'This text should not be viewed as a comprehensive history of algebra before 1600, but as a basic introduction to the types of problems that illustrate the earliest forms of algebra. It would be particularly useful for an instructor who is looking for examples to help enliven a course on elementary algebra with problems drawn from actual historical texts' - Warren Van Egmond about the French edition for ""MathSciNet"". This book does not aim to give an exhaustive survey of the history of algebra up to early modern times but merely to present some significant steps in solving equations and, wherever applicable, to link these developments to the extension of the number system. Various examples of problems, with their typical solution methods, are analyzed, and sometimes translated completely. Indeed, it is another aim of this book to ease the reader's access to modern editions of old mathematical texts, or even to the original texts; to this end, some of the problems discussed in the text have been reproduced in the appendices in their original language (Greek, Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, French, German, Provencal, and Italian) with explicative notes.