La Théorique des cielz, mouvemens et termes practiques des sept planètes … rédigée en langaige francois.

Paris, Simon du Bois for Jean Pierre de Tours, 31 August 1528.


FIRST EDITION thus. Folio. ff. xlv [i]. [a-g6, h4.  (h4 blank)] Lettre bâtard.  “Title in large Gothic letter with calligraphic initial. Forty-seven woodcuts by the author including a number of diagrams of motions of the planets similar to those designed by Finé for the Peurbach of 1515. A large cut of an armillary sphere on leaf g6v is signed with Finé’s monogram, another version of the concentric O and F used by the artist on the full page cut in the Puerbach. The last page of text and colophon are arranged in decorative forms.” Mortimer. Fine historiated white on black criblé initials, finely calligraphed purchase note signed “Longe” bought from the bookseller François Pomard (bookseller and publisher at Chambéry), on 5 October 1582 on front fly, early monogram ML on title (possibly Longe’s), “Gerard” in a later hand below. Light age yellowing, t-p fractionally dusty, the odd thumb mark or mostly marginal stain, a few lower outer corners creased. A very good, crisp copy with good margins in early vellum over thin boards, covered with a fine C14th manuscript bifolium leaf, in double column, decorated iniitials in red and blue with penwork flourishes and trails, beautiful and unusual grotesques of birds and monsters in lower margins, rebacked a little soiled and rubbed, all edges yellow.

First edition of the first treatise on Astronomy in French, beautifully illustrated by the author. Although the book appeared anonymously, Oronce Finé’s device (‘virescit vulnere virtus’) appears on two leaves (a1v and h1r). Moreover, the woodcut with the armillary sphere on g6 is signed with his monogram ‘OF’. Oronce Finé was regarded as one of the greatest scholars in France. François I took him to Piedmont and consulted him about the fortifications of Milan and the siege of Pavia. He occupied the first chair of natural science at the royal college, founded only one year earlier, from 1531 until his death. He also promoted modern cartography and participated in the construction of the astronomical clock of the library of Sainte-Geneviève, where it can still be viewed today. The text is an adaptation of the treatise of Georg Peurbach (Theoricae novae planetarum), to whom we owe, together with his pupil Regiomontanus, the renaissance of the study of astronomy. The illustration-cycle comprises 47 woodcuts, all designed by Finé himself, presenting diagrams as well as astronomical figures and planetary constellations.

Fine was as well versed in the arts as in the sciences “His work as a designer is closely related to his major fields of mathematics, astronomy and geography, and his contribution to book production is particularly interesting in extending beyond the illustration to the ornamentation of scientific texts” (Mortimer 225). The work is beautifully printed and typeset by Dubois working with Jean Pierre de Tour. “Dubois ..also worked with Jean Pierre de Tour, with whom he produced two books: Orance Fine’s ‘La Théorique des cielz, mouvemens et termes practiques des sept planètes’ and Jean Parmentier’s translation of Sallust’s Catline Conspiracy. There is little information available on Jean Pierre de Tours other than after working on these two books with Dubois he began working with Gérard Morrhy” Michael Wintroub ‘The Voyage of Thought: Navigating Knowledge across the Sixteenth-Century World’. Dubois was forced to flee Paris for his religious views shortly after the publication of this work. The typography is remarkable. “The lettres bâtardes font used for the text affords a finer balance between the type area and the solid black portions of the diagrams than would be possible with a Roman or Italic letter.” Mortimer.

A very good copy of this rare and important work.

BM STC Fr. C16th  Bechtel F-106. Brun p. 188. Brunet II, 1260. USTC 14703. Mortimer French, 224. Houzeau and Lancaster 2252. Not in Honeyman


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