Simson Collection

Some 850 printed books, mainly early mathematical and astronomical texts, comprising the personal library of Robert Simson (1687-1768), Professor of Mathematics at the University of Glasgow from 1711 until 1761.

Influenced by the eminent astronomer and mathematician, Edmond Halley (1656-1742), much of Simson’s research concentrated on early Greek geometers, particularly Euclid, Pappus of Alexandria and Apollonius of Perga. His publications included work on conic sections, Sectionum Conicarum Libri Quinque (Edinburgh, 1735) and an influential edition of Euclid’s Elements (Glasgow, 1756).

Simson’s library, including some of his own works, was bequeathed to the University on his death in 1768; subsequently, at various times, manuscript items relating to Simson, including notebooks and letters, have been acquired.

How to find material in the Simson Collection

  • Browse through a list of the printed books in the Simson Collection - (Sp Coll Ea5, Ea6, Ea7 and Ea8); or, search for items using the rare books search
  • Other published works written by Simson can be found in the Old Library Collection and elsewhere.
  • Manuscript catalogues of Simson’s library (written c 1768) are shelved at Ea5-y.4 and MS Gen 1229. A later manuscript copy is at MS Gen 197. A copy of the original rules relating to the administration of the collection is at Ea5-b.1.
  • Simson’s own copy of Pappus Alexandrinus, Mathematicae Collectiones (Venice, 1589), containing his annotations and developments of the original text is shelved at MS Gen 1118.
  • Simson’s Adversaria, sixteen notebooks on various mathematical subjects, is shelved at MS Gen 256-271.
  • Although Simson believed that mathematical problems were best expressed through geometrical means, he was familiar with developments in algebra and calculus and there is evidence of his use of these branches of mathematics in his work. In two letters written to James Jurin (see MS Gen 1096) he deals with inverse tangent series and their use in calculating the value of pi.
  • Other letters on mathematical subjects (whose correspondents include Robert Simson) are shelved at MS Gen 145, MS Gen 146, MS Gen 196 and MS Murray 660.

See also the following 'book of the month' article featuring items from the Simson Collection: