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    Sale 2013

    Important Scientific Books: The Richard Green Library

    17 June 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 209

    KEPLER, Johannes. Tabulae Rudolphinae, quibus astronomicae scientiae, temporum longinquitate collapsae restauratio continentur. Ulm: Jonas Saur, 1627.

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    KEPLER, Johannes. Tabulae Rudolphinae, quibus astronomicae scientiae, temporum longinquitate collapsae restauratio continentur. Ulm: Jonas Saur, 1627.

    4 parts in one, 2o (331 x 229 mm). Roman and italic types, double column, printed shoulder notes. Engraved allegorical frontispiece of the Temple of Urania with astronomers, by George Celer after Kepler, LARGE ENGRAVED FOLDING MAP OF THE WORLD (410 x 695 mm), a few woodcut text diagrams, including a full-page of diagrams on k3v, woodcut initials, large woodcut device on part 2 section title. With the 4-leaves "Sportula genethliacis missa" (q4) printed in Sagan and dated 1629, inserted after the tabulae. (Blank margin of title with repair, marginal repair to b2 h1 h4 i1 and m1 some affecting a few letters, a few marginal repaired tears.) 18th-century German calf (some light rubbing to spine ends and corners); leather-backed folding case. Provenance: engraved bookplate (on front paste-down); some early marginalia.

    FIRST EDITION, INCLUDING THE WORLD-MAP. The map entitled: Nova orbis terrarum delineatio, was "conceived by the German cartographer Philip Eckebrecht at the request of his friend Johann Kepler" (Shirley), to be used with his Tabulae Rudolphinae, engraved at Nuremberg by J.P. Walch and dated 1630 (but perhaps issued later), and Kepler's 4-leaf supplement of directions (signed q4), "Sportula genethliacis missa" (printed in Sagan, Silesia, 1629). It does not include the appendix by Jacob Bartsch found in a few copies. The first quire is found here in its third issue, the second quire in the second issue.

    On his deathbed in 1601, Tycho Brahe urged Kepler to complete his long-projected astronomical tables, to be based on Tycho's mass of astronomical observations and named after their patron Rudolph II. As Brahe's successor in the post of imperial mathematician, Kepler's principal task was the preparation of these improved astronomical tables. He worked on them for years, with frequent interruptions. "In his own eyes Kepler was a speculative physicist and cosmologist; to his imperial employers he was a mathematician charged with completing Tycho's planetary tables. He spent most of his working years with this task hanging as a burden as well as a challenge; ultimately it provided the chief vehicle for the recognition of his astronomical accomplishments" (DSB). When the work was finally ready for the press in 1624, there were further delays, not least the arrival of the Counter-Reformation in Linz, where Kepler was living and had planned to have the work printed. The edition was finally printed in Ulm, under Kepler's close supervision, in an edition of 1000 copies. "In excusing the long delay in publication... [Kepler] mentioned in the preface [p. 6] not only the difficulties of obtaining his salary and of the wartime conditions but also 'the novelty of my discoveries and the unexpected transfer of the whole of astronomy from fictitious circles to natural causes, which were most profound to investigate, difficult to explain, and diffiult to calculate, since mine was the first attempt'" (DSB).

    The greatly improved accuracy of Kepler's tables over previous planetary tables was due not only to his adherence to the Copernican system and his discovery of the laws of planetary motion, but also to the "happy calamity," as he put it, of his initiation into logarithms, through the intermediary of a small book by Benjamin Ursinus (the Cursus mathematici practici, Cologne 1618) which reproduced Napier's tables of logarithms. Kepler created his own logarithmic tables (published in 1624), and used them for the complex calculations required to determine planetary orbits. The superiority of his tables "constituted a strong endorsement of the Copernican system, and insured the tables' dominance in the field of astronomy throughout he seventeenth century" (Norman). Caspar 79; Houzeau & Lancaster 12754; Norman 1208; Shirley 335; Zinner 5063.


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