&c., &c., &c.





/ p.3 /





THE literature of Wales is so exclusively confined within itself, that the incidental advantages which it derives from the researches of neighbouring scholars are comparatively few. There appears to be a very general inclination among the authors of England and the continent to undervalue the importance of its literature, under the impression that the writers of the principality are more anxious to support the favourite views of their own countrymen than the general cause of learning; and it must be confessed that many circumstances have unfortunately combined to strengthen this feeling. On the eve, then, of a meeting of the friends of Cambrian literature, I take the opportunity of contributing my part, though small it be, to the desirable object of effecting an union between the historical researches of England and Wales; aware that it is principally owing to ignorance on the one hand, and an undue mistrust on the other, that they have been hitherto separated.

/ p.4 /

      That materials for the history of Welsh literature are not peculiar to the records of its own language and authors, is a truth not sufficiently known or willingly admitted. Perhaps it may be yet unknown to many, that the authorship of the celebrated Lollardic tract, entitled Speculum Christiani*,

    * I refer to a paper of mine which was read before the Society of Antiquaries during their last Session, in which I gave a minute account of the MSS. of this treatise at London, Oxford, and Cambridge.

has been proved to belong to one John Morys, a Welshman, who must have flourished in the first half of the fifteenth century. This, and other instances which might be adduced, will be sufficient to show how desirable it is that some one of competent knowledge and zeal should secure for such facts resting-places in their proper domain. But I think that the subject of the present pamphlet will be considered a much more striking and effective example.
      The first original writer on arithmetic in English; the first on geometry; the first person who introduced the knowledge of algebra into England; the first writer on astronomy in English; the first person in this country who adopted the Copernican system; the inventor of the present method of extracting the square root; the inventor of the sign of equality; the inventor of the method of extracting the square root of multinomial algebraic quantities:-- all these claimants for fame and the respect of posterity, unite in Robert Recorde, M.D., physician to Queen Mary, a / p.5 / native of Tenby*

* Wood says that he received "his first breath among the Cambrians, but in what county I cannot in all my researches find." This appears, however, from Owen's History of Pembrokeshire, in the Cambrian Register, ii.209, and also in MS. Harl. 6250.

in Pembrokeshire, and a man whose memory deserves a much larger portion of fame than it has hitherto met with.
      The particulars which I have been able to collect relative to Recorde's life are few. One Richard Recorde is mentioned among other alchemical writers in an old poem called "Bloomfield's Blossoms," written in the reign of Henry VIII.**,

** Ashmole's Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, p.309.

but there is nothing to show that he was any relation to the subject of our paper. It seems that he went to Oxford about 1525, where he publicly taught rhetoric, mathematics, music, and anatomy***,

*** Vossius de Scient. Mat. p.257; and Fuller's Worthies, ii. 562.

and was elected a fellow of All-Souls College in 1531. He was resident in London as early as 1547§.

§This appears from the preface to his little work entitled "The urinall of Physicke," printed in that year, and which is dated 8th of November, 1547, from "my house in London," with a dedication to the Company of Physicians.

According to Fuller§§,

§ § Worthies of England, ii. 562.

he was of the protestant religion. Kennet says §§§

§§§MS. Lansd. Mus. Brit. 980. According to Wood, he went to Cambridge, where he received the degree of M.D. in the year 1545; Athenae, i. 255.

that he died early in 1558, but he does not give his authority; though it is probable that he did not long survive the making of his will, which is dated the 28th / p.6 / of June, 1558, and where he styles himself "Robert Recorde, Doctor of Physicke, though sicke in body yet whole of mynde." This document is preserved in the Prerogative Office, and furnishes some facts. To Arthur Hilton, Under-Marshal of the King's Bench, "where I now remaine prisoner," his wife, and the other officers and prisoners, he gave small sums amounting to £6 16s. 8d.; to his servant John, £6; to his mother, and his father-in-law, her husband, £20; to Richarde Recorde, his brother, and Robert Recorde, his nephew, his goods and chattels, out of which his debts and the expences of his funeral were to be discharged. In a codicil to this will, made on the following day, he gives directions that his law books should be sold to Nicolas Adams, a fellow-prisoner, for £4.
      The works of Recorde are all written in dialogue between master and scholar, in the rude English of the time. They are enumerated by the author himself in verse (for he, in common with most others, continually breaks out into poetry in his prefaces and introductions) as follows, at the end of the preface to the "Castle of Knowledge."

Orderly trade of studye in the Authors woorkes, appertaining to the mathematicalles.

"The grounde is thought that steddye staye,
Where no foote faileth that well was pyghte:
Whereon who walketh by certaine waye,
His pase is lyke to prosper ryghte.
1. The Grounde of Artes who hathe well tredd,
      And noted well the slyppery slabbes,

/ p.7 /

     That may him force to slyde or falle,
     He hathe a staffe to staye withall.
2. Then if he trade that Pathwaye pure
     That unto Knowledge leadeth sure:
     He maye be bolde tapproche The Gate
3. Of Knowledge and passe in thereat.
     Where if with Measure he doo well treate:
4. To Knowledges Castle he maye soone get.
     There if he trauaile and quainte him well.
5. The Treasure of Knowledges is his eche deale.
5. This Treasure though that some wold haue,
3. Which Measures freindshippe do not craue,
2. Nor walke the Patthe that leadeth the waye,
1. Nor in Artes Grounde haue made their staye
     Thoughe bragge they maye, and get false fame
4. In Knowledges courte thei neuer came."

      A copy of Recorde's "Whetstone of Witte," in the British Museum, under the press mark 530.g., has a contemporary list of Recorde's works in MS. on the back of the title-page. There is no copy of this work in the Bodleian Library.
      Of "The Gate of Knowledge," which appears to have been on Mensuration, and the "Treasure of Knowledge," in all probability a (projected) work on the higher part of astronomy, we can get no information; the other works, and the "Whetstone of Witte," published very shortly before the author's death, have their titles as follows:
      The "Grounde of Artes, teachinge the worke and practise of Arithmetike, both in whole numbers and fractions, after a more easier and exacter sort than any lyke hathe hitherto been set forth." The words in italics are perhaps the addition of John Dee, in his / p.8 / edition, the earliest we have seen (1573). The first edition of this work was, in 1551, printed by Reynold Wolfe.
      The "Pathway to Knowledg, containing the first principles of Geometrie, as they may moste aptly be applied unto practise, bothe for use of Instrumentes Geometricall and Astronomicall, and also for projection of plattes in everye kinde, and therefore much necessary for all sortes of men*."

* See the Sale Catalogue of Rawlinson's library in 1756, p.29. The dedication is dated Jan.28th, 1551. It may be mentioned that Recorde edited the early edition of Fabyan's Chronicle; see Wood's Athenae, by Bliss, i. 256.

      "Geometries verdicte
All fresshe fine wittes by me are filed,
All grosse dull wittes wishe me exiled:
Though no mannes witte reject will I,
Yet as they be, I wyll them trye."
London 1551, Reynold Wolfe.

      The "Castle of Knowledge." The title-page of this work is a device representing a castle on a hill, at the bottom of which stand figures of Destiny on a cube holding a sphere, "whose governour is knowledge," and Fortune on a ball turning a wheel, "whose ruler is ignoraunce." On and below the castle are verses. London, 1556, Reginalde Wolfe.
      The "Whetstone of Witte, which is the seconde parte**

** "She returned for answer that she knew of no other books in the house than her young mistress's bible, which the owner would not lend; and her master's 'Whetstone of Witte, being the Second Part of Arithmetic, by Robert Recorde, with the [p.9] Cossike Practise and Rule of Equation.'" -- Walter Scott, Fortunes of Nigel. If Shakspeare makes Lord Say quote Caesar's Commentaries to Jack Cade's mob, Walter Scott may make a treatise on algebra the whole library of an old usurer; and further, two centuries hence, if any novelist shut up a gentleman of our time to pass a rainy Sunday in a country inn, the waiter ought, pari ratione, to bring him a volume of the Mécanique Céleste, or Mrs. Somerville's translation, at the very least.

of Arithmetike; containyng thextraction [lit.] of / p.9 / Rootes. The Cossike practise, with the rule of equation: and the woorkes of Surde Nombers.

"Though many stones do beare greate price
The whetstone is for exercise
* * * * * *
* * * * * *
Now proue, and praise, as you doe finde,
And to yourself be not unkinde."
London 1557, Jhon Kyngston.

      The "Grounde of Artes" was many times republished, and remained in common use till some time after the publication of "Cocker's Artihmetic," (1677.) The last edition which we can find is that of Edward Hatton, 1699. The original work was dedicated to Edward VI. The advantages of number are set forth in two distinct ways: we cite these things to show that (to us) singular composition of childish argument and good sense which characterizes so many of the earlier writers in this and other countries. Recorde first asserts that the art of numbering is the "chiefe pointe (in manner) whereby men differ from all brute beastes" -- "and in manner particularlye, sith that in many thinges they excell us againe."

"The Foxe in crafty witte exceedeth moste men,
A Dogge in smelling hath no man his peere,
/ p.10 / To foresight of weather if you looke then,
Many beastes excell man, this is clere.
The wittinesse of Elephantes doth letters attayne,
But what cunning doth there in the Bee remayne?
The Emmet foreseeing the hardnes of winter,
Prouideth vitailes in tyme of summer.
The Nightingale the Linet, the thrushe, the larke,
In Musicall harmony passe many a Clerke
The Hedg hogge of Astonomy seemeth to know
And stoppeth his caue wher the winde doth blow.
The Spider in weauing such arte doeth showe
No man can him mende, nor follow I trowe
When a house will fall, the Myse right quicke
Flee thence before, can man do the like."

      Whence Recorde infers that number "is the onelie thing (almost) that seperateth man from beastes. Hee therefore that shall contempne numbre, he declareth himselfe as brutishe as a beaste, and unworthy to be counted in the fellowshippe of men. But I truste there is man so foule ouerseene, though mainie right smallye do it regarde." Again, the work opens with a dialogue on the advantages of number, from which the following is an extract:

      "      Mayster. If Numbre were so vyle a thinge as you did esteeme it, then neede it not to bee used so muche in mens communication. Exclude Number and aunswere me to this question. How many yeares olde are you?
      "      Scholer. Mum.
      "      Mayster. How many daies in a weeke? how many weekes in a yeare? What landes hathe youre father? How many men dothe he keepe? Howe longe is it sythe you came from him to mee?
      "      Scholer.      Mum.
      "      Mayster. So that if Numbre wante, you aunswere all by Mummes : How many myle to London?
      "      Scholer. A poke full of Plummes.
      "      Mayster. Why, thus you may see, what rule numbre beareth
/ p.11 / and that if Numbre be lackinge, it maketh men dombe, so that to moste questions, they must aunswere Mum.
      "      Scholer. This is the cause Syr, that I judge it so vyle, bycause it is so common in talking euery while: For plenty is not deinty, as the common sayeng is.
      "      Mayster. No, nor Store is no sore: perceaue you this?" &c.

      The work contains numeration, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, reduction, progression, the golden rule; a treatise on reckoning by counters, on a principle much resembling that of the Chinese abacus; a system of representing numbers by the hand, like the alphabet for the deaf and dumb; a repetition of all the rules for fractions, with the rules of Alligation, Fellowship, and Falsehood (false position). On the latter rule he remarks that he was in the habit of astonishing his friends by proposing difficult questions, and working the true result by taking the chance answer of "suche children or ydeotes as happened to be in the place."
      It may, perhaps, be a question whether this work was not published originally so far back as 1540; for when John Dee (in his edition) comes to the table of coins, he reminds the reader that the table was of coins such as they were when the author first published his book; after which he heads the table, "A table for Englishe Coynes. Anno 1540." It may not be amiss to give this list of coins, which we do in modern spelling:--
      Gold Coins. -- A sovereign was two royals, three angels, 4[half] crowns, or 22s. 6d.; half a sovereign, or a royal; the half-royal and the quarter-royal; an old / p.12 / noble, called a Henry, was two crowns; half an old noble; an angel was 7s. 6d.; half an angle; a George noble, 6s. 8d.; half a noble; a quarter of a noble, "which in the old statues is called a farthing;" a crown, or 5s.; a half-crown; another crown of 4s.6d., "known by the rose side, for the rose hath no crown over it."
      Silver Coins.-- The groat of 4d.; another groat, called a harp, of 3d.; the penny of twopence; the dandiprat of 1[half] d.; the penny, the halfpenny, and the farthing.
      The pound of 20s., the mark of 13s. 4d., and the shilling of 12d. were not coins, "yet there is no name more in use than they."
      Of the "Pathway to Knowledge" we have little to say. Probably the translations of Euclid drove it out of the market. It contains -- 1. A method of working the various questions of practical geometry; 2. A description, not a demonstration, of the theorems in the first four books of Euclid; the whole in a highly useful form.
      The "Castle of Knowledge" is a more remarkable work. It is dedicated in English to Queen Mary, and in Latin to Cardinal Pole. From the preface to the reader, we gather that Recorde had not abandoned astrology. It begins with an account of the Ptolemaic system. All that is cited from Euclid and Proclus is in Greek and Latin, usually both, and Linaker's edition of Proclus is referred to; but the edition of Euclid is not mentioned.

/ p.13 /

      In the "Pathway to Knowledge," we observe a strong tendency to turn all Greek names into Saxon-English*;

   * Recorde, as Tanner observes, was skilled in the Saxon language, as appears from his notes in a MS. at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. See Berkenhout's Biographia Literaria, p.422.

but in the present work we find many such English renderings given, though the terms of Greek etymology are preferred. The meridian is called the noon-steede circle; the zodiac, the thwarte circle; a sphere is said to be a round and sound (perfectly enclosed) figure; the Pleiades (or seven stars) are called the brood hen; the belt of Orion, the golden yard; the milky way, Watling-street; antipodes are called counterfooted. The astonomical instruments in use are described with the following names:-- "The Astrolabe, the plaine sphere, the Saphey, the quadrante of diverse sorts, the Chylynder, Ptolome his rules, Hipparchus rules, Tunsteedes rules, the Albion, the Torquete, the Astronomers staffe, the Astronomers ringe, the Astronomers shippe, and a greate numbre more." We learn that these instruments were described in the "Gate of Knowledge."
      The "Whetstone of Wit" was dedicated to the "companie of venturers into Moscovia." After treating of numbers in general, with the formation of powers and rootes, he comes to the consideration of cossike numbers, meaning an indeterminate number expressed by a letter, as in what is now called algebra. But Recorde does not use this term except to / p.14 / denote the application of cossike numbers to the solution of equations, which he calls the rule of Algeber. In this treatise he appears to have compounded, for the first time, the rule for extracting the square roots of multinomial algebraic quantities, and also to have first used the sign = . In other respects he follows Scheubel, whom he cites, and Stifel, whom he does not cite. There is nothing on cubic equations, nor does he appear to have known anything of the Italian algebraists. But the subject of Recorde's algebra can only be discussed at length and in connexion with the rise of algebra in other countries. This is completely done in Dr. Hutton's tracts, vol. ii. It may be observed, however, that Recorde was one of the first who had a distinct perception of the difference between an algebraical operation and its numerical interpretation, to the extent of seeing that the one is independent of the other; and also he appears to have broken out of the consideration of integer numbers, to a much greater extent than his contemporaries. Pointing out to his pupil (for this work is also in dialogue) that a certain fraction appears to be absurd, as being "lesse than naughte," which the pupil admits, he then uses this phrase, "Yet maie your example serve, to teach and practise multiplication by, as well as any other. And furthermore, I will tell you by this occasion, that I spake to you, more after the opinion of the common nomber of artesmen, than after my owne judmente." He then goes on to show how the same expression ceases to be absurd when a fraction / p.15 / less than unity is the cossic number, and to distinguish generally between the powers of integers and fractions. In perception of general results, connected with the fundamental notation of algebra, Recorde shows himself superior to others, and even we may say, to Vieta; though of course immeasurably below the latter in the invention of means of expression. He (and Scheubel also) are free from the geometrical phantasms which haunted the inventor of the specious notation, and made him invest simple numbers with the character of planes, solids, &c.,and even imply that numerical equations were impossible unless their coefficients were thus considered. All his writings considered together, Recorde was no common man. It is evident that he did not write very freely at first in English, but his style improves as he goes on. His writings continued to the end of the century to be those in common use on the subjects in which he wrote, though we must gather this more from the adoption of ideas and notation than from absolute citation*.

* See a very able and learned article in the "Companion to the British Almanac" for 1837, p.30-37, by Professor De Morgan, and to which, it will be seen, I am indebted for some of the preceding remarks on Recorde's publications. I beg also to refer to three articles of mine on early English scientific literature, in the fourth volume of the "Magazine of Popular Science."

      How melancholy is it to reflect that so much genius and learning should have been subjected to the baneful influence of poverty and imprisonment ! That Recorde's pecuniary difficulties were great is not to / p.16 / be doubted, and he plainly alludes to them himself at the end of his "Whetstone:" --

      "      Mayster. Harke, what meaneth that hastie knockyng at the doore?
      "       Scholer. It is a messenger.
      "      Mayster. What is the message? Tel me in mine eare. Yea, sir, is that the mater? Then is there noe remedie, but that I must neglect all studies, and teaching, for to withstande those daungers. My fortune is not so good, to have quiete tyme to teache."

      I have so recently entered into the question of the introduction of the Copernican heliocentric theory into England*,

   * Philosophical Magazine, June, 1840. One of the most important additions to the historical literature of Wales has recently been published in the Appendix to the First Report of the Deputy-Keeper of the Public Records, p.79-122, being a very able and elaborate report on the records of Wales and Chester, by William Henry Black, Esq.

that I do not consider it necessary to make a repetition in this place. Suffice it to say, that, as far as we can judge, Recorde is the first person in this country who adopted the views of Copernicus.



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