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Tycho's Observatory

[BRAHE, Tycho]/RESEN, Peder Hansen. Inscriptiones Haffnienses Latinae Danicae et Germanicae Inscriptionibus Amagriensibus Uraniburgicis et Stellaeburgicis' Duabus Epsitolis una Tychonii Brahe ad Peucerum missa. Copenhagen, H. Gordianus, 1668.

4to., (16) ff., 431 (i.e. 429), (1) pp., (5) ff., 5 folding plates (2 engraved and 1 woodcut outside of collation, 2 folding woodcut plates within collation), and several additional large woodcuts in text. Bound in contemporary Danish calf, spine with raised bands richly gilt, covers a bit scuffed and joints a little worn. Ex libri of K. A. Jacobsen and Aage Gilberg on front pastedown. Running title and extreme right margin cropped on some leaves; pale waterstain in corners of scattered leaves; generally a fresh, appealing copy.


Scarce first and only edition of this work on Danish antiquities, of considerable interest for the history of astronomy for containing extensive material on Tycho Brahe and his island observatory. The fact that the astronomer receives such extensive attention in a work in which the spotlight would normally be focused on royal and historical monuments testifies to the great prestige Tycho enjoyed in his native land.
Located on the island of Hven, Brahe’s landmark castle-observatory, the “Uraniborg” was the seat of many of his landmark astronomical discoveries, and is described and pictured in a number of plates. Also pictured is a map of the island, Brahe’s most famous globe—over 5 ft. in diameter—and architectural plans of the buildings. The latter were destroyed shortly after Tycho left Denmark, making their record here all the more valuable.
The large engraving of the Copenhagen observatory (opp. p. 197), where Ole Römer would soon be making observations, is among the earliest (if not the earliest) depictions of this building. The structure was destroyed by fire in 1728.

In addition to these valuable documents for the design and operation of Uraniborg, the work contains what seems to be the earliest bibliography of Brahe’s writings (p. 383 ff.), a life of the astronomer, and a previously unpublished letter by Brahe to his former teacher Caspar Peucer on the value of the Alfonsine Tables.’ (p. 392 ff.)

* DSB II.404; J. R. Christiansen, "The Celestial Palace of Tycho Brahe," Scientific American 204 no. 2 (1961), 118-128, and On Tycho?s Island (2000).

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