From the TRANSLATOR'S INTRODUCTION.
The immortal Elements of Euclid was already in dim antiquity a classic, regarded as absolutely perfect, valid without restriction.
Elementary geometry was for two thousand years as stationary, as fixed, as peculiarly Greek, as the Parthenon. On this foundation pure science rose in Archimedes, in Apollonius, in Pappus; struggled in Theon, in Hypatia; declined in Proclus; fell into the long decadence of the Dark Ages.
The book that monkish Europe could no longer understand was then taught in Arabic by Saracen and Moor in the Universities of Bagdad and Cordova.
To bring the light, after weary, stupid centuries, to western Christendom, an Englishman, Adelhard of Bath, journeys, to learn Arabic, through Asia Minor, through Egypt, back to Spain. Disguised as a Mohammedan student, he got into Cordova about 1120, obtained a Moorish copy of Euclid's Elements, and made a translation from the Arabic into Latin.
The first printed edition of Euclid, published in Venice in 1482, was a Latin version from the Arabic. The translation into Latin from the Greek, made by Zamberti from a MS. of Theon's revision, was first published at Venice in 1505.
Twenty-eight years later appeared the editio princeps in Greek, published at Basle in 1533 by John Hervagius, edited by Simon Grynaeus. This was for a century and three-quarters the only printed Greek text of all the books, and from it the first English translation (1570) was made by ''Henricus Billingsley," afterward Sir Henry Billingsley, Lord Mayor of London in 1591.
And even to-day, 1895, in the vast system of examinations carried out by the British Government, by Oxford, and by Cambridge, no proof of a theorem in geometry will be accepted which infringes Euclid's sequence of propositions.
Nor is the work unworthy of this extraordinary immortality.
Says Clifford: ''This book has been for nearly twenty-two centuries the encouragement and guide of that scientific thought which is one thing with the progress of man from a worse to a better state.
"The encouragement; for it contained a body of knowledge that was really known and could be relied on.
"The guide; for the aim of every student of every subject was to bring his knowledge of that subject into a form as perfect as that which geometry had attained."
But Euclid stated his assumptions with the most painstaking candor, and would have smiled at the suggestion that he claimed for his conclusions any other truth than perfect deduction from assumed hypotheses. In favor of the external reality or truth of those assumptions he said no word.
Among Euclid's assumptions is one differing from the others in prolixity, whose place fluctuates in the manuscripts.
Peyrard, on the authority of the Vatican MS., puts it among the postulates, and it is often called the parallel-postulate. Heiberg, whose edition of the text is the latest and best (Leipzig, 1883-1888), gives it as the fifth postulate.
James Williamson, who published the closest translation of Euclid we have in English, indicating, by the use of italics, the words not in the original, gives this assumption as eleventh among the Common Notions....show more