Thursday - 24 April 2014

An unabashedly Copernican treatise

28 November 2002Written by ATG Reporter

A PRE-VESALIAN anatomy and a pioneering German surgical treatise are featured in the caption story below, while among the other scientific texts in an October 2 sale of early printed books held by Swanns were two important works by Kepler.

The first of these to be offered was a 1595, first of Prodromus dissertationum cosmographiae..., a Tübingen publication that contained Kepler’s first published work, Mysterium cosmographicum – described in DSB as “essentially the first unabashedly Copernican treatise since De Revolutionibus itself” – as well as the first printing of Rheticus’ announcement of the Copernican heliocentric theory in De libris revolutionum Nicolai Copernici, and the first printing of De dimensionibus orbium et sphaerum coelestium by Kepler’s astronomy professor at Tübingen, Michael Mästlin. Browned and occasionally shaved in later boards, it lacked one of the five plates and had faults to two others, but it sold at $13,000 (£8335).

Bid to $15,000 (£9615) was a copy of the first collected edition of Kepler’s principal writings on comets, a 1619-20 Augsburg edition of De cometis which, like the above-mentioned volume, was in early 19th century boards and showed evidence of the removal of old stamps.

Bound in contemporary vellum and with one gathering loose, a 1713, Basel first edition of Jacques Bernoulli’s Ars conjectandi..., the first systematic attempt to place the theory of probability on a firm basis, was sold at $7500 (£4810).

Two of the earlier texts from the medicine & science section of the Swanns sale of October 2 are illustrated here. Above right: the first
published view of the cerebral ventricles from an actual dissection, this is one of 23 woodcut anatomical plates from a 1523 second edition of Berengaria da Carpi’s Isagogae..., a condensation of his 152 Commentaria.

Bound in late 18th/early 19th century speckled sheep, this was the Haskell F. Norman copy which in 1998 made $10,000 at Christie’s and this time sold at $11,000 (£7050).

Right: one of 52 large woodcuts from a 1497, Strassburg first edition (second issue) of Hieronymus Brunschwig’s ...Buch der Cirurgia. Lacking the title and three illustrated leaves (all replaced in facsimile) but incorporating a four-leaf continuation of the fourth tract and the six-leaf pamphlet on Anathomia, this somewhat stained and browned copy in a contemporary binding of the first German surgical treatise, a compilation of ancient and medieval authorities that also includes the first detailed account of gunshot wounds, was sold at $16,000 (£10,255).
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