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    Sale 2013

    Important Scientific Books: The Richard Green Library

    17 June 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 61

    COPERNICUS, Nicolaus (1473-1543). De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. - Georg Johann RHETICUS (1514-1574). De libris revolutionum Nicolai Copernici Narratio prima. Basel: Heinrich Petri, 1566.

    Price Realised  


    COPERNICUS, Nicolaus (1473-1543). De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. - Georg Johann RHETICUS (1514-1574). De libris revolutionum Nicolai Copernici Narratio prima. Basel: Heinrich Petri, 1566.

    2o (298 x 196 mm). Roman type, occasional Greek type. Narratio prima in double-column. Woodcut diagrams, printer's device on title, a different device on final verso, woodcut historiated initials. (Some occasional very pale marginal dampstaining.) Early 18th-century German vellum over paste-board, blind-panelled sides, acorn tool at the corners, floral ornament in the center (covers slightly bowed, chip at fore-edge on front cover, a few pale stains). Provenance: small engraved Polish royal arms cut out and mounted on front pastedown (identified by A.W.C. Phelps as the arms of the Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, either Frederick Augustus I[II] [1670-1733] or his son Frederick Augustus II[III] [1696-1763]); Herbert Rosen (sold Christie's London, 24 May 1989, lot 101).


    SECOND (AUTHORIZED) EDITION OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATION OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, the first edition to contain Rheticus' Narratio prima. First published at Gdansk in 1540, and addressed to the astronomer and globe-maker Johann Schöner, who is thought to have first informed the young Rheticus of Copernicus' radical new cosmological theories, the Narratio contains a summary of the Copernican heliocentric hypothesis and an account of Rheticus' efforts to persuade Copernicus to publish his work. The first edition (see previous lot)-- of the greatest rarity--was followed by a pirated edition printed at Basel in 1541, making this its third appearance in print.

    This second edition of De revolutionibus reproduces the text of the 1543 edition, including Andreas Osiander's unsigned prefatory letter, an attempt to placate eventual critics of the work by emphasizing its purely theoretical aspect. The errata, listed on a leaf inserted in some copies of the first edition, were not corrected for this edition. Petri added a prefatory recommendation by the noted astronomer Erasmus Reinhold (printed at the end of the index), stating that "all posterity will gratefully remember the name of Copernicus, by whose labor and study the doctrine of celestial motions was again restored from near collapse..." (Owen Gingerich's translation, Eye of Heaven, p.221). In his census of the 1543 and 1566 editions, Owen Gingerich has located 317 copies of the second edition, making it only slightly less rare than the first.

    Adams C-2603; Houzeau & Lancaster 2503; Gingerich An annotated Census of Copernicus' 'De revolutionibus' (Nuremberg, 1543 and Basel, 1566), II.305; Houzeau & Lancaster 2503; Taylor Mathematical Practitioners pp.184, 199 and 138.

    [Bound with:]

    ARATUS. Phaenomena et prognostica. Cologne: Theodorum Graminaeum, 1570.

    2o. Woodcut printer's device on title and final leaf, woodcuts in text. (Some tiny marginal wormholes at end.)

    Later edition of Aratus' astronomical poem and his only surviving work. Aratus' original, in 1154 hexameters, falls into two parts, the Phaenomena, based on a prose treatise of the same name by the 4th-century B.C. mathematician Eudoxus of Cnidus, describing the chief stars and constellations. Adams A-1518.

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