19th Century Geometry Guide Is Transformed Into Incredible Online Resource

Byrne's Euclid Online

Once called “one of the oddest and most beautiful books of the century,” mathematician Oliver Byrne's colorful, visual representation of Euclid's Elements was first published in 1847. By minimizing the text and focusing on its colorful diagrams, Byrne attempted to break down Euclid's geometry into digestible lessons. The work was a breakthrough in how people thought about education thanks to Byrne's innovative emphasis on visual learning.

Now, Byrne's revolutionary work is available as an interactive online website thanks to designer Nicholas Rougeux. Rougeux previously adapted Werner’s Nomenclature of Colours, and he's brought the same precision to Byrne's Euclid. Split across six books tackling topics like circles and angles, geometric proportions, and geometric algebra, the site is an incredible tribute to Byrne's work.

Rougeux has even adapted the initials that begin each section, which were originally designed by Mary Byfield in 1843, and has made them available for free download. But at its core, Byrne's Euclid is all about the artistic diagrams, which were printing feats at the time of publication and still stand out today. Rougeux recreated the diagrams in Illustrator by using scans found at the Internet Archive.

Making of Byrne's Euclid

Evolution of diagrams for Byrne's Euclid.

By making each diagram clickable, Rougeux has enhanced Byrne's work with new technology. This allows readers to quickly grasp Euclid's concepts, toggling shapes within the diagram while following along with the text. As a final touch, Rougeux also created a poster—available for purchase on his website—that includes all 269 diagrams. It's a must have for any lover of geometry.

“This project was very much a passion project,” writes Rougeux. “Over the course of two months, I thoroughly enjoyed the process of figuring out how to design each diagram and tackle each typographical nuance. Even though this project may only appeal to a very small subset of people like myself who enjoy math, typography, and vintage book design, perhaps this new version will expose more to the beauty that is Oliver Byrne’s work.”

Learn more about how Rougeux tackled the project with his step by step explanation on his blog.

In the 19th century, mathematician Oliver Byrne published a colorful interpretation of Euclid's iconic Elements.

Making of Byrne's Euclid

Left: Geometric proof of the Pythagorean theorem from the first printed edition in 1482. Right: Byrne’s colorful rendition in 1847.

Designer Nicholas Rougeux transformed the book into an online resource for geometry lovers.

Byrne's Euclid Online

Byrne's Euclid Online

The interactive website allows you to click on shapes to see how they relate to the geometric formulas.

Byrne's Euclid Online

Rougeux also designed a stunning poster with all 269 of Byrne's diagrams.

Byrne's Euclid Geometry Poster

Byrne's Euclid: Website

My Modern Met granted permission to use photos by Nicholas Rougeux.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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