Page from 'Tabulae' by Regiomontanus, 1584.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Johannes Regiomontanus (1436-1476), a German astronomer whose real name was Johann Muller, set up an observatory in Nuremburg in Germany in 1471. Here he undertook important work on eclipses and other astronomical phenomena. This French edition is one of the selection of tables collected by the British mathematician and computing pioneer Charles Babbage (1791-1871). His private collection preserved at the Royal Observatory at Edinburgh contained over three hundred volumes. He was a fastidious analyst of tabular error. Mathematical tables were published as an aid to people in those profesions which required them to perform calculations to a high degree of accuracy, such as surveyors and engineers.