Venice: Johannes Hamman for the editors, 1496.
1st Edition. Hardcover. Very Good. Item #003689
Epitoma in Almagestum Ptolemaei. Edited by Caspar Grosch and Stephan Römer. Venice: Johannes Hamman for the editors, 31 August 1496. Super-Chancery folio (303 x 212 mm). 107 (of 108) unnumbered leaves (lacking final blank). 48 lines and headline, xylographic title, full-page woodcut of Ptolemy and Regiomontanus seated beneath an armillary sphere, within a fine white-on-black woodcut border, 279 woodcut marginal diagrams (including repeats), 6-, 7-, and 14-line white-on-black floriated and historiated woodcut initials, woodcut printer's device on colophon leaf. Signatures: a10 b-n8.6 o6 p8 (-p8, blank). Without the bifolium containing Johannes Baptista Abiosus's letter dated 15 August 1496, inserted in a minority of copies between a1 and 2). Text generally crisp and bright with only minor occasional spotting and soiling, the final gathering p working loose, clean tear at foot of title, tear without loss in text area of f. i2; f. p2 with old paper repair at gutter; final 10 gatherings with pale dampstain to lower corner; final f. p7 with paper repairs to blank margins and soiled on verso. Foliation added in pencil, an additional diagram drawn by an early reader on f. b1v and a few ink annotations elsewhere. [Bound before:] PTOLEMAEUS, Claudius. Almagestum ... opus ingens ac nobile omnes celorum motus continens. Venice: Peter Liechtenstein, 10 January 1515. , 152 leaves. Signatures: *2 a-z6 A6 B8. Woodcut initials, several woodcut diagrams at text margins, final page with woodcut printer's device printed in red and black above colophon. Text with light even browning; occational spotting, finger- and dust soiling; few pages with marginal ink smudges; title page, f. 12v and 13r soiled, faint dampstaining and fraying to fore-margin of few leaves, hole in fore-magin of f. 94 and f. 101 not affecting print, upper corner of f. 98 torn, first tables with values added in old hand, several diagrams with added ink notes.
Bound in its first, early 16th-century, German (likely Saxonian*) calf over paste-paper boards, both boards with rich blind-tooling, spine with 5 raised band and ruled in blind, original pastedowns (spine ends chipped, lacking free endpapers, corners bumped and scuffed, extremities rubbed).
Provenance: illegible old (16th century) inscriptions and a shelf mark (partly erased) on front pastedown and first title-page. Still readable are "Bibliotheca Magna", "Ex libris Iust ... urij" and "Sum ex libris Johannis" and "publici religionis notarii iurati" (partly overwritten with ave Maria verse) and "Sum ... emptus 4 fl", below "Inscriptus catalogo librorum Collegii ... S[ocietatis]. I[esu]." An erased ink stamp is pasted over with a patch of paper. According to expert Felix Hartung of Hartung & Hartung, this copy comes from a reputable German private collection assembled before 1999. We were unable to find any record of similar copies of these two works in a single volume missing from known public libraries. A very good, tall copy in untouched original binding. ----
I. FIRST EDITION and the first appearance in print of Ptolemy's Almagest in any form. The Almagest (or Mathematical syntaxis), was the chief astronomical work from its composition in the second century A.D. until the end of the sixteenth century. It was largely known in the Western Middle Ages through the twelfth century Latin translation by Gerard of Cremona, but neither Gerard's version (the second work in this vol.) nor the original Greek were printed until 1515 and 1538, respectively.
"The importance of this book lies in the fact that it enshrines, within the editor's commentary, the first appearance in print, in a Latin translation from the Greek, of the monumental compendium of Claudius Ptolemaeus of Alexandria known as the Almagest (an Arabic portmanteau word derived from the Greek for 'the great astronomer'). Its editor, Johannes Müller of Königsberg (Franconia), called after his birthplace Regiomontanus, had studied in Vienna under the astronomer Peuerbach, who had begun this translation of an abbreviated version of the Almagest. After Peuerbach's death Regiomontanus visited Italy where he became attached to Cardinal Bessarion. He studied Greek and after finding another, more accurate, manuscript of the text he finished the edition of Ptolemy's great work and had it published in Venice. The Almagest is an encyclopaedia of astronomical knowledge - much of it derived from Hipparchus, whose original texts are lost - which established astronomy as a mathematical discipline. It contains an elaborate theory of the planets, the discovery of the second inequality of the moon's motion (known as evection), the determination of the distance of the moon, an exposition of spherical and plane trigonometry and an account of the construction and use of astronomical instruments. After a stay at the Court of the Emperor Matthew Corvinus at Budapest, Regiomontanus finally settled at Nuremberg. With his patron Bernhard Walther he established the first European observatory and constructed many scientific instruments, such as astrolabes, surveying instruments, sundials and celestial globes. He founded his own printing press from which he issued his famous Ephemerides for 1474-1506. These contained calculations for the daily phases and constellations of the moon and the planets. They became a model for such tables and were widely used by the early navigators, notably Columbus. Regiomontanus corrected certain errors in the Alphonsine tables (composed in the thirteenth century and first published in Venice, 1483) which had been used hitherto; and it has even been suggested that his commentary on Ptolemy adumbrates a belief that the sun is in the centre of the universe and that the earth moves. [...] Regiomontanus’s influence was felt in both western and eastern Europe and his publication of the Almagest helped to re-introduce Greek astronomy into the western world. The first complete edition of the Almagest was published in Greek in 1533" (PMM 40).
The two inserted leaves containing a letter from the astrologer Giovan Baptista Abioso, found according to Goff in about 2 out of 34 copies only, are completely irrelevant to the text. The simply comprise prognostications, and "appear[s] to be a later supplement" (Horblit).
References: HC *13806; BMC V, 427; CIBN R-60; BSB-Ink R-67; Bod-inc R-040; IGI 5326; Klebs 841.1; Essling 895; Sander 6399; Stillwell Science, 103; Dibner, Heralds 1; Grolier/Horblit 89; Norman 1565; Evans 14; Schäfer/Arnim 192; PMM 40; Goff R-111.
II. EDITIO PRINCEPS of Ptolemy's complementary astronomical and astrological works. His astronomical survey, the Almagest, appears here in the first printing of Gerard of Cremona's Latin translation, made in Toledo in the twelfth century from an Arabic manuscript. It contains a star catalogue in books seven and eight which were still being used by Halley at the beginning of the eighteenth century, although Tycho Brahe had already corrected some of the coordinates. Ptolemy also describes various instruments for measuring the heavens.
"It was commonly assumed that [Ptolemy's] conceptions could be traced back to an essentially Aristotelian cosmology. As a matter of fact, Aristotle and Ptolemy were in agreement with regard to the sphericity of the Earth and its position at the center of the universe, as well as the sphericity and the circular motion of the heavens. Hence, the physical considerations of the philosopher and the mathematical arguments of the Alexandrine astronomer could reinforce each other concerning these central issues. What is more, the Almagest began with a mention of Aristotle's partition of speculative knowledge into the three disciplines (mathematics, physics and theology) and repeated some physical theories of Aristotle... In this consensual spirit, Sacrobosco, for one, assumed the essential concordance between Aristotle and Ptolemy and could therefore rely on both authorities in his (very) elementary introduction to spherical astronomy which, in spite of its intrinsic scientific limits, was one of the most successful textbooks ever. In Latin Europe, an 'Aristotelian-Ptolemaic cosmology' thus emerged, bringing together elements from both classical authorities. This unified geocentric worldview was assumed by most philosophers and theologians, for instance Robert Grosseteste. In his narrative of the Copernican revolution, Kuhn therefore felt legitimized to talk about an Aristotelian-Ptolemaic 'paradigm' which Copernicus' De revolutionibus was to undermine." (Omodeo, Pietro Daniel and Tupikova, Irina (2016). Cosmology and Epistemology: A Comparison between Aristotle's and Ptolemy's Approaches to Geocentrism. In: Spatial Thinking and External Representation: Towards a Historical Epistemology of Space. Berlin: Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften").
References: Adams P-2213; Houzeau & Lancaster 865; Stillwell 97; DSB XI, p. 196; Norman 1760 (for the 1528 edition).
* The binding is likely of Saxonian origin, but we were unable to identify the specific workshop. The used stamps are recorded neither in K. Haebler (Rollen- und Plattenstempel des XVI. Jahrhunders), nor in the Einbanddatenbank online of the Staatsbibliothek Berlin. However, we were able to identify a binding of a Wittenberg print of Martin Luther's Bücher with very similar blind tooling attributed to the Saxonian workshop of Johannes Weischner (1515-89) in Jena.
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