The Laws of Planetary Motion - A Masterpiece of modern Astronomy
Astronomia nova ΑΙΤΙΟΛΟΓΗΤΟΣ, seu physica coelestis, tradita commentariis de motibus stellae Martis, ex observationibus G.V. Tychonis Brahe.
Heidelberg: Gotthard Vögelin, 1609.
1st Edition. Hardcover. Folio - over 12 - 15" tall. Very Good. Item #003475
Folio (388 x 250 mm). Work in five parts, each with separate half-title page, but continuous pagination and signatures. Text in Latin with small sections in Greek. , 337,  pp., folding letterpress table, woodcut initials, head- and tailpieces, approx. 300 woodcut diagrams in text, complete with first and final blanks. Signatures: π2 (2*-4*)6 (A-2D)6 2E8 π1 and 2E8 blanks). Recased in early 18th century vellum, new endpapers, brown-dyed edges (vellum soiled). Text mostly heavily browned, tiny holes in leaves O6 and P1 with loss of a few letters of text, repaired tear in leaf T1 without loss, a few wormholes at gutter (sometimes touching text), burn hole in leaf S6. Provenance: "Pertinet ad Bibliothecam [--]", obscured inscription on title-page. Although heavily browned as usual, a very good and wide-margined copy. ----
FIRST EDITION, AND EXCEPTIONALLY RARE, of Kepler's most important work and a masterpiece of modern astronomy containing the first enunciation of the first two laws of planetary motion: the law of elliptical orbits, formulating that the orbits of planets are shown to be elliptic rather than circular, demonstrated by his calculations of the orbit of Mars, and the law of equal areas, which shows that the planets move faster when they are closer to the sun.
In 1607 Kepler had the wood blocks cut in Prague, and in 1608 he sent the text to be printed by the successors of Ernst Vögelin (1529-89) in Heidelberg. The absence of an imprint was due to the fact that the edition was not intended for commerce: the Emperor held the rights to its distribution, since Kepler had written it in his post of court astronomer, and it had been printed at imperial expense. Kepler, however, thought otherwise, his salary being long in arrears, and he sold his copies to the publisher. Although the size of the press run is not recorded, Kepler later stated that only "a few copies" had been printed (Caspar, p. 55).
The influence this book had on other great astronomers, from his contemporary Galileo to the later Newton, was substantial and enabled Newton to form his own laws of motion and universal gravitation. Kepler's and Newton's laws became the basis of celestial mechanics. Kepler, a student of the "cautious Copernican" Michael Maestlin in Tübingen, used Copernicus's theory of heliocentrism as the basis for his treatise, and combined it with the observational accuracy of Tycho Brahe, whose calculations he acquired through his post as imperial mathematician to Rudolf II, following Tycho's death in Prague in 1601. Disagreement with Tycho's heirs led to delays with the publication which only commenced in the summer of 1608, once Tycho's son-in-law, Franz Tengnagel, was able to add a note to the reader regarding Kepler's deviance from Tycho's calculations. The publication was supposed to be distributed privately by the Emperor, who held the rights to its distribution, since Kepler had written it in his post of court astronomer, but Kepler sold some copies to the printer Ernst Vögelin successors in Heidelberg in an attempt to recoup some of his salary, which was in arrears. Although the size of the press run is not recorded, Kepler later stated that only "a few copies" had been printed (see Caspar, p. 55).
Johannes Kepler stands, with Galileo between Copernicus and Newton among the founders of modem astronomy and of a new conception of the universe. 'The New Astronomy' is perhaps his most important book . . . Compelled as a Protestant to give up his post as a teacher of mathematics at Graz, he joined Tycho Brahe, the famous Danish astronomer, at Prague and on his death became mathematician to the Emperor Rudolf II, a great patron of science. It was fortunate that Kepler was able to use the mass of material collected by Tycho Brahe. Brahe had greatly improved the construction of astronomical instruments and with these had made systematic and accurate observations over many years. Although he departed from the traditional picture of the universe on some critical issues, he regarded the idea of the motion of the earth as absurd: but he had lacked time to construct his own system of the universe from observation. This task he left to Kepler. Copernicus had shown the sun to be the centre of the universe round which the earth and planets revolve, but his description of their movements was still strongly influenced by ancient conceptions of order and harmony. It was Kepler's aim to determine the true movements of the planets and the mathematical and physical laws controlling them. In this task he succeeded brilliantly . . . Kepler attempted to construct a new physical cosmology into which his laws would fit, but he had no conception of the inertia of matter and still believed, like Aristotle, that movement was due to 'animal force or some equivalent'. He had an inkling of a universal force analogous to that of gravity but he identified it with magnetism. Thus, though Kepler sought for a physical system in the universe, he could not deduce the laws of planetary motion from the universal laws of motion. Of these Galileo was laying the foundations in Kepler's time, and Newton was to bring the whole into one great synthesis with the aid of the concept of universal gravitation." (PMM 112).
Literature: Caspar 31; Norman 1206; PMM 112; Dibner 5; Horblit 57; Sparrow 114; Zinner 4237; Honeyman 1783.
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