In a 3000-lot, May 6-8 series of sales held by Reiss & Sohn (18% buyer’s premium) in Königstein a rare, 1668 Danzig first of Hevelius’ Cometographia… was bid to €35,000 (£30,100).
This is a work that puts forward the idea that the motions of comets are fundamentally parabolic and was the culmination of some 15 years of study and several earlier publications on the subject. It is illustrated with 38 engraved plates, four of them double-page, along with around 70 text illustrations.
In the engraved title-page, the seated figure of Johannes Hevelius points at his diagram of a cometary orbit shown as a conic section combined with a spiral, the sun at the focus of the former, and points out the errors of his predecessors.
Hevelius’ astronomical instruments are seen on the roof of his Danzig observatory behind them.
A record for the work was set in 2001 at Sotheby’s New York, when a fine example in contemporary French red morocco, once part of the John Rylands library, was bid to $65,000 (then around £45,000) as part of the scientific library of Joseph Freilich. In the 1988 Sotheby’s London sale of books from the Rylands library it had made £5800.
Sold for €17,000 (£14,620) in the Königstein im Taunus sale was a 1656 first of Hevelius’ Dissertatio de nativa saturni facie, eius(que) variis phasibus…, a treatise on the configuration of Saturn illustrated with four engraved plates and a title-page vignette.
At the foot of the title-page is a manuscript dedication by its author to the Jesuit scholar and writer Athanasius Kircher.