Zero is the Magic Number: Text that Brought Arabic Numerals to the West Comes to Auction
Zero is the Magic Number: Text that Brought Arabic Numerals to the West Comes to Auction
  • Korea IT Times
  • 승인 2011.03.03 09:38
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Bonhams is pleased to announce the June 22, 2011 auction of Fine Books and Manuscripts featuring a rare 15th century manuscript that includes key pieces of the ground breaking mathematical work, Liber Abaci or Book of Calculation by Fibonacci.

Considered by many as one of the most talented western mathematicians of the Middle Ages, Leonardo Pisano Bigollo or Fibonacci is widely credited with bringing the Hindu-Arabic numeral system to the western world.

Within the text of the Liber Abaci, Fibonacci explains the benefits of Arabic numerals and the symbol for zero by applying them to the practical world of book-keeping, weights and measures, and trade.  His theory popularized Arabic numerals by appealing to tradesmen and academics and eventually convincing the public of the superiority of the new numerals.  It was Fibonacci's text that eventually paved the way for modern mathematical equations, sequences used in computer programming and financial markets.

Today's date of Wednesday, March 2 - 3/2/11 or 3, 2, 1, 1 - in the American system of dates, is mathematically significant and relates directly to the Liber Abaci.  The order of numbers represents, in reverse, part of the Fibonacci Sequence where each successive number is the sum of the two preceding numbers (1+1=2, 2+1=3, 3+2=5).  It is this curious series of numbers are used in global financial markets and relate to the Golden Ratio, which appears in modern aircraft, art, architecture and music as well as Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and related film.

The manuscript on offer contains the complete text of the section of Liber Abaci known as Flos or "The Flower," which is the most advanced sections of Liber Abaci, dealing with calculus, and geometrical and algebraic methods for solving quadratic equations.

This manuscript was produced in Italy and written in Latin. The Liber Abaci first appeared in 1202, in manuscript form, and only 12 copies of the manuscript from the 13th through the 15th centuries have been traced in European libraries - many of them in the Vatican.

Around 1225, Fibonacci attended the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II at the request of His Holiness.  The Emperor wanted to meet with Europe's leading mathematician.  It was during this encounter that Frederick's court mathematician challenged Fibonacci to solve three problems, one of which was borrowed from a text by Omar Khayyam of Rubaiyat fame - the text was called Al-jabr ("Algebra").  It is in the Flos chapters of the Liber Abaci that Fibonacci solves the problems.

Bound with the Liber Abaci is a second manuscript from a century earlier, which includes a text by Boethius.  Together the highly significant manuscript is expected to bring $120,000-180,000 at auction on June 22, 2011.

Preview: June 18-21, 2011, New York

Auction: June 22, 2011, New York


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