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

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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 (279 x 185 mm). Roman type, occasional Greek. Narratio prima in double column. Woodcut diagrams, printer's device on title, a different device on final verso, woodcut historiated initials. (Margins of title, prelims and last 6 leaves repaired and silked, slightly affecting text in last 2 text leaves, smaller repairs to fore-margins and lower corners in quires a-f, occasionally severe browning and foxing, the last page of De revolutionibus [Cc4r] misprinted rendering text partly illegible, a few words touched up in ink by a later reader, A2.3 [fols. 94-95] supplied from another copy, Johannes Schöner's and Rheticus' names on drop-title to the Narratio scribbled out in ink.) 18th-century Italian vellum over pasteboard, title gilt lettered on spine, speckled edges (covers bowed, worn). Provenance: 17th-century marginalia (some notes cropped), mainly in books 4 and 5, consisting of brief notes by a mathematically informed reader, including a citation of Vieta, Opera mathematica (fol. 75); Turner Collection, Keele, U.K. (bookplate removed).

SECOND EDITION OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATION OF THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY, the first to contain Rheticus' Narratio prima. First published at Gdansk in 1540, and addressed to the astronomer and globe-maker Johannes 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 -- 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..." (Gingerich's translation, Eye of Heaven, p. 221). In his forthcoming 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), Leiden: Brill, [forthcoming], II.238 (Christie's thanks Professor Gingerich for sharing his entry on this copy).
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