Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    The Important Third Edition of Copernicus' De revolutionibus

    Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543). Astronomia instaurata, libris sex comprehensa, qui de revolutionibus orbium cœlestium inscribuntur -- The important third edition of Copernicus, and the first edition to contain a commentary. Nunc denum post 75 ab obitu authoris annum integritati suæ restituta, notisque illustrata, opera & studio D. Nicolai Mulerii...Amsterdam: Excudebat Wilhelmus Jansonius, 1617.

    The important third edition of Copernicus's De revolutionibus (first published in 1543) and the first edition to contain a commentary. Quarto (8.8125 x 6.8125 inches; 224 x 174 mm.). [22], 487, [1, blank] pages. Woodcut printer's device on title, numerous woodcut diagrams throughout the text, decorative woodcut initials.

    Contemporary vellum over thin boards. Title in manuscript on spine. Edges stained red. Vellum slightly rubbed and stained, large portion of lower front cover and small portion of lower corner of rear cover renewed. Lower portion of front joint split. Front endpapers separating and front cover held only by one sewing thread. Some mostly marginal dampstaining throughout, that to the lower corner causing the red stain from the lower edge to bleed onto the rear cover and the textblock from leaves Ss1-Ppp4 (pages 321-[488]). Some typical light foxing and browning, a few tiny rust spots or holes. Lower blank corner of front free endpaper, front flyleaf, and first six leaves of text (including the title) renewed. Worming in the lower margin throughout, heaviest on the eleven preliminary leaves, including the title, leaves A1-B4 (pages 1-16), and leaves K1-S4 (pages 73-144), where it enters the text and affects some letters (causing some loss). Additional worming in the text from leaves Tt1-Aaa2 (pages 329-372), affecting some letters, with some loss. Worming in the outer margin of leaves QQ1-Zz4 (pages 305-368), affecting a few side notes. The worming has been repaired on most leaves (sometimes crudely), and the missing letters have often been supplied in ink or pencil. Paper flaw to lower blank corner of S1 (pages 137/138), V3 (pages 157/158), and lower corner of Kkk4 (pages 447/448), with no loss. A few tiny rust spots or holes. Early ink notation (price?) at head of front free endpaper. Purple pencil inscriptions on front free endpaper and front flyleaf dated: "Junio 6 di 1908." Early ink ownership inscription, dated 1688, crossed out on title, followed by the early ink signature of D. Petrus Alarcon. Additional ink signature of Alarcon on p. 111. Two early ink notes on the title in different hands, a few early ink corrections in the text.

    "The publication of 'On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres' in 1543 was a landmark in human thought. It challenged the authority of antiquity and set the course for the modern world by its effective destruction of the anthropocentric view of the universe...Renaissance mathematicians, following Ptolemy, believed that the moon, sun and five planets were carried by complex systems of epicycles and deferents about the central earth, the fixed pivot of the whole system. In Copernicus's day it was well known that conventional astronomy did not work accurately, nor did further study of Ptolemy seem to put the matter right. Copernicus...determined to abandon the fixity of the earth, and all the complexities in the treatment of the motions of the celestial bodies that follow from such a conception. With the sun placed at the centre, and the earth daily spinning on its axis and circling the sun in common with other planets, the whole system of the heavens became clear, simple, and harmonious" (Printing and the Mind of Man 70, citing the 1543 first edition).

    Published to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of Copernicus's death in 1543, this new and corrected third edition of De revolutionibus is the first to contain explanatory notes. It was published one year after the edict of 1616 suspended Copernicus until "corrected" by papal authority. The commentary is by Nicolaus Mulerius (1564-1630), professor of medicine and mathematics at the University of Groningen.

    The Petrus Alarcon who inscribed this book is most likely Pedro Alarcón (d. 1752?), Mexican physician and astronomer who was professor of mathematics at the University of Mexico City. For many years he compiled almanacs of Mexico City and published astronomical tables and ephemerides of the movements of the planets from 1713 to 1723. In 1728 he wrote a "Noticia del eclipse de luna del 8 de agosto de 1729 y exhortación a observaro."

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2009
    16th-17th Friday-Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 4,157

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2019 November 14 - 15 Space Exploration Featuring The Armstrong Family Collection™ Part IV Signature Auction - Dallas.

    Learn about consigning with us

    The department director has the heart of a true and highly knowledgeable collector with the business acumen of someone who has been not only successful but has decades of an impeccable track record
    David Greenburg,
    Chicago, IL
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2019 June 9 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction - Dallas
    2019 June 9 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED SO FAR $1,101,256