17 June 2008
KEPLER, Johannes. Somnium, seu opus posthumum de astronomia lunari. Sagan and Frankfurt: [Herzogliche Druckerei] and sumptibus haeredum authoris, 1634.
2 parts in one volume, 4o (204 x 160 mm). Woodcut illustrations in text (some light browning). Contemporary vellum (light wear to spine ends, light staining). Provenance: Oxford, Magdalen Hall Library ("Magd: Hall" library mark on title and spine); anonymous sale (Sotheby's London, Nov 17 1988, lot 125).
A PIONEERING AND REMARKABLY PRESCIENT PIECE OF SCIENCE FICTION
FIRST EDITION. Kepler had written the Somnium, a dissertation in which he defended the Copernican doctrine of the motion of the Earth in 1609. Some 20 years later he added the dream framework and wrote the 223 notes. The work was not printed until Kepler set up a printing press in Sagan, but interrupted by his death on November 15, 1630. The editing and printing of the work was continued by his son in law Jacob Bartsch (who died in 1633) and finished by Kepler's son Ludwig in 1634. "At Sagan, Kepler finally began to print a short book whose beginnings went back to his school days at Tübingen: his Somnium, seu astronomia lunari. The 'Dream' is a curiously interesting tract for two reasons. First, its fantasy framework a voyage to the moon made it a pioneering and remarkably prescient piece of science fiction. Second, its perceptive description of celestial motions as seen from the moon produced an ingenious polemic on behalf of the Copernican system" (DSB). Part two is a text by Plutarch translated by Kepler. BM/STC 17th century German K-120; Caspar 86.
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