Opus absolutissimum, in quo, qudquid unquam peritores mathematici in caelis observarunt, coordine, eamque; methodo traditur, ut cuius posthac facile innotescant quaecumque de astris ac planetis, necnon de eorum variis orbibus, motibus, passionibus, &c. dici possunt… Geneva, Jean de Tournes, 1599</strong>
Folio (430 x 288 mm), pp [iv] 262 [2, blank], with woodcut printer’s device on title and 175 woodcuts and woodcut diagrams, including 37 full-page woodcut astronomical figures of which 18 (one half-page and 17 full-page) have a total of 35 volvelles; a fine complete copy in contemporary calf, gilt fillets on covers, spine with gilt compartments.
Splendid Copy of an Extremely Rare Astronomical work, dedicated to the Palatine Count Frederick IV.
Bassantin’s beautifully produced work for calculating planetary positions, largely associated with Apianus’ great Astronomicum Caesareum 1540. Many of the large woodcut diagrams and volvelles are very similar to that work, including the first volvelle, a full-page celestial planisphere of the northern hemisphere. ‘The size of this volume and the extent of its illustration make this an unusually fine example of the attention given to the printing of scientific works at this period’ (Mortimer).
James Bassantin (d. 1568) was a Scots astronomer and astrologer, born in the reign of James IV. He studied at the University of Glasgow, devoting himself to science and mathematics. He continued his education on the Continent in several countries, before settling in France as a teacher of mathematics, first in Lyons and then in Paris.
Bassantin was knowledgeable of advances in German and Italian mathematics and astronomy. He produced a revised edition of Jacques Foucard’s Paraphrase de l’astrolabe (Lyons 1555), which contained his ‘Amplification de l’usage de l’astrolabe’, reprinted several times. It demonstrates finding positions in ecliptic latitude of the moon, planets, and fixed stars, as well as the use of the shadow square.
In 1562 Bassantin returned to Scotland. On route, according to Sir James Melville (Memoirs of his own life p 203), he met Sir Robert Melville, Sir James’s brother, and predicted to him that there would be ‘at length captivity and utter wreck’ for Mary, Queen of Scots, at the hands of Elizabeth, and also that the kingdom of England would eventually fall of right to the crown of Scotland, but at the cost of many bloody battles, in which the Spaniards would take part. Bassantin was a convinced Protestant and in politics a supporter of the regent Murray (based on the ODNB entry).
Provenance: inscription on title: ‘Ex libris Caroli Parisot Sacri Regni Imperii Equitis empt. Parisiis 6R an. dmi. 1676’
Cartier De Tournes 704; cf Mortimer 47 and Horblit sale catalogue lot 89; OCLC lists UCLA, and the Smithsonian