Rare 15th century copy of Book of Calculation by Fibonacci goes up for auction

A fifteenth-century copy of a medieval mathematical book is expected to sell for between $120,000 and 180,000 at a New York City auction later this year.

The Liber Abaci or Book of Calculation was written around the year 1202, by Leonardo Pisano Bigollo, who is better known as Fibonacci. He is widely credited with bringing the Hindu-Arabic numeral system to the western world. Within the text of the Liber Abaci, Fibonacci explains the benefits of Arabic numerals and the symbol for zero by applying them to the practical world of book-keeping, weights and measures, and trade. His theory popularized Arabic numerals by appealing to tradesmen and academics and eventually convincing the public of the superiority of the new numerals. It was Fibonacci’s text that eventually paved the way for modern mathematical equations, sequences used in computer programming and financial markets.

The 15th century manuscript, which is being auctioned by Bonhams, contains the complete text of the section of Liber Abaci known as Flos or “The Flower,” which is the most advanced sections of Liber Abaci, dealing with calculus, and geometrical and algebraic methods for solving quadratic equations. Only 12 copies of the text from the 13th through the 15th centuries are known to be existence, many in the Vatican

Around 1225, Fibonacci attended the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II at the request of His Holiness. The Emperor wanted to meet with Europe’s leading mathematician. It was during this encounter that Frederick’s court mathematician challenged Fibonacci to solve three problems, one of which was borrowed from a text by Omar Khayyam of Rubaiyat fame – the text was called Al-jabr (“Algebra”). It is in the Flos chapters of the Liber Abaci that Fibonacci solves the problems.

Bound with the Liber Abaci is a second manuscript from a century earlier, which includes a text by Boethius. The book will be available for preview from June 18-21, 2011, with the auction taking place on June 22nd.

Click here to go to the Bonhams website for more details.

Sign up to get a Weekly Email from

* indicates required

Sign up for our weekly email newsletter!