In a XVth century french manuscript on arithmetic and astrology, there is a description of a numeral system as follows (it starts here in the manuscript).

Numbers between 1 and 9 are depicted by a vertical bar and a set of small bars on the upper-right (the conversion to arabic numerals is obviously using a slightly earlier version than current-day digits, but this is nothing difficult and not the topic of the question):

digits 1 to 9

and then the mirror sign on the left is used for 10 to 90:

numbers 10 to 90

so that numbers 11 to 29 read:

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Then larger numbers are represented with more bars, for instance with:

100 to 900

one can then write:

111 to 169

and with:

1000 to 11000

one can write:

numbers with 4 digits

Finally, very large numbers can be written by embedding symbols:

very large numbers

I would like to know the name (if any) of this numeral system, who first came up with it (if this is known), and relevant references about it.


1 Answer 1


According to S.Lamassé in Scientific Sources and Teaching Contexts Throughout History: Problems and Perspectives (page 130, footnote 28. A.Bernard & C.Proust, Eds. Springer, 2014.), this a system that is close to the Algorismus Linealis.

Now, a copy of this short incunable is available online, but I must say I do not find the comparison too enlightening. Lamassé seems to wish to regroup them under the idea of "a table with counters", but the differences are quite stark to me. Yet, since there doesn't seem to be a better answer in the literature, I'll leave it at that.


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