Early Science & Alchemy

Distilled #11: A 16th-Century Pop-Up Book

How an ancient mathematical pop-up book became “sophisticated.”

January 21, 2020

A 16th-Century Pop-Up Book

A math text from the 1500s, The Elements of Geometrie of the Most Ancient Philosopher Euclide of Megara, was one of the first-ever pop-up books. The innovative pull-out pyramids and other geometrical shapes turned this into what’s now a rare and expensive collector’s item. The Science History Institute owns a copy, and the way the original collector pieced it together tells us about a little-known book collection technique called “sophistication.”