THE BEAUTY OF BYRNE
Euclid’s Elements is the most famous mathematical work of classical antiquity and has the distinction of being the world’s oldest continuously used mathematical textbook. Little is known about the author, beyond the fact that he lived in Alexandria around 300 BCE. The main subjects of the work are geometry, proportion, and number theory. It was one of the very earliest mathematical works to be printed after the invention of the printing press and has been estimated to be second only to the Bible in the number of editions published since the first printing in 1482.
In 1847, however, Oliver Byrne published (through William Pickering) his own unique version of Euclid's Elements, where he sought to introduce the technical aspects of Euclid's work in pictorial form like never before.
This planned edition, to be hand-printed in the second half of 2023, seeks not so much to delve into the work of Euclid, but to highlight the beauty that was Byrne's creation. Focus will be given entirely to what could be considered the illustrative elements of Byrne’s edition, highlighting their own inherent geometric beauty.
Byrne’s edition of 1847 noted in its title that ‘coloured diagrams and symbols are used instead of letters for the greater ease of learners’. That edition was considered ‘the most attractive edition of Euclid the world has ever seen’ (Werner Oechslin, 2010) and ‘one of the oddest and most beautiful books of the whole century’ (Ruari McLean, Victorian Book Design). The printing proved to be extremely difficult, requiring exact registration, with only one thousand copies published. The book has become the subject of renewed interest in recent years for its innovative graphic conception and its style which prefigures the modernist experiments of the Bauhaus and De Stijl movements.
The edition will feature a brief essay on the history and impact of the edition, an understanding of its relevance, as well as how it fits within the broader history of colour printing and the art movements influenced by it. Thereafter, the book will be entirely devoted to illustrative elements, requiring exacting registration of primary coloured geometric patterns and shapes – influenced or reproduced from Byrne’s edition, also printed letterpress. Printed on rare white antique watermarked Barcham Green hand-made paper, known as Hayle, on an Albion hand press.
The SPECIAL EDITION will be bound in a specially constructed expandable binding mimicking the title page geometric shape printed in the original edition, as well as featuring additional elements within.
The binder of the Specials - Graham Patten - is a 2014 graduate of the Buffalo State College master’s program in art conservation and is currently the book conservator at the Boston Athenaeum. He served for three years as an Assistant Book Conservator at the Northeast Document Conservation Center. He was the 2014 - 2016 Conservation Fellow at Northwestern University Library and was previously a conservation intern at the Harvard University Weissman Preservation Center. In his artistic pursuits, Graham often focuses on dynamic sculptural and mechanical elements and enjoys merging these features with innovative book structures, such as this edition. He is a member of the Guild of Bookworkers, and a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation
Further details of the edition and its contents will be updated in due course.
VIDEO of prototype EXPANDING BINDING
MATERIALS for the BINDING
(To be published in 2023)
200 x 260 mm
c. 64 pp.
The edition will be limited
SUBSCRIPTIONS OPENING SOON