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Since it was first published in 1964, the 1046 page ''Handbook'' has been one of the most comprehensive sources of information on [[special function]]s, containing definitions, identities, approximations, plots, and tables of values of numerous functions used in virtually all fields of [[applied mathematics]].<ref name="REV_89_1">{{cite journal doi=10.1090/S0025571865999564 title=Reviews and Descriptions of Tables and Books journal=Mathematics of Computation volume=19 issue=89 pages=147–9 year=1965 }}</ref><ref name="Boisvert_2011">{{cite journal authorfirst1=Boisvert authorlast1=Ronald F. authorfirst2=Charles W. authorlast2=Clark authorfirst3=Daniel W. authorlast3=Lozier authorfirst4=Frank William John authorlast4=Olver authorlink4=Frank Olver title=A Special Functions Handbook for the Digital Age journal=[[Notices of the American Mathematical Society]] (NAMS) volume=58 issue=7 date=2011 pages=905–911 url=http://www.ams.org/notices/201107/rtx110700905p.pdf accessdate=20160313}}</ref> The notation used in the ''Handbook'' is the ''[[de facto]]'' standard for much of applied mathematics today.
At the time of its publication, the ''Handbook'' was an essential resource for practitioners. Nowadays, [[computer algebra system]]s have replaced the [[mathematical tablefunction tables]], but the ''Handbook'' remains an important reference source. The foreword discusses a meeting in 1954 in which it was agreed that "the advent of highspeed computing equipment changed the task of table making but definitely did not remove the need for tables".
{{QuotationMore than 1,000 pages long, the ''Handbook of Mathematical Functions'' was first published in 1964 and reprinted many times, with yet another reprint in 1999. Its influence on science and engineering is evidenced by its popularity. In fact, when ''[[New Scientist]]'' magazine recently asked some of the world’s leading scientists what single book they would want if stranded on a desert island, one distinguished British physicist<ref name="Berry_1997">{{cite journal authorfirst=Michael authorlast=Berry authorlink=Michael Berry (physicist) title=Christmas books: ... Or maybe two or three ... journal=[[New Scientist]] date=19971122 url=https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg15621095.500christmasbooksormaybetwoorthree.html accessdate=20160313}} [http://michaelberryphysics.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/berry288.pdf]</ref> said he would take the Handbook.
