Published in Venice in 1494, Luca Pacioli’s Summa de arithmetica… incorporates mathematics and computing as well as providing the first description in print of double-entry book-keeping.
The Summa de arithmetica…, says Christie’s, represents the pinnacle of mathematical knowledge in the Renaissance, when the forgotten wisdom of the past was brought up to date with Islamic and Indian science.
Da Vinci housemate
Pacioli (1447-1517) was also a collaborator and friend of Leonardo da Vinci, with whom he shared a home in Milan for five years.
The two worked together on mathematical and perspective studies for several years before being forced to flee the city following the French invasion.
This special work, which has been shown in London, New York, San Francisco and Hong Kong prior to auction, is estimated at $1m-1.5m.
It is one of only three complete copies recorded at auction in over 50 years. The most recent occasion appeared in 2005, when a fine, partly coloured and gold heightened copy in the Macclesfield Library sold for £470,000 at Sotheby’s in London.
Dedicated to the Duke of Urbino, that copy was promoted at the time as the first printed book on algebra rather than the work marking the birth of modern business.
The auction of this single volume will be immediately followed by a regular sale of printed books and manuscripts, including Americana.