Even though Leonardo Pisano’s Liber Abaci was written in Latin, the Italian tradition of practical mathematics and algebra – started from the beginning of 13th century and developed till the 16th century – has been mostly a vernacular and local tradition. The invention of the movable type printing technology did not change this aspect: the best appreciated and spread abacus treatises, that is Pacioli’Summa, Borghi’s Libro de abacho – to mention only the most famous – were still in vernacular and mirrored an everyday life geographically limited. Girolamo Cardano’s Practica arithmetice (1539) represented a breakpoint in this trend. Cardano decided to write in Latin his first mathematical work, a kind of abacus treatise, to enlarge his public to the intellectual environments and to make his Practica one of the main means for spreading the practical mathematics throughout Europe. It was not an easy operation, as it presented – just to take an example – the difficulty of translating some particular expression of the abacus vulgar lexicon in latin terms. Nevertheless it was a successful operation: Viète, Stiffel, Nunez and others often mentioned Cardano’s Practica. But Cardano’s project was much more ambitious. His following goal was to publish an encyclopedia of practical arithmetics in fifteen volumes, called Opus arithmetice perfectum. He was not able to complete his project, but we have some volumes (Ars magna, Opus novum de proportionibus) and fragments still extant that shed a light on this work, aimed to go beyond the abacus environments so to give a transnational dimension to the practical arithmetics. This encyclopedia, inspired to the architecture of Euclid’s Elements, was to be a reference point in the whole mathematical community. This was the reason why, for example, Cardano adopted a completely different approach in respect with the Practica, abandoning the terminology of the abacus for a lexis more representative of the purity of Latin. My talk is focused in describing the features and the fortune of Cardano’s editorial project, interpreted as an attempt to transform a mainly local phenomenon into a tool shared by a wider community to stimulate the development of mathematics.
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