Innsbruck: Daniel Agricola, 1619.
1st Edition. Hardcover. 4to - over 9¾ - 12" tall. Near Fine. Item #003353
4to (215 x 164 mm). , 1-199, 100-138, 239-254 pp., engraved allegorical plate bound after dedication, several woodcut illustrations and diagrams in text, woodcut initials, head- and tailpieces. Pp. 200-237 mispaginated 100-137. Bound in contemporary vellum, spine painted over and lettered in ink, boards with blind-ruling, blue-dyed edges (worming to boards, joints and pastedowns, hinges split at head of spine, spine with cancelled ink shelf-marks). Preserved in marbled slip-case. Text crisp and clean with only very minor occasional spotting. Provenance: neat inscription on title "Ex dono (cancelled "libris") Eliae Schilleri"; old shelf marks in ink to title and flyleaf. Exceptional copy in unrestored binding. ----
RARE FIRST EDITION of one of the most famous and important works in the history of optics. Christoph Scheiner (1573-1650), a Jesuit astronomer and pioneer in physiological optics, here demonstrates for the first time that the retina is the actual organ of sight and explained the pupil changes known as 'accommodation.' He also describes the nasal exit of the optic nerve and, like Kepler, proved that the retina is the seat of vision. "In 1583, the physician Felix Platter . . . was the first to suggest that the structure responsible for sensitivity to light was the optic nerve (seen today's knowledge this is wrong) and the retina (correct). Kepler proposed that the image (he called it 'Pictura') was instead formed on the retina at the back of the eye; this however implicated that the picture was inverted (upside down) and reversed (right and left flipped). In 1604, Kepler rightly assumed that the fact that we see an upright picture is not a question on optics or anatomy but happens in the brain. It was Christoph Scheiner who provided the experimental proof: he dissected the eye of a bull or cow and could see the inverted picture on the translucent retina. He published his findings in 1619, in 'Oculus hoc est: fundamentum opticum'. Unfortunately for Scheiner, in 1637, Descartes wrote his widely-read book 'La Dioptrique' without providing his primary sources. Therefore, Scheiner's major contributions were often missed, and are only re-discovered in the last years." B.M.Moritz, Christoph Sceiner SJ - Sunspots and the Human Eye, Science meets faith, online resources, 2018). The 'Scheiner experiment', a demonstration of the refractive changes occurring in the eye when accommodating, is still taught in ophthalmology to prove defects of the eyes optic system. "The intricate frontispiece depicts a 'camera obscura' and a system of inverting lenses, as well as the newly-invented telescope. The peacock in the foreground carries a double meaning, representing not only the science of optics, but the overly prideful Galileo." (Linda Hall Library). References: Garrison-Morton 1480; Roller-G. II, 404; NLM/Krivatsy 10364; Waller 8585; de Backer-Sommervogel VII, 738; DSB, XII, pp. 151-52; Linda Hall Library, Jesuit Science in the Age of Galileo, 9. - Visit our website to see more images!
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