Printed References On Plane Curves

This page contain printed references on plane curves. Books are grouped into the following sections. For online resources, see Websites on Plane Curves.

A star bullet ★ means the book is recommended. Most of the time the reason it is recommened is because the book is written for relatively beginning students of the topic. For example, it is very rare to find books on modern Algebraic Geometry aimed for undergraduate math student. So, when there is such a book, it is likely to win a star ★ from me. Many modern math topic lacks introductory books. What I have collected here are especially with self-study in mind.

General References on Plane Curves

Title: Curves and their Properties Buy at amazon
Author: Robert C Yates
Publisher: The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Date: 1952. 1974, repr. 1974; Reprinted by University Microfilms International, Ann Arbor, MI, 1992
Comment: Written at beginning college math level, this book gather most of the interesting properties of curves with a brief account of their history. Excellent illustration. If you read plane curves for fun, this is the book to get. Most information on this site is from this book. Includes bibliography. As of 1998, it is not in print, but should be available at most university libraries.
This book is now available on CD. See my Buy Visual Dictionary of Special Plane Curves

Title: The Trisection Problem Buy at amazon
Author: Robert C Yates
Publisher: The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics
Date: 1971
Comment: Yates expounds noteworthy “solutions” from ancient to new. Well written with many quality illustrations. It contains discussions of many plane curves and mechanical devices as “solutions”. As of 1998, it's not in print.

The Trisectors Underwood Dudley-s
Title: The Trisectors Buy at amazon
Author: Underwood Dudley
Publisher: Mathematical Association of America
Date: 1994-12
Comment: Exposition of the many angle-trisectors in history. This is a very well written fascinating book. The author takes us thru the many trisetors that he personally had been contacted or visited. He tells us who they are, what they do, and what kind of ilk are they, if any. One'd be surprised the numerousness of them besiege unisersities's math department, even today.

It is interesting to note, that I myself have actually been contacted by a angle-trisector in 2001, and asked by him to do some illustration for him. The person actually hoped that I could help him broadcast his “great discovery”. I tried to convince him that it is not possible, and during the first meeting, realized that this persuasion is impossible. It is with this incident when I found this book by Underwood, and in fact, this trisector in particular is accounted in the book. I contacted Underwood and confirmed the identity. (I did, in fact, actually agreed to do drawing for the trisector and got paid for it)

book of curves lockwood
Title: A Book of Curves Buy at amazon
Author: E H Lockwood
Publisher: Cambridge University Press.
Date: 1961
Comment: This book teachs practical methods of drawing curves. It even indicates the appropriate paper size to carry out the drawing. The methods of constructions rely on curve's properties, and many proofs, formulas, and bits of history are given along the way. This book is very similiar in nature to Robert C Yates's “Curves and their Properties”. You'll have fun figuring it out. Includes bibliography of 20 items.
This book is reprinted in 2007.
catalog of curves J Dennis Lawrence
Title: A Catalog of Special Plane Curves Buy at amazon
Author: J D Lawrence
Publisher: Dover
Date: 1972
Comment: This book is a good reference on curve's mathematical formulas. It contains formulas of curve's Cartesian, parametric, polar, bipolar, and other intrinsic equations. Information on a curve's intercept, extrema, extent, discontinuity, symmetry, asymptote, loop, node, volume and surface of revolution are also given. However, proofs are not given. A chronological bibliography of 95 items is included. This is a dry but worthy references. The bad points about this book are: It's a bit outdated. Most formulas given in the book can be generated by computer algebra systems such as Mathematica or Maple. The techniques used in the book is not modern. The illustrations look very primitive with respect to today's (1998) plotting softwares.
Encyclopedia Britannica has a chapter on plane curves. The 11th edition, published in 1910, is now in public domain. The chapter on plane curves can be accessed here:

Title: Encyclopedic Dictionary of Mathematics Buy at amazon
Author: Edited by Shokichi Iyanaga, Yukiyosi Kawada
Publisher: MIT Press.
Date: 1993 (2nd edition)
Comment: If you are looking for a printed version of the most comprehensive encyclopedia of math, this is it.
This is a 2 volume set. The writing is aimed at professional mathematicians, in a extremely condensed, summarized fashion. First published in 1954, so it's slightly dated, but still is far above all other printed math references in scope and depth.

It has a entry on plane curves (7-pages), as well entries on coordinate systems, differential geometry, algebraic geometry, projective geometry, their subfields and concepts, … and so on. Let's say you just want to own 5 math books in your life, this should be one of them.

Fun books on interesting Geometry

This section are easy-reading books on geometry.

Title: Practical Conic Sections Buy at amazon
Author: J W Downs
Publisher: Dale Seymour Publications
Date: 1998-04

Shadows of the Circle 3743
Title: Shadows of the Circle : Conic Sections, Optimal Figures and Non-Euclidean Geometry Buy at amazon
Author: Vagn Lundsgaard Hansen
Publisher: World Scientific Pub Co
Date: 1998-11
Comment: Probably at high-school level. Here's from the publisher: The aim of this book is to throw light on various facets of geometry through development of four geometrical themes. The first theme is about the ellipse, the shape of the shadow east by a circle. The next, a natural continuation of the first, is a study of all three types of conic sections, the ellipse, the parabola and the hyperbola. The third theme is about certain properties of geometrical figures related to the problem of finding the largest area that can be enclosed by a curve of given length. This problem is called the isoperimetric problem. In itself, this topic contains motivation for major parts of the curriculum in mathematics at college level and sets the stage for more advanced mathematical subjects such as functions of several variables and the calculus of variations. Here, three types of conic section are discussed briefly. The emergence of non-Euclidean geometries in the beginning of the nineteenth century represents one of the dramatic episodes in the history of mathematics. In the last theme the non-Euclidean geometry in the Poincare disc model of the hyperbolic plane is developed.

History of Math Books

Most famous plane curves are of historical interest. Significant part of classical math deal with curves. Books on history of mathematics often include information on various curves sporadically.

The following are some excellent math history books I've used. Easy reading.

Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times 0195061357
Title: Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times Buy at amazon
Author: Morris Kline
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Date: 1972
Notes: 3 volumes.
Comment: Perhaps the most ambitious history of mathematics book that is aimed at general math reader. Contents are as accurate as historians can claim. Easy reading but not trivial. This is a acclaimed book.

howard eves math hist
Title: An Introduction to the History of Mathematics; 6th ed. Buy at amazon
Author: Howard Eves
Publisher: Saunders College Publishing.
Date: 1990
Comment: This book is in the form of a typical modern text book, complete with photographs of mathematicians, artifacts, and old writings, some ancient geographic maps, illustrations on math, and one quarter of the book is devoted to annotated exercises that lets the student get a feeling of how math in different periods are like. Each chapter covers a period, followed by a fairly complete bibliography.

Title: A History of Mathematics, 2nd ed. Buy at amazon
Author: by Carl B Boyer, Uta Merzbach (Contributor)
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons, Inc.
Date: revised by Uta C. Merzbach.1989. First published 1968.
Comment: A well-written book…

math hist John Stillwell Title: Mathematics and its History Buy at amazon
Author: by John Stillwell
Date: 2002.

Highly recommended by Tristan Needham (author of Visual Complex Analysis). It appears that this book differs from most math history texts in that it takes a view point of math subjects, as opposed to going thru the development of math in time periods.

Ancient and Classic math history

If you want to study Greek Mathematics, the following classics are your most readily available source. Sir Thomas L Heath is a authority on ancient mathematics. Famous curves invented and investigated in Greek times include the conic sections, cissoid of Diocles, Archemede's spiral, and conchoid of Nicomedes. By the way, you'll find Euclid's Elements on-line by David Joyce.

History of Greek Mathematics From Thales to Euclid 26402
Title: History of Greek Mathematics: From Thales to Euclid Buy at amazon
Author: Thomas L Heath
Publisher: Dover
Date: 1981
Notes: 2 volumes
Comment: Thomas L Heath is a well-known author on Greek mathematics.
Title: Thirteen Books of Euclids Elements Buy at amazon
Author: Thomas L Heath (editor)
Publisher: Dover
Date: 1956
Notes: 3 volumes
Comment: The ancient classic math text with authoritative comments by the expert Thomas Heath.
Title: Apollonius : Conics Books V to VII: The Arabic Translation of the Lost Greek Original in the Version of the Banu Musa Buy at amazon
Author: Appollonius, (edited by C. J. Toomer)
Publisher: Springer Verlag
Date: 1990
Comment: I've looked at this book at a book store. It appears to be a modern translation of a Arabic translation of Appollonius' work, where the editor C. J. Toomer tried to render it as authentic as possible. The 'original' Arab text is also included side by side. The book would be most valuable to math historians or serious conics enthusiasts. The book has two volumes, covering Apollonius's book V and VII.
Title: Apollonius of Perga; Conics, Books I-III Buy at amazon
Author: Appollonius, (edited by Dana Densmore)
Publisher: Green Lion Press
Date: 1998
Comment: Translation by R Catesby Taliaferro. Edited by Dana Densmore. See also Wikipedia: Apollonius of Perga.

Undergraduate Texts and Journal Articles on Curves

Articles on plane curves appear throughout math journals. Here is a compilation of over 100 literatures on plane curves. (not necessarily including other titles listed in this page) curveBibliography.html

The following books are mostly advanced undergraduate level text books that deal with plane curves directly or indirectly. For example, topics like differential geometry, algebraic geometry, and projective geometry. Most of them I haven't read. I've only read prefaces, intros, and scaned chapters. Because I learn math mostly on my own, I often select books that's suitable for self study, which basically means well-written self-contained undergraduate texts. I believe the following are good books, and my comments may serve as a guide for those of you amateur mathematicians to-be.

For the following books, one should at least be comfortable in calculus. In general, the following books assume that you have some familiarity with basic modern math concepts like sets, vector spaces, differentiation; someone who are familiar with math courses offered in the first 2 years of US colleges, which often means multi-variable calculus, linear algebra, and differential equations. Though, don't let these requirements scare you. If you have never heard of the terms, then you might be concerned about the book's suitability. I've listed the books roughly in order of difficulty.

Geometry of Curves  John W Rutter 1584881666
Title: Geometry of Curves Buy at amazon
Author: John W Rutter
Publisher: CRC Press
Date: 2000
Comment: A very readable book written for the lower undergraduate. Here is a excerpt from the back cover:
Integrating the three main areas of curve geometry-parametric, algebraic, and projective curves-Geometry of Curves offers a unique approach that provides a mathematical structure for solving problems, not just a catalog of theorems. Almost entirely self-contained, this book begins with the basics then takes readers on a fascinating journey from conics, higher algebraic and transcendental curves. It proceeds through the standard properties of parametric curves, the classification of limacons, and a account of envelopes of curve families, and finally to projective curves, their relationship to algebraic curves, and their application to asymptotes and boundedness.
The author has a web page at

Conics and Cubics  by Robert Bix 0387984011
Title: Conics and Cubics: A Concrete Introduction to Algebraic Curves Buy at amazon
Author: Robert Bix
Publisher: Springer Verlag
Date: 1998
Comment: A valuable book for any amateur mathematician who whishes a intro to algebraic geometry. Here's a excerpt from the book's back cover: «Conics and Cubics is an accessible introduction to algebraic curves. Its focus on curves of degree at most three keeps results tangible and proofs transparent. Theorems follow naturally from high school algebra and two key ideas, homogeneous coordinates and intersection multiplicities. The book is a text for a one-semester course. The course can serve either as the one undergraduate geometry course taken by mathematics majors in general or as a sequel to college geometry for prospective or current teachers of secondary school mathematics. The only prerequisite is first-year calculus.»
Elementary Geometry of Differentiable Curves Chris G Gibson 0521646413
Title: Elementary Geometry of Differentiable Curves Buy at amazon
Author: Chris G Gibson
Publisher: Cambridge Univ Press
Date: 2001-08

This book is a undergraduate introduction to differential treatment of plane curves. You should know your calculus well to read this book. Also, you shoud have some understanding of complex numbers. This book isn't particularly easy to read or friendly, despite the author might want to claim otherwise. It is written by a English mathematician.

Elementary Geometry of Algebraic Curves  C G Gibson 0521646413
Title: Elementary Geometry of Algebraic Curves: an undergraduate introduction Buy at amazon
Author: C G Gibson
Publisher: Cambridge Univ Press
Date: 1998-11

Written by a English mathematician of University of Liverpool, England. The writing style is a bit pompous, and because of that it reads funny. If you had abstract algebra, you'll get along with this book fine. If you never had abstract algebra, it'll be problematic for a self-study.

Glimpses of Algebra and Geometry  Gabor Toth 0387982132
Title: Glimpses of Algebra and Geometry Buy at amazon
Author: Gabor Toth
Publisher: Springer Verlag
Date: 1998
Comment: I've looked at this book. This appears to be a very accessible book for junior math majors who wishes to have a very basic glimpse of modern algebra, geometry, and their interconnection among other fields as well.
Curves and Singularities J W Bruce 0521429994
Title: Curves and Singularities : A Geometrical Introduction to Singularity Theory Buy at amazon
Author: J. W. Bruce, P. J. Giblin (Contributor)
Publisher: Cambridge Univ Press
Date: 1992
Comment: This book is a bit difficult for self-study. It appears to be a text that covers some singularity theories that is accessible to undergraduate who had advanced calculus. Singularity theory seems to be relatively new branch of math, which treats some of the classical geometry problems such as envelops.

Undergraduate Texts on Geometry

These text books are not exactly curve related, but on modern geometries. These are carefully picked text books on advanced undergraduate level, usually that means you have had some basic linear algebra and multi-variable calculus.

Modern Geometries  Michael Henle 0130323136
Title: Modern Geometries: Non-Euclidean, Projective, and Discrete Geometry Buy at amazon
Author: Michael Henle
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Date: 2001-01
Comment: Introduction to modern geometries with analytic approach. A highschool student can get much out of this book. The book introduces bits of mobius geometry, hyperbolic, elliptic geometry, and projective geometry and solid geometry. Out of necessacity it is shallow, and the writing style is easy going, informal, and a bit slack. Nevertheless it is a very valuable book introducing geometries to beginning students by using coordinates. There does not seems to have competing books. The author does not have much respect for synthetic approaches. The pre-requisite for this book is a good understanding of analytic geometry, which is often taught before or together with calculus.

Geometry  David A Brannan 0521597870
Title: Geometry Buy at amazon
Author: David A. Brannan, Matthew F. Esplen, Jeremy J. Gray
Publisher: Cambridge Univ Press
Date: 1999-4
Comment: Looks like a great book for self-stuty. Easily readable. Does not assume advanced knowledge. Some text books claims to be accessible by undergraduate, but in fact is quite esoteric even to other mathematicians.

Complex Numbers and Geometry  Liang Shin Hahn 0883855100
Title: Complex Numbers and Geometry Buy at amazon
Author: Liang-Shin Hahn
Date: 1994-04
Comment: A fantastic little book on complex numbers published by Mathematical Association of America. MAA publishes a serious of thin undergraduate books that are almost always excellent, also because they are small and easy reading, excellent material for math enthusiastics who want to learn real mathematics. (as opposed to pop math books for laymen which usually only talks superficially about the subject.) Complex numbers is so important in math, esp pure math. I advice anyone to get familiar with complex numbers as soon as possible.

A complex number is complex in that it has something called Imaginary part, where a imaginary number denoted by ⅈ, is a number such that its square root is -1. When i was learning math, i regard complex numbers as some kind of oddity and i approach it with caution and relunctance. Now having studied math over a decade, my advice for students new to complex number is to embrace it immediately, to simply force youself to love it, to at least pretent that it is the most natural number of all. Soon it will be, and in fact is. Once you do this, few years down the road you will realize that you possess resolutions to all objections of the oddity and imagined “imaginary” aspect of complex numbers. The more you resist it now, the less you will absorb it. It a psychology thing. Trust me.

Visual Complex Analysis  Tristan Needham 0198534469
Title: Visual Complex Analysis Visual Complex Analysis
Author: Tristan Needham
Date: 2001-01

This is a great book. However it is not my personal favorite. I didn't like it because the English writing style is very informal and sloppy. It particular, it treats math as physicists do, and i hate that. I like math texts to be formal (as in Hilbert's formalism), logical (as in Russell's logicism), and the exposition precise, but don't necessarily like “rigorous” texts, nor completely abstract and generalized approach. (Note: by definition, a good formalism or logicism approach basically makes it as rigorous can any other treatment can practically be.)

Tristan's writing style is chatty and is in fact one of its selling point. Nevertheless, if you are looking for self-study on complex numbers, especially the geometric aspect, this is perhaps the only and best book.

Title: The Real Projective Plane Buy at amazon
Author: H S M Coxeter
Publisher: Springer Verlag
Date: 1992
Comment: This book teaches the basics of projective geometry from a abstract and axiomatic approach. The book claims that any bright highschool student should be able to understand it, but it's more likely that a 3rd year undergraduate math major will have difficulty digesting the book by himself. This is because its axiomatic approach, plus it is written extremely succinctly. If you are going to read this book on your own, some experience with modern math and history of geometry is a good pre-requisite. The book by itself is a excellent work, and is valuable to mathematicians. The software that accompanies the book is not of much value. If you want to learn projective geometry with some computer software enhancement, I highly suggest Cabri Geometry II or The Geometer's Sketchpad. Note that projective geometry of two or three dimensions is essentially theory of conics. Anyone who are serious about conics should study projective geometry.
Introduction to Geometry  H S M Coxeter 0471504580
Title: Introduction to Geometry, 2nd Edition Buy at amazon
Author: H. S. M. Coxeter
Publisher: John Wiley and Sons
Date: 1989-02
Comment: This is a classic reprint. As with all classic books, it is aged. I think it is not the best introduction or survey of modern geometries, but is a must-have reference for any geometry fan and text book collectors. Coxeter is a well-known geometer of our time. He wrote a lot geometry books for the amateur mathematics circle. Almost any of his books are valuable.
Geometric Constructions  George E Martin 0387982760
Title: Geometric Constructions Buy at amazon
Author: George E. Martin
Publisher: Springer
Date: 1998
Comment: Review coming. Seems pretty good. Easy reading.
A History of the Circle Ernest Zebrowski 0813526779
Title: A History of the Circle: Mathematical Reasoning and the Physical Universe Buy at amazon
Author: Ernest Zebrowski
Comment: I have not checked out this book. From comment, it appears to be a good general interest science-popularizing book, but lacks mathematical history of the circle.

More Advanced Texts on Geometry

These text books are geometry at graduate level. I selected them based on comments. I think they are great books, but i do not know for certain.

Geometry Euclid and Beyond  Robin Hartshorne 0387986502
Title: Geometry: Euclid and Beyond Buy at amazon
Author: Robin Hartshorne
Publisher: Springer Verlag
Date: 2000-01