Classic Work on Medieval Astronomy

    Johannes de Sacrobosco [John Holywood]. Textus de Sphaera Introductoria Additione (quantum necessarium est) commentarioque, ad utilitatem studentium Philosophiae Parisiensis Academiae. Cum compositione Annuli astronomici Boneti Latensis: Et Geometria Euclidis Megarensis. Paris: Simon de Colines, 1538. Fifth (and last) edition. Small folio. a-b8, c-d6, e8. 35f = 70 pages. Three large woodcuts (including title) and multiple small marginal illustrations. Decorated initials. Later blind-tooled sheepskin, worn at the edges and corners; front joint cracked but holding. Marbled endpapers. Bookplate "Luis Bardon" to inside front pastedown. Two leaves uncut at outer margin, slightly tattered, no affect, pages slightly wrinkled, otherwise a nice clean copy. From the Krown & Spellman Collection.
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    Johannes de Sacrobosco, or John of Holywood, circa 1200-1256, English mathematician and astronomer. He wrote several widely read and influential books: Algorismus, a study of arithmetic; a treatise on the calendar; and the most popular medieval introductory textbook on astronomy the Tractatus de Sphaera.

    This classic on medieval astronomy, was required reading by students in all Western European universities for four centuries. Though principally about the heavens it contains a clear description of the Earth as a sphere and its popularity shows the nineteenth-century opinion that medieval scholars after this date thought the Earth was flat as a fabrication. This is the fifth and last of Simon de Colines editions. Contains the "Treaty of the Sphere" by the 13th century mathematician Johannes de Sacrobosco, an epistle of Lefevre D'etaples, the first four books of the geometry of Euclid, and a text from astronomer Bonet de Lattes on the miniature astrolabe.

    "The Tractatus de Spera, with the incipit "Tractatum de spera quattuor capitulis distinguimus" is a longer work (some 9000 words) on elementary cosmology and astronomy. It is well organized in four chapters, describing respectively the general structure of the universe, the circles of the celestial sphere, the phenomena caused by the diurnal rotation of the heavens, and planetary motions and eclipses. The style is elegant and pleasant and, in the manner of the twelfth century, there are many quotations from both literary and scientific classical sources. Although it appears that the author was not familiar with the Almagest itself, he clearly aimed at making his students familiar with the elements of Ptolemaic astronomy, breaking away from the earlier tradition derived from Macrobius and Martianus Capella. No scientific work from the middle ages has ever enjoyed a similar popularity." ODNB

    STC French 389. Renouard 295. Cantamessa II: 3981. Moreau V: 1060. Schreiber 153. Adams 720 (1521 ed.). USTC 147525. Pettegree/Walsby: 75657. Shreiber BYU #153.


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    August, 2015
    5th Wednesday
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