Speculum uranicum.

Venice, apud Dominicum Zenarium, 1593. 


FIRST EDITION. Large folio. ff. (iv) 43 + folding table, lacking final blank, without the four leaf (tipped-in) user’s manual, as usual. Engraved architectural t-p with burning salamander flanked by female allegorical figures to centre, vignettes of shepherd, horse and lion above, three below of elephant carrying soldiers, tropical island with sea-monsters and man playing flute astride a camel; 1 half-page woodcut and 16 multi-layered volvelles showing planetary movements, held in place by small woodcut paper slips (from printer’s workshop) in the shape of arms, letters or grotesque faces, glued to verso, a couple ms.; decorated initials and ornaments. Light water stain to lower margin and/or upper blank margin of t-p and several other ll., minimal age yellowing, small paper flaw to blank of p.38, ancient repair to outer blank margin of p.10, two silk threads and couple of paper slips replaced, glued paper slips occasionally affecting text as usual, light stain to one volvelle. A very good copy, on thick paper, in contemporary limp vellum, title inked to spine, scattered old stains and few small worm holes, occasional small loss, upper joint partly detached but firm. Book labels of Peter and Margarethe Braune and Kenney Collection to front pastedown.

Fresh, unsophisticated copy of this superb work on astronomy, with a complete set of volvelles—the first and only edition, ‘extremely rare’ (Rosenthal 3413). Giovanni Paolo Gallucci (1538-1621) was an Italian astronomer, philosopher and sympathiser of Llull and Ficino. His writings focused on astronomy, especially the description and use of measuring instruments, but he also translated several works on astrological medicine. His ‘Speculum uranicum’ looked back to Albertus Magnus’s ‘Speculum astronomiae’, concerned with astrology and planetary movements, whilst applying that medieval genre to the world of mathematical astronomy. Published not long after Sixtus V’s bull against astrology, Gallucci’s work barely mentioned that discipline, whilst exploring at length measurements of planetary movements based on Regiomontanus and Alcabicius. ‘Speculum’ showed, with the help of complex and finely printed woodcut volvelles, how to identify the actual position of the Sun, Moon and other planets. It included discussions on the direction from the advancing planet (‘significator’) to the following one (‘promissor’), the making of a birth horoscope and the elevation of zodiac signs and constellations. It also discussed how to divide the zodiac into twelve ‘houses’. Probably cut by Giacomo Franco, like the t-p, the volvelles imitated the medieval manuscript tradition, following the model of Apian’s ‘Astronomicum Caesarium’. However, unlike slightly later astronomical works in which the reader was asked to trim and mount the paper instruments, the volvelles were here assembled in the printing shop (Highton, ‘Instruments’, 198-99). Indeed, the same small heraldic shields and grotesque faces glued to the verso of each volvelle to keep it in place appear in at least two other copies (e.g., NL of Portugal), which suggests they were in use at Zenario’s press. Damiano Zenario—Venetian printer and bookseller ‘alla salamandra’ (hence its presence on the t-p)—was part of a network of astronomers including the Danish Thomas Fincke and the Dutch Franz Tengnagel, married to Brahe’s daughter, who both sent letters to their contacts in Venice and Bologna via Zenario (Favaro, ‘Carteggio’, 189, 192, 265).

Of the 13 copies we were able to check, only 3 have the four-leaf gathering entitled ‘De harum paginarum usu’. Intended as a user’s manual explaining the principles of the work, it concluded with the binder’s instructions ‘Haec pars in libro non ligetur’ (‘this part should not be bound with the book’).

8 copies recorded in the US, none with the inserted gathering.

Rosenthal 3413; Cantamessa 2876; Honeyman IV 1426; BM STC It., p. 289; Houzeau-Lancaster 12742; Riccardi I, 570. A. Favaro, Carteggio inedito di Ticone Brahe, Giovanni Keplero e di altri (Bologna, 1886); H. Highton, ‘Instruments and Illustration’, Early Science and Medicine, 18 (2013), 180-200.


Print This Item Print This Item