Byrne’s Euclid

A deluxe facsimile edition of Euclid's Elements by Oliver Byrne, 1847.

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Byrne’s Euclid

Byrne’s Euclid

A deluxe facsimile edition of Euclid's Elements by Oliver Byrne, 1847.

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Byrne’s Euclid

Limited deluxe edition of 998 copies, numbered and signed.

*Facsimile book that reproduces the original.
*Hand-bound in vegan leather, reproducing the original cover.
*Also includes 5 limited edition art prints to collect or frame.
*Numbered certificate of the edition, printed on natural parchment.
*And a book with texts in English by renowned artists from the world of art, graphic designers, mathematicians ...

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Byrne´s Euclid

It is considered one of the most beautiful books of the 19th century, an extraordinary facsimile that is a must for every book collector and graphic design enthusiast. And if you are also an enthusiast of mathematics, Bauhaus and Mondrian, this work becomes a unique jewel that you can not miss.

Euclid’s Elements was a collection of 13 books about geometry originally written circa 300 BC. Shortly after the advent of the printing press, many editions and translations have been created over the centuries. Byrne’s 1847 edition of the first six books stands out for its unique use of colorful illustrations to demonstrate proofs rather than using letters to label angles, edges, and shapes. His edition was one of the first books to be published with such detailed use of colors and combined with its detailed diagrams makes it an impressive feat of publishing for the times and it stands out even today as a work of art.

The Elements of Euclid have been considered the most successful and influential textbook ever written. It was one of the first mathematical works to be printed following the invention of the printing press, and it is estimated that, after the Bible, it is the second most widely published work since its first printing in 1482, with over a thousand editions. For centuries, when the quadrivium was included in the curriculum of all university students, knowledge of at least a part of Euclid's Elements was required."

"Byrne's Euclid" refers to a unique and innovative edition of the first six books of Euclid's Elements, a classic work of geometry, created by mathematician and engineer Oliver Byrne. This edition, published in 1847 by William Pickering, is notable for its distinctive approach to the presentation of geometric principles.

What sets Byrne's Euclid apart is its use of colorful and visually striking diagrams to represent geometric concepts. Each geometric figure and theorem is represented using multiple colors, making complex ideas more accessible and visually appealing. The color-coded illustrations serve as a form of visual aid to enhance understanding, providing a different and engaging perspective on Euclidean geometry.

The choice of colors in Byrne's Euclid is not arbitrary; instead, it follows a systematic and consistent pattern. Different colors represent different elements, lines or angles, creating a visual language that helps to understand the relationships between geometric entities.
Byrne aimed to make the often abstract and intricate principles of Euclidean geometry more understandable to a wider audience, including students and enthusiasts. The use of color and visual elements in his edition was a departure from traditional black and white geometric illustrations and foreshadowed some of the principles later adopted by modernist design movements such as Bauhaus and De Stijl.

This work is recognized for its innovative approach and historical importance in the context of both mathematics and graphic design. The book serves as a fascinating example of how visual representation can play a crucial role in the transmission of complex mathematical concepts.

The author

Oliver Byrne (1810-1880) was a mathematician and engineer known for his innovative pedagogical work, especially his version of the first six books of Euclid's Elements. Published by William Pickering in 1847, this work used colored graphical explanations to represent each geometrical principle, making it unique and revolutionary for its time.

The book has experienced renewed interest in recent years due to its innovative graphic conception and style, which foreshadowed the modernist experiments of movements such as Bauhaus and De Stijl. Edward Tufte, a writer on information design, refers to the book in his work on graphic design, and McLean mentions it in his 1963 book Victorian book design.

Byrne was a self-described mathematician, civil engineer, military engineer, and mechanical engineer. He also claimed to be a surveyor for Queen Victoria's settlement in the Falkland Islands, although evidence indicates that he never traveled to the Falkland Islands.

The Library of Congress has a steel engraved portrait of Oliver Byrne, suggesting the recognition and importance given to his figure in his time.


"Euclides de Byrne" is known for its colorful and visually striking diagrams that accompany the geometric principles of Euclid's Elements. These diagrams, designed by Oliver Byrne, stand out for their innovative approach to the visual representation of geometric concepts. Some key features of the diagrams are:

Use of Colors: They use colors in a distinctive manner. Each color is assigned to a specific geometric element, such as lines, angles, or areas, creating a visually coded presentation.

Simplicity and Clarity: They are designed to be simple and clear, eliminating unnecessary elements and highlighting essential geometric relationships. This simplicity aims to facilitate the understanding of the presented principles.

Artistic Style: In addition to their educational function, the diagrams also have an aesthetic component. The combination of colors and shapes follows an artistic style that foreshadows the modernist trends of movements like Bauhaus and De Stijl.

Visualization of Geometric Operations: They illustrate geometric operations graphically and often depict the evolution of figures as Euclidean principles are applied.

Focus on Visual Education: Byrne aimed to make the abstract principles of geometry more accessible, and the diagrams play a fundamental role in this task. The use of colors and shapes facilitates the visual understanding of concepts.

For a complete understanding of the specific diagrams in "Euclides de Byrne," we recommend reviewing our edition directly. The combination of text and diagrams provides a unique and visually rich educational experience, making geometric principles more engaging and understandable.


In Byrne's Euclid, the beautiful initials were originally designed by Mary Byfield.. These initials are decorative, ornate letters used at the beginning of sections or chapters to embellish and give an aesthetic touch to the book's design. Mary Byfield, a prominent Victorian illustrator and engraver, was responsible for creating these decorative initials for Oliver Byrne's 1847 edition of Euclid.

The initials are known for their detail and artistic style. Each initial is decorated with ornamental motifs that reflect the aesthetic sensibility of the time. These decorative elements were common in Victorian-era books and were used to enhance the visual presentation of the work.

Mary Byfield's work on the initials of Byrne's Euclid contributed to the overall unique and artistic appearance of the edition. These types of decorative details were valued not only for their aesthetic function, but also for the artistic effort they represented, adding a touch of elegance to the overall design of the book.


Byrne's edition uses the Caslon typeface.


According to Julie L. Mellby, graphic arts librarian at Princeton University, Byrne's Euclid was exhibited in London at the Great Exhibition of 1851.112 Praise was given for its beauty and the artistry of the printing, which may have influenced future publications and artwork. However, the book was sold for an extravagant price by contemporary standards, placing it out of the reach of educators who were supposed to make use of this new way of teaching geometry. Given the royal stamp on the upper right hand corner of the title page indicating "Sample: Department Of Science And Art," the second author suspects that his copy of Byrne's Euclid might have been a sample copy at the Great Exhibition.

In an article in the MMA, Mathematical Association of America, it is stated:

"today, because of its rarity and beauty, Byrne's Euclid of 1847 is an extremely valuable book, selling for an extravagant price by modern standards. At the time of this writing, if a copy could be found in similar condition to the second author's rare book collection, it could fetch as much as $22,500"

The same article states:

"Byrne’s The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid in Which Coloured Diagrams and Symbols Are Used Instead of Letters for the Greater Ease of Learners was designed and printed by the acclaimed printer Charles Whittingham (1795-1876) of the Chiswick Press. The book's use of color was its most striking feature, with equal angles, lines, or polygonal regions assigned the same bright primary color, and its colored shapes surely must have presented the greatest challenge to the printer. However, its more traditional black print was intricate and beautiful, too. Each proposition was set in black Caslon italic, with a beautifully engraved four-line initial vignette, usually an “I” for “If” or “In” (see Figure 15). A four-line initial vignette therefore begins most pages in Byrne’s Euclid. Caslon is a group of beautiful serif typefaces designed by William Caslon (1692–1766). According to the Society of Printers, “It was at the Chiswick Press that the use of the old-face Caslon type was revived in 1843. . . [A] revival followed by printers throughout England.”110 At least three women assisted Whittingham: his daughters Charlotte and Elizabeth Whittingham studied art and calligraphy, and Mary Byfield turned their designs into beautiful wood engravings and made other contributions to the business as well"


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