Sphaera mundi cum tribus commentis … Cicchi Esculani, Francisci Capuani de Manfredonia, Jacobi Fabri Stapulensis [with] Theoricae novae planetarum cum commento

Venice, Simone Bevilacqua, 1499.


FIRST EDITION thus. Fol., 150 leaves, a-c⁶, d⁸, e-z6, &⁶, 94. Roman letter in two sizes, titles in Gothic, single and double column, first commentary indented; white-on-black decorated initials, printer’s device on oivr, detailed and neat astronomical illustrations, diagrams and tables throughout, including the famous armillary sphere twice at aiiv and miv; very light damp stain in upper gutter and margins of initial and final leaves; old reinforcement to lower margin of title and inner margin of first and last gathering; few aged browned pages. A very good copy in unusual sixteenth-century Italian vellum, centrally patched from a rubricated ms prayer book in Italian fourteenth-century humanist hand; early ink title and shelfmark on spine, sprinkled edges; pastedowns from eighteenth-century Italian ms. Small loss on spine; ms notes and geometrical diagrams referring to illustrations in second commentary on front endpaper; contemporary underlining and annotations in second book of second commentary; early owners’ inscription ‘Ad uso di Fra Pietro da Casalena Min. Rif.’ and a later ‘J. Antonii abbatis apuli’, modern pen initials ‘V. S. B.’ and early annotation ‘Messe dux’ on title.

The most complete variant of this important edition with commentaries of Sacrobosco and Peurbach’s astronomical textbooks. It comprises for the first time the commentary by Francesco Capuano. Sacrobosco’s Sphaera was a very popular introduction to spherical astronomy in early modern times. Written around 1220 and printed in 1472, it was re-published hundreds of times by the end of the following century. Peuerbach’s Theoricae novae planetarum was equally influential. It consisted of a lecture script by the author’s pupil and distinguished astronomer Johannes Regiomontanus (1436-1476). The Theoricae drew extensively from Greek and Arabic tradition, providing the most up-to-date account of contemporary astronomical knowledge. It quickly became a fundamental manual for students, replacing even Sacrobosco. Scientists such as Kepler and Copernicus grounded their theories on this work.

The early life of Francesco Capuano is obscure. In 1495, he was teaching astronomy and physics at the university of Padua. His astronomical commentaries are linked to his activity as a lecturer. His innovative consideration of Peuerbach came out soon after those of Adalbert of Brudzewo (Milan, 1495). Divided into four books, they deal with: the geometrical and astronomical characteristics of the sphere; the Zodiac and the climatic zones of the globe; the seasonal alternation; the duration of nights and days during the year; and solar and lunar eclipses. The commentary on Sacrobosco investigates the astronomical properties of each celestial body, describing their movements in respect of the Zodiac. Capuano’s successful commentaries were almost certainly an important reference for Copernicus’s studies on the rotation of the Earth. The edition includes also the commentaries on Sacrobosco by Cecco d’Ascoli and Jacques Le Fèvre d’Etaples. Cecco d’Ascoli (c.1269-1327) was a renowned physician, professor and poet. His commentary originated from the lectures he gave at the university of Bologna and illustrated his impressive knowledge not only of the subject but also of astrology, magic and necromancy. This and other of his writings cost Cecco his life: he was burnt by the Inquisition in 1327. Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples (c.1450-1537) was a major scholar and religious leader of the French Renaissance. After travelling around the Italian peninsula, he set in Paris in 1495, where he was appointed as professor of philosophy at the university college of Cardinal Lemoine. His commentaries on Sacrobosco were published together with his annotations on Aristotle, enjoying considerable success. Later, d’Etaples promoted the internal reformation of the Church. Among his pupils and followers were François Vatable, Guillaume Farel, Margherita d’Angoulême and John Calvin.

ISTC, ij00419000; GW, M14635; Goff, J-419; Hain, 14125; Sander, 6666; Essling, 263; Houzeau-Lancaster, 1642.


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