Etten, Hendrik van [Jean Leurechon] (ca.1591–1670), supposed author; Oughtred, William (bap. 1575-1660)

Mathematicall recreations, or, a collection of many problemes, extracted out of the ancient and modern philosophers, as secrets and experiments in arithmetick, geometry, cosmographie, horologiographie, astronomie, navigation, musick, opticks, architecture, statick, mechanicks, chemistry, water-works, fire-works, &c. Not vulgarly manifest till now. Written first in Greeke and Latin, lately compi’ld in French, by Henry Van Etten, and now in English, with the examinations and augmentations of divers modern mathematicians. Whereunto is added the description and use of the general horologicall ring: and the double horizontall diall. Invented and written by William Oughtred.

London: Printed for William Leake, 1653


Octavo: 2 parts in one: 16.2 x 10.5 cm. [40], 284, [1], 285-6, [17] p. Collation: A8, *8, §4, B-R8, S4, T8, V4, X8 (note: unlike the 1633 edition, in this edition the engraved title and the leaf "On the Frontispice [sic]" are integral to the collation. See ESTC)

SECOND EDITION IN ENGLISH, second issue. “A re-issue, with a cancel title page, of the other 1653 edition.”(ESTC)

Bound in modern calf. With an additional engraved title page (folded to avoid trimming) and a leaf bound opposite "On the Frontispiece and Booke". With 97 small engravings throughout the text. A very good copy with mild browning to the head of the title, tightly bound.

"This second English edition follows that of London 1633, with the addition (beginning on X1 recto) of "The Description and use of the double horizontal dyal, a work by William Oughtred" (1575-1660), first published in 1636. The prominence of Oughtred’s name on the title-page raised speculation that he might be the translator despite the fact that Oughtred’s name appeared nowhere in the 1633 London edition (see below). The ESTC now adds Francis Malthus, author of a work on fireworks, as a possible translator. According to ESTC this is the first issue of this edition, with "Greeke" and "compi’ld" in the title, and "Temple Gates" in the imprint.

"This book is a collection of ninety-one problems and amusements. Although the title implies they are mathematical in nature, the problems actually cover arithmetic, geometry, cosmography, clock making, astronomy, navigation, music, optics, mechanics, and several other fields. Many of the problems are illustrated with small woodcuts, one of them a very early illustration of the thermometer.

There are varied opinions as to the actual author of this work. Some authorities attribute it to Leurechon, suggesting that he published it under his pupil’s name for reasons unknown. Others suggest that the work is Van Etten’s and that Leurechon and others (Claude Mydorge and Denis Henrion) all made significant contributions, particularly to later editions. Van Etten is given credit in the English translation produced by William Oughtred (Etten, "Mathematical recreations", 1653), but even the attribution of the translation to Oughtred is in doubt. For further information, consult Trevor H. Hall, Mathematical recreations, 1969.

"This English translation has long been attributed to William Oughtred because his work, bound after the main material, is mentioned on the title page. This edition was apparently translated from editions published after the French edition ("Recreation mathematique", 1626) because the problems are not always identical (the thermometer, for example, is not included). It has two additional sections that were not included in the original. The first of forty-five additional problems is usually attributed to Denis Henrion and/or Claude Mydorge. The second, a treatise on fireworks, gives directions for creating rockets, mortars, and other highly dangerous amusements.

"The printing of this edition was apparently done in two stages, with the illustrations being printed after the text was complete. This process has resulted in some of the illustrations slightly overlapping the text in places and at least one being upside down. There are two title pages to the work, one typeset and the other engraved. The Oughtred work, obviously meant to be included in the volume, has its own title page."(Tomash & Williams)

Tomash & Williams E18 (and O42); ESTC R233650; Trevor H. Hall, Old conjuring books, pp.83-119; Instruments in print 8; David Singmaster, The bibliography of some recreational mathematics books (third edition, London 1996), p.14; Toole Stott, A Bibliography of English conjuring, 1581-1876, 430; Wing L1790