Instituzioni Analitiche [Analytic Institutions for the Use of Italian Youth] (1748)
“Agnesi’s Instituzioni Analitiche is believed to be the first advanced mathematics book by a woman. The text is one of the earliest by anyone to provide a comprehensive introduction to algebra, geometry, differential calculus, integral calculus, and differential equations.”
– Ronald K. Smeltzer, in Extraordinary Women in Science & Medicine, p. 73
EXCEPTIONALLY RARE FIRST FEMALE-AUTHORED MATHEMATICAL TEXTBOOK, INCLUDING ALL 59 PLATES AND BOUND WITH HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT REVIEW FROM THE FRENCH ACADEMY SCIENCES.
Maria Gaetana Agnesi led a remarkable life as eighteenth-century intellectual, and is most celebrated for her groundbreaking Instituzioni Analitiche ad Uso della Gioventù Italiana [Analytic Institutions for the Use of Italian Youth]. This text not only presented calculus terminology in Italian for the first time, but also shared to a wider public a vast introduction to vital advanced mathematical topics (Findlen, p. 6). Furthermore, as the earliest-known woman to publish a mathematical textbook, Agnesi with her Instituzioni Analitiche represents a primary landmark in the history of female achievement in science and mathematics.
In order to see her project executed to the highest standard, Agnesi directly involved herself in the process of transforming her manuscripts into printed text. Her sense of initiative is evident from the formative years she spent in her family home: “The Agnesi household was a center for intellectual life in Bologna, and Maria Gaetana was encouraged to participate in deliberations on philosophy and mathematics with her parents’ distinguished guests” (Cieślak-Golonka and Morten, p. 71). In fact, to supervise the typesetting of this demanding publication, Agnesi had a printing press installed in the house (Smeltzer, p. 75). The ways in which the challenges of printing complex mathematical equations were met are showcased not only by 59 fold-out plates comprising hundreds of figures but also by page 145—with an equation trailing far into the fore-edge margin, risking being trimmed during later rebindings but here preserved—and page 708, a unique fold-out folio presenting calculations containing upwards of thirteen terms.
Instituzioni Analitiche’s success is measured in part by its international popularity—receiving multiple translations in the following decades, including into English (John Colson, 1801, Cambridge) and French (1775, French Academy of Sciences). So impressive was Agnesi’s monograph, that before issuing their translation years later, the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris issued a review of Instituzioni Analitiche, praising it for its rigour: “Nous le regardons comme le Traité le plus complet, & le mieux fait qu’on ait en ce genre; & nous croyons que l’Académie ne nous desavoiiera pas quand nous dirons qu’il est très digne de son approbation, & de ses éloges [We regard it as the most complete and best made treatise that we have in this genre; and we believe that the Academy will not repudiate us when we say that it is very worthy of [the Academy’s] praise and approval]. This notice from the Académie is preserved in the present copy of Instituzioni Analitiche, bound into the first volume’s prefatory material between the 'al lettore' and the 'imprimatur'—an atypical feature in an already remarkable rare book.
AGNESI, MARIA GAETANA. Instituzioni Analitiche ad Uso della Gioventù Italiana. Milan: Regia-Ducal Corte, 1748. First edition, 2 vols. Quarto (247 x 190 mm); vol. 1: [xvi], 428, [6, index] pp., with 35 fold-out pls.; vol. 2: , 1020, [1, errata] pp., with 24 fold-out pls. Bound in contemporary vellum with original leather label stamped in gilt. Between pp. [xiv] and [xv], bound in, a two-leaf, four-page review from the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris declaring its endorsement of the work. Small hole at base of engraving on title page (likely paper flaw), as well as on the last page of the Dedication and on the Imprimatur leaf; mild dampstaining in bottom margin of preliminary leaves of vol.1 (not extending into text), and in the bottom corner of a few gatherings of vol.2 (not extending into text); occasional scattered light foxing. Only very minor wear to bindings.
AN OUTSTANDING WIDE-MARGINED COPY IN BEAUTIFUL CONTEMPORARY BINDINGS OF A RARE AND IMPORTANT WORK.
Cieślak-Golonka, Maria and Bruno Morten, “The Women Scientists of Bologna”, American Scientist 88.1 (2000), 68–73
Findlen, Paula, “Translating the New Science: Women and the Circulation of Knowledge in Enlightenment Italy”, Configurations 3.2 (1995), 167–206
Smeltzer, Ronald K., Robert J. Ruben and Paulette Rose, Extraordinary Women in Science & Medicine: Four Centuries of Achievement (New York: Grolier Club, 2013).
Price: $14,500 .