SCARCE ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR

In laudem operis calendarij. [Kalendarius.]

[Venice,] ex officina Peter Liechtenstein, 1514.

£29,500

4to. 26 unnumbered and unsigned ll. + 2 plates. Large Gothic letter, in red and black, white on red and white on black initials. 48 small woodcut representations of eclipses, 4 full-page plates with quadrants to calculate hours (one with silk thread and a volvelle, another with its original, composite brass hand). A little thumbing, last 3 ll. reinforced at gutter, a few small worm holes touching the odd letter, few ll. slightly foxed, contemporary annotations. A very good, well-margined copy in modern paper boards, modern bookplates of Harrison D. Horblit and Erwin Tomash to front pastedown.

Fine, tall copy of this very scarce calendar based on Johannes Regiomontanus’s ground-breaking studies on ephemerides and astronomical tables. The almanacs and calendars of Regiomontanus (Müller von Königsberg, 1436-76) had been very popular since the late C15. After studying at Leipzig and Vienna, he devoted himself to mathematics writing commentaries on ancient texts of algebra and astronomy. After service to the King of Hungary as royal astronomer, he settled in Nuremberg where he established the first astronomical observatory. Whilst in Rome, summoned to assist with the calendar reform of Sixtus IV, he worked tirelessly to achieve a very sophisticated method to produce ephemerides. This Latin calendar was first published as ‘Calendarium novum’ in Nuremberg in 1473; all editions followed a cycle of 19 years beginning in 1475, 1494 and 1513 (Houzeau-Lancaster 14452). Prefaced by a celebratory poem of the humanist Jacobus Sentini, the work begins with tables listing European regions and cities and their latitude in relation to the north pole, which the early annotator of this copy called ‘elevatio poli’. Subsequent annotations clarify the content of each column, abbreviated in print, in tables concerning the days of each month (including religious feasts) in relation to the rising and setting of the sun and moon, and the ascending zodiac sign. There follow 48 woodcut diagrams showing the shape and duration of sun and moon eclipses from 1483 to 1530. The annotator was also interested in the ‘golden number’ to measure movable calendar feasts, a subject integrated by a short essay on the exact date of Easter. The last section is devoted to calculations of the length of days and hours and provides four woodcut quadrants—one remarkably preserved with its original brass dial—for use by the scholarly reader.

Only Huntington and Cornell copies recorded in the US.

Houzeau-Lancaster 14452; Caillet 7855. Not in BM STC It., Riccardi or Brunet.

K163

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