17 June 2008
PICCOLOMINI, Alessandro (1508-1578). De la sfera del mondo. Dele stelle fisse. Venice: Nicolò de Bascarini, 1548.
2 parts in one volume, 4o (215 x 154 mm). 47 full-page woodcut star maps (misnumbered 48, skipping no. 24 and 43 and duplicating no. 48, as usual), woodcut diagrams and historiated initials (some light staining). 19th-century quarter green stained deerskin and marbled boards (some rubbing to spine and sides). Provenance: Philip M. Chancellor (bookplate).
Second edition of the first star atlas originally published in 1540. De la sfera del mondo is a traditional Ptolemaic-Aristotelian geocentric cosmography, but its appendix, De le stelle fisse, "represents the first printed star atlas, containing maps of the stars as opposed to simple pictures of constellations, and introducing the practice of identifying stars by letter, a method later adopted and expanded by Bayer" (Norman). Piccolomini was an early popularizer of science who wrote in the vernacular to extend scientific knowledge beyond the confines of church and university. Later Bishop of Patrae, Piccolomini belonged to the notable Siennese ecclesiastical family that produced two popes, including the great Renaissance figure Pope Pius II. BMC/STC Italian p.514 (second part only); See Riccardi I, 268-69 and Norman 1696 (for fifth edition of 1559). All early editions are rare.
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