Recorde: The Declaration of the Profit of Arithmeticke

Robert Recorde wrote The Declaration of the Profit of Arithmeticke to try to improve knowledge of basic arithmetic in England. In the Preface he writes about the poor state of learning in England, and how it is up to those of learning to do their part to improve the education of others. In a passage, which is quite reminiscent of one which Omar Khayyam wrote in his Algebra, Recorde says how learned men are made fun of by the uneducated:-

To the loving Readers,
The Preface of Mr Robert Recorde

Sore oft times have I lamented with myself the unfortunate condition of England, seeing so many great Clerks to arise in sundry other parts of the world, and so few to appear in this our Nation: whereas for pregnancy of natural wit (I think) few Nations do excel Englishmen: But I cannot impute the cause to any other thing, than to be contempt, or misregard of learning. For as Englishmen are inferior to no men in mother wit, so they pass all men in vain pleasures, to which they may attain with great pain and labour: and are as slack to any never so great commodity; if there hang of it any painful study or travelsome labour.

Howbeit, yet all men are not of that sort, though the most part be, the more pity it is: but of them that are so glad, not only with painful study, and studious pain to attain learning, but also with as great study and pain to communicate their learning to others, and make all England (if it might be) partakers of the same; the most part are such, that underneath they can support their own necessary charges, so that they are not able to bear any charges in doing of that good, that else they desire to do.

But a greater cause of lamentation is this, that when learned men have taken pains to do things for the aid of the unlearned, scarce they shall be allowed for their well doing, but derided and scorned, and so utterly discouraged to take in hand any like enterprise again.

JOC/EFR March 2006