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A Treatise of Mathematical Instruments

A reprint of the 1775 third edition

by John Robertson, with modern notes by David Manthey
ISBN 1-931468-11-7 · Copyright © 2002 by David Manthey · 6x9", 284 pages.


A Treatise of Mathematical Instruments contains a complete description of a range of tools that are useful in mathematics, surveying, architecture, navigation, drafting, gunnery, physics, and illustration. It covers the sector (a form of calculator that predates the slide rule), the gunner's calipers, the proportional compasses, and a variety of lesser instruments.

Examples show how to use all of the instruments, with extensive details on architectural drawing, plane geoemtry, spherical trigonometry, unit conversion, surveying, perspective drawing, and ship's guns (cannons and mortars). 12 plates of figures illustrate and clarify the text.

Here is how John Robertson introduces his book:

    To the Reader:

    It is needless to enumerate the many purposes to which mathematical instruments serve; their use seems quite necessary to persons employed in most of the active stations of life.

    The Architect, whether civil, military, or naval, never offers to effect any undertaking, before he has first made use of his rule and compasses, and fixed upon a scheme or drawing; which unavoidably requires those instruments, and others equally necessary.

    The Engineer, cannot well attempt to put in execution and design, whether for defence, offence, ornament, pleasure, &c. without first laying before his view, the plan of the whole; which is not to be conveniently performed, but by rulers, compasses, &c.

    There are indeed, very few good Artificers, who have not, in some measure, occasion for the use of one or more mathematical instruments; and whenever there is required, an accurate drawing or representation of a thing to be executed; that collection of instruments, usually put into portable cases, is then absolutely necessary: And of these, the most common ones, or others applicable to like service, must have been in use, ever since mankind have had occasion to provide for the necessary conveniences of life: But the parallel ruler, the proportional compasses, and the sector, are not of any great antiquity.

Anyone who has ever drafted a plan or drawing by hand or recalls having used a slide rule will be interested in this book. Those who has only used electronic devices will learn something new. Additionally, a wealth of historical details are revealed through the extensive figures and the text.

Modern notes include a biography of the author John Robertson, an explanation of some of the notation used in the book, and a brief commentary and history on mathematical methods, surveying, navigation, and architecture.

A Treatise of Mathematical Instruments · by John Robertson · with Notes by David Manthey
ISBN 1-931468-11-7 · Copyright © 2002 by David Manthey · 6x9", 284 pages.

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