A ciphering book that also includes a hand-drawn picture and a copied text. Abraham Rex.
A ciphering book that also includes a hand-drawn picture and a copied text.
A ciphering book that also includes a hand-drawn picture and a copied text.
A ciphering book that also includes a hand-drawn picture and a copied text.
A ciphering book that also includes a hand-drawn picture and a copied text.

A ciphering book that also includes a hand-drawn picture and a copied text.

Philadelphia, Pensylvania: 1828. 1/4 leather. This ciphering book measures 8” x 12.5”. It contains 92 pages of ciphering work. There is also an additional 36 pages of text in a different hand (perhaps by a sister) copied from Timothy Shay Arthur’s Advice to Young Ladies and the American Tract Society’s Helps for Every Hour. Quarter-bound with marbled boards. Owner’s label reads “Abraham Rex / Philadelphia / 1828.” An 8.5” x 4” pencil drawing copied from The Tours of Dr. Syntax is laid in. Very good. Item #009569

Ciphering books were prepared as part the basic mathematical training of relatively well-off American students, usually boys. Most, like this one, contain examples of the Numeration, Addition, Subtraction, Compound Multiplication, Reduction, Compound Reduction, Rule of Three, Indirect Proportion, Vulgar Fractions, Compound Proportions, The Double Rule of Three, Avoirdupois Weight, Troy Weight Long and Land Measure, etc.

In addition to providing mathematical basics, boys venturing into trades or businesses needed advanced or specialized training in mathematics.

In this case, Abraham’s book includes some work that would prepare him for mercantile positions including Tare and Tret (calculating weight adjustments for packing and shipping materials), Insurance Commissions and Brokerage, Compound Interest, Rebate or Discount, Equation (calculating combined payments), Barter, Loss and Gain, Fellowship (calculating complicated partnership percentages), etc.

Abraham was a member of a prominent and prosperous Pennsylvania Dutch family. On-line genealogical records show that the Rüx (anglicized to Rex) family immigrated to the United States sometime prior to 1720 and settled in Germantown, north of Pennsylvania. The family soon moved westward to Schaefferston in Lancaster County where it proliferated and prospered with members becoming merchants, innkeepers, informal bankers, brokers, pharmacists, and physicians.

For more information about the Rexes of Schaefferstown, see Wenger’s Delivering the Goods: The Country Storekeeper and Inland Commerce in the Md-Atlantic.

An archive of Rex family business papers is held by the Winterthur Library. 18th-century American ciphering books are scarce as the overwhelming majority of extant examples date from the early 1800s into the mid-1850s.

For more information about ciphering books, see Ashley K. Doer's master's thesis: Cipher Books in the Southern Historical Collection. University of North Carolina: Chapel Hill, 2006.

Price: $750.00

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