One of two illustrations from the fourteenth century Italian codex, Antichissimo di Algorismo. This is one of many algorisms written at this time. They were arithmetics designed to introduce the Hindu-Arabic numerals, their operational algorithms and demonstrate their use in problem solving. The majority of the problems considered in this codex are commercial in nature. A few might be categorized as “recreational problems”. A special feature of this codex is that it contains 42 illustrations, many of which supplement problems.
The illustration on folio 60 presents the situation where three couples wish to cross a stream. The small boat they have will only accommodate two persons at a time. How can they all get to the other shore if no man is to cross with another’s wife? This is a variation of the puzzle-type “River Crossing Problem” that has been posed over the centuries in many guises.
Antichissimo di Algorismo