Sphaera … Thoma Linacro Britanno interprete. Apendicula G.T. Collimiti

Vienna, Hieronim Wietor and Johann Singriener, 1511.


FIRST EDITION thus. 4to, 10 leaves, a6, b4. Roman letter; couple of white-on-black initials, high-quality thick paper; margins slightly yellowed with occasional light damp stains. An uncut, wide-margined genuine copy, stitched, seventeenth-century decorated paste-paper to spine. Contemporary scholarly annotations and reading note by Conrad Dasypodius (1532-1600) to first leaves, early faint owner’s Gothic inscription to verso of last leaf.

Rare first separate edition of the first work in the edition of Georg Tannstetter and absolute first edition of the second. The first text is the Sphaera, mistakenly attributed to Proclus, here translated into Latin by Thomas Linacre. Then follows, for the first time, a short essay by Georg Tannstetter (1482-1535) on the stars’ rising and setting according to ancient authorities. The book opens with a carmen in praise of Linacre by a Viennese jurist and Professor, Johann Abhauser (c.1485-1535). In the preface, Tannstetter addresses his assistant and student, Joachim Vadianus (1484-1551), then doctoral candidate in poetry and later imperial poet laureate. Aldus Manutius is also mentioned in the introduction, as the first publisher of Linacre’s Latin translation in his astronomical Greek collection of 1499 (Renouard, Annales des Alde, 20:3). At the end of the booklet, one can read a twelve-line ancient poem to help memorize the fixed stars and constellations as described by Hyginus.

The Sphaera is a compendium of Byzantine extracts from the introductive treatise on astronomy by Geminus, but was thought to be an original work by Proclus until recently. The little-known Geminus of Rhodes was a Greek astronomer and mathematician of the first century BC. Proclus (412-485 AD) was one of the last major thinkers of antiquity, exerting a considerable influence over the medieval, Arabic and Renaissance philosophy. Head of the Neoplatonic Academy in Athens, he developed a remarkable and self-contained philosophical system. Among his numerous works were important commentaries on Plato’s masterpieces as well as essays on theology, physics, geometry and astronomy. Georg Tannstetter (1482-1535), aka Collimitius, was a leading scholar and professor of mathematics at the University of Vienna. He published a unique map of Hungary and the pioneering Viri Mathematici, containing biographies of Austrian mathematicians from the fifteenth century. A commentary by him on the Sphaera was lost.

The humanist Conrad Dasypodius started to read this desirable copy in February 1565 in Strasbourg (f. air: ‘Hunc libellum Procli Conradus Dasypodius 6 Februar. 65 foeliciter auspicatus ex Argentinae’). He also recorded here a short biography of Proclus and annotated the beginning of the Sphaera marginally and interlineally. It makes little wonder that he was interested in the book. Dasypodius taught mathematics in Strasbourg, edited Euclid and Hero of Alexandria, wrote on the astronomical spheres and, most importantly, commented on Copernicus’s heliocentrisim in positive, though not fully convinced terms.

BM STC Ger., 716; Graesse, V, 454; Houzeau-Lancaster 913. Not in Honeyman.


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