Euclidean geometry has held sway in Europe for nearly two and a half thousand years. It has been used by surveyors to map fields and architects to design buildings, and studied by generations of schoolchildren. Early thinkers turned to it as a source of philosophy; later readers saw in it a monument to the genius of the Greeks, or an exercise for improving the mind. Today Euclid is commemorated in place names, on postage stamps, and even as an interplanetary satellite.
The Elements of Geometry was written by Euclid of Alexandria around 300BCE and transmitted through the medieval world in Greek, Arabic, Latin and other languages. In the seventeenth century the Elements enjoyed a particular resurgence. Nearly 300 editions of the text appeared between 1482 and 1700, ranging in size from large library tomes to small pocket-books. Today, more than 1900 copies of these editions are extant in libraries and repositories across Britain and Ireland.
Throughout summer 2018, the ‘Seeing Euclid’ network of exhibitions highlighted the legacy of Euclid’s Elements in Early Modern Britain and Ireland, with displays of books and other artefacts from the first two hundred years of Euclid in print. Curated by the research project ‘Reading Euclid’, based at the University of Oxford and funded by the AHRC, the exhibition was a collaboration between nearly thirty institutions across Britain and Ireland. Visit us at seeingeuclid.org for a map of the participating locations, where you can also find stories about how people lived with, read, used and abused the Elements of Geometry, a most long-lived and wide-ranging cultural artefact.
download the network flyer in pdf