The color scheme was used by 19th-century mathematician Oliver Byrne for his 1847 edition of Euclid’s mathematical and geometric treatise Elements, over a century before Mondrian made geometrical red, yellow, and blue lines well-known. Byrne proposed using color to “diffuse permanent knowledge” and facilitate learning. One of the strangest and most exquisite books of the 19th century has been characterized as the outcome.

The TASCHEN’S Bibliotheca Universalis series now offers a reproduction of Byrne’s colorful book. The boldness of its red, yellow, and blue images and diagrams, as well as the mathematical accuracy of its theories, make this work of art and science a masterpiece. The pages hint at the vitality of De Stijl and Bauhaus design through their straightforward forms and colors. This work is a precursor to the information graphics that today define a large portion of our data intake since it simultaneously makes complex information accessible and aesthetically appealing.