Mathematics Toolkit

Michael's manuscript contains more than 180 pages of mathematics. The subjects covered reflect the abacus tradition of late medieval mathematics. In the abacus tradition, calculations were performed using pen, paper, and Arabic numerals, not the counting instrument we know as the abacus. Michael needed mathematics to perform shipboard tasks. He used mathematics to solve problems concerning the purchase and sale of goods, and to conduct other kinds of commercial transactions. His text also includes more theoretical, didactic problems. His detailed treatment of mathematics reveals a genuine intellectual interest in the subject for its own sake.

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Introductions to the kind of mathematics Michael discusses in his manuscript can be found in Frank Swetz, Capitalism & Arithmetic: The New Math of the 15th Century (LaSalle, IL., 1987) and Raffaella Franci, Introduzione all'aritmetica mercantile del medioevo e del Rinascimento (Siena,1982). A listing of other medieval mathematical manuscripts is Warren Van Egmond, Practical Mathematics in the Italian Renaissance: A Catalog of Italian Abbacus Manuscripts and Printed Books to 1600 (Florence, 1980).