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KEPLER, Johannes


Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae.

Linz, Planck, 1618. (with)

Epitomes Astronomiae Copernicanae…Liber Quartus.

Linz, Godefrid Tampachi excudebat Planck, 1622. (and)

Epitomes Astronomiae Copernicanae…Libri V. VI. VII.

Frankfurt, Godefrid Tampachi, 1621.


8vo. pp. (ii) 419-932 (xvi), 17-418 (xviii). Roman and Italic letter, some Greek, woodcut initials, head- and tail-pieces, astronomical and geometrical diagrams and illustrations throughout, outer leaf of synoptic table missing (trimmed to binding). Mostly marginal worm trail to first gathering without loss, poor quality paper with intermittent foxing and age browning, a good, un-restored well-margined copy bound in original vellum fragment of C15th antiphonal leaf in red, blue, and brown ink. Ex dono of Joannes Moeri to the Jesuit College at [?], 1668 on first title page.

FIRST EDITION of Books 1-3 and 5-7, second edition of Book 4, in its entirety one of Kepler’s most influential works and the first complete manual of astronomy constructed according to new principles, published as an inexpensive octavo textbook for students in question-and-answer format. It contains Kepler’s three laws of planetary motion around the Sun, and argues that heavenly bodies travel in elliptical orbits at varying speeds rather than in fixed circular orbits, thus making the Copernican system “nearly 100 times more accurate” (DSB). The principles exposed here formed the theoretical basis for Newton’s law of universal gravitation nearly a century later: his Principia (1687) was first introduced to the Royal Society as “a mathematical demonstration of the Copernican hypothesis as proposed by Kepler.”

The first three books outline the mechanics of the earth’s motion, which Galileo focused on in his Dialogo (1632). This controversial subject landed the Epitome on the Index of Prohibited Books in 1619. Kepler extended the first two laws by applying his discoveries concerning the orbit of Mars to other planets, the satellites of Jupiter, and to the moon which, he argued, revolves around the earth. Book IV deals with lunar theory and ‘harmonic law,’ or Kepler’s scale of the distance between the planets, which he describes as the origin of the music of the spheres. “Kepler’s harmonic law, which he had discovered just as the Harmonice was going to press” is explored in greater detail (Gingerich, Johannes Kepler II, A). The composition and publication of this volume was interrupted when Kepler’s mother Katharina was accused of witchcraft. Kepler was much involved in her defense, and eventual acquittal, in 1621.

Books V-VII consider the practical geometry and problems that arise from the more theoretical discussions of elliptical and lunar theory in the first half of the book. They also offer a theoretical explanation for the Rudolphine Tables or maps of constellations began by Kepler in his apprenticeship with Tycho Brahe at his observatory outside Prague, and completed after the astronomer’s death when Kepler was appointed in his place as astrological advisor to Emperor Rudolph II. “From 1630 – 1650 the Epitome was the most widely read treatise on theoretical astronomy in Europe” DSB  7 & 8 p. 302. A rare and very influential work by one of the most famous astronomers even to this day, whose work radically altered the course of modern astronomy.

Although the book has been bound in a curious order, it is complete. Book 4 (++8, Aaa-Mmm8) is followed by Books 5-7 including index and errata leaf (+6, 4A- 4S8, 4T2, 4V8), and finally Books 1-3 with a few gatherings reshuffled (B8, *6, A8, C8-Bb8, Cc6). The almanac is at the very end (**-***4).

Caspar Bibliographia Kepleriana 55, 66, 69. Barchas 1147. BL C17 Ger K112 : “Pt. 1 was published by J. Kruger in Augsburg. Pt. 2 (comprising lib .4) and pt. 3 (lb. 5-7) have separate titlepages. Pt. 2 is a reissue of the 1620 printing by Planck, published by G. Tambach in Frankfurt/M. in 1622 with new first gathering printed there, pt. 3 was published by Tambach in Frankfurt/M in 1621, and printed there”. Houzeau and Lancaster 11831. Not in Kenney.