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John Frederick Lewis collection of notebooks on mathematics and navigation


Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206

This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.

Overview and metadata sections

The author's name is not inscribed in these two volumes, however, it is probable that the notebooks were a part of John Frederick Lewis's collection. John Frederick Lewis was born September 10, 1860 to Silas Weir and Caroline Kalbfus Lewis. He graduated from Central High in 1879 and studied law under George M. Dallas. He worked as lawyer in Philadelphia and eventually formed the partnership, Lewis, Adler, and Laws. He earned an A.M. and an L.L.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. In 1895, Lewis married Anne Henrietta Rush Baker and they had two sons, Alfred and John Frederick Lewis (1899-1968).

In addition to his work as an attorney, Lewis studied early forms of writing and books and collected cuneiform tablets and cones, European and Oriental manuscripts, rare books, and fine art. Lewis was a regular guest lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and was also asked to give talks at University of Pennsylvania art and art history classes.

Lewis died on December 24, 1932.

John Frederick Lewis collection of notebooks on mathematics and navigation consists of two volumes dating from the turn of the 18th to 19th century in London. Both volumes appear to have been created by the same individual and are handwritten in ink, but include notes in pencil. It is unclear if the volumes were created by one individual and used by another; or if the volumes were created and used by a single person. Regardless, the volumes appear to be from London from the late 18th to early 19th century.

The first volume is on mathematics with definitions and practical questions on topics such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, reduction, fractions, proportion, powers and roots, logarithms, exchanges, arbitration, square and cube numbers, numbers odd and even, and ratios. The volume begins with general definitions and is followed by tables of weights, measures, and time. More specific terms (for example: addition) are then defined and are followed by rules and practical questions and their answers. Towards the end of the volume, there are several pages devoted to exchanges of money for particular cities, such as Amsterdam, Hamburgh, Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, Leghorn, Naples and Genoa, Venice, Dublin, and America and the West Indies. While this appears to be a basic mathematic "textbook" of sorts, it seems to be designed largely for someone who would trade internationally.

The second volume concerns navigation and sailing and includes definitions, problems, and rules and exercises on navigation and sailing techniques including plane sailing, traverse sailing, oblique sailing, sailing to windward, sailing in currents, globular sailing, parallel sailing, middle latitude sailing, mercalois sailing, days work, variation of the compass, and method of keeping a ships reckoning or journal at sea. This volume appears to be a beginner's course on sailing; but at the same time, designed for one who will be actively working on a ship.

The practical questions in these two volumes provide information on when and where they were created. The currency exchange rate given in the mathematics volume is from July 1, 1802 and the navigation section references ports that were most active in the mid to late 18th century. London is used for the constant in all of the exchange questions in the mathematics volume and the name "Leghorn," the English name for the Italian city of Livorno, is used frequently.

Gift of John Frederick Lewis, Jr., 1948

University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Finding Aid Author
Kelin Baldridge
Finding Aid Date
2015 December 4
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This collection is open for research use.

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Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

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Mathematics, circa 1800-1810. 1 volume.
Physical Description

1 volume

Navigation , circa 1750-1810. 1 volume.
Physical Description

1 volume

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