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The Earliest Arithmetics in English   By: (fl. 1230)

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[Transcriber's Note:

This text is intended for users whose text readers cannot use the "real" (unicode/utf 8) version of the file. Characters that could not be fully displayed have been "unpacked" and shown in brackets:

[gh] (yogh) [n~], [l~l] (n with curl, crossed l: see below) 0 (Greek phi: see below)

In The Crafte of Nombrynge , final "n" was sometimes written with an extra curl. In this Latin 1 text it is shown as [n~]. In the same selection, the numeral "0" was sometimes printed as the Greek letter phi. It is shown here as 0 rather than the usual ph because the physical form is more significant than the sound of the letter. Double "l" with a line is shown as [l~l]. The first few occurrences of "d" (for "pence") were printed with a decorative curl. The letter is shown with the same "d´" used in the remainder of the text.

The word "withdraw" or "w{i}t{h}draw" was inconsistently hyphenated; it was left as printed, and line end hyphens were retained. Superscripts are shown with carets as ^e. Except for [Illustration] markers and similar, and the letters noted above, all brackets are in the original.

Individual letters were italicized to show expanded abbreviations; these are shown in br{ac}es. Other italicized words are shown conventionally with lines , boldface with marks. When a footnote called for added text, the addition is shown in the body text with [[double brackets]].

The original text contained at least five types of marginal note. Details are given at the end of the e text, followed by a listing of typographical errors.]

The Earliest Arithmetics in English

Early English Text Society.

Extra Series, No. CXVIII.

1922 (for 1916).


Edited With Introduction



London: Published for the Early English Text Society By Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press, Amen Corner, E.C. 4. 1922.

[Titles (list added by transcriber):

The Crafte of Nombrynge The Art of Nombryng Accomptynge by Counters The arte of nombrynge by the hande APP. I. A Treatise on the Numeration of Algorism APP. II. Carmen de Algorismo]


The number of English arithmetics before the sixteenth century is very small. This is hardly to be wondered at, as no one requiring to use even the simplest operations of the art up to the middle of the fifteenth century was likely to be ignorant of Latin, in which language there were several treatises in a considerable number of manuscripts, as shown by the quantity of them still in existence. Until modern commerce was fairly well established, few persons required more arithmetic than addition and subtraction, and even in the thirteenth century, scientific treatises addressed to advanced students contemplated the likelihood of their not being able to do simple division. On the other hand, the study of astronomy necessitated, from its earliest days as a science, considerable skill and accuracy in computation, not only in the calculation of astronomical tables but in their use, a knowledge of which latter was fairly common from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries.

The arithmetics in English known to me are:

(1) Bodl. 790 G. VII. (2653) f. 146 154 (15th c.) inc. "Of angrym ther be IX figures in numbray . . ." A mere unfinished fragment, only getting as far as Duplation.

(2) Camb. Univ. LI. IV. 14 (III.) f. 121 142 (15th c.) inc. "Al maner of thyngis that prosedeth ffro the frist begynnyng . . ."

(3) Fragmentary passages or diagrams in Sloane 213 f. 120 3 (a fourteenth century counting board), Egerton 2852 f. 5 13, Harl. 218 f. 147 and

(4) The two MSS. here printed; Eg. 2622 f. 136 and Ashmole 396 f. 48. All of these, as the language shows, are of the fifteenth century.

The CRAFTE OF NOMBRYNGE is one of a large number of scientific treatises, mostly in Latin, bound up together as Egerton MS... Continue reading book >>

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