REGIOMONTANUS (Johannes MÜLLER, 1436-76) and Georgius PURBACHIUS (1423-61). Epitoma in Almagestum Ptolemaei. Edited by Caspar Grosch and Stephan Römer. Venice: Johannes Hamman for the editors, 31 August 1496.
Super-chancery 2o (319 x 219mm). Collation: a10 b-n8.6 o6 p8 (a1r xylographic title, a1v blank, a2r Regiomontanus's dedication to Cardinal Bessarion, a3r verse address to the reader by Johannes Lucilius Santritter, a3v full-page woodcut within a white-on-black ornamental border, a4r text, p7v colophon, p8 blank). 108 leaves (without the bifolium containing Johannes Baptista Abiosus's letter dated 15 August 1496, inserted in a minority of copies between a1 and a2). 48 lines and headline. Types: 4:135G, 2:103G, 8:86G, 5:70(67)G, 80Gk. Xylographic title, full-page woodcut of an armillary sphere with Ptolemy and Regiomontanus studying below, 279 woodcut marginal diagrams (including repeats), white-on-black floriated woodcut initials in several sizes, woodcut printer's device on p7v (Kristeller 231). (Title with early inscription and stamp partly removed and repaired at bottom margin, first quire loosening, faint dampstain at upper corners.) Contemporary blindtooled calf over thin pasteboard, sides diapered with multiple fillets (rebacked, somewhat worn). Provenance: Convent at ?Montis Fortini (partly erased inscription; later stamp) — a few marginal drawings/annotations — Herbert McLean Evans (1882-1971), anatomist, endocrinologist and book collector on the history of science and medicine (bookplate) — Robert Honeyman (sale Sotheby's, 11 November 1980, lot 2603).
THE HONEYMAN COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION OF THE FIRST APPEARANCE IN PRINT OF PTOLEMY'S ALMAGEST IN ANY FORM. The Almagest, or Mathematical syntaxis, was the chief astronomical work from its composition in the 2nd century A.D. until the end of the 16th century. It was largely known in the Western Middle Ages through the 12th-century Latin translation by Gerard of Cremona, but neither Gerard's version nor the original Greek were printed until 1515 and 1538, respectively. Cardinal Bessarion, then papal legate to the Holy Roman Empire, persuaded the Austrian astronomer Georg Peurbach to compose this epitome of Ptolemy's great work as part of his publishing programme to promote anew the writings of ancient Greek authors in the Latin west. Peurbach died only one year after beginning work, and his friend and colleague Regiomontanus took it up, dedicating the completed manuscript (which survives at Institut de France) to Bessarion before 28 April 1463. The work was inexplicably not published until 1496, although as a surviving printed advertisement makes clear (H *13807) Regiomontanus had intended to publish it himself at his short-lived Nuremberg press (active 1473-1475). Valuable as making Ptolemy's Almagest accessible to Renaissance astronomers, the Peurbach-Regiomontanus Epitome is also important for the 'observations, revised computations, and critical reflections' made by its compilers. This edition was almost certainly the text which provided Copernicus with his knowledge of the Ptolemaic system, since he had largely completed writing De revolutionibus before publication of the next edition in 1515 (Gingerich, Eye of Heaven p.164). One of Peurbach-Regiomontanus's corrections sparked Copernicus to question the Ptolemaic system, which had formed the basis of astronomy for more than one millennium, and to 'lay the foundations of modern astronomy with his revolutionary heliocentric system' (DSB 11, p.349).
A TALL COPY, FRESH COPY, retaining strong impressions and with bearer type visible flanking the device. HC *13806; BMC V, 427; CIBN R-60; BSB-Ink R-67; Bod-inc R-040; IGI 5326; Klebs 841.1; Essling 895; Sander 6399; Stillwell Science, 103; Dibner Heralds 1; Grolier/Horblit 89; Norman 1565; Schäfer/Arnim 192; PMM 40; Goff R-111.