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KEPLER, Johannes. Astronomia nova, seu physica coelestis, tradita commentariis de motibus stellae Martis, ex observationibus G.V. Tychonis Brahe. [Heidelberg: E. Vögelin,] 1609.

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KEPLER, Johannes. Astronomia nova, seu physica coelestis, tradita commentariis de motibus stellae Martis, ex observationibus G.V. Tychonis Brahe. [Heidelberg: E. Vögelin,] 1609.

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KEPLER, Johannes. Astronomia nova, seu physica coelestis, tradita commentariis de motibus stellae Martis, ex observationibus G.V. Tychonis Brahe. [Heidelberg: E. Vögelin,] 1609. 2° (356 x 235mm). Folding letterpress table, c.300 woodcut diagrams, many repeated, woodcut initials, head- and tailpieces. (Without the blanks, browning throughout as usual.) 20th-century half calf preserving 19th-century boards and spine label (sides lightly scuffed, label lightly worn). FIRST EDITION OF KEPLER'S MOST IMPORTANT WORK, A CORNERSTONE OF MODERN ASTRONOMY, containing the first enunciation of the first two laws of planetary motion: the law of elliptical orbits, and the law of equal area. ‘Copernicus had shown the sun to be the centre of the universe round which the earth and planets revolve, but his description of their movements was still strongly influenced by ancient conceptions of order and harmony. It was Kepler's aim to determine the true movements of the planets and the mathematical and physical laws controlling them’ (PMM). As Kepler phrased it, his goal was ‘to replace a theology or metaphysics of the heavens with a philosophy or physics of the heavens’, and to show that ‘the celestial machine is like a clockwork’ (Caspar). ‘Copernicus had referred planetary motions to the center of the earth's orbit, but Kepler referred them to the sun itself, therefore paving the way for a real center of force and making possible the Newtonian celestial mechanics’ (Dibner). Kepler had the woodblocks cut in Prague in 1607, and in 1608 he sent the text to be printed by E. Vögelin in Heidelberg. The absence of an imprint is due to the fact that the edition was not intended for commerce: Emperor Rudolph II held the rights to its distribution, since Kepler wrote the work in his post of court astronomer and it had been printed at imperial expense. Kepler thought otherwise, his salary being long in arrears, and he sold his copies to Vögelin. Although the size of the press run is not recorded, Kepler later stated that only ‘a few copies’ had been printed (Caspar). Caspar 31; Dibner Heralds of Science 9; Grolier/Horblit 57; Houzeau & Lancaster 11830; Norman 1206; PMM 112.
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