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    Sale 2013

    Important Scientific Books: The Richard Green Library

    17 June 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 295

    REGIOMONTANUS (MÜLLER, Johann, 1436-76) and Georgius PURBACHIUS (1423-61). Epitoma in Almagestum Ptolemaei. Edited by Caspar Grosch and Stephan Römer. Venice: Johannes Hamman for the editors, 31 August 1496.

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    REGIOMONTANUS (MÜLLER, Johann, 1436-76) and Georgius PURBACHIUS (1423-61). Epitoma in Almagestum Ptolemaei. Edited by Caspar Grosch and Stephan Römer. Venice: Johannes Hamman for the editors, 31 August 1496.

    Chancery 2o (314 x 216 mm). Collation: a10 b-n8.6 o6 p8 (a1r xylographic title, a1v blank, a2r Regiomontanus's dedication to Cardinal Bessarion, a3r verse prologue to the reader in 5 distichs, by Johannes Lucilius Santritter (Io. Lu ad lectorem), a3v full-page woodcut of Ptolemy and Regiomontanus ("Johannes de Monter") discoursing below a large armillary sphere, within a white-on-black ornamental border, a4r text, p7v colophon, p8 blank). 108 leaves (without the bifolium containing Johannes Baptista Abiosus's letter dated 15 August 1496, inserted in a minority of copies between a1 and a2), final blank preserved. 48 lines and headline. Types: 4:135G, 2:103G, 8:86G, 5:70(67)G, 80Gk (a few words in heading of dedication). Full-page woodcut as above, 279 woodcut marginal diagrams (including repeats). 14-, 7- and 6-line white-on-black floriated woodcut initials, woodcut printer's device on p7v (Kristeller 231). (Some occasional minor pale soiling.) Modern calf; cloth slipcase. Provenance: a few ink annotations in an early hand; S.S. and Robert Dunham (pencil notation on front flyleaf, purchased from Hoepli, 23 June 1931, his sale, Sotheby's New York, 11 December 1993, lot 760).

    FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST APPEARANCE IN PRINT OF PTOLEMY'S 'ALMAGEST' IN ANY FORM: Peurbach and Regiomontanus's epitome of Ptolemy's encyclopaedia of astronomy, the Almagest or Mathematical syntaxis, and the only edition to be printed in the 15th century, preceding the first complete edition by 20 years (a full Latin translation appeared in 1515). In 1460 Peurbach, professor of astronomy at the University of Vienna, was persuaded by Cardinal Bessarion, then papal legate to the Holy Roman Empire, to undertake a "briefer and more comprehensible" Latin condensation of Ptolemy's formidably complex Syntaxis. Ignorant of Greek, Peurbach based his epitome on a copy that he himself had transcribed of Gerard of Cremona's 12th-century translation. He died just after completing Book VI, and the remaining seven books were completed, using a more accurate manuscript, by his former student, friend and colleague Johannes Müller of Kingsberg (Regiomontanus), who dedicated the final text to its patron Cardinal Bessarion. In Regiomontanus's manuscript, preserved in the Institut de France, he did not address Bessarion as Patriarch of Constantinople (a title which is used in the printed edition), showing that the manuscript must have been completed before 28 April 1463, the date upon which the Cardinal was granted that title. The manuscript appears to be listed (as "Breviarium Almaiesti") as one of many pending projects announced by Regiomontanus on the printed broadside advertisement of his short-lived Nuremberg press and instrument shop (H *13807). It was not however printed until 20 years after his death. "By providing easier access to Ptolemy's complex masterpiece, the Peurbach-Regiomontanus Epitome contributed to scientific research rather than to improved understanding of the past. Moreover, the Epitome was no mere compressed translation of the Syntaxis, to which it added later observations, revised computations, and critical reflections..." (DSB 11:349).

    AN EXCEPTIONALLY TALL COPY.

    Goff R-111; BMC V, 427 (IB. 23380); CIBN R-60; HC *13806; IGI 5326; Klebs 841.1; Polain (B) 2793bis; Schäfer/Arnim 192; Dyson Perrins 109; Essling 895; Sander 6399; Dibner Heralds of Science 1; Grolier/Horblit 89; Norman 1565; PMM 40.


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