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Astronomy


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Stoeffler Sammelband
With Early Manuscript Tables

STOEFFLER, Johann. Oppenheim, Jacob Koebel, 1514-1524.

Small folio [30 x 21 cm]

$30,000

Sammelband of Stoeffler's most important works: the sole edition of the rare Tabulae Astronomicae, first editions of the Calendarivm Romanvm magnum in both the Latin and German editions, and a second edition of his influential text on astrolabes. A highly unusual component at the back of the volume is a leaf of densely written manuscript tables that calculate the number of days it would take to walk to each of the planets. Although this may sound merely picturesque, it is a calculation procedure with a distinguished history (see below), and assumes particular interest when one considers that whether on a precise mathematical or observational basis, the topic of the distances between planets or between Earth and celestial phenomena becomes central to the dismantling of the Ptolemaic worldview later in the century. The writer is anonymous, but the leaf most likely dates from within a decade of the latest publication date (e.g. 1530-40). Copies of 16th-century instrument books which show any annotation at all are highly unusual; we have never encountered a copy in which the tables or instruments contained therein were creatively extended in an original way by a contemporary reader.

The Tabulae Astronomicae, a series of eclipse tables, is bound at the end of the volume, just before the manuscript leaf. It is the earliest text among those collected here and ranks among Stoeffler?s rarest works. The manuscript leaf has been examined by Prof. Noel Swerdlow of the University of Chicago, whose commentary on it is available to interested parties.

According to Swerdlow,(per litteras 07.08.01) calculations such as those on the verso of the leaf, which determine the time it would take to walk to each planet, are virtually unprecedented. He has seen "a single example given by Roger Bacon in his Opus maius of how long it would take to walk the least distance to the moon at some number of miles per day, but I have never seen anyone compute this for all the distances of all the planets, and the circumferences of their spheres to boot." Prof. Noel Swerdlow. The careful tabulations, done in red and black ink in keeping with Stoeffler's published tables, offer insight into how a 16th-century scholar might have used the Tabulae. The additional blank leaves were surely intended for further calculations derived from the instrument bound into the work.

The Sammelband also contains two versions of the Calendarium Romanum, a compendium of cosmographical, astronomical, medical and historical knowledge that served as a model for the presentation of the Gregorian calendar in 1582 (Gingerich, Rara Astronomica). These titles were issued separately. It is highly unusual to see the same title in different languages circulate together. The Calendarium has been called one of the most ambitious examples of scientific printing from the first quarter of the 16th century.

In addition, the collection includes the first German-printed astrolabe book, the Elvcidatio Fabricae. "Handsomely illustrated and with detailed instructions both for the construction and use of the astrolabe, this early work set the standards and provided material for a host of imitators..." (Owen Gingerich, Rara Astronomica). A host of surveying and perspective problems are treated, and the work contains a notable mathematical advance in surveying and cartography.

Professor of Mathematics at the University of Tuebingen, Stoeffler (1452-1531) was one of the generation of astronomers who considered Regiomontanus the paragon of the Renaissance astronomer, adopting a program of astronomical observation and publication of tables as well as constructing precision instruments and practical accounts of how they worked.

* Calendarium (Latin): Adams 1884; Zinner 1102; Gingerich, Rara Astronomica 12; Fairfax Murray 403; Stillwell Science Awakening I.112; Redgrave, ?Some early book illustrations of the Oppenheim press,? Transactions of the Bibliographical Society 3 (1895) 78. * Calendarium (German): Harvard copy; Zinner 1188. * Elucidatio: Adams 1887; Zinner 1270; Proctor 11192; Stillwell, Awakening Interest 892; Guenther 567-569; C. Singer, A History of Technology III.53. * Tabulae Astronomicae: Adams 1898; Zinner 1015; OCLC locates 4 copies: NYPL, Brown, New York Academy of Medicine, Wellcome Institute.

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