Rogerson's Book of Numbers is a deceptively simple list of virtues, spiritual attributes, gods, devils, sacred cities, dominions, powers, heroes, saints and symbols. It provides a dazzling mass of information for those intrigued by the many roles numbers play - not only in mathematics and science, but also in poetry, in the hierarchies of heaven and hell and in the many religions, cultures and belief systems of our world.
From the nine choirs of angels and the nine muses to the twelve livery companies of the City of London and the twelve labours of Hercules, discover the numerical bindings which hold our world together - and why exactly thirteen is so unlucky. A traveller through these lists will soon unravel the mysterious web that numbers have woven throughout human history, from the sacred significance the seven deadly sins, the five pillars of Islam and the ten qualities of the Bedouin warrior, to the profane peculiarities of the eight signboards of the brothels of Shakespeare's Bankside.
And as one reads further into this seemingly innocuous little book - and what could be more simple, more basic, than numbers? - it becomes clear that all of our supposedly separate cultures are magnificently interlinked and inter-related by a shared belief in the magical significance of numbers.
Barnaby Rogerson is an author, publisher and journalist. Together with his partner Rose Baring, he runs Eland Publishing, which specializes in keeping the classics of travel literature in print. He has also written dozens of travel articles, book reviews and historical essays on various North African and Islamic themes, for Vanity Fair, Cornucopia, Conde Nast Traveller, Geographical, Traveller, Guardian, Independent, Telegraph, House and Garden, Harpers and Queen and the TLS.