Monday, October 1, 2012

The Fibonacci dedication in Pisa

The commemorative tablet to Leonardo Fibonacci in Pisa.
If you find yourself with time to spare in Pisa, after you have completed the obligatory (and well worthwhile) visits to the famous Leaning Tower and the splendid buildings around it, you should stroll over to Lungarno Mediceo, the road that follows the northern bank of the Arno, and look for building number 30. 

The State Archive in Pisa at 
Lungarno Mediceo 30.
Formerly the Palazzo Lanfranchu and later Palazzo Toscanelli, this historic building dates back in its present form dates back to the nineteenth century, and  was at one time (1821-22) the residence of the famous British writer Lord Byron. 

Today, it is the home of the Archivio di Stato (State Archives) of Pisa. The stone plaque shown in the photo is one of two memorials in Pisa to one of their most famous residents, Leonardo “Fibonacci,” the writer of the book Liber Abbaci, generally credited with introducing Hindu-Arabic arithmetic to western Europe. (The other memorial is a statue in the Camposanto.) 

In 1241, the Comune of Pisa decreed that an amount of money should be given annually to Leonardo for his service to the city. The text of the proclamation was reproduced on the stone tablet the city placed there on 16 June, 1867 to honor their great ancestor. The medieval text follows an introductory declaration written in 1865.

The inscription is written in a very formal nineteenth century form of Latin, which translates literally as:

The Rulers and People of Pisa in the year 1865 after ignoring old crushing falsehoods and where the will of the Elders was to study what was better known and proven about Leonardo Fibonacci ordered the city archives to file a copy of the decree by the same Most Eminent Republic of Pisa that one monument equal to so great a man survive.
[The 1241 decree] 
In consideration of the honor brought to the city and its citizens and their betterment by the teaching and zealous cooperation of that discreet and wise man, Master Leonardo Bigolli, as well as by his regular patriotic efforts in civic and patriotic affairs, the Pisan Commune and its Officials in certain right and conscious of our prerogative to make recompense for work that he performed in heeding and consolidating the efforts and affairs already mentioned confer upon this same Leonardo so meritorious of our love and appreciation an annual salary or reward from the Commune of 20 free denarii and the usual accompaniments. This we affirm with the present statement.  

The above translation was carried out for me by medieval scholar and Leonardo translator Barnabus Hughes. For further details of the life and works of Leonardo, see my 2011 book The Man of Numbers, or come along to the talk I’ll be giving at the MAA’s History of Mathematics group meeting (HOMSIGMAA) at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in San Diego on January 9, in the evening.

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