If you happen to have a few thousand dollars lying around,
you could become owner of an original copy of what is believed to be the
nation's first math textbook.
A copy of "Pike's Arithmetic" will be
auctioned off along with his personal journal with "notes, drawings and
calculations on various subjects including mathematics, navigation (and)
astronomy, dated 1764 ending in 1796," according to the auction brochure (see
photographs of the pages in the slideshow below). Newburyport, MA native Nicholas Pike, the author,
completed it in 1786. The auction will be Sunday and done by John
McInnis Auctioneers in Amesbury, MA. Also to be auctioned off is a†1788 letter (read the translation here) from George Washington to Pike commending him for his work.
According to an
article in the Newburyport Daily News, Pike's Arithmetic was the dominant
math text in the U.S. for 50 years. The collection should be worth about $20,000
to $50,000 at auction, the article says.
The letter (see the
transcription and view the original three page letter in the slideshow below), dated June 20, 1788 from
George Washington and written at his Mount Vernon home reveals the respect the one-time land surveyor had for math. It also shows the formal, gentile and indirect
nature of writing at the time. Washington became the country's first
president in 1789.
Here's an excerpt:†
I must be permitted to remark that the subject, in my estimation, hold a higher
rank in the literary scale than you are disposed to allow. The science of
figures, to ascertain a degree, is not only indecipherably requisite in every
walk of civilized life, but the investigations of mathematical truths accustoms
the mind to method and correctness in reasoning, and is as (empoym ?) peculiarly worthy of rational beings. In a cloudy
state of existence, where so many this appear precarious to the bewildered
research it is here that the rational faculties find a firm foundation to rest
upon. From the high ground of mathematical & philosophical demonstration, we
are insensibly led to far nobler speculations & sublime meditations."