Archimedes: Pi Man

Here at Swann Galleries we noticed a certain trend on every social media feed this morning. Pi! Pies everywhere: Pantone posted a Radiant Orchid pie emblazoned with a π, the Brooklyn Public Library celebrated the opening of their cafe today with pies galore, and the American Antiquarian Society found some great 19th-century pie-centric graphics. We couldn't help but jump on the bandwagon with a Pi post.

But March 14 is more than just an excuse to eat one of the best desserts ever invented (seriously, send us pie if you have it). It's also a rare populist celebration of a complicated but well-known mathematical concept. In the spirit of celebrating math and science, here is a closer look at the top lot in our April 3 Astronomy & Science Books auction.


These views of Archimedes's Opera Omnia are from the first printed edition in the original Greek of the works of Archimedes (287-212 B.C.), published in Basel, 1544. Archimedes' contributions to the approximation of π were dominant for nearly a millennium, and as such, everyone's favorite irrational number is still occasionally referred to as "Archimedes' Constant". The book contains writings on the measurement of circles and spirals, the quadrature of the parabola, conoids and spheroids and even the possibility of numbering the sands. 



For more on this antiquarian book, read the catalogue entry for this lot. And happy Pi Day!

PS - Swann Specialists were more than happy to supply additional Pi Day fodder. After sending around an email asking who had the most decimals of Pi memorized (sadly, no one could get past 3.14159) we came up with the following Swann-specific Pie trivia:
>Photographs Department specialist Alex Van Clief operated an award-winning made-to-order pie shop in Miami a few years ago.
>Wayne Thiebaud's Pies, a 1964 etching, sold in our November 14, 2013 Contemporary Art auction for $8,125, well above its presale estimate. The market for pie is strong!

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