This talk will explore the late 18th and early 19th-century handwritten mathematical notes which were recently rediscovered at Maynooth University[1]. A large subset of these notes are written in French, they focus on preliminary mathematical material such as arithmetic and algebra, and some sections must have originally formed part of a larger set of notes, with standalone headings such as "3e Cayeu d’Arithmétique".


While the notes are unsigned, the handwriting appears to be that of Rev. André Darré. Darré (1750–1833), who was a teacher at the Collège Royal d’Auch, fled persecution in France, arrived in Dublin in the early 1790s, and was appointed Professor of Logic, Metaphysics, and Ethics at the Royal College of St Patrick’s Maynooth when it was established in 1795. The College was principally established as a Catholic seminary. The earliest professors were either exiled French priests or Irish priests who were previously teaching across continental Europe, typically in Irish Colleges such as those in Lisbon, Paris, etc. The unique mathematical collection housed in Maynooth’s Russell Library, which also provides insights on the mathematics taught there, is testament to this significant continental influence and is the subject of a forthcoming publication[2].


Prior to the study of the handwritten notes, research into early instruction at Maynooth was limited to an examination of college histories, records, and reports. Initial findings were presented at ICHME-5 in Utrecht, including a list of topics taught. Material within the handwritten notes appears to largely correspond to this list which suggests that the notes relate to Darré’s teaching. Darré was appointed Professor of Natural Philosophy in 1803 and assumed responsibility for mathematics. Priests who graduated from Maynooth often became teachers of mathematics in schools, so we are pursuing links between the notes and school curricula.


We also explore tantalizing hints contained within these notes as to the original French sources. One document contains references to three French authors, Bézout, Lingois, and Marie. While specific book titles are not mentioned, each author had textbooks[3] used in the instruction of mathematics in France in the 18th century.


[1] These notes were previously known and briefly described in: Forsythe, John (1988). Clogher Diocesan Archives. Archivium Hibernicum, 43, pp. 3–24. Their attribution to Abbé Louis Delahogue, Professor of Moral Theology and seemingly without any scientific teaching background, resulted in the notes not being considered again until relatively recently.

[2] Beeley, P. & Mac an Bhaird, C. (Eds.) (2024). Mathematical Book Histories: Printing, Provenance, and Practices of Reading. Trends in the History of Science. Birkhäuser Cham.

[3] Exact details of the textbooks referred to are not yet confirmed, but they are likely as follows: Louis Lingois’s Leçons de mathématiques pour servir d'introduction à l'étude de la physique (1779), Joseph-François Marie’s re-edition of Nicholas-Louis de La Caille’s (1741) Leçons elementaire de mathematiques, Étienne Bézout’s four-volume Cours de mathématiques à l'usage des Gardes du Pavillon et de la Marine (1764–1767) or his six-volume Cours complet de mathématiques à l'usage de la marine et de l'artillerie (1770–1782).