Edward Cocker, English mathematician and engraver, 17th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Engraved frontispiece to the 49th edition of the most popular arithmetic primer of the period, allegedly by Edward Cocker (1631-1675), published in London in 1738 by John Hawkins. People used primers such as this one to teach themselves basic arithmetic including multiplication. The book went through 112 editions until the end of the eighteenth century, and the expresion 'according to Cocker' originated from the book's somewhat ill-deserved reputation for accuracy. The crude woodcut portrait is accompanied by a short poem: 'Ingenious Cocker, now to Rest thou'rt gone, No Art can shew thee fully, but thine own. Thy rare Arithmetick, alone can shew, Th'vast Sums of Thanks, we for thy labours owe.'