Sphaera Mundi compendium foeliceter inchoat. with Regiomontanus Disputationes and Puerbach Theoricae novae planetarum.


Sphaera Mundi compendium foeliceter inchoat. with Regiomontanus Disputationes and Puerbach Theoricae novae planetarum.

Venice. Per Magistrum Gullielmum de Tridino de Monteferrato, 14,January,1491,4to (199 x 150 mm). 48 leaves. 42 lines.

Full-page woodcut on verso of title-leaf showing Astronomia enthroned flanked by Urania and Ptolemy, large woodcut of the “Sphaera mundi” on a3v, each hand coloured and 7 of the diagrams of planetary orbits partially coloured or with outline colour, margins a little trimmed, not affecting text, 17th century blind stamped pigskin, rebacked, with central lozenge on both covers, binding with blind stamp date 1602, brass clasps.

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Venice: Published by Erhard Ratdolt, 6 July, 1482, 4to, (220 x 160mm) Early panelled calf, 39 woodcut diagrams in the text, 8 are coloured, some minor text restoration, a very attractive copy of this important work.

First printing of this assembly of the most influential pre-Copernican texts on astronomy. Sacrobosco’s De sphaera mundi (edition princeps 1472) was the first printed astronomical book, and a fundamental text of medieval and post-medieval astronomy. It is a synthesis of Ptolemy and his Arabic commentators, presenting an elegant, accessible Ptolemaic cosmology, and for this reason was adopted as the most authoritative astronomical textbook of its time. From the time of its composition, ca 1220, Sacrobosco’s De sphaera ‘enjoyed great renown, and from the middle of the thirteenth century it was taught in all the schools of Europe. In the sixteenth century it gained the attention of mathematicians, including Clavius. As late as the seventeenth century it was used as a basic astronomy text… ‘ (John F. Daly in DSB). It was the most frequently printed astronomical work, some 30 incunable editions alone being published, and an even greater number of sixteenth-century editions.

In the final text in this volume, “Disputationes contraCremonensiadeliramenta”(Arguments against the Errors of [Gerard of] Cremona), Peurbach’s student Regiomontanus offers a critique of Gerard’s aforementioned “Theorica”, and demonstrates the superiority of Peurbach’s “Theoricae novae.” Adopting the form of a dialogue between ‘Viennensis’ (the “man from Vienna”, representing Regiomontanus) and ‘Cracoviensis’ (“The one from Krakow”, representing Martin Bylica of Ilkusch), Regiomontanus used geometrical proofs, often supplemented by diagrams, to refute specific claims in the earlier “Theorica.” In the course of his critique, Regiomontanus -renowned for the accuracy of his own predictive tables and calendars- also makes corrections to Gerard’s planetary tables. Sacrobosco’s “Sphere”:“Sacrobosco’s fame rests firmly on his ‘De Sphaera’, a work based on Ptolemy and his Arabic commentators, published about 1220 and antedating the ‘Sphaera’ of Grosseteste. It was quite generally adopted as the fundamental astronomy text, for often it was so clear that it needed little or no explanation. It was first used at the University of Paris. There are four chapters to the work. Chapter one defines a sphere, explains its divisions, including the four elements, and also comments on the heavens and their movements. The revolutions of the heavens are from east to west and their shape is spherical. The earth is a sphere, acting as the middle (or center) of the firmament; it is a mere point in relation to the total firmament and is immobile. Its measurements are also included. Chapter two treats the various circles and their names- the celestial circle, the equinoctial, the movement of the ‘primum mobile’ with its two parts, the north and south poles, the zodiac, the ecliptic, the colures, the meridian and the horizon, and the Arctic and Antarctic circles. It closes with an explanation of the five zones. Chapter three explains the cosmic, chronic, and heliacal risings and settings of the signs and also their right and oblique ascensions. Explanations are furnished for the variations in the length of days in different global zones namely the equator, and in zones extending from the equator to the two poles. A discussion of the seven climes ends the chapter. The movement of the sun and other planets and the causes of lunar and solar eclipses form the brief fourth chapter.” (Dictionary of Scientific Biography).

BMC V 286; Go J405; Hain-Copinger 14110; Klebs 874.9; Sander 6661

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