Pythagoras' Revenge: A Mathematical Mystery

By Arturo Sangalli | Go to book overview

Chapter 18
A PROFESSIONAL JOB

Toward the end of January, Trench had news from one of his London agents: an ancient book believed to refer to Pythagoras was being offered at auction. Trench then decided to send Jule to London to look into the matter.

“I need you to travel to London and take a look at a book that’s up for auction,” he told Jule over the phone. “You’ll be leaving tomorrow evening. I’ve already made plane and hotel reservations for you. Richter will give you an envelope with addresses and other details. Call me as soon as you know something.”

“Sure”—that was all Jule had a chance to say before Trench ended the call with a polite “Have a good trip.”

Two days later, after having examined the book, Jule called Trench, hardly containing his excitement: “I’m pretty sure our parchment sheets with the mysterious drawings were cut from this book, the owner probably expecting to fetch a higher price by selling them separately. The page size, appearance, and age of the parchment are very similar—not to mention the fact that both manuscripts have to do with the Pythagoreans and have surfaced at approximately the same time.

“The book is written in Arabic. According to the auction notice, it’s most likely a twelfth- or thirteenth-century translation of a much older Greek manuscript by one of Pythagoras’ disciples reporting the tragic circumstances of his master’s death. Although this interpretation may be open to question, the book nonetheless has an undeniable historical value. The bidding will start at one hundred and eighty thousand pounds.”

-122-

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