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A: Alexandria Governorate, Egypt

The Text of Pappus's Mathematical Collection is Based on a Single 10th Century Manuscript

Circa 325 CE to 950 CE, a 10th century manuscript preserved in the Vatican Library, is the earliest surviving text of Pappus, a 10th century manuscript preserved in the Vatican Library, is the earliest surviving text of Pappus's Mathematical Collection.

Vat. gr. 218 fols. 39v-40r, two pages of the earliest surviving copy of Pappus's 'Collection.' (View Larger)

Pappus of Alexandria (Πάππος ὁ Ἀλεξανδρεύς) was one of the last great Greek mathematicians, astronomers and geographers of antiquity. His main work, in eight books and titled Synagoge or Collection, did not survive in complete form; its first book is lost, and its other books are lacking portions. Besides a record of Pappus's own work, the Synagoge  is a major source — sometimes the only source — for the work of Pappus's predecessors.

In addition to his Synagoge, Pappus is known for Pappus's Theorem in projective geometry. Virtually nothing is known of his life; even the traditional understanding that he taught at Alexandria cannot be confirmed, and the belief that he had a son named Hermodoros, to whom he dedicated the seventh and eighth books of the Synagoge, is only one possible interpretation of ambiguous language.

The earliest surviving copy of Pappus's text, and the basis for all later versions, is Vat. gr. 218, a 10th century manuscript of the Synagoge written on parchment and preserved in the Vatican Library. The manuscript seems to have been in the Vatican library by 1311 or possibly by 1266, but it does not seem to have been copied until much later. Pappus's Collection was first published in print in the Latin translation and commentaries of Federico Commandino issued by Francisco de Franciscis Senense of Venice in 1588. Because the first book was lost, and the edition did not include book two, the 1588 edition began with book three. The missing book two was first published by John Wallis in Oxford in 1688.

Bulmer-Thomas, Ivor, "Pappus of Alexandria," Dictionary of Scientific Biography 10, 293-304.  Thanks to Juan José Betancur Muñoz who pointed out in an email to me that Pappus's use of Έρμοδωρε τέκνον in his reference to Hermodoros "signifies a certain filial relation between the two persons in the sentence; however, it does not imply necessarily a father-son relation." (This entry was last revised on 11-14-2014.)

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