TORNAMIRA, Francisco Vicente de


Chronographia, y repertorio de los tiempos.

Pamplona, Tomás Porralis, 1585.


FIRST EDITION. 4to., pp. (8), 560, (8). Roman letter; printer’s device on title and final verso, foliated initials, first historiated ‘A’ with charming Dance Macabre, numerous large astronomical woodcut illustrations, tables and diagrams, original correction slip pasted at foot of p. 60; browned in places. A good copy in eighteenth-century half vellum stained to resemble calf, spine gilt in compartments, marbled boards and endpapers, all edges blue; early ‘SE’ ink stamp at foot of title.

Rare first edition of a wide-ranging astronomical, cosmographical and historical book, one of the first of its kind to be directly written in Spanish. Little is known of the life of Francisco Vicente de Tornamira (1534 – 1597), born in Tudela, Navarre. Chronographia was the most influential work of this prominent Spanish astronomer, illustrating in 162 chapters the creation of the universe, the various branches of philosophy, the movement of planets, the constellations and the Zodiac, the universal chronology realm by realm, a series of calendars, almanacs and weather forecasts. All the subjects were elucidated further with a large number of illustrations, including, most notably, a traditional depiction of the Armillary Sphere and other globes, the Astronomical Man and the Roman gods on their chariots representing the planets named after them.

A fervent supporter of Ptolemaic vision of the universe against the heliocentric theory, Tornamira comes up with convoluted explanations to bridge the gap between mathematical calculation and the traditional model of planetary movement. A most interesting part is devoted to the solar calendar and the recent reform introduced in 1582 by Pope Gregory XIII, discussing the exact days of the year in which Lent, Corpus Domini and Easter should be celebrated. Tornamira expanded on this topic in his subsequent work, the Spanish translation of the new Gregorian calendar (1591).

“On p. 40 there is a reference to the Magellan circumnavigation; on p. 497 a list of the midsummer’s days of the New World; on p. 538-539 locations of New World cities.” Alden 585/67.

Rare outside Spain. Only one recorded copy in the US (New York Public Library).

Not in Brunet. BM STC Sp., 204; Adams, T 803; Graesse, VII, 174; Houzeau & Lancaster 2763; Palau 334501. Cantamessa III 8057.


Print This Item Print This Item

LEOPOLD of Austria


Compilatio … de astrorum scientia decem continentis tractatus.

Venice, per Melchiorem Sessam & Petrum de Rauanis socios, 1520.


4to. 94 unnumbered leaves. A-L⁸ M⁶. Gothic letter. One large historiated initial, many fine white on black floriated initials, woodcut of astronomer with celestial sphere on title page, Messsa’s woodcut cat device beneath, numerous woodcut astronomical diagrams and illustrations in text, including two sets of zodiacs, one based on that of the editions of Hyginus, the sphera mundi, celestial figures of the sun, moon, Mercury, Saturn and Jupiter etc. driving various chariots, many repeated, astrological tables of predictions. Light age yellowing, A2 and 7 a little creased and soiled at edges, expertly repaired, closed tear restored in I1, the odd marginal thumb mark or spot. A very good, well margined copy, crisp and clean, in modern olive morocco, covers bordered with a double blind rule, spine with raised bands, double blind ruled in compartments, inner dentelles richly gilt. 

Beautifully printed and finely illustrated second edition of this important and influential astronomy, by the 13th-century astronomer, Leopold of Austria, first printed by Ratdolt, in 1489. Primarily a work of astrology based on the writings of Albumasar, the sixth book concerns meteorology both from a theoretical and a practical point of view, and includes folkloric methods of weather prediction and general descriptions of winds, thunder etc.

Although virtually nothing is known of the author, the work was influential in the late Middle Ages, being cited by the great astronomer, Pierre d’Ailly, and admired by Regiomontanus, who proposed to edit it. This edition retains the dedication to Udalricus de Frundsberg, bishop of Trient, by Erhard Ratdolt, printer of the first. In the introduction Leopold states that he cannot take credit for the work as there was more than one author and he was just a ‘fidelis illorum observator et diligens compilator.’ He states his goal is to describe the motion of the stars, and to focus particularly on describing their effect. He describes astronomy as a necessary starting point and foundation for the study of astrology.

The Compilatio is divided into ten treatises: the first and second on the spheres and their motion. There is a dissertation on the comets at the end of the fifth book, beginning with a short discussion of Aristotle’s theories, which recounts the opinion of John of Damascus (676 – c. 749), who asserts, in his ‘De Fide Orthodoxa,’ that these celestial bodies announce the death of a King, and that they do not belong to the stars created in the beginning, but are formed and dissolved by God’s will. He then gives a list of the nine comets and their latin names, ending with the meanings derived from their presence in each Zodiacal sign. These are a transcription of Albumasar’s ‘De magnis Conjunctionibus.’ A very good copy of this beautifully illustrated and rare edition.

BM STC It. C16th (assigning it to Pencio) p.375. Adams L-516. Sander 3948. Essling 2081. Caillet 6636 (first edition only). Honeyman V 1989. Cantamessa II 4422. “Imponente e importante trattato in 10 libri”. Houzeau-Lancaster 4702 “fort rare”


Print This Item Print This Item

KEPLER, Johannes


De stella nova … De stella tertii honoris in cygno … De Jesu Christi servatoris nostri vero anno natalitio.

Prague and Frankfurt, Pavel Sessius and Wolfgang Richter, 1606.


FIRST EDITION. 4to, four parts in one volume, pp. (12), 212, 35, (5), wanting final blank. Predominantly Roman letter, little Italic and Greek; four separate title-pages, woodcut printer’s device on first, neat double-page engraved plate and several diagrams; very light browning throughout, small damp and rust stain to margins of very few leaves. A good copy in early nineteenth-century calf, gilt panel and blind-tooled roll of interlacing flowers, all edges red, corners slightly chipped. Contemporary inscriptions on front fly, including title, author owner’s inscription ‘John M ….’ in an English hand written over, early monogram ‘H G’ on head of title.

First edition of Kepler’s detailed essays describing the supernova which appeared at the foot of the constellation Ophiucus in 1604. Johann Kepler (1571-1630) is one of the most important modern astronomers and mathematicians, along with his teacher Tycho Brahe and Galileo Galileo. Working at the court of the Emperor Rudolph II in Prague, he was able to improve the refracting telescope and formulate the fundamental laws of planetary motion correcting Copernicus. This invaluable account provides information on the supernova’s colour, brightness, distance to the earth as well as other events related to this still unsolved astronomical phenomenon announcing the death of a star. The supernova was the last to be seen in the Milky Way and was named after Kepler in the 1940s.

Its appearance revived the debate among scholars on whether the incorruptibility of the cosmos established by Aristotle was valid or not. For instance, Galileo delivered a lecture on the supernova, considering it as disproof of the Aristotelian theory. In 1604, Kepler was observing the conjunction of Jupiter with Saturn, an event which he calculated to happen exactly every 800 years. On October 10, Kepler witnessed the supernova and assumed the two phenomena were related. While working on his scientific description, he came across the essay of the Polish astronomer Laurence Suslyga, who had argued that Christ had been born in 4 BC on the basis of other celestial calculations. On this account, Kepler concluded that 1600 years earlier (i.e. 4 BC) the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction had provoked another supernova, which had been recorded in the Gospel and it is known as the Christmas Star or Star of Bethlehem. Such a theory is set out in the fourth part of this remarkable collection of treatises.

This editio princeps has two variants, depending on the presence of the imprint ‘impensis Authoris’ in the main title. Although a definitive priority has not been established, Kepler’s letters seem to suggest that the present title page is the earlier. Kepler was probably dissatisfied with the quality of this first print-run and paid for another. The presentation copy to James I in British Library was from the second printing.

Graesse, IV, 11; Caspar, 27; Cantamessa, 2289; Cinti, 17; Houzeau & Lancaster, 2843; Zinner, 4097; DSB: ‘A monument of its time.’


Print This Item Print This Item

SACROBOSCO, Johannes de [with] REGIOMONTANUS, Johannes [with] PEUERBACH, Georg von


Sphaera mundi [with] Disputationes contra Cremonensia in planetarum theoricas deliramenta [with] Theoricae novae planetarum.

Venice, Boneto Locatello for Ottaviano Scoto, 1490.


4to, 48 leaves, a-f8. Roman letter; black-on-white decorated initials, large red printer’s device on final recto, numerous astronomical illustrations, including one full-page, six colour printed yellow, one red and yellow and the famous armillary sphere at aiiiv; first and final leaves slightly browned, light damp stain to lower outer corner, marginal repair on title, bviii and final leaf. A good copy in nineteenth-century vellum, gilt panel with floral decorations at corners, title gilt on front cover and along spine, a. e. r.; contemporary German scholarly annotations extensively throughout (slightly cropped), mainly in Latin, dated 1505 at ciir, by the hand inscribing on the upper outer corner of title ‘Johannes Desba[rlau?]’ est possessor huius libri’; on front pastedown, early bookplate of Johannes Karl von Westernach, canon of the chapters of Augsburg and Friesing, dated 1734, along with ex libris labels of Hanns-Theo Schmitz-Otto (1908-1992) and the Olschki[?] family.

Early and accurate Venetian edition of an astronomical masterpiece, with neat illustrative apparatus and additional essays of the two most prominent Renaissance scholars in the field. Sacrobosco’s Sphaera was the most popular introduction to spherical astronomy in early modern times. Written around 1220 and printed in 1472, it had been re-published hundreds of times by the end of the following century. This edition includes two important Renaissance works, building on Sacrobosco’s theory. The first is a short essay by the distinguished astronomer Johannes Regiomontanus (1436-1476) against the ‘delirious’ hypothesis (deliramenta) put forward in the twelfth century by Gherardo of Cremona, whose textbook was often attached to the earliest edition of the Sphaera. The second work, edited by Regiomontanus’s himself, is a lecture script by his teacher Georg von Peuerbach (1423-1461), entitled Theoricae novae planetarum. Since the Theoricae drew extensively from Greek and Arabic tradition and provided the most up-to-date account of contemporary astronomical knowledge, they quickly became a fundamental manual for students, replacing even Sacrobosco. Scientists such as Kepler and Copernicus grounded their theories on this booklet.

This edition retains the elegantly instructive woodcuts designed and cut by Johannes Santritter and Hieronymus de Sanctis in their edition in 1488; amongst them, the most famous is the full-page illustration on the verso of title, depicting the enthroned personification of Astronomy holding an astrolabe and armillary sphere, flanked by the Muse Urania gazing at the celestial vault and Ptolemy reading through his Almagest. The planetary illustrations in the last two gatherings of the book  provide one of the earliest examples of polychrome printing.

This copy was used for study by an unidentified contemporary German astronomer, who filled it over and over throughout the years with his annotations and diagrams, changing sizes of writing and pens. He especially went through Sacrobosco’s and Peuerbach’s essays and occasionally reported first-hand stellar observations following the guidelines in the texts, including one dated 14 May 1505. At the end, below the final register, he drafted a curious list of the advantages of studying astronomy.

ISTC, ij00409000; BM STC, V, 438; GW, M14646; Goff, J-409; Hain, 14113; Houzeau-Lancaster, 1641 (‘rare’); Klebs, 874:14; Cantamessa, 3959; Essling, 261 (no 260 for 1488 edition); Sander, 6664 (‘Il y a des exemplaires avec le diagr. Imprimés en couleurs’); Graesse, VI, 209.


Print This Item Print This Item

STÖFFLER, Johannes


Elucidatio Fabricae ususque Astrolabii

Oppenheim, Jacobus Kobel, 1513 (colophon 1512).


FIRST EDITION. ff. xii, lxxviii. Roman and Gothic letter. Title within fine woodcut architectural border, putti above, numerous woodcut diagrams, charts and illustrations, some full-page, those on A6v, C4v and D3r with extension slips (single extension slip of D3 loosely inserted), woodcut arms of George Simler to **6 verso, fine white on black woodcut initials in various sizes, charming criblé white on black printer’s device at recto of last, **6 verso with poem by Philipp Melanchthon, occasional early ink marginalia in and English hand, early English manuscript price mark (3s 4d) at head of title page. Light age yellowing, title page a little soiled, minor restorations to lower blank corners of first three and last two leaves, light, mostly marginal, water-staining, the occasional thumb mark or minor stain, fractionally trimmed at outer margin. A good copy in contemporary speckled calf, sympathetically re-backed, spine gilt ruled in compartments with fleurons gilt to centres, morocco label gilt. a.e.r.

First edition of this hugely important and beautifully illustrated work, the first book of original astronomy published in the C16th. The most comprehensive treatise on the astrolable of its time, it was handsomely printed at the first press in Oppenheim. ‘Stoeffler recognized that, in mapping, computation of the distance between two places whose latitude and longitude were known failed to take into account the convergence of the meridians’ (Stillwell). The poem by Melanchthon, who was Stoeffler’s student, is possibly his first appearance in print.

Johann Stoeffler (1452-1531) was a mathematician, astronomer and instrument-maker who was appointed to the chair of mathematics and astronomy at the University of Tuebingen. His Elucidatio fabricae ususque astrolabii was one of the most influential books published on the astrolabe, with editions extending from 1513 into the seventeenth century. He was the teacher of Philipp Melanchthon, Johannes Schöner, and Sebastian Münster and a key member of the generation who considered Regiomontanus the paragon of Renaissance astronomers. Stoeffler adopted a programme of astronomical observation and publication of tables, and promoted the importance of precision instruments and practical accounts of how they worked. “Stoeffler devotes Part one to the construction of the components of an astrolabe, including marking the lines on the latitude plates; setting out the rete (with the star positions in Latin and Arabic); applying the calendar scale, the shadow square and the unequal hours lines to the back; making the rule, alidade, axis and suspension shackle. Stoeffler also discusses an horary quadrant for equal hours, the use of the shadow square in surveying, and the astrological applications of the astrolabe. Such was the currency of his account that ‘Stoeffler’s astrolabe’ came to stand for fixed-latitude astrolabes, as distinct from the universal ones.” J. Bennett and D. Bertoloni Meli, Sphaera Mundi: Astronomy Books in the Whipple Museum 1478-1600.

The second part of the work gives detailed explanations the use of the astrolabe with equally remarkable woodcut illustrations. Stoeffler ends his work with a discussion of perspective and measurement. Jacob Koebel, the printer of this work, was a surveyor and practical mathematician in Oppenheim, near Mainz. He was also a prolific printer and publisher of his own works. After publishing this work by his friend, Johann Stoeffler, in 1513, Koebel went on to produce his own treatise on the astrolabe.

USTC 649878. BM STC Ger. 834.C16th Adams S1886. Houzeau & Lancaster 3256.  Stillwell Science, 892. Wellcome 6099.


Print This Item Print This Item

SACROBOSCO, Johannes de [with] PEURBACH, Georg von

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.


Print This Item Print This Item


Della sfera del mondo … Delle stelle fisse

Venice, Nicolò Bevilacqua, 1561.


4to, ff. (4), 176, (4). Italic letter; historiated initials, printer’s device on both titles, 47 full-page stellar maps (misnumbered 48, but skipping, as usual, no. 24), woodcut astronomical illustrations in text, 48 double-page astrological tables; damp stains to upper (slight) and lower margins of first gatherings, small marginal oil splashes to final leaves, two tiny ink spots just affecting text of f. 63 r; clean tear to margin of f. Aviii, tail of first gathering slightly worn. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum (formerly painted red), partially rebacked and worn; minor loss to covers; contemporary paper pagemarks applied to outer margin of each chapter; owner’s inscriptions on front pastedown ‘L. Vidinus Physicus S.’ ‘1679’; contemporary manuscript on verso of rear endpaper ‘Bronzo Philippo Franz’; early Italian armorial ink stamp with initials CRF to verso of final leaf.

Sixth edition of this very influential Italian cosmography paired with a much important illustration of the Ptolemaic constellations, originally published together in 1540. The same year as this edition, another more common reprint by Varisco appeared in Venice. The scion of a papal family in Siena, Alessandro Piccolomini (1508-1578) was a leading Renaissance humanist, philosopher, dramatist and astronomer. He was a founding member of many Italian academies, notably the Intronati and Infiammati. After teaching philosophy in Padua, he moved to Rome and Siena to started an ecclesiastical career, which eventually led him to being appointed archbishop of Patras.

A partisan of the Italian vernacular, he intentionally avoided Latin in his numerous works. They comprise a couple of moral comedies, collections of his letters and sonnets, several philosophical treatises and translations of classical authors, as well as his famous astronomical essays. Among them, La Sfera and Le Stelle fisse stand out for accuracy and success. The first describes the universe following the traditional Ptolemaic-Aristotelian geocentric cosmography, while the second contains one of the earliest star atlases to be published in the Western World. All of Ptolemy’s 48 constellations, save Equuleus, were displayed without the traditional depiction of related animals. Piccolomini introduced here the practice of identification of stars by Latin letters, which was adopted using the Greek alphabet by Johann Bayer some seventy years later. The lunar crater Piccolomini is named after him.

Rare. Only two copies recorded in the US (Harvard and Pittsburg).

Not in Adam, BM STC It. or Riccardi. Cantamessa, 3459; Graesse, V, 281; Houzeau-Lancaster, 2491.


Print This Item Print This Item

GALLUCCI, Giovanni Paolo


Theatrum mundi, et temporis.

Venice, Giovanni Battista Somasco, 1588.


FIRST EDITION. 4to, pp. (16), 478, plus additional leaf after Mmiv and final folded table, final gathering misbound; decorated initials and tail-pieces, printer’s device on title; 144 astronomical illustrations, of which 31 (out of 51) with volvelles, very few skilfully restored with possible integrations from another exemplar; light foxing and little stains to margins in places. A good copy in contemporary vellum, early title inked to spine; couple of minor stains to front, spine chipped at tail; eighteenth-century Italian ms filling verso of title and other blank portions of text; early ink stamp of private library with crowned monogram ‘EME’ on title and verso of last leaf.

First issue of the princeps of this beautifully illustrated book, commonly regarded as the most charming celestial atlas of the sixteenth century. This copy also retains the additional folded table ‘Canon sexagenarius’ at the end. Giovanni Paolo Gallucci (1538 – c. 1621) was a well-known private teacher to the Venetian nobility and founding member of the Second Venetian Academy. For all his life, Gallucci engaged greatly with the Venetian printing industry: he edited a collection of astronomical medical essays including writings of Marsilio Ficino, published many works on astronomical and time-measurement equipment and translated into Italian Peckham’s essay on perspective, Dürer’s treatises on body symmetry and Acosta’s history of the New World. His most successful work, however, was certainly the Theatrum Mundi, a vast survey on terrestrial and celestial physics. It provides almost 150 maps for measurements, each accompanied by a Biblical quotation.

The work is dedicated to pope Sixtus (1585-1590), who had just banned all astrological literature since 1586. Although Gallucci could not resist to touch on some astrological implications of constellations, he questioned their alleged influence over human health and fate and pioneeringly tried to draw up a pure astronomical treatise. In his numerous diagrams and maps, Gallucci combined a coordinate system with a trapezoidal system of projection for an accurate determination of the star and zodiacal positions. Alongside the extraordinarily ingenious volvelle illustrations forming the first four books of Theatrum Mundi, there are depictions of Hell and its circles as inner portions of the Earth, the New World hemisphere and the wind rose, as well as calculators for tides and daytime at every longitude and latitude. Book 5 presents 48 maps of the Ptolemaic constellations and the related mythological illustrations. The star positions were taken from Copernicus’s catalogue.

‘Somasco printed blocks for division into small squares of woodcut ornament (a few with grotesque faces) to be pasted on the verso of the leaf over the string by which the separate pieces were attached. He left space for these squares in setting the text. On the verso of leaf Ooo4 are instructions to the bookseller, printed first in Latin and repeated in Italian. They state that the four leaves of separate illustrations were not to be bound in the book but should be cut apart and the pieces attached to the appropriate illustration [with silk thread] … the illustration on leaf Qir had six different version of one part; the one to be attached depended on the place in which the book was to be used.’ Mortimer, Italian Sixteenth Century Books, I, p. 298.

Rare. Only three copies recorded in the US (two in Harvard, one in Rochester).

BM STC It., 288; Adams, G 168; Graesse, III, 19; Mortimer It., 206; Riccardi, I, 568 (‘Raro … molto importante’); Cantamessa, 1682; Houzeau-Lancaster, 2725 (‘Rare’); Thorndike, VI, 158-159; Alden, 588/33.


Print This Item Print This Item

GALILEI, Galileo


Istoria e dimostrazioni intorno alle macchie solari e loro accidenti… Si aggiungono nel fine le Lettere, e Disquisizioni del finto Apelle.

Rome, Giacomo Mascardi, 1613.


4to, pp. (4), 164, 55, (1), plus folded table. Roman letter, little Italic; device of the Lincei Academy on title, historiated initials and engraved full-page portrait of Galileo at p. 5, 43 full-page engravings of sunspots and of Jovian satellites, several engraved tables and woodcut diagrams in text; light foxing mainly to margins, couple of tiny wormholes to gutter, light damp stain to tail of central gatherings, ink splash on f. Aii. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum, eps renewed; two minor repairs to head and tail of spine; occasional early underlining; label of David P. Wheatland (1898-1993), founder and curator of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments of Harvard on front pastedown.

Rare first edition of Galileo’s earliest published endorsement of the Copernican theory, in its most complete variant. Two issues appeared in Rome by Mascardi, one with three additional letters by the Jesuit scientist Christoph Scheiner. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) was one of the greatest mathematicians and astronomers of all time. His cutting-edge discoveries revolutionised early modern physics and eventually provoked the famous condemnation of the Holy Inquisition. Amongst many other acknowledgements, he was a member of the prestigious Academy of Lincei, a pioneering scientific fellowship established in Rome by Federico Cesi.

Galileo wrote the Istoria e dimostrazione in the form of three letters to his fellow academician Marcus Welser of Augsburg, arguing that sunspots appeared on the surface of the sun: they were not tiny satellites, as the traditional Aristotelian interpretation suggested. Based on telescopic observation of their motion, Galileo concluded that the sun rotated on a fixed axis like the Earth and other planets, thus embracing and somehow overstepping Copernicus’s view. In his usual combative tone, he maintained: ‘this planet also, perhaps no less than horned Venus, agrees admirably with the great Copernican system on which propitious winds now universally are seen to blow …’ His further discovery of the Satellites of Jupiter is described and illustrated with 5 plates. The work also includes Galileo’s first written account of the phases of Venus and Mercury as well as some considerations on the many puzzling mysteries surrounding Saturn. His circumstantial approval of the Copernican model anticipated many of his later theories and the related political and religious consequences.

This issue contains a second part entitled De maculis solaribus tres epistolae, comprising the three letters written to Welser by Christoph Scheiner about 1611. Scheiner was a Jesuit scholar and professor in Ingolstadt, Rome, Vienna and Nyssa. A pugnacious defender of the Ptolemaic system, he was a major antagonist of Galileo. His epistles, in which he states that sunspots are small planets, prompted Galileo to publish his account of his own observations. This was the first of several other debated between the two scholars, involving also the paternity of the discovery of the spots. The two issues of the editio princeps of Istoria e dimostrazioni were published at the same time; apparently, the first was meant to be distributed in Italy (where there would be no copyright dispute on Scheiner’s letters), whereas the second was tailored for export.

The edition bears a beautiful engraved portrait of Galileo within architectural border, drawn by the famous artist Francesco Villamena (1564-1624). Two putti are representations of astronomical science: one is measuring with a compass, the other is observing the sky with a telescope.

BM STC It. 17th, 373; Cinti, 44; Carli and Favaro, 60; Riccardi, I, 509 (without Schenier’s letters); Waller, 12046; Dawson, 2587 (‘[This issue] is generally considered to be the rarer of the two, and certainly to be preferred, as it gives us the full story of these celebrated discoveries’).


Print This Item Print This Item


Decem tractatus astronomiae

Augsburg, Ehrard Ratdolt, 1491.


FIRST EDITION (first issue without added register). 4to, 408 leaves, a-z8, A-Z8, AA-EE8. Gothic letter. White-on-black decorated initials, unusually large printer’s device printed in red and black on final recto, several woodcut tables and diagrams, over a hundred beautiful mythological and zodiacal illustrations hand-coloured with remarkable variety, almost certainly in the print-shop, red hand-marking of all capitals throughout; couple of tiny wormholes on title and first gathering, mostly interlinear, marginal light dampstains on a few leaves at end, paper flaw to Ziiv affecting a couple of letters, old repair to outer margin of EEvi. A very, very good, unwashed and well-margined copy in sixteenth-century Germanic light-brown calf over boards, blind-tooled double-fillet panel, dentelles pattern to spine; a.e. later mottled in red; slightly scratched, minor old repairs to head and tail of spine; contemporary Latin ex libris on title ‘Liber sancti Nicolai ep[iscop]i in Bruwylre propre Colonia’.

Editio princeps of this vastly influential astronomical guidebook. One of the most handsome astronomies of the incunable period. Guido Bonatti of Forlì (died about 1296) was the most acclaimed mathematician and astronomer of the thirteenth century. His advice was sought by the Emperor Fredrick II and many of the Italian rulers or municipalities supporting the imperial cause against the pope, such as Florence, Siena and Forlì. In his Commedia (XX, 118), Dante placed Bonatti in Hell, amongst other astrologers forced to walk and look backwards for eternity as punishment for their sinful attempts to look into the future in life. Bonatti’s most famous work was this Book on Astronomy, written about 1277. This first edition was edited by the astronomer Johann Engel (1463-1512), including some additions by the German scholar Jacobus Canter Frisius (c.1471-1529).

The marvellous illustrations of the zodiac and the charioted Roman gods and goddesses are here coloured very skilfully by a contemporary hand using an uncommonly vast range of tones in the same image. Such a work must have been accomplished directly in Radtold’s print-shop, together with the painstaking simple rubrication. This striking copy was once in the Benedictine abbey of St. Nicholas in Brauweiler, in North-Western Cologne. Its valuable library was dispersed following the Napoleonic secularisation of 1802. A register was added to later copies of the print run but the majority had been distributed before it was available.

‘Opera importantissima, ripetutamente citata dagli astrologi e, in particolare, dagli astrologi inglesi del XVII secolo.’ Cantamessa, Astrologia, I, p. 119.

ISTC ib00845000; BM STC, II, 384; GW, 4643; Goff, B-845; Hain, 3461; Klebs, 195.1; Brunet, I, 1089; Graesse, I, 438; Cantamessa, I, 579; Thorndyke, II, 826; Houzeau-Lancaster, 4160; Ricciardi, I, 448-449.


Print This Item Print This Item