Stevin, Simon
Girard, Albert

Title Les œuvres mathématiques...
Imprint Leiden, B. & A. Elzevier, 1634
Localisation Bibliothèque municipale de Besançon, 11463
Subject Castrametation, Geometry, Mathematics, Military architecture
Transcribed version of the text


     Simon Stevin (1548-1620) is known for his work in science, in the art of warfare and politics and the place he held with Prince Maurice de Nassau, Captain-General of Holland and Zealand, who ordered several treatises from him. He is also known because he promoted the use of the vernacular in circulating scientific knowledge. He wrote most of his treatises in Dutch, but he also wrote some in French and in Latin. He wrote and published in numerous scientific fields, theoretical and practical : geometry, arithmetic, algebra, stereotomy, perspective, musicology, statics, hydraulics, mechanics, physics, cosmography, astronomy, geology, engineering, fortification and navigation. Historians of science consider him a precursor, notably for his use of experimentation.
A large part of Stevin’s theoretical and practical mathematical writings were assembled and published in French by the mathematician Albert Girard in Leiden in 1625, entitled L’arithmetique de Simon Stevin, reveuë, corrigee & augmentee. Girard always points out his additions to Stevin’s text ; he modifies neither the texts written in French nor the French translations of books in Dutch done by Jean Tuning under Stevin’s direction, but when it is Girard who translates, he shortens the text.
The Œuvres mathématiques contain six volumes. The first includes Arithmétique, first published in 1585 at the presses of Christophe Plantin, in Leiden, with a dedication to Johan de Cornets de Groot, a civil servant in Delft, and published a second time by Albert Girard at the shop of Elzevier in Leiden in 1625. This Arithmétique was followed by an adaptation of the Six livres de l’algèbre de Diophante d’Alexandrie ; the first four books were by Simon Stevin and were published as an appendix to the Arithmétique in the 1585 edition. Books V and VI are attributed to Albert Girard. La pratique d’arithmétique came next, published first with Arithmétique in 1585. The Tables d’interest (an altered manuscript of a book Stevin published in Dutch in 1582 at Christophe Plantin’s presses in Antwerp) and La Disme, a translation of De Thiende, a very popular book, still published by Plantin but in Leiden, in 1585, were combined under the title La pratique d’arithmétique.
Volumes II to V contain the Mémoires mathématiques du Prince Maurice de Nassau, a reproduction of memoirs initially written in Dutch, translated into French by Jean Tuning and published in Leiden, at Jan Paedts Jacobsz’ shop in 1608. Volume II brings together La cosmographie, a Doctrine des triangles, a Géographie and an Astronomie under the title La cosmographie. Volume III contains Pratique de géométrie, volume IV, L’art ponderaire ou la statique, and volume V, L’optique. Volume VI brings together military treatises : Castrametatio, and Nieuwe maniere van sterctebou, door spiltuysen published first in Dutch, in Rotterdam, by Jan van Waesberghe en 1617. They were translated into French and published in Leiden by Matthieu and Bonaventure Elzevier in 1618. Fortification had been published in Dutch in Leiden in 1594, then in German in Frankfurt in 1608 and in 1623.

Sabine Rommevaux (Centre national de la recherche scientifique,
Université Paris Diderot, SΦPHERE) – 2012

Critical bibliography

R. Grabow, Simon Stevin. Biographien Hervorragender Naturwissenschaftler, Techniker und Mediziner, Leipzig, Teubner, 1985.

R. Hooykaas & M. G. J. Minnaert (ed.), Simon Stevin : Science in the Netherlands around 1600, The Hague, Nijhoff, 1970.

M. D. Pollack, Military Architecture Cartography and the Representation of the Early Modern European City : A Checklist of Treatises on Fortification in the Newberry Library, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 1992, n° 57, 58, 59.

D. J. Struik, The Land of Stevin and Huygens, Dordrecht/Boston (Mass.), Reidel, 1981.

K. van Berkel, The Legacy of Stevin : A Chronological Narrative, Leiden, Koninklijke Brill NV, 1999.

C. van den Heuvel, “De Huysbou”. A reconstruction of an unfinished treatise on architecture, town planning and civil engineering by Simon Stevin, Amsterdam, Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen, 2006.