Alembic Blog

I Sold That! The Chicken in Trousers Manuscript

One of the delights of being a bookseller is that occasionally something you work on strikes a chord with the general public and goes a little viral. Recently I sold what may go down in history as the "Chicken in Trousers Manuscript"  a wonderful mathematical workbook by an 18th-century boy named Richard Beale, who seems to have spent as much time doodling as completing his homework. It was a real pleasure to link the manuscript with the rest of the family's papers at the Museum of English Rural Life at the University of Reading, which was then able to purchase it with the help of a generous donor.

I wasn't online much last week, and was pleasantly surprised when the Museum got in touch about all the press attention their tweets generated, including some love from JK Rowling! The day-to-day work that booksellers do in researching stock and placing it with the right clients is often hidden, so I was thrilled that the Museum kindly gave me permission to highlight my association with the notebook. Read on for my cataloguing and some of my favourite doodles.

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To Miss Whitbread from Her Friend & Admirer: A Regency-Era Trigonometry Presentation

Today we continue our series of Ada Lovelace Day posts with this superb Regency-Era book on trigonometry that was finely bound and inscribed from the author to a young woman named Elizabeth Whitbread in 1810.

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Doodling in Your Math Book: An 18th-Century Arithmetic Manuscript

One of our recent acquisitions is a delightful 18th-century math workbook that shows how little things have changed as far as doodling during your lessons goes.

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An Elegant Regency Era Mathematical Manuscript

Was your math homework this beautiful? The elegant problem above is from a 170-page trigonometry manuscript created during the Regency Era by a student who was probably studying for a career in the British navy.

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A Quaker Education: William Gawthrop's Arithmetic for Young Ladies

Some of my favourite books to have in the shop are the ones that combine my interests in science and women's history, and today I had the pleasure of cataloguing a rare and delightful book on mathematics for "the use of young ladies". The Scholar's Introduction to Arithmetic; Designed for the Use of Young Ladies and the Junior Classes in Boys' Schools was published by William Gawthrop in Liverpool, probably in the 1820s or early 1830s (an owner's signature in this copy is dated 1832). It speaks to us not only about mathematics teaching in early-19th century Britain, but also about the history of women's education and the role that the Quaker religious community played in its advancement.

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