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Divina proportione opera a tutti glingegni perspicaci e curiosi necessaria ove ciascun studioso di philosophia: prospectiva pictura, sculptura, architectura, musica, e altre mathematice: suavissima sottile e admirabile doctrina consequira: e delectarassi co[n] varie questione de secretissima scientia

Written by Luca Pacioli

Printed by A. Paganius Paganinus. (Venice; 1509).

Fifteen years after Luca Pacioli wrote the first published exposition of double-entry book-keeping as part of his celebrated work on mathematics, the Summa of 1494, he published another equally celebrated work, his De Divina Proportione, in Venice. The Divina Proportione, which deals with what may be called the mathematics of beauty, is in itself a work of beauty.

De Divina Proportione
De Divina Proportione

The work is concerned with the geometry of regular solid bodies, and with it a unifying aesthetic principle, the 'divine proportion', later known as the 'golden section'. The connection between these two apparently disparate subjects lies in that the divine proportion is considered a mathematical relationship which occurs frequently in the theory of regular polygons and polyhedra. Pacioli attempts to show that this mathematical relationship is present, as the essence of beauty, in such diverse objects as architectural forms, the human body and the capital letters of the Latin alphabet. Pacioli was not the first, nor has he been the last, to exalt the golden section in this manner.

The text of the Divina Proportione is supplemented by illustrations of solid geometrical figures based on original drawings by Leonardo da Vinci, Pacioli's friend and collaborator.

This article was originally prepared by the library team in the mid-twentieth century to introduce the rare books and facsimiles in our collection to a wider audience. It is not intended as a piece of scholarly analysis and should not be read as such.

Historical Accounting Literature

The ICAEW collection of historical accounting literature currently comprises around 3,000 volumes and includes works published from the 15th century to the early 20th century. The collection includes books and journals in a variety of languages.

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Turning the pages

Take a look at our digitised copy of the Divina proportione in the ICAEW collection.

Turning the pages