Yes, the answer to last week’s Crocodile mystery is as obvious as it seemed. We were looking for a number which unites the table, the fractions, and the superfluous but artful penmanship. Answer: 60, of course!
What we are actually looking at here is nothing more than a simple division sum from the 17th century where A = 1/2 = 30, B = 1/4 = 15, C = 1/5 = 12, D = 1/3 = 20, E = 1/6 = 10. If we look above the table we see a direction serving as an introduction to our colorful and neatly presented mystery.
Divide 60li Amonghst 5 men and Tell me Each mans
Part thereof giveing to –
Hence the answer to this written problem is C: 1/5: 12.
This crocodile mystery is from Sarah Cole’s Arithmetic book (V.b.292) or as we are told at the beginning of the manuscript (on an inserted page, in a later hand that has apparently misread the “A” for a “7” from the original title page):
Scholler to Elizabeth Beane
Mrs in the Art of Writing
Who ever inserted that page apparently liked the poem well enough to copy it, for it appears in the manuscript, in Sarah’s own hand:
Arithmeticks The Art of Computation
By Numbers which brings many Consolation
Those who True Reckonings from false Discern
Arithmetick Let Them Compleatly Learn
By This the Merchant and the man of Treade
By Ignorance or Skill are marr’d or made
Yet in this Art Therse none thats so accute
As all Its Excellencies To Compute
This rather large book, measuring over a foot in length and about eight inches in width, is a fascinating combination of art and arithmetic. It contains several sums and tables on the subjects of addition, multiplication, division and subtraction, or as Sarah Cole writes ‘substraction’.
A section on bartering is included as well as interesting pages on the measurement of sugar, tobacco, ‘oyles’, and more. There are a number of pages under the heading “The Golden Rule,” of which the page featured here is one. In the Early Modern period girls did not generally have access to a formal education, but some were educated in topics which could help them in the running of a household, such as arithmetic. The problems and solutions in this book do tend to pertain to domestic concerns. Throughout the book colorful pictures, borders, doodles, creatures, faces and various swirls (such as the one included in the mystery) provide decoration. Sarah Cole was probably copying a template from her teacher, whom she names as Elizabeth Beane. Another pupil, Mary Serjant, identifies Elizabeth Beane as a tutor in “The Art of Writing and Arithmetick” (currently held by the Beinecke Library: Osborn Shelves MS fb98).
On the rest of the page there are other interesting workings out using pounds, shillings and pence.
For example just underneath our mystery table, one’s attention is drawn to the calculations 60 x 30 = 1800 or 1800 / 60 = 30, 1800 / 30 = 60 : 60 x 20 = 1200, or 1200 / 60 = 20, 1200 / 20 = 60 and so forth… We are not entirely sure what is going on in Sarah Cole’s head at times from the way the multiplications are written, so if you fancy trying out some of the harder sums on the page, let us know how you get on!
Edit, 9/8/15, 3:30pm: Clarified that the arithmetic poem appears in the manuscript and was then later copied onto a page inserted at the start of the manuscript.