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    "An astronomy fit for an emperor" - Owen Gingerich

    [Petrus Apianus]. Astronomicum Caesareum. [Ingolstadt: In aedibus nostris, May 1540]. First edition of the "most spectacular contribution of the book-maker's art to sixteenth-century science" (Owen Gingerich). First edition of the "most spectacular contribution of the book-maker's art to sixteenth-century science" (Owen Gingerich). Large folio (18.6875 x 12.625 inches; 474 x 320 mm). [59] leaves. Signatures: A-F4 G4+1 H-N4 O6. In this copy, G1 and G5 appear to be conjugate, G2 and G3, and G4 is conjugate with the stub between G1 and G2. Colophon on O5 verso, printed in mirror type (as is an inscription on D3 verso). Text in double columns. Side notes. With the two letterpress slips pasted on the recto of G4 on either side of the woodcut, and with the small letterpress slip pasted over two lines on the recto of K1, correcting the text (darkened on the page somewhat from the glue). Title in black letter within an elaborate woodcut border with a large astronomical woodcut of the "Umbra Terra" beneath; woodcut arms of the joint dedicatees, Emperor Charles V and his brother Ferdinand of Spain, on the title-page verso. In his 1995 survey of the Astronomicum Caesareum, Gingerich accounts for 111 copies and estimates that there are probably fewer than another twenty-five copies he did not personally examine [the present copy is among those unseen by OG]. Of all the copies inspected by Gingerich, perhaps fewer than ten percent were regarded by him as complete or nearly complete. Our copy has thirty-six full-page plates of woodcut astronomical figures (the figure on G3 verso is also used on the title-page), within frames that resemble astrolabes, with six different patterns of handles, of which twenty-one have a total of sixty volvelles. There are twenty-nine original silk threads and eight tiny seed pearls (measuring 1 mm.), used as sliding indicators. Of the more than one hundred known copies of the Astronomicum Caesareum, numerous are textually incomplete (i.e. lacking some of the fifty-nine printed leaves). Our copy is textually complete, while wanting some of the volvelles, threads, and seed pearls that Gingerich suggests would make up a complete copy. Two woodcut architectural head-pieces (on B1 recto and M4 verso); small circular head of Christ in the outer margin of leaf B1 recto, with two lines of text hand-colored as well, and woodcut depicting the four corners of the globe on F3 verso, with figures of a priest, a cosmographer, a poet, and an astronomer. The woodcuts are after Michael Ostendorfer, and all woodcuts and three large initials are colored by a contemporary hand. Fifty-three eleven- or twelve-line historiated woodcut initials containing astronomers, geometricians; thirty-nine six- or seven-line historiated woodcut initials, the initials by Hans Brosamer. Full-page woodcut of a torquetum on O4 verso. Numerous diagrams, some hand-colored, throughout the text. Final leaf (O6 recto) with small woodcut arms of the author, with caption above it: "Insignia / Petri Apiani, Mathemat. Ingolstadieñ." Contemporary German blindstamped pigskin over pasteboard. Spine with five double raised bands. The binding is quite worn, with the pasteboard exposed in places, and considerable soiling and dampstaining, especially to the rear cover; damage to the lower portion of the spine. Title soiled and darkened, especially the corners, with dampstaining in the lower gutter and along the outer edge; occasional foxing and soiling and staining to the text, with heavy dampstaining at the end. Several leaves with color bleedthrough or offsetting from the plates. A small slip of paper affixed to G3 recto (paper repair), with a portion of nine lines of text supplied in ink by hand; small paper repair to G5 verso, affecting six lines of text, with loss of eight words. Short tear (1.5 inches) to lower margin of C2; occasional very minor worming; a few additional minor chips or tears to the edges. A very good copy overall, apparently well-used.
    Copies this good in contemporary bindings in the rare book market appear for sale but once every decade or so, thus a truly rare book.

    "It is scarcer than the first edition of Copernicus's De revolutionibus, which was published only three years later, and it is considerably rarer than the much-sought 1687 Principia of Newton" (Owen Gingerich).

    "The most spectacular contribution of the book-maker's art to sixteenth-century science was without doubt the Astronomicum Caesareum of Petrus Apianus. Designed for Charles V and his brother Ferdinand, the volume was in every way a luxurious and princely production. Its pages were large, brilliantly hand-coloured, and filled with ingeniously contrived mechanisms, sometimes with five or even six layers of paper disks, arranged to give planetary positions plus a variety of calendarial and astrological data. Published in 1540 at Apianus's private press in Ingolstadt, the book graphically displayed Ptolemaic astronomy in a fashion fit for a monarch's eyes" (Owen Gingerich, "Apianus's Astronomicum Caesareum and Its Leipzig Facsimile," in Journal for the History of Astronomy 2 (1971), pp. 168-177).

    Apianus (1495-1552) "was a pioneer in astronomical and geographical instrumentation, and one of the most successful popularizers of these subjects during the sixteenth century. He studied mathematics and astronomy at Leipzig and Vienna, and quickly established a reputation as an outstanding mathematician... [His] first major work, Cosmographia seu descriptio totius orbis (1524), was based on Ptolemy. Starting with the distinction between cosmography, geography, and chorography, and using an ingenious and simple diagram, the book defines terrestrial grids; describes the use of maps and simple surveying; defines weather and climate; and provides thumbnail sketches of the continents. In its later form, as modified by Gemma Frisius, the Cosmographia was one of the most popular texts of the time and was translated into all major European languages" (D.S.B.).

    Adams A1277; Campbell Dodgson, Early German and Flemish Woodcuts, II, p. 242; Gingerich, "Apianus's Astronomicum Caesareum," in Journal for the History of Astronomy, 2 (1971), pp. 168-177; Gingerich, Rara Astronomica, 14; Owen Gingerich, "A Survey of Apian's Astronomicum Caesareum," in Karl Röttel, editor, Peter Apian: Astronomie, Kosmographie und Mathematik am Beginn der Neuzeit (Buxheim Eichstätt: Polygon-Verlag, 1995), pp. 113-122; Stillwell, The Awakening Interest in Science during the First Century of Printing, 19; Van Ortroy 112; Zinner 1734.

    This description has been revised to incorporate the following additional information:

    In his 1995 survey of the Astronomicum Caesareum, Gingerich accounts for 111 copies and estimates that there are probably fewer than another twenty-five copies he did not personally examine [the present copy is among those unseen by OG]. Of all the copies inspected by Gingerich, perhaps fewer than ten percent were regarded by him as complete or nearly complete. Our copy has thirty-six full-page plates of woodcut astronomical figures (the figure on G3 verso is also used on the title-page), within frames that resemble astrolabes, with six different patterns of handles, of which twenty-one have a total of sixty volvelles. There are twenty-nine original silk threads and eight tiny seed pearls (measuring 1 mm.), used as sliding indicators. Of the more than one hundred known copies of the Astronomicum Caesareum, numerous are textually incomplete (i.e. lacking some of the fifty-nine printed leaves). Our copy is textually complete, while wanting some of the volvelles, threads, and seed pearls that Gingerich suggests would make up a complete copy.

    Copies this good in contemporary bindings in the rare book market appear for sale but once every decade or so, thus a truly rare book.

    "It is scarcer than the first edition of Copernicus's De revolutionibus, which was published only three years later, and it is considerably rarer than the much-sought 1687 Principia of Newton" (Owen Gingerich).

    Further updated to note sixty volvelles in total.


    More Information: The mirror-printed colophon on O5 verso reads: "Factum et actum Ingolstadii in Aedi- / bus nostris. [type ornament] Anno a Christo / Nato [type ornament] Sesquimillesimo qua / dragesimo [type ornament] Mense / Maio / [type ornament]." The inscription facing the latitude of Mars on D3 verso printed in mirror type reads: "Praememoratam / Martis Latitudinem / Praesens Schema / Representat / [type ornaments]."

    "In my examination of these books, it became obvious that all of them were colored in Apian's printing shop, and not by the buyers themselves (as was often the case for sixteenth-century books). In fact, the sheets were colored before (!) they were cut, as is revealed by the reverse of a volvelle in some copies: Apparently an error was made in coloring, and the paper was recycled and printed on the other side. The color patterns are not identical from one copy to another but the huge [sic] are all from the same palette. A handful of deluxe copies, printed on specially watermarked, heavier paper, have more elaborate coloring, especially including the beautiful large initials that open each chapter. These deluxe copies include wonderful gold stars on a dark blue background for the movable planisphere on f. B3. A few copies on ordinary paper also have the elaborate coloring of the initials and planisphere. Only a single uncolored copy exists, in the Staatsbibliothek in Munich, apparently a set of proof pages that has been bound" (Gingerich 1995, p. 114).




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