HEVELIUS, Joannes (1611-1687). Machinae coelestis pars prior; Organographiam [-- pars posterior; Rerum Uranicarum observationes]. Gdansk: printed by Simon Reiniger at Hevelius's press for Hevelius, 1673-1679.
3 parts in 2 volumes, 2° (389 x 233). Half-titles. Engraved allegorical additional titles by Jeremias Falk after Adolf Boy. Volume I extra-illustrated with an engraved portrait of Hevelius by Falk after Helmich van Twenhusen, volume II with engraved portrait of Hevelius by Lambert Visscher after Stech, 73 engraved plates printed on 72 sheets [volume II, ii, fig. Gg double-sided] by Isaak Saal and Hevelius after Stech and Hevelius, 5 double-page, one folding, one engraved illustration, 2 engraved vignettes, 3 engraved headpieces, one by J. Benssheimer after Stech, and 2 initials. Letterpress tables in the text, woodcut illustrations, head- and tailpieces, and initials. Volume II, part ii with final leaf 3K4 listing Hevelius's 'Opera ... edneda'. (Very light browning, volume I with neat marginal repairs to half-title, title, additional title, and neatly repaired worming to lower margins, volume II, part i, f3 and 4N2 with small holes, a few plates trimmed on the outer edge of the platemark, touching title or image on plates I, S and II, i, Ff.) Early 19th-century blue morocco gilt by J. Mackenzie [volume I front flyleaf and volume II rear flyleaf watermarked '1826'], sides with borders of foliate and scallop rolls alternated with 6 or 3 gilt fillets, spines gilt in compartments, lettered in 2, the others decorated with foliate and other tools within frames, gilt-ruled turn-ins, gilt edges (extremities lightly rubbed, a few small scuff-marks, edge-gilding causing leaves to adhere resulting in short marginal tears). Provenance: 'IGGl' (inscription on margin of inserted portrait) -- Sir Hans Sloane (1660-1753, marginal inscriptions on titles in Thomas Stack's hand 'Bibliothecae Sloanianae A. 188. [... A. 189.]'; acquired after Sloane's death by) -- British Museum (inkstamps on versos of volume I half-title, title and 3M4 and volume II title and pt iii 3K4v; 1831 deaccession stamp on title versos of volumes I and II).
FIRST EDITION. THE SLOANE COPY, WITH THE RARE SECOND VOLUME; ONLY THREE COMPLETE SETS CAN BE TRACED AT AUCTION SINCE 1902. The first volume of Machinae coelestis describes the astronomical apparatus of Hevelius's observatory at Gdansk, which was, until the fire of 1679, 'the best equipped in Europe at the time' (Heralds). Hevelius was a highly skilled designer, fabricator, and engraver of instruments, and the techniques for manufacturing a wide array of instruments are given in detail. These designs -- particularly those for telescopes -- were of 'very great interest to his contemporaries' (DSB VI, p.326). The second volume, which is divided into two parts, 'contained a considerable collection of observational data and reductions of almost every sort -- a mine of information, although rare, for later astronomers' (op. cit., p.363), and is illustrated with star charts and diagrams.
The second volume of the Machinae coelestis is one of the rarest astronomical works, due to a fire on 26 September 1679 which destroyed the observatory, the printing press, Hevelius's house, and most of the copies of volume II. Estimates of the number of extant copies vary: Norman states that 'fewer than 100 copies of the second volume survive'; Brunet (describing it as 'très-rare') notes that Joseph de Lalande knew of only 34 copies; and Heralds asserts that 'scarcely a dozen copies ... survived the fire'. Only three sets are recorded as having been sold at auction in the past century. They are the Radcliffe Observatory, Edmund Halley, and Signet sets,sold in 1951, 1960 and 1966, respectively.
The present set is distinguished not only by its rarity, but also by its provenance and association. Sir Hans Sloane was, like Hevelius, a Fellow of the Royal Society of London (they were elected in 1685 and 1664 respectively), and was elected President following Newton's death in 1727. Brunet III, 149; BL German 1601-1700, H-1030; Dibner Heralds (1980) 10; Norman 1068 (volume I only). (2)