Projects‎ > ‎

Pedro Nunes's Complete Works (Obras de Pedro Nunes)


The publication of Pedro Nunes' Complete Works (Obras de Pedro Nunes) has been my most absorbing task in the past years. I am the head (coordinator) of the Scientific Commission (Comissão Científica) and Prof. F. R. Dias Agudo (ACL) is the leader of the whole edition. 
The publication of Nunes's works in a modern edition, with translations and detailed annotations was a two centuries old ambition of the Lisbon Academy of Sciences. In the nineteenth century and in the early twentieth century the first attempts were made to start an edition. In 1940-60 a very important, but incomplete, effort was made by a group of academicians leaded by Joaquim de Carvalho. But after that, nothing more.

In 2002 the Lisbon Academy of Sciences, with the financial support of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation launched the project of a new edition. They invited me to head the Scientific Commission of this very ambitious project. This was a very honorable and very challenging invitation and (with some trepidation, I must confess) I accepted. The Project was publicly announced in December 2002 in a solemn session at the Lisbon Academy of Sciences. The President of Portugal (at the time Dr. Jorge Sampaio) was there and gave a speech.


After ten years it is possible to say that objectives were reached. All printed works of Pedro Nunes have been published in a modern edition, with careful translations (when the originals are Latin) and extensive annotations. The only volumes that are still to be published (already in advanced state of preparation) are somewhat supplementary to the main objectives (manuscripts and biographical materials).

The present situation is the following: the first six volumes (of a total of eight planned) are already published, and the two remaining are well under way:

    Vol. I: Tratado da Sphera & Astronomici introductorii de spaera epitome (2002), 320 pp.
    Vol. II. De crepusculis (2003), 431 pp.
    Vol. III. De erratis Orontii Finaei (2005), 409 pp.
    Vol. IV. De arte atque ratione nauigandi (2008), 805 pp.
    Vol. V. In theoricas planetarum Georgii Purbachii annotationes (2011), 465 pp.
    Vol. VI. Libro de algebra en arithmetica y Geometria (2010), 576 pp.

    Vol. VII. Manuscripts (scheduled late 2014).
    Vol. VIII. Documents and Biographical materials (scheduled 2015).

All volumes published are available at the Bookshop of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

A great number of persons have been directly involved in this effort and many more indirectly. Two persons in particular deserve a special mention since they were at the very origin of this project: Prof. Diogo de Lucena of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and Prof. Fernando Dias Agudo of the Academy of Sciences. The Scientific Commission is composed by António Costa Canas, António Estácio dos Reis, Francisco Contente Domingues, João Filipe Queiró and Luís Semedo de Matos. New Latin translations were made by António Guimarães Pinto and revised in detail by the Scientific Commission. Bruno Almeida contributed in many important ways, especially in the making of the diagrams. It has been an honor and a privilege for me to work with this group of outstanding and generous scholars.

The publication of the volumes of the Nunes edition is the most visible outcome of the work of the Scientific Commission, but it is far from the only one. It was clear from the very start that the real challenge was not only to publish these books but also to launch the research on Nunes (and more broadly on sixteenth century Portuguese science) in modern terms. Much has been accomplished in these ten years. A significant number of foreign scholars was attracted to this topic, research teams were set up in Portugal and abroad to study specific topics of Nunes's legacy, conferences were organized, many papers and books were published, new specialists were trained, doctoral dissertations were written, etc. Several persons have noted that the editorial works started in 2002 mark a frontier: there is a before and an after in the studies of Pedro Nunes. 

With the publication of vol. IV (without any doubt the most important of Nunes's works) there was a surge of attention. Ana Machado wrote a nice piece in Público (6 August 2009, «Primeira edição da obra de Pedro Nunes está pronta e a dar muito que falar ... lá fora») and Luís Tirapicos, in Expresso (8 Ago 09, «Crítica de livros de 8 a 14 de Agosto») made a rather positive review on the book. João Filipe Queiró wrote a short notice, published in several places (e. g. here), and I was interviewed by the Jornal de Mathemática Elementar -- see here and here.


FAQ on the publication of Nunes's Works.

1. What is the relation between this new edition and the one of 1940-60 ?

The edition of 1940-60 is a superb editorial achievement but it is incomplete. Furthermore it was done half a century ago, before the
immense growth of the history of science after the war. In the new edition we tried to use as much as possible from the older one -- we felt 
we shouldn't invent the wheel again -- but everything was revised, updates were included in some points, and new materials were added. The most important difference, of course, is that the new edition is complete: all works by Pedro Nunes are now published.

2. Of the older volumes which one was most changed/updated ?

We tried to use as much material form the old edition as possible, but all the older volumes were updated and revised. In all of them new materials were added. But clearly the volume of De erratis Orontii Finaei, that is, vol. III, was so profoundly affected by our work that one can nearly say that it is almost a new volume. Both the transcription and translation were revised and some 150 pages of critical notes and commentary were written (pp. 257-398 in the book).

3. What was the major challenge in the present edition ?

It was the publication of Nunes's very important collection of works published in Basel in 1566, Petri Nonii Salaciensis Opera, that is Pedro Nunes' most important work. This had never been attempted. Joaquim de Carvalho himself recognized that this was the most difficult of all books. It is also the largest; in fact so large that it had to be split in two volumes: vol. IV and vol. V. It was very complex and it took me -- and the whole Scientific Commission -- several years to study this work and prepare its edition.

4. What is the present status of the edition ?

The first 6 volumes are published. That is, ALL printed works of Pedro Nunes are now published in a modern edition with careful translations, nice diagrams and ample notes and critical apparatus. I am presently finishing vol. VII (Manuscripts) and working on vol. VIII (Documents and biographical materials). If all goes well, in about one year and a half this edition will be completed.

5. What's the situation of vol. VII ?

This is the volume on Pedro Nunes's manuscript works. It is not a very complex volume because there is only one manuscript by Pedro Nunes and its technical level is not very demanding. Yet, there are many new and important things to be said about this manuscript. In any case, this will be a slim volume (not at all like the other 800-page beasts !). Work on this volume is quite advanced at this stage; I would say more than 90 percent of the work is already made.

6. And vol. VIII ?

These are biographical materials. Some +200 documents will be presented, together with a detailed chronology of Nunes' life plus some additional materials.

7. What will you do when this is finished ?

We (that is, the scientific commitee of this edition) are already working on a volume with English translations of selected parts of Pedro Nunes's Works. This would be a nice finish to the edition -- and it will keep us busy for a couple of years more. On a more personal level, I would like to write a biography of Pedro Nunes and I already made plans for a 400-page book: all I need now is a publisher...
But there is still much work to be done on Pedro Nunes. Note that the edition is only a tool. A tool for further research and more detailed studies.



Comments