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Recorde's Whetstone of Witte

The whetstone for exercise

Whetstone of Witte is one of the earliest English texts on algebra. Robert Recorde (1510–1558) opened this work with a poem, then proceeded to discuss such fundamental algebraic topics as the subtraction of polynomials, notation for an unknown variable and use of the quadratic equation in problem solving.

Recorde's Whetstone of Witte

Artifact dimensions

5 in. × 7.5 in.

Artifact origin

London, United Kingdom

Current artifact location

Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Butler Library, Columbia University in the City of New York

Catalog number

PLIMPTON 511 1557 R24


Algebra timeline Babylonian Metric Algebra Problems Tablet Berlin Pythagorean Theorem Papyrus Rhind Papyrus Al-Khwārizmī's Al-Jabr Khayyam's Al-jabr Cardano's Ars Magna Recorde's Whetstone of Witte Faulhaber's Academia Algebrae Wallis's Treatise of Algebra Emerson's Treatise of Algebra Hermes's Suitcase of Göttingen

Computational Explanation

Additional Reading

  • Burton, D. M. The History of Mathematics: An Introduction, 6th ed. McGraw-Hill, pp. 316 and 347, 2007.
  • Kaplan, E. "Robert Recorde: Studies in the Life and Works of a Tudor Scientist." Ph.D. Dissertation. New York University, 1960.
  • Merzbach, U. C. and Boyer, C. B. "Robert Recorde." In A History of Mathematics, 3rd ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, pp. 262–263, 2011.
  • Recorde, R. The whetstone of witte, whiche is the seconde parte of Arithmetike: containyng thextraction of Rootes: The Coßike practise, with the rule of Equation: and the woorkes of Surde Nombers. London: Jhon Kyngstone, 1557. []
  • Roberts, G. Robert Recorde: Tudor Scholar and Mathematician. Cardiff, Wales: University of Wales Press, 2016.
  • Scott, J. A History of Mathematics. London: Taylor and Francis, 1958.
  • Sanford, V. A Short Story of Mathematics. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1930.
  • Smith, D. Rara arithmetica. Boston: Ginn and Co., 1908.
  • Williams, J. Robert Recorde: Tudor Polymath, Expositor and Practitioner of Computation. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer, 2011.