HEVELIUS, Johannes (1611-1687). Machina coelestis pars prior; organographiam, sive instrumentorum astronomicorum omnium. Danzig: Simon Reiniger for the author, 1673.
Large 2o (384 x 233 mm). Part 1 only (of 2). Half-title, additional allegorical engraved title by Adolf Boy after Jeremias Falck, 30 engraved plates of astronomical intruments, of which 5 double-page, by Isaak Saal after Andreas Stech, dedicatory letter to Louis XIV with engraved allegorical head- and tail-piece and engraved initial with royal insignia, woodcut initials and tail-pieces, type-ornament head-pieces. (Half-title slightly creased and with edges frayed, plate H browned, occasional light browning to text leaves). Contemporary vellum over pasteboard, title ink-lettered on spine (covers a trifle bowed); modern folding cloth case. Provenance: Breslau Stadtbibliothek (duplicate inkstamps on verso of engraved title).
FIRST EDITION of Hevelius' important treatise on astronomical instruments. Hevelius owed his astronomical discoveries of the physical features of the moon and planets to his technical skills in designing and constructing observational instruments. In 1649, the death of his father, a wealthy brewer of Danzig, had provided Hevelius with the wherewithal to construct what was for its short existence the best-equipped astronomical observatory in Europe. In the Machina coeletis, published with lavish illustrations at his own expense, he describes the techniques for constructing a great variety of open-sight instruments, including quadrants, sextants, octants and telescopes, many of very large size, as well as a helioscope (for observing sunspots and eclipses) of which he was particularly proud. "Hevelius was such a punctilious publisher of his own achievements that his chief publications give a reasonably complete picture of his work... Those chapters which were perhaps most read at the time...concerned his telecopes, their housings, and their mountings. Hevelius had been spurred on to build new telescopes after hearing of the discoveries (including that of the Orion nebula in 1656) made by Christian Huygens [who had invented the long-focus telescope]. Both men were convinced of the advantages of long-focus objectives... Hevelius carefully described his instruments with focal lengths of 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 140, and 150 feet... The problems of mounting were immense... The longer telescopes were slung from tall masts (one of ninety feet is mentioned) and movement was effected by assistants with numerous guy ropes and pulleys... Problems of housing and storage were more easily solved by a prince than by a man of small means" (DSB). Hevelius was aided in his astronomical work by his second wife Catharina Elisabetha Koopman, 36 years his junior, who published many of his unpublished writings after his death and who is pictured in two plates of the present work.
In 1679 a fire destroyed Hevelius' house and observatory in Dansk. The second part of the Machina coelistis, which was largely devoted to observational data, had just been printed, and most of the sheets went up in flame: fewer than 100 copies are thought to have survived. Perhaps for the same reason, copies of the first volume are also quite rare.
A FINE COPY. Dibner Heralds of Science 10; Norman 1068.