Encounters with Euclid

How an Ancient Greek Geometry Text Shaped the World

“There is little about today’s world that doesn’t owe something to Euclid and his Elements of Geometry. A book of wonders: of strange shapes and unexpected truths. A book of delights: of perfectly connected arguments and striking beauties. A book that travelled the globe, shaping art, philosophy and architecture, and making modern science possible. A book that would visit every continent and touch countless lives.

“Here, author Benjamin Wardhaugh takes readers on a journey through history and around the globe, from ancient Athens to the workshops of Restoration London, from the Jesuit mission in China to the artisans of medieval Baghdad. Three dozen interlocking stories introduce some of the people whose lives Euclid’s Elements touched: artists, philosophers, teachers, playwrights, painters, poets and more. It chases the Elements of Geometry through the byways of medieval scriptoria, the rubbish heaps of ancient Egypt and the streets of revolutionary Paris.

“In a brilliant feat of storytelling, this is a new history of culture: a tale about books and their stories, about mathematics and its many-sided relationship with all aspects of human endeavour, and about the search for order and reason in an unruly world.”


For a quick taste of Euclid’s many lives, see Benjamin’s article ‘Who was Euclid?’ on the Princeton University Press ‘Ideas’ blog. For just one of Euclid’s lives try ‘François de Foix-Candale, author of the Elements of Geometry’ at Thinking 3D. Benjamin has appeared on the National Review’s ‘Great Books’ podcast and the Aleo review of books speaking about Euclid and the Elements of Geometry. His lecture to the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts about Euclid and his Elements is also online.


Encounters with Euclid is published in the UK by William Collins (in hardback as The Book of Wonders), and in the USA by Princeton University Press. It is also available in German, Italian and Spanish:


‘An astonishingly readable and informative history of the greatest mathematical bestseller of all time, from ancient Greece to dark energy. The writing is vivid and the stories are gripping. Highly recommended!’ – Ian Stewart.

‘A fascinating tour through 2300 years of reading, re-imagining and responding to perhaps the most important textbook ever written.’ – Seb Falk.

‘This is a wonderful book that illustrates the tremendous influence Euclid’s Elements has had all over the world and in virtually every century since its composition. A very enjoyable read.’ – Victor J. Katz

‘Wardhaugh’s beautifully written and wide-ranging book is full of charm and learning.’ – Reviel Netz

‘Benjamin Wardhaugh is an excellent storyteller and his collected short story approach to the history of The Elements works splendidly … simultaneously educational, entertaining and illuminating … a highly desirable read for all those, both professional and amateur, who interest themselves in the histories of mathematics, science and knowledge … over almost two and a half millennia.’ – Thony Christie, The Renaissance Mathematicus

Encounters with Euclid was shortlisted for the 2020 London Hellenic Prize.

  • The Book of Wonders