around with Stewart's help. Anyone with an interest in math and physics should not pass up the opportunity to read this edition of Flatland.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Steve Reina VINE VOICE on June 20, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
With the Alice in Wonderland books, the late 1800s seem to have been the time for really creative mathemetical writing.

Although not as frequently read, Flatland, the Edwin Abbott Abbott story of a little square coming to understanding that higher dimensions do indeed exist outside his world is a delightful read. For those seeking to understand what life is like in other dimensions, Flatland is very comprehensible with clear writing and simple, easy to understand illustrations that help drive home Abbott's points.

Originally written with many sly references to the then existing state of British culture, Abbott's invitation to try and understand higher dimensions was also an invitation to society of his time to try to re think its views on a myriad of issues...including its openness to women in education.

In this way, Abbott converted viewing higher dimensions into both a mathematical and social challenge...points Stewart was sensitive to in his annotations and his own homage, Flatterland.

Although other editions of this work exist, the annotated Flatland is the one to buy both because of its faithful reproduction of the original and its thought provoking and helpful footnotes that give the work broader meaning.
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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful A Kid's Review on May 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Contrary to this silly form I am actully 14. I am an eighth grader and I read this for my Algebra 1 class. I fell in love with it instanly. The themes, ideas, and satires all intertwined create one of the best books ever written. The paralle of the unique twist between Euclidian and Non-Euclidian and the satire of Victorian England are wonderful. This book makes you both laugh-out-loud and cry, but most of all it makes you think. Edwin Abbot Abbot was not only a mathamatican but also a brillent liggest. His pros style makes the book all the better... BUY THIS BRILLENT BOOK
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