Sharh al-Mulakhas fi’Ilm al-Hay’a (a commentary on the Compendium of Cosmology), decorated manuscript in Arabic on polished paper

Region of Samarkand, likely last decades of fifteenth century


12mo, 170 by 95mm., 86 leaves (including 4 contemporary flyleaves), complete, text in single column throughout, 19 lines delicate black nasta’liq, some overlining and headings in red, numerous diagrams throughout the text also in red, contemporary annotations to margins, catch-words throughout, some very faint water-staining to extremities, a few early ownership annotations and stamps to preliminary and penultimate leaves, including some quatrains of Persian poetry, early eighteenth-century russet morocco with flap, centrally placed medallions stamped in blind to covers and flap, also ruled in blind, some staining and light wear to extremities.

Musa bin Muhammad Qazi Zadeh al-Rumi (d.1436), known simply as Qazi Zaheh, was an Ottoman astronomer and mathematician based in Samarkand. Qazi Zadeh was a celebrated scholar in his field and is best known for the Zij’i Sultani, his collaborative work with fellow astronomer and Govenor of Samarkand Ulugh Beg (d. 1449). Their treatise is considered the first truly comprehensive stellar catalogue containing over 900 stars and is still considered an important treatise in the field of cosmology today. During his career Qazi Zadeh also became the directory of the Samarkan educational observatory, built under the direction and patronage of Ulugh Beg, which became the centre for astronomical research and education in the region.

The present text is a commentary on Mahmoud ibn Muhammad ibn Umar al-Jaghmini’s influential astronomical text entitled Al-Mulakhas fi’Ilm al-Haya (Compendium of Cosmology) which was likely compiled in the early 13th century. Qazi Zadeh’s treatise both acts as a summary and commentary of Jaghmini’s text, dealing with the configuration of the celestial and territorial worlds combined (including the arrangement of Ptolemaic celestial orbs). These treatises are compiled in a simplified format to accommodate a wider scholarly community and thus explain cosmographic theories in basic elementary terms and target broad audiences. The approachable nature of this text meant it became particularly widespread, often copied alongside Jaghmini’s text, and was even used as a curriculum for schools in Ottoman regions. 

This particular manuscript was probably copied for personal use by a scholarly student. Though there are wide margins throughout (for annotation) the text itself is miniscule and copied in a very tight format, an economic solution for self funding copyist. The contemporary marginalia and ownership seals are in keeping with the Eastern regions of Timurid Persia, not far from Samarkand, and probably copied only a few decades after the author’s death. 


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DELMEDIGO, Joseph Solomon.


אלים. [Sefer Elim].

Amsterdam, Menashe ben Yisrael, 388-389 [1628-29].


FIRST EDITION. Small 4to. 3 parts in 1, separate t-ps to two, pp. (vi) 83 (i) + engraved portrait, without [p]2 (Latin preface) as other copies, probably cancelled; (iv) 190; (ii) 80. Hebrew letter. Portrait of the author trimmed and mounted, repair to verso, typographical border to t-ps, astronomical and scientific diagrams, decorated ornaments. Part 3 bound after Part 1, intermittent light marginal water stain, mostly marginal ink or finger soiling, some marginal repairs, general fairly light browning, gatherings 9-102 and 11-122 of Part I transposed. A well-used but perfectly acceptable copy in modern crushed morocco, two morocco labels, later Hebrew inscription to ffep.

First edition of this extensively illustrated, most important Hebrew work on astronomy, mathematics, natural philosophy, music and geometry, written by ‘the first Jewish Copernican’, student of Galileo and a major influence on Spinoza.

Joseph Solomon Delmedigo (1591-1655) was a rabbi, physician and polymath from Crete. At Padua, he studied medicine and attended Galileo’s astronomy lectures 1609-10. After a brief stay in Venice, he journeyed the Middle East, eventually settling in Amsterdam in 1623, where he wrote ‘Sefer Elim’, his only known work. It is divided into two separately titled parts—‘Sefer Elim’ and ‘Ma’ayan Ganim’—the latter subdivided into four essays on astronomy, mathematics, the consonance of music and biblical passages in relation to the scientific method. ‘Sefer Elim’ is a reply to 12 broad and 70 specific questions posed in letters, reproduced at the beginning, by the Karite scholar Zerah. Delmedigo’s answer discusses Aristotelian natural philosophy, spherical trigonometry, celestial bodies, comets and the workings of the lever, illustrated with diagrams and illustrations.

Whilst Delmedigo’s in-depth analysis of Copernican theories was left unpublished and is now lost, his circumscribed references in ‘Sefer Elim’ are nevertheless revealing. ‘Part of Delmedigo’s support for the Copernican model is to be found in his criticism of the Aristotelian conception of the universe […] By rejecting this idea, Delmedigo not only took on the accepted scientific views of the past, but also challenged the Jewish model of the universe, which was based on Aristotle’; he also stated that the universe was possibly infinite and included other solar systems (Brown, ‘New Heavens’, 70). He mentions studying with ‘his teacher Galileo’, as he describes their observation of the sky and planets through the famous telescope; however, scholars believe Delmedigo became familiar with Copernicanism elsewhere, as until 1610 Galileo was not publicly or privately endorsing this theory (Brown, ‘New Heavens’, 74).

The epistemological inconsistencies of ‘Sefer Elim’ derive from Delmedigo’s complex relationship to the Scientific Revolution and Cabala-informed Jewish culture, resistant to the new method. As proved by the very title—a reference to the fountains of wisdom—he linked ‘Jewish-hermetic revelation with Copernican cosmology and sought material objects such as ancient Hebrew mss that, purportedly, maintained a stronger connection to the revelation’, seeking to connect Jewish theology and Copernicanism (Ben-Zaken, ‘Cross-Cultural’, 78). The work ‘became suspect in the eyes of the elders of the Sephardic community, and a committee was formed to investigate the matter. The book had to be translated orally into Portuguese’; the printer had to declare officially that certain portions would not be published, though by then Delmedigo had moved elsewhere (Heller, ‘C17 Hebrew Book’, 471).

Like the copies at Hebrew Union College and Thomas Fisher Library, this collates with 3 of 4 leaves of preliminaries, lacking the Latin preface on the second. This summarises the content for a non-Hebrew readership, and explains the title. A puzzling addition to a work written entirely in Hebrew, it was probably cancelled for Hebrew-speaking readers. 

Heller, C17 Hebrew book, 470-71; Bib. Hebr. Book, 10125944; Steinschneider, Cat. librorum hebraeorum, 1510-1511, 5960/1-3; Wolf, Bibliotheca Hebraea, I, p.566, n.976. J. Brown, New Heavens and a New Earth (Oxford, 2013); A. Ben Zaken, Cross-Cultural Scientific Exchanges in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1560-1660 (Baltimore, 2010). Not in Riccardi, Houzeau & Lancaster or Lalande.


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PTOLEMY, Claudius


The Compost of Ptolomeus, Prince of Astronomie. Very necessary and profitable for all such as desire the knowledge of the famous art of astronomie.

Printed at London, By M. P[arsons] for Henry Gosson, and are [to be sold by Edward Wright, 1638[?].


4to. 72 unnumbered leaves. A-I⁸. Black letter some Roman. Large astronomical woodcut of ‘K. Ptholomeus’ and an astronomer (just chipped at fore-edge) on title, woodcut and typographical headpieces, small floriated initials, sixty three woodcuts in the text, including a figure of the heavens, the 12 signs of the zodiac, a world map, physiognomoligcal portraits, a large woodcut of a dragon in landscape on verso of last, chiromantic hands, and stars etc, monogram ‘H. R.’ with shelf mark on fly. Light general age browning, heavier in places, title slightly dusty, light waterstaining on first few leaves, occasional mark or stain. A good copy in English calf circa 1800, covers bordered with a single gilt rule, spine gilt ruled, title gilt lettered, a.e.r. a little rubbed. 

Exceptionally rare edition of this popular astronomical text, very charmingly illustrated with numerous woodcuts, the last of the early editions, the only edition printed in the seventeenth century. The rather rudimentary map is marked i.a. with Mexico, New England, the West indies, Peru, the Straits of Magelan, Brasil and Virginia. Below the two southmost capes is a the land mass described as the ‘South Continent’.

The work was originally translated from the French ‘Compost et kalendrier des bergiers’, and appeared in two forms throughout the C16th; one as ‘The Kalender of Shepards’ and the other with the title ‘The Compost of Ptholomeus’. Although they are often described as containing nothing from Ptolemy, other than the falsification of authorial attribution, the work does have a general articulation of some of the astrological matters set forth in Ptolemy’s Quadripartitum. The influence of astronomy over individuals is discussed, and this version has a chapter on palmistry added at the end. “In the ‘Kalendar of Shepherds’, the putative source of the astrological and health information is initially an unnamed, ancient shepherd. … the authentication for the information in the text was a natural and pastoral figure of wisdom, the void of book learning. In the prologue, it is also stated that ‘this boke was made for them that be no Clerkes to brynge them to great understandynge’ thus identifying itself as a text for a non-elite readership yet at the same time offering access to the very traditional classical learning skills and intimating a connection between the occult knowledge and active reading. .. In Notary’s 1506 edition, Ptolemy is merely cited in the table of contents in relation to the twelve signs of the zodiac but not mentioned in the text. In Pynson’s 1518 edition, Ptolemy is referenced both textually and visually, again in relation to the zodiac, but as a very minor reference in the text. .. Beginning in the 1530s, the strand of the multi-text breaks off; the text is condensed, new images are added, others are eliminated, and the title is changed to the ‘Compost of Ptolomeus, Prince of Astronomy’ .. These editions, initially published by Robert Wyer, make a significant modification: the name of the Ptolemy is increasingly inserted into the verbal text, shifting the authentication from the ancient shepherd to Ptolemy. .. The Catholic feast day calendar is eliminated, along with much of the Christian moralising and, generally, a narrower focus on the astrological components. Neither the woodblock image of the shepherd nor that of the scholar carries over once the text is renamed ‘The compost of Ptolomeus;’ instead, the symbolic function previously vested in the figure of the scholar shepherd is now conflated into the single figure of Claudius Ptolomy, ‘Prince of Astronomeye’. ..In his editions of the Compost, Wyer not only strengthened the association of the verbal and visual text with Ptolemy, but also incorporated specifically geographical information; Wyer appends a ‘Rutter’, a navigational chart of the distances between various port cities, consequently increasing the function of the text as a source of geographic information.. For English readers in the early print era the images of and attribution to Ptolemy thus narrate and mediate an encounter with emerging geographical thought. The textual and visual attribution to Ptolemy created a kind of aura for the text that mystified the diffuse authorship of the work, and that subsumed the fascination with the occult and Catholic ritual into a pseudo-scientific discourse.” Keith D. Lilley ‘Mapping Medieval Geographies: Geographical Encounters in the Latin West’.

Unsurprisingly all editions of this ephemeral and popular work it are exceptionally rare; ESTC records no more than two copies of any of the five earlier editions of this text, and records this, the only seventeenth century edition, in three copies only, two at the BL and one at Birmingham University library. No copies recorded in the US. 

ESTC S112005. STC 20482. Not in Cantamessa. 


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DOGLIONI, Giovanni Nicolò


L’anno dove si ha perfetto, et pieno raguaglio.

Venice, appresso Giovanni Antonio Rampazetto, 1587.


FIRST EDITION. 4to. ff. (iv) 49 (iii). Roman letter, little Italic. Woodcut vignette to t-p, full-page woodcut of astronomer perusing sky, 3 full-page and 4 smaller woodcut illustrations of astronomical schemas and representing the activities of each month, decorated initials, head- and tailpieces. Intermittent slight foxing, marginal tears, one touching page number, blank upper outer corner of two ll. repaired, small marginal water stain to last gathering, small ink splashes in places, two small holes to outer margin of last two ll. A good copy in contemporary vellum, spine recovered in mottled sheep, early ms. label. Bookplate of Giovan Battista Lambruschini and bookseller’s label to front pastedown, ex-libris of the Jesuit Collegium at Bastia and C19 library stamp to t-p and to blank margin of three ll. touching the odd letter. Some contemporary annotation.

Scarce copy of this important didactic almanac including the prediction of weather conditions, planetary influence and a perpetual calendar—‘one of the earliest—if not the earliest—almanack according to the Gregorian Calendar…unknown to Poggendorff’ (‘Bibliotheca Chemico-Mathematica’ 1076). Giovanni Nicolò Doglioni (1548-1629) was a Venetian notary appointed to several public offices in the city, and the author of works on chronology, cosmography and the calculation of time. ‘L’anno’ contextualised for a broader audience the reform of the Julian calendar introduced by Gregory XIII in 1582—a revision which led to major scholarly debates on ‘gnomonica’ or the computation of the portions of the solar day. The first section of the work discusses the four elements that constitute the world, the subdivisions of the earth into continents, countries and provinces, the meteorological phenomena resulting from the mixture of the elements as well as a table tracing the movements of the planets. In the second section Doglioni explains the subdivisions of time according to conventional units. The fundamental unit—the day—can be natural (following the planetary course of the sun in relation to the earth as a whole) or artificial (according to the specific place in which the onlooker is situated). This distinction is used as the basis to explain the correct construction of sundials on buildings. There follows an examination of the subdivision of historical time—the discipline of chronology so dear to the medieval and Renaissance periods—and the meaning of ‘century’, ‘age’, ‘age of man’ and ‘age of the world’, with a perpetual calendar and a long table recording universal dates and events from the creation to the year 5545 [1586AD]. Later owners annotated the perpetual calendar counting the days for the years 1646, 1668 and 1709. The last section provides perpetual calendars to identify Feasts of the Saints and moveable liturgical feasts. It was reprinted as ‘L’anno riformato’ in 1599 and its tables accordingly updated.

Giovanni Battista Lambruschini S.J. (1755-1827) was professor at the Jesuit seminary in Genoa, a great opponent of the French Revolution and the centre of a Jesuit circle including the renowned philologist Cardinal Angelo Mai.

3 copies recorded in the US.

BM STC It., p. 219; Riccardi I/1, 414: ‘Rarissimo’; Houzeau & Lancaster I/2, 13042; Bibliotheca Chemico-Mathematica 1076; Cantamessa I, 2230 (recorded as part of the description of the second edition entitled L’anno riformato, 1599).


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CATANEO, M. Girolamo.

Rote perpetue, per le quali si puo con qual numero di due dadi si voglia …

Brescia, Francesco Marchetti all’insegna dell’Ancora [per Lodovico Sabbio], 1562.


FIRST and ONLY EDITION. Folio. ff. (2) 29, (1). Roman and Italic letter. Large printer’s woodcut device on title-page, one historiated initial, a few decorative and typographical head- and tail- pieces; armorial woodcut representing three lilies to verso of t-p, 58 full page diagrams for the computation of time. Light age yellowing, t-p a bit dusty, inoffensive oil splash to first ll., minor water stain progressively disappearing to central gatherings, small tear to lower right corner of first fol., worm trail to marginal upper corner of last 3 ll. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum, fore edges slightly sprinkled red, yapp edges, rubbed.

Rare example of this curious mathematical-astronomical treatise by Girolamo Cataneo (d. circa 1584), a mathematician and military architect from Novara (Piedmont) who served Charles V of Spain as a soldier and then worked as a military engineer for many aristocratic families in Northern Italy. He wrote numerous books on fortification but was also interested in astrology and prognostication as a codified means of predicting events by observation of signs.

The book explains a board game based on calendar computations consisting of 58 numerical charts related to the 12 months of the year. With no element of skill or strategy, the game involves the casual extraction by chance of two numbers by the use of two dice, to calculate the Moon phases from 1562 to 1580, specific dates such as Easter and the beginning of the Advent and the Golden number.  The work also includes a dedicatory letter to the aristocrat Giovanni Francesco Stella from Brescia and an address to the reader in which Cataneo explains rules and results of the game. The dedicatory epistle highlights the usefulness of the work in relation to cosmography, shortly describing the ancient origins of the “perpetual wheels”, already mentioned by Homer. Interestingly, Cataneo maintains that publication was delayed to avoid criticism, probably expressing his disappointment at scientific censorship in the early modern age.

Only the Henry Ransom Humanities Research Center (Austin TX) and the Smithsonian Institution Libraries (Washington) recorded in the US. Not in Brunet or Graesse. Adams,  C 1022; BM STC It., 158. Houzeau-Lancaster, I, 14193. Not in Cantamessa.


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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.


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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”


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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.’


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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.


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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.


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