Euclid in Color

Oliver Byrne. The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid, in which Coloured Diagrams and Symbols are Used instead of Letters for the Greater Ease of Learners (London: Printed by Charles Whittingham for William Pickering, 1847). Graphic Arts Collection (GAX) Oversize 2007-0026Q

One of the many remarkable things about this edition of Euclid is the expert printing. Each of the colors were printed from separate plates that had to be expertly registered; that is, positioned so that the geometric angles of the didactics matched exactly.

The printing was done by Charles Whittingham (1795-1876), nephew to Charles Whittingham, founder of the Chiswick Press where elaborately illustrated editions were published. Whittingham the younger joined his uncle’s business and quickly perfected the specialty of overlaying the printed image from several blocks.

The book was exhibited in London at the Great Exhibition of 1851 and both Euclid and Oliver Byrne, an otherwise unknown mathematician, took a backseat. Praise was researved for the beauty of the composition and the artistry of the printing. The book was sold by William Pickering for the extravagant price of 25 shillings, placing it out of reach of the simple educators who were suppose to have benefited from this new system for learning geometry.