Killick, William

Arithmetick manuscript

  •  An unusually nice 18th-century child’s mathematics workbook decorated with calligraphic drawings and elaborately scrolled paraphs.

    The owner of this manuscript was William Killick (1752-1837) of Shipley, West Sussex, who created it in 1763 and 1764, when he was 11 years old. It contains rules, charts, and solved problems in addition, subtraction, elementary monetary calculation, multiplication, division, reduction (converting quantities), weights and measures (including troy weights, wool weights, apothecaries' weights, square mileage, time, and beer, wine, and cloth measures), and a basic level of algebra comprising: “The Golden Rule or Rule of Three Direct”, "The Single Rule of Three", and “The Double Rule of Three”.

    The word problems are o
    f particular interest, as they set the manuscript firmly within its time and place. One begins "A medalist lays out 6" 8' on curious coins...", and another asks the student to imagine a merchant ship that was loaded with gold lace, rich silks, logwood, and "sundry other goods", but "tempestious weather arising was obliged to cast overboard" part of the cargo. One even tells us about the owner: “William Killick being 11 years old in the date 1763. In what year of our Lord was he born in?”

    Based on the contents and what we know of Killick’s life, it is reasonable to assume that he was middle class, perhaps the son of a tradesman or shopkeeper, and was being given a practical, career-focused education. But it seems that, like many children, William was less interested in mathematics than in doodling in his notebook. In addition to his often very large and elaborate calligraphy he has added to the text charming human faces, animals, pen trials, and floral patterns. It’s possible, though not certain, that some of the text was written out by a tutor - for instance, some of the the charts, titles, and word problems, which are in a more controlled hand. A good example is a sophisticated calligraphic title, “Addition of Money”, which incorporates a face and a bird, and seems to have inspired Killick’s own more clumsy attempts at similar designs later in the text. (Speaking of clumsy, there also seems to have been an accident with the red ink bottle, as the cover and a few leaves have been splashed.)

    Given the manuscript’s intended purpose it is in remarkably nice condition in the contemporary vellum binding, and offers a superb look at how mathematics was taught to middle class boys during the 18th century.

  • Shipley, West Sussex, 1763-64. 200 x 160 mm. 180 page notebook containing 156 pages of manuscript and 24 blank pages. Contemporary stiff vellum binding, the upper board labelled by hand in ink “William Killick’s Arithmetick, 1763” in an elaborate script, and the first leaf with the manuscript title, “William Killick, His Book 1764”. Binding a little rubbed and discoloured with some small worn spots, small knocked area at the head of the spine, contents lightly toned, particularly at the edges, a few light red ink splashes to the upper board, front pastedown, and tail margin of the first few leaves, evidencing slightly clumsy handling of the ink-bottle at some stage. Very good, unsophisticated condition.

Collections: Mathematics

Category: Manuscripts

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