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CALCAGNINI, Celio. Opera Aliquot. Basel, March 1544.

Small folio [31.5 x 21.5 cm], (4) ff., including 1 integral blank, 657 pp., 1 integral blank, (22) ff. Bound in 18th-century stiff vellum, spine with raised bands, title stencilled, with later red morocco title label gilt as well. Some discoloration and worming to boards. Some toning and foxing in outer margin of title and scattered leaves, and some inconsequential worming in blank margin on a few, but generally a genuine fresh copy.


First edition of this collection of writings of the Ferrarese humanist, posthumous but all appearing for the first time, including his proto-Copernican dissertation advocating the movement of the earth. Although Thorndike and others have speculated that Calcagnini may have gotten wind of Copernican heliocentrism during a stay in Eastern Europe, the evidence of a direct link is extremely vague, and it seems more likely that like contemporary Italians such as Girolamo Fracostoro or G.B. Amico, such positions were reached independently but were rendered more likely because of the intellectual difficulties shared by their generation: the effective order of the planets, the existence of 'trepidation', and variation in the luminosity of the planets. It is also likely that all were influenced by Nicholas of Cusa-Calcagnini certainly was.

"Celio Calcagnini proposed, in his turn, to explain the daily motion of the stars by attributing to the Earth a rotation from West to East, complete in one sidereal day. His dissertation, "Quod caelum stet, terra vero moveatur", although seeming to have been written about 1530, was not published until 1544, when it appeared in a posthumous edition of the author's works. Calcagnini declared that the Earth, originally in equilibrium in the centre of the universe, received a first impulse which imparted to it a rotary motion, and this motion, to which nothing was opposed, was indefinitely preserved by virtue of the principle set forth by Buridan and accepted by Albert of Saxony and Nicholas of Cusa. According to Calcagnini the daily rotation of the Earth was accompanied by an oscillation which explained the movement of the precession of the equinoxes. Another oscillation set the waters of the sea in motion and determined the ebb and flow of the tides. This last hypothesis was to be maintained by Andrea Cesalpino (1519-1603) in his Quæstiones peripateticæ (1569), and to inspire Galileo, who, unfortunately, was to seek in the phenomena of the tides his favourite proof of the Earth's rotation." ( Pierre Duhem in Catholic Encyclopedia, s.v. 'History of Physics', sect. 14.)

Calcagnini (1479-1541) was the star Ferrarese humanist of his generation-justly celebrated in Ariosto, Orlando Furioso XLII.90 & XLVI.14); he held the chair of Greek and Latin (appointed 1507/9) at Ferrara, but was effectively humanist-on-retainer to the d'Este family: serving them at court or diplomatically (see Contemporaries of Erasmus for a thumbnail sketch.) Although he is best known for a proto-Copernican argument for the earth revolving on its own axis (posthumously published in 1544), his learning embraced, besides classics, contemporary mathematics and astronomy, antiquarian concerns centering around Raphael and his circle regarding the topography of Rome, and anti-Lutheran and anti-Protestant polemics. He had extensive personal relations with the leading European humanists, Erasmus among them. He was also an esteemed writer of neo-Latin poetry, and his mannerist epigrams, paradoxical and cryptic, show an affinity the texts which would accompany the burgeoning genre of emblem books. The remainder of the volume consists of humanist tracts and a selection of Calcagnini's correspondence.

* Adams C-177; Riccardi I.209; Stillwell, Awakening Interest in Science 34; Thorndike V.409; DBI XVI.492ff.

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