The Ciphers of the Monks: A Forgotten Number-notation of the Middle Ages

Front Cover
Franz Steiner Verlag, 2001 - Science - 506 pages
1 Review
This is the first comprehensive study of an ingenious number-notation from the Middle Ages that was devised by monks and mainly used in monasteries. A simple notation for representing any number up to 99 by a single cipher, somehow related to an ancient Greek shorthand, first appeared in early-13th-century England, brought from Athens by an English monk. A second, more useful version, due to Cistercian monks, is first attested in the late 13th century in what is today the border country between Belgium and France: with this any number up to 9999 can be represented by a single cipher. The ciphers were used in scriptoria - for the foliation of manuscripts, for writing year-numbers, preparing indexes and concordances, numbering sermons and the like, and outside the scriptoria - for marking the scales on an astronomical instrument, writing year-numbers in astronomical tables, and for incising volumes on wine-barrels. Related notations were used in medieval and Renaissance shorthands and coded scripts. This richly-illustrated book surveys the medieval manuscripts and Renaissance books in which the ciphers occur, and takes a close look at an intriguing astrolabe from 14th-century Picardy marked with ciphers. With Indices. "Mit Kings luzider Beschreibung und Bewertung der einzelnen Funde und ihrer Beziehungen wird zugleich die Forschungsgeschichte - die bis dato durch Widerspruechlichkeit und Diskontinuit t gepr gt ist - umfassend aufgearbeitet." Zeitschrift fuer Germanistik.
 

What people are saying - Write a review

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

As of Sept. 2016, this scholarly book is available in NO online stores. I'm glad there is a published book with lower circulation than my own.

Contents

Preface
15
Acknowledgements
21
Introduction
27
The English ciphers
49
The horizontal ciphers of the Cistercians
91
The astrolabe of Berselius
131
The French vertical ciphers in manuscript sources
152
The fate of the monastic ciphers in the Renaissance and thereafter
189
Jean Fusoris and his workshop
397
Three astronomical instruments related to the Picard astrolabe with ciphers
398
The Picard astrolabe with monastic ciphers
406
The stars on the rete
408
The names of the zodiacal signs and the months
410
The plates and the latitudes they serve
411
The calendrical scale
416
The alidade radial rule and nut and bolt
419

The ciphers falling between the cracks of modern scholarship
262
Appendix A General bibliographical notes
275
B The survival of the Roman numerals in medieval Europe
281
Ancient Greek and medieval alphanumerical notations
290
The introduction of the HinduArabic numerals in Europe
309
E Sundry numeral notations and symbols in medieval and later sources
318
F Aspects of medieval astronomy
355
H On medieval European astronomical instruments
364
J The quatrefoil on medieval astrolabe retes
380
K Astronomical instrumentation in Northern France in the 14th century
391
The textual tradition
396
MThe Virgin of Berselius
420
N Nonhistorical reflections on the ciphers
427
On the morphology and aesthetics of the ciphers
428
Ciphers to bases other than 10
429
Arithmetic with ciphers
432
Manuscripts cited
435
Astronomical instruments cited
438
Bibliography and bibliographical abbreviations
442
Indexes
502
Index of modern authors
505
Copyright

Common terms and phrases

Popular passages

Page 463 - Rara Mathematica ; or a Collection of Treatises on the Mathematics and Subjects connected with them, from ancient inedited MSS. by JO HALLIWELL, 8vo.
Page 448 - The Controversy over the Boundary between the English and Picard Nations in the University of Paris," Etudes d'histoire dediees a la memoire de Henri Pirenne (Brussels, 1937).

Bibliographic information