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1750's Arithmetic Exercise Book

Richard Shepard's Book is a bound manuscript documenting a student's mathematics education from 1751-1756. This exercise book exhibits the student's handwriting and illustrates his ability to solve word problems. The penmanship is demonstrated through the copying of definitions for the mathematical terms Multiplication, Reduction, Division, The Golden Rule, The Double Rule, Fellowship, of Barter, Exchange, Of Loss & Gain, Measuring of Timber, and Measuring of Land. The elegant script, accompanied by decorative elements, provides a brief introduction to each topic with examples of the subject on subsequent pages.

As the exercise book progresses, so does the difficulty level of the word problems. In 1753, Shepard copies a practice table and a multiplication table for referral. Early problems are beginner-level exercises including the word problems "7204 Inches, how many Barleycorns?" and "5240 Nobles, how many Groats, Pence, Crowns, & Pounds?" A year later, the problems are more difficult with questions like "How many Boards of 19 foot ¼ Long and 17 ½ Wide will Lay a floor that's 29 foot ½ Square?" By 1756, Shepard is solving complex geometric problems.

Due to a lack of errors in the exercise book, it is assumed that he copied the work from other sources to his exercise book. This book was most likely used as a grading mechanism for his time in school. Even though this book focuses on arithmetic, Shepard practiced writing a quote on a fragment of the last page in the book "Famouse commanders are ornaments to Nations."

To view this item, visit Room 305 in McCain Library & Archives. Richard Shepard's Book can be found at SpColl QA35 .S546 1751. For more information on this item, contact Jennifer Brannock at jennifer.brannock@usm.edu or 601.266.4347. To see more Items of the Month, click here.

Text by Jennifer Brannock, Curator of Rare Books & Mississippiana