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It's a commonplace to state that while other sciences (like biology) may always need the newest books, we mathematicians also use to use older books. While this is a qualitative remark, I would like to get a quantitative result. So what are "old" books still used?

Coming from (algebraic) topology, the first things which come to my mind are the works by Milnor. Frequently used (also as a topic for seminars) are his Characteristic Classes (1974, but based on lectures from 1957), his Morse Theory (1963) and other books and articles by him from the mid sixties.

An older book, which is sometimes used, is Steenrod's The Topology of Fibre Bundles from 1951, but this feels a bit dated already. Books older than that in topology are usually only read for historic reasons.

As I have only very limited experience in other fields (except, perhaps, in algebraic geometry), my question is:

What are the oldest books regularly used in your field (and which don't feel "outdated")?

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I think this should be Community Wiki. –  Alberto García-Raboso Dec 28 '12 at 16:28
Please don't call "Characteristic Classes" old or I will have to call myself old, being born in the same year as the lectures :-/ –  Lee Mosher Dec 28 '12 at 18:28
@Lee Mosher: Would you prefer to call yourself "classical"? :) –  user29720 Dec 29 '12 at 0:08
Timeless . . . . –  Rodrigo A. Pérez Dec 29 '12 at 3:08
E. Spanier "ALgebric TOpology", "Eilenberg Steenrod "ALgebric TOpology", GOdement "Topologie Algébrique et Théorie des Faisceaux ", COurant-Hilbert "Methods of Mathematical Physics"... "the problem of contemporary authors, is to being con-temporary" (Ennio Flaiano) –  Buschi Sergio Dec 29 '12 at 10:45

61 Answers 61

Nathaniel Bowditch is generally regarded as a nineteenth century American mathematician . His American Practical Navigator has been in continous print since 1804. It is still in use today judging from the comments on Amazon. But perhaps this isn't what was meant by a mathematics book and perhaps navigation isn't to be considered applied mathematics.

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According to wikipedia (see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Practical_Navigator) the book has been continually revised since 1804 and at this point contains essentially none of the 19th century content. –  Andy Putman Feb 6 '13 at 16:58

protected by Scott Morrison Oct 12 '13 at 11:46

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