Probability can be considered the study of chance. Writings on the subject are often motivated by games of chance involving cards, dice or coins. There are many games which appear simple at the outset but lend themselves very well to rigorous analysis. Undoubtedly the aim for many people was to ‘beat the house’ and make money out of mathematics, but for others, there was the satisfaction to be found in developing a deep understanding of how a particular game of chance works.


Pierre Rémond de Montmort, Essay d’analyse sur les jeux de hazard (Paris, 1713), p. 203.

Probability is studied in tandem with Combinatorics (combinations). In the example above Pierre de Montmort explains the number of ways of rolling each score using two, three, four or five dice (dés in French). In the first table, using two dice there is only one way to score two or twelve (either double ones or double sixes) while there are six ways of scoring seven.

Edward Worth’s collection contains some of the most celebrated publications concerning probability. This may reflect the subject’s popularity during his lifetime. Christiaan Huygens’ work was one of the earliest publications to give a comprehensive summary of the theory of probability. Worth’s edition of Montmort’s Essay d’analyse sur les jeux de hazard also details several of the latter’s correspondences with Jean and Nicolas Bernoulli, a famous family name in probability and in mathematics.