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  • Writer's pictureSeb Falk

The beauty of medieval numbers

For a bit of fun over on Twitter this week, I made my followers an offer:

It was an offer that 60 of them couldn't refuse. Requests ranged from -1, through e and π, all the way up to a billion billion.

For me it wasn't just a chance to show people some tidbits of the beautiful manuscripts I work with every day. It was also an excuse to discover some new manuscripts, as well as to think differently about how medieval scholars and scribes used numbers. I discovered some stunning calligraphy, whether in Roman numerals, Hindu-Arabic numerals, or written out as words.

I wasn't able to give everyone the numbers (or concepts!) they'd asked for, but I think I kept most of them happy! Here are all the numbers, arranged in ascending order.

For details and links to all the manuscripts these numbers come from, check out my Twitter feed.

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