Opera ... Lucas Paciolus ... emendavit

Venice, Paganino Paganini from Brescia, VI 1509, 2°
Cambridge, The Syndics of Cambridge University Library, F150.b.2.13.

The edition of Euclid’s Elementa edited by Luca Pacioli (c. 1445–1517) –the one he dedicated, in June 1509, to Francesco Soderini, cardinal of Volterra and the brother of Piero – is based upon the version by Giovanni Campano from Novara. It is the third of Euclid’s editions to be printed in Venice in less than three decades: the first being the editio princeps from 1482 by a printer named Erhard Ratdolt and the second one by Bartolomeo Zamberti from 1505 (cat. 77). Pacioli’s main intention was defending the first version by Campano; his shortcomings, strongly criticised by Zamberti, must in fact be attributed to contamination of the text sent to the press by Ratdolt; a text that Pacioli – assisted by one of his pupils from Milan, the said “Scipio Vegius” – proceeded to correct and amend. To this extent one must observe how, despite the fact that Pacioli’s title page declared that 129 figures had been corrected and amended, it actually limited itself to adding numerical values to the lines and corresponding illustrations to their relative propositions, thereby closely echoing what had been previously divulged in the editio princeps (Folkerts 1998, pp. 226–231; Ciocci 2009, pp. 193–194).

The most interesting book for comprehending Pacioli’s original thought was probably the fifth, the one dedicated to proportions: it is hardly necessary to observe that during the same year, on the premises belonging to the same trusty printer Paganino Paganini, the composite treatise of Divina proportione was also published (cat. 78). Therefore, in the beginning of this fifth book of Euclid’s Elementa there appears the text of the inaugural lecture of a series of lessons for the Scuola di Rialto, held by Pacioli himself on 11 August 1508 in San Bartolomeo (in the vicinity of the Rialto Bridge). This was the church of the German community in Venice where the great altarpiece entitled Feast of the Rosary by Albrecht Dürer had just been placed over the altar in the chapel to the left of the choir. Pacioli, more than speaking as mathematician, spoke as the philosopher and theologian he actually was (Nardi 1963; Black 2013). A large audience, perhaps made up of more than five-hundred people, was present: Pacioli provides us with a select list that includes illustrious Venetian patricians, along with important rhetoricians, philosophers, theologians, jurists, physicians, poets, cosmographers, cartographers, engravers and architects who were in Venice at the time. Amongst the poets “Flaminius Calenus” and Palladio Soranzo, the name of “Aldus Manutius Romanus” stands out.

Giovanni Maria Fara