The First Six Books of the Elements of Euclid was written by Oliver Byrne, who was a surveyor of Crown Lands in the Falkland Islands and a mathematician. It was published in 1847 by William Pickering and printed by Charles Whittingham, owner of the Chiswick Press. The Chiswick Press was called “the foremost name in Victorian book design” and it later produced some of the early works of William Morris.
Byrne's version of the book used colored symbols (red, blue, yellow and black) instead of letters to prove the elements of Euclid. When it was published, it sold for 25 shillings compared to 4 or 5 shillings for a normal well-made book. Ruari McLean (collector of Victorian books and scholar in graphic arts) is credited with calling Byrne’s book one of the oddest and most beautiful books of the century.