Autolyci De vario ortu et occasu astrorum inerrantium libri dvo nunc primum de graeca lingua in latinam conuersi … de Vaticana Bibliotheca deprompti. Josepho Avria, neapolitano, interprete. Rome, Vincenzo Accolti, 1588.
Editio princeps, very rare, of Autolycus' work On the Rising and Setting of the Fixed Stars, and one of several Greek scientific classics including Euclid's Elements that first appeared in Latin translation well before their first printings in the original Greek.
On Risings and Settings is strictly astronomical and consists of two complementary treatises or “books.” True and apparent morning and evening risings and settings of stars are distinguished. Autolycus assumes that the celestial sphere completes one revolution during a day and a night; that the sun moves in a direction opposite to the diurnal rotation and traverses the ecliptic in one year; that by day the stars are not visible above the horizon owing to the light of the sun; and that a star above the horizon is visible only if the sun is 15° or more below the horizon measured along the zodiac (i.e., half a zodiacal sign or more).
‘The theorems are closely interrelated. Autolycus explains, for example, that the rising of a star is visible only between the visible morning rising and the visible evening rising, a period of less than half a year; similarly, he shows that the setting of a star is visible only in the interval from the visible morning setting to the visible evening setting, again a period of less than half a year. Another theorem states that the time from visible morning rising to visible morning setting is more than, equal to, or less than half a year if the star is north of, on, or south of the ecliptic, respectively’ (DSB).
BRAHE, Tycho. Opera omnia, sive astronomiae instauratae progymnasmata. In duas partes distributa, quorum prima De restitutione motuum solis & lunae, stellarumque ... secunda autem de mundi aetherei ... Frankfurt, Johannes Godofred Schönwetter, 1648.
A wonderful copy, beautifully bound in French red morocco – apparently by the Peiresc binder - at an early date for François de Rignac (1580-1663), Attorney General of the Cour des Aides de Montpellier, with his gilt arms on covers, of the first edition of Tycho’s Works, comprising his two most significant publications, the Progymnasmata (1602) and De mundi aetherei (1603), together ‘the foundation on which Kepler, and later Newton, built their astronomical systems’ (Sparrow).
Whilst this first collected edition or Opera by Tycho Brahe is not intrinsically rare, it is exceptional to find it in a superb contemporary French binding as here, a binding typical of the workshops of the South of France, and most probably executed by Corberan, who also executed numerous bindings for Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, French intellectual, astronomer, antiquary, savant, and famous collector.
BRAHE, Tycho. De Mundi Aetherei recentioribus phaenomenis liber secundus. Typis Inchoatus Uraniburgi Daniae , absolutus Pragae Bohemiae, 1603.
First edition, second issue, being the original sheets printed at Hven in 1588 for private distribution, reissued with a new title page, preface by Brahe’s assistant Tengnagel, and colophon leaf.
In 1588, Tycho’s royal benefactor died, and a volume of Tycho’s great two-volume work Astronomiae Instauratae Progymnasmata (Introduction to the New Astronomy) was published. The first volume, devoted to the new star of 1572, was not ready, because the reduction of the observations of 1572–3 involved much research to correct the stars’ positions for refraction, precession, the motion of the Sun etc., and was not completed in Tycho’s lifetime (it was published in Prague in 1602/03), but the second volume, titled De Mundi Aetherei Recentioribus Phaenomenis Liber Secundus (Second Book About Recent Phenomena in the Celestial World) and devoted to the comet of 1577, was printed at Uraniborg and some copies were issued in 1588.
Besides the comet observations, it includes an account of Tycho’s system of the world.
CALCAGNI, Girolamo, attributed to. Della fabrica del mondo ouero cosmografia. Trattato, nel quale si discorre di tute le parti componente questa gran machina con brevità e facilità in modo de Dialogo. [Manuscript on paper in Italian and Latin]. [Italy, possibly Ferrara, c. 1643].
A highly interesting and illustrated astronomical treatise in dialogue form in the immediate post-Galilean period, discussing and absorbing the new astronomy.
Still largely unstudied, this is the earlier of two recorded versions of this text, the other originally stemming from the collection of the noted historian of science and Galileo expert, Stillman Drake, and now held at the Fisher Library, Toronto.
Possibly compiled for private instruction, and highly likely inspired by Galileo’s Dialogo, this extensive manual employs two interlocutors, a Pellegrino Cantelli, and Girolamo Calcagni, whose arms are found on the title-page.
FRACASTORO, Girolamo. Homocentrica eiusdem de causis criticorum dierum per ea quae in nobis sunt. [Venice], 1538.
First edition of Facastoro’s Homocentrica, his one work on astronomy, and which has been seen as paving the way for the Copernican theory by calling into question the epicycles and eccentrics of the Ptolemaic hypothesis.
Although based on the homocentric model of the Greek astronomers and philosophers Eudoxus and Kalippus, Fracastoro rearranges this system so that all spheres ‘have their axes at right angles to each other. He shows how every motion in space can be resolved into three components at right angles to each other, while conversely three motions at right angles will produce “motions in longitude as well as in latitude.”
Also in the book is what is probably the earliest printed description of the telescope: ‘Apart from the intrinsic value of the work, its attempts to solve certain problems in astronomical and terrestrial physics are interesting, as are the studies on refraction. In the course of the latter Fracastoro points out the apparent enlargement and approach of celestial objects (as well as the moon) observed through two superimposed lenses’ (DSB).
HERSCHEL, William. Description of a Forty-Feet Reflecting Telescope. [London, J. Nichols, 1795].
The very rare separately paginated offprint from the Philosophical Transactions of Herschel’s description of his famous telescope, well preserved in contemporary calf-backed boards.
‘In 1785 Herschel successfully requested the king to finance a fresh attempt to build a large telescope. “It remained now only to fix upon the size of it, and having proposed to the King either a 30 or a 40 feet telescope, His Majesty fixed upon the largest.” Four years of labor followed for Herschel and his team of workmen, during which the original grant of £2,000 was doubled and an annual allowance of £200 was also made. The mirrors of forty-eight-inch diameter were cast in London, but all other work was carried out at Slough under Herschel’s direction. In mounting the mirror in the tube Herschel tilted it slightly to one side so that the observer might peer through the eyepiece directly at the mirror, without the need for additional mirrors (the “Herschelian” arrangement).
‘The monster telescope was completed in 1789 and immediately revealed a sixth satellite of Saturn' (DSB).
HOOKE, Robert. An attempt to prove the motion of the earth from observations made by Robert Hooke ... London, T. R. for John Martyn, 1674.
First edition of Hooke’s seminal work on orbital motion, a work that antecedes much of the basic principles of Newton’s gravitational theory.
An attempt is the first, and most important, of his Cutlerian Lectures, which contains ‘some of the most pertinent remarks about gravitation that were made before Newton’ (Allen Chapman, England’s Leonardo: Robert Hooke (1635-1703) and the Art of Experiment in Restoration England). In addition, the work also contains the first record of stellar observation in daylight.
‘This may well have been the first clear statement of what came to be called “Newton’s first law of motion”’ (Nicholas Kollerstrom, How Newton failed to discover the Law of Gravity, Annals of Science 56, 1999).
[LEEMANN, Burkhard]. Instrumentum instrumentorum: horologiorum sciotericorum. Erstlich werden gelehrt auffreissen die vier hauptsonnen Uhren ohne einige verenderung dess Circkels ... Durch B. L. Basel, L. König, 1606.
Second edition, very rare, of the Swiss pastor’s and passionate mathematician and astronomer’s final work on sundials.
Besides teaching catechism he dedicated himself to the study and practice of mathematics and astronomy. His intervention regarding deficiencies of the new Gregorian calendar resulted in an agreement between reformed and catholic cantons on its introduction.
Leemann published his first work on sundials in 1589. The present work first appeared in 1604.
SCHROETER, Johann Hieronymus. Selenotopographische Fragmente zur genaueren Kenntniss der Mondfläche, ihrer erlittenen Veränderungen und Atmosphäre, sammt den dazu gehörigen Specialcharten und Zeichungen. Lilienthal, for the author, 1791-1802.
A superb copy, crisp, clean, entirely uncut, and complete with the very rare second volume, of Schroeter’s famous work, ‘the foundation of modern selenography’ (Brown).
‘The face of the moon is not only furrowed with craters, valleys, and seas, but it is laced with narrow clefts, or rills, and the honor of discovering the first lunar rills lies squarely in the lap of Johann Schröter … His Fragments of Lunar Topography contains the results of a dozen years of observing; it has a large re-engraving of the Mayer moon map, and more importantly, dozens of engraved views of particular features of the lunar landscape. Especially noteworthy in Schröter’s lunar studies was his practice of studying the same feature under different angles of illumination, by which he was able to get a much better idea of actual lunar topography. He even calculated altitudes of many lunar mountains’ (Linda Hall exhibition catalogue).
Complete with all the plates, the copy offered here is further enhanced through the addition at the time of binding of three folding plates by Bode, including a large chart illustrating the parabolic paths of 72 comets, and a fine stereographic celestial map.