“A Landmark in Human Thought”
De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, Libri VI.
147 woodcut diagrams in the text. 6 p.l., 196 leaves. Small folio (272 x 190 mm.), cont. Parisian binding of light brown calf (very skillful restorations to the binding), panelled in blind with gilt fleurons in the corners, gilt floral tool in the center of each cover of a hand holding flowers, small gilt stars in the six compartments of spine. Nuremberg: J. Petreius, 1543.
First edition, and a very fine and crisp copy, of “the earliest of the three books of science that most clarified the relationship of man and his universe (along with Newton’s Principia and Darwin’s Origin of Species).”–Dibner, Heralds of Science, 3. This work is the foundation of the heliocentric theory of the planetary system and the most important scientific text of the 16th century.
This is the seventh or eighth copy I have handled over the past 39 years. How does it compare to the others? Quite nicely. First of all, this is one of the largest copies extant; simply, this copy is really big. Also, I have had only one other copy in a 16th-century binding (Census I.245). Our binding, while carefully and skillfully repaired, is a very beautiful contemporary Parisian example; the tool of a hand holding flowers in the center of each cover is very similar to the one used on many of Marcus Fugger’s plain calf bindings. It is a lovely tool in general use by the Paris binders of the period 1550-1560. The endpapers have been renewed but they are not offensive. There is a small early erasure of an ownership inscription on the title just slightly touching the “D.” in the date. The first six leaves have some light dampstaining but it is pale.
Provenance: At the foot of the title-page, another early signature has been thoroughly lined through. 17th- or 18th-century ownership inscription on title: “Collegii Parisiensis Societat jesu.” —Bookplate of Gustavus Wynne Cook (1867-1940, amateur astronomer, collector, and benefactor of the Franklin Institute). —Franklin Institute Library bookplate. —Sold Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, 2 November 1977, lot 85, to the British Railway Pension Fund (a famously selective buyer). —Purchased by Pierre Berès at Sotheby’s London, 21 October 1980 and sold to a prominent Spanish private collector.
A very large, fresh, and crisp copy (the leaves “crackle”). Preserved in a morocco-backed box. Collation as in Horblit; some copies — about 20 per cent according to Prof. Gingerich — contain an errata leaf printed separately and later.
❧ Evans, Epochal Achievements in the History of Science, 15. Gingerich, An Annotated Census of Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus, Madrid 7. Gingerich, Rara Astronomica, 16. Horblit 18b. Printing & the Mind of Man 70–“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.” Sparrow, Milestones of Science, 40. Zinner 1819 & p. 42.
Item ID: 6025