LE COMPAS DE PROPORTION ou les arpenteurs appelés a l’ordre. Essai critico-mathématique... ouvrage adressé aux mathématiciens du jour, et dédié aux amis de la vérité. A Genève, Chez Luc Sestié, Imprimeur. An XI.
1803. 8vo, pp. [viii], xxxii, 156, , with one folding engraved plate signed by C.G. Geissler and dated 1803, with woodcut illustration of Pythagoras' theorem on title-page; copy no. 399 signed by the author on authentication leaf; some occasional light foxing and soiling, but otherwise clean and crisp; in contemporary half green roan over paper boards, spine attractively lettered and tooled in gilt, head and tail of spine a little bumped, some light scuffing to upper joint, covers lightly soiled, extremities a little bumped and rubbed; the Erwin Tomash copy with his book-plate on front paste-down; a good copy. First edition of this rare contribution to the geometrical problem of ‘squaring the circle’, by the Italian Gaetan Rossi de Catanzaro (1767-1826). Describing himself as a ‘man of letters and law’ (p. iv) and resident of Geneva, as becomes apparent from his florid and rather pompous introduction, Rossi was clearly an enthusiastic amateur mathematician, who like many before him, believed that through ‘assiduous and methodical work’ (ibid) that he had found a solution to the problem of the quadrature of the circle, and believes that in publishing his essay and demonstrating his solution and invention, that he will convince fellow mathematicians to correct their false theories. It is a discovery of the greatest importance not only for science and literature, but for humanity in general. The proportional compass referred to in the title is discussed in theoretical terms and is not illustrated. The final fifty pages contain an alphabetical listing of the mathematical terms used in the work.
This was not his only published contribution to the subject, his preface revealing that he had previously published a circular announcing his solution, and which it appears he distributed to a number of European Societies. Indeed the Royal Green Observatory appears to hold a copy of this ‘Equisse’ in a volume of pamphlets submitted to the Board of Longitude and which is dated May 20th 1803: ‘Esquisse sur la quadrature du crecle, addressée a tous les savans ge2ométres, et à toutes les sociétés, politiques, commerçantes, et littéraires, qui existent sur la surface de la terre’ (in RGO 14/54 Papers of the Board of Longitude). OCLC also locates a tract of 1804, penned in Italian but with a London imprint: Soluzione esatta e regolare del difficilissimo problema della quadrature del circolo’, which appeared in a second edition, a seeming testment to his self-confidence in his theory.
Provenance : Erwin Tomash (1921-2022), an American engineer recognised for his early pioneering work with computer equipment peripherals.
Bibliography: OCLC locates copies at the New York Public Library, Michigan, Oklahoma, and the BnF.