John Wallis: Writings on Music

Edited by David Cram and Benjamin Wardhaugh

John Wallis (1616–1703), was one of the foremost British mathematicians of the seventeenth century, and is also remembered for his important writings on grammar and logic. An interest in music theory led him to produce translations into Latin of three ancient Greek texts – those of Ptolemy, Porphyry and Bryennius – and involved him in discussions with Henry Oldenburg, the Secretary of the Royal Society, Thomas Salmon and other individuals as his ideas developed. The texts presented in this volume cover the relationship of ancient and modern tuning theory, the building of organs, the phenomena of resonance, and other musical topics.


Letters to Henry Oldenburg, May 1664
Letters to Henry Oldenburg, March 1677
‘The harmonics of the ancients compared with today’s’: appendix to Ptolemy’s Harmonics, 1682
Notice of Wallis’s Ptolemy edition in the Philosophical Transactions, January 1683
A response to a musical question, March 1698
A letter to Samuel Pepys, printed in the Philosophical Transactions, May 1698
Letters to Andrew Fletcher, August 1698
Select Bibliography

Published in 2013 by Ashgate (now issued by Routledge).