3 March 2004
COMET -- The petitioning-comet: or, a brief chronology of all the famous comets, and their events, that have happen'd from the birth of Christ to this very day. London: Nathaniel Thompson, 1681.
2° (281 x 185mm). Collation: A-D2. 8 leaves. Woodcut globe on title. (Very browned.) Disbound, modern leather chemise and slipcase. Provenance: purchased from Dawsons, London, 5 March 1959, £12. 10s.
FIRST EDITION. The author, who signs himself 'Democritus' in his address to the printer, lists comets from the year 13 A.D. to 1681, together with a natural disaster or other catastrophe heralded by their appearance. The 1681 comet ('the most large and terrible that ever yet was seen') was recorded by scientists of the day (Flamsteed states that it was first sighted on 11 November; our anonymous author claims 10 December) and even sparked a debate between Newton (who believed there were two comets in 1680-81) and Flamsteed (who believed there was one comet, appearing twice from behind the sun). Flamsteed was proven correct, and Newton gracefully acknowledged it by letter. Wing P-1864.
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