Olde School Arithmetick

From Bailey’s:

ARITHMETIC, is iconologically described by a very beautiful but pensive woman sitting, and having the numeration table before her, her garment of divers colours and strewed with musical notes, on the skirts of it the words, par & impar (even & odd) her beauty denotes that the beauty of all things result from her; for God made all things by number, weight and measure: her perfect age shews the perfection of this art; and the various colours, that she gives the principles of all parts of the mathematics.

Dyadic ARITHMETIC, is that where only two figures, 1, and 0, are used.

Specious ARITHMETIC, is that which gives the calculus of quantities, by using letters of the alphabet instead of figures.

[“But algebra is beautiful, not specious”, you cry — well, “specious” originally meant beautiful — inspect the first syllable. -D.]

11 Responses to “Olde School Arithmetick”

1. Becky Says:

I’ve been getting up to speed on Tibetan Buddhist iconography, but I never knew that Western maths had iconography. Wow! I wonder if there’s an illustrated (or illuminated?) text somewhere…

2. Desultor Says:

There’s gotta be! Google image search doesn’t have much in the first fifteen pages – just several pages with the same pic of Arithmetic, Boethius (who medieval Europeans apparently thought invented Arabic numerals), and Pythagoras. But Bailey musta been getting his idea from somewhere…

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