Historia Coelestis. (on verso of title-page:) Ex libris commentariis manu-scriptis observationum vicennalium. 2 Parts.

(Augsburg, Simon Utzschneider, 1666).

Folio. Both parts bound together in one contemporary full vellum binding with gilt leather title-label to spine. Green silk ties. A bit of discolouration to spine and title-label worn, but otherwise remarkably fine. Square corners, no bumping or tearing, and completely tight. Internally extraordinarily well kept, seemingly unread. The leaves are completely white, fresh, and crisp. Armorial book plate to inside of front board and the ownership signature of Otto Friedrich von Buchwald. 20th century machine-written bookseller's description lightly pasted in between front end-papers. Small armorial stamp to top of title-page.

Two xylographic title-pages, engraved portrait of Brahe with his sextant, double-page engraved frontispiece depicting the four emperors with terrestrial and celestial globes, and one plate engraved plate depicting Brahe's observatory at Hven (after p. CVIII). (6) ff. + CXXIV pp. + pp (1)-544 + (2 ff., after the second xylographic title) + pp. 547-912 + (2 ff.) + pp. 913-977 + (1 p., i.e. colophon). Fully complete, though no blank at the end. With numerous magnificent woodcut figures and illustrations in the text, many of them large. 

Exceedingly scarce first - and only complete - edition of Brahe's groundbreaking astronomical observations. These are the observations that formed the basis for Kepler's Rudolphine tables (1627) and the observations that lie at the heart of both Brahe's and Kepler's astronomical breakthroughs.

On his deathbed (1601), Brahe had urged Kepler to publish the vast observations as soon as possible, but this seminal collection of immense importance to the future of astronomy remained unpublished, until the Jesuit Albert Curtz edited them and had them published, as they are here, in 1666. 68 pages of the observations were published later, in Paris ca 1680, but apart from that torso, this is the only edition of Brahe's vast observations to have been published. 

Brahe’s observations that are published here on their own for the first time and form the basis for the Rudolphine Tables constitute the first modern – and by far the most important – attempt at making a complete catalogue of astronomical observations. These observations were of fundamental importance to establishing the movement of the planets, including whether the sun or Earth is at the centre of the solar system.

The observations presented in this extraordinary work go as far back as 721 and contain the incredibly vast observational data that Brahe and his assistants gathered with the aid of his seminal instruments. Brahe’s instruments were of monumental importance to the beginning of modern empirical science and crucial to the new astronomy, observing the stars and the planets with a hitherto impossible accuracy.

“The instruments of Tycho Brahe represent a major achievement in astronomical science, because they provided much more accurate readings than previously possible, and on the basis of Tycho Brahe's observations Kepler determined the laws of planetary motions and from these laws Newton discovered the law of gravity. Not until the invention of the telescope some years after Tycho Brahe's death was it possible to get more accurate readings.” (From the Brahe exhibition at the Royal Library of Denmark).

Although the idea of a “star catalogue” was by no means new, Brahe’s star accurate observations presented a completely novel basis for the understanding of the heavens. “The Rudolphine Tables”, named for Rudolf II, Holy Roman emperor and patron of Kepler and Tycho, published by Kepler in 1627 are based principally upon these observations by Brahe and is by far the best and most important of the pretelescopic catalogues. It is accurate to a few minutes of arc and contains positions for 1,005 stars (increased by Kepler from Tycho’s 777) and tables and directions for locating the planets.

”Hipparchus completed the first known catalog in 129 BCE, giving the celestial longitudes and latitudes of about 850 stars. This work was enlarged and improved by Ptolemy, the Alexandrian astronomer and mathematician, in his Almagest (c. 140 CE). At Samarkand (now in Uzbekistan), Ulugh Beg (1394–1499), grandson of Timur (Tamerlane), working in his own observatory in the years 1420–37, compiled a catalog that became known in Europe in the 1500s and was printed there in 1665.

The last and finest catalog of the pretelescope era was made by the skilled Danish observer Tycho Brahe (1546–1601). It was included in expanded form in the Rudolphine Tables of the mathematical astronomer Johannes Kepler. Tycho’s catalog was the first in which Greek letters were assigned to stars to indicate their relative brightnesses within each constellation.” (Encycl. Britt.)

In short, the importance of Brahe’s observations to astronomy and our knowledge of the heavens can hardly be exaggerated.

“Copernicus had largely based his work on a body of existing observations of the heavens. Although he did some observational work, the bulk of his contribution was focused on re-evaluating existing data from a different perspective. However, Tycho Brahe had a different approach. Born in 1546, (three years after the publication of Copernicus' “De Revolutionibus”) Brahe became a famous astronomer, well known for his unprecedented collection of astronomical data. Brahe's contributions to astronomy had revolutionary impacts in their own right.

In 1563, at age 16, he observed Jupiter overtaking Saturn as the planets moved past each other. Even with his simple observations he saw that existing tables for predicting this conjunction were off by a month, and even Copernicus's model was off by two days. In his work, he demonstrated that better data could help to create much more robust models.

In November of 1572 Brahe observed a new star in the constellation of Cassiopeia. With a sextant and cross-staff he was able to measure the star's position and became convinced that it was in the realm of the supposed unmoving fixed stars. This observation was inconsistent with the longstanding belief that the celestial realm was a place of perfect and unchanging fixed stars.

Alongside this development, the appearance of a comet in 1577 provided additional evidence that things did change and did move in the celestial sphere. Based on careful measurements, Brahe was able to identify that the comet was outside the sphere of the moon and he eventually suggested it was moving through the spheres of different planets.

As a result of these observations, Brahe put forward a new model for the cosmos. In Brahe's model, all of the planets orbited the sun, and the sun and the moon orbited the Earth. Keeping with his observations of the new star and the comet, his model allowed the path of the planet Mars to cross through the path of the sun.

Many scientists have been critical of Brahe's model as a backward step in the progress of science. However, it is critical to remember the value that Brahe's system offered. This system had the advantage of resolving the problem of stellar parallax. One of the persistent critiques of Copernicus's model (and even of Aristarchus model in ancient Greece) was that with a moving Earth one should expect to see parallax movement of the stars. As the Earth changes position in relationship to that of the stars, one would expect to see the stars change position relative to each other. Copernicus' answer was that the stars had to be so distant that it wasn't possible to detect parallax. Still, the distance required to make this work was so massive as to be a problem for the system.

This was not a problem for Brahe's system because his model allowed for the circles in the heavens to intersect. Brahe's model was not a step backward; but revolutionary in the sense that it was a competing way to make sense of the data the heavens provided.

Johannes Kepler, born in 1571, made major contributions to astronomy as his work mixed sophisticated mathematics and astronomy with mystical ideas about astrology... Kepler worked for Tycho Brahe, publishing an extensive amount of Brahe's data in  “Rudolphine Tables”. Although he used much of that data for his own publications Kepler's work would significantly depart from Brahe's.

Using Tycho Brahe's observational data, Kepler was able to fine tune the movements of the planets and demonstrate that the movement of Mars could be described as an ellipse. … Kepler's work foreshadowed the discovery of one of the fundamental forces of physics, the law of gravity.” (Library of Congress: Finding our Place in the Cosmos with Carl Sagan).


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DKK 580.000,00