SACROBOSCO, Johannes de. Sphaera mundi (with) REGIOMONTANUS, Johannes. Disputationes contra Cremonensia deliramenta (and) PURBACHIUS, Georgius. Theoricae novae planetarum.

[Venice, Johannes Lucilius Santritter and Hieronymus de Sanctis, 1488.]


4to. 3 works in 1, 69 unnumbered ll., A10 B8 2B12 C8 D9 E-F8 G6, D10 apparently blank, lacking in all recorded copies. Roman letter, first leaf in red and black, initials occasionally highlighted in red. Handsome full-page woodcut frontispiece with female personification of Astronomy in majesty flanked by the muse Urania and Ptolemy, (above) starry sky with Sun and Moon, 1 full-page, 34 ½-page (some hand-coloured) and over 50 smaller woodcuts of astronomical diagrams, woodcut printer’s device to last leaf, extensive C16 annotations to first half of text, decorated initials. A little marginal thumbing, ink splash to lower margin of B4, minimal marginal spotting, two tiny worm holes at gutter. A very good, well-margined, remarkably fresh copy in modern blue morocco, raised bands, gilt lettered spine, inner edges single gilt ruled, joints worn, a.e.g. Bookplates of Antonio Perreño, Erwin Tomash and Helmut N. Friedlander to front pastedown, ‘W.M. Ivins 1923’ to fep.

Very good, well-margined and handsomely illustrated copy of this important collection on Ptolemaic astronomy intended for students—the ‘novicii adolescentes’ mentioned on p. 1 as the most widely used of the early modern period. Johannes de Sacrobosco (or Holywood, 1195-1256) was a monk and astronomer who taught at Paris. His ground-breaking works were extremely influential in the medieval period; they focused on astronomy and mathematics including the Hindu-Arabic numeral system, a study of the shortcomings of the Julian calendar (anticipating C16 debates) and his treatise ‘Sphaera mundi’. First published in 1472, it was reprinted dozens of times in Europe throughout the C15. It discusses the earth in relation to the geocentric Ptolemaic universe, touching on subjects including its physical composition, geometrical realization, its (as it were) sphericity, the revolution of the heavens and the zodiac in relation to sunrise and sunset, the meaning of zenith and climate zones. Johannes Regiomontanus (Müller von Königsberg, 1436-76) studied at Leipzig and Vienna, devoting himself to commentaries on ancient texts on arithmetic and astronomy. He established the first astronomical observatory in Nuremberg. His work argues against the ‘deliramenta’ of Gherardus Cremonensis’s Ptolemaic ‘Theorica Planetarum’, written in the C12 and the most important manual of astronomy used in Faculties of Arts. Structured as a dialogue between two scholars, it concerns calculations relating to very specific points of the Ptolemaic system, e.g. epicycles and longitude, with the help of geometrical diagrams. The last work—‘Theoricae novae planetarum’—was written by Georgius Purbach (von Peuerbach, 1423-61), an Austrian astronomer and mathematician, acquainted with Regiomontanus. It is a clear introduction to the Ptolemaic universe which discusses the sun and moon, theories of the polar axis and astronomical connections between the moon and the motions of other planets. According to the colophon, the handsome (some hand-coloured) diagrams were designed by the German Johannes Lucilius Santritter and cut by the Venetian Hieronymus de Sanctis in the first year of their collaboration in Venice (Essling I, 260; Hummel, ‘Katalog der Inkunabeln’, S.40). The careful annotator was a C16 student. His marginalia focus on the meridian and horizon, the equinoxes, zenith, rising and setting of planets. In particular, the annotation to ‘Sphaera mundi’ was probably drawn from the 1531 edition (‘Spherae tractatus’) of the same work, edited by the Paduan scholar Prosdocimo Beldomandi. Interested in applied astronomy, he also noted mathematical conversions between degrees and distance measurements (digits, feet, etc.). A handsomely illustrated, extensively annotated copy of a milestone of medieval astronomy.

ISTC ij00407000; Tomash & Williams P62; BM STC It., p. 596; Brunet V, 21 (mentioned); Houzeau-Lancaster 1641*; Cantamessa III, 6969; Sander 6663; Essling I, 260. Caillet (later editions).


Print This Item Print This Item