Tabulae motuum coelestium perpetuae; ex omnium temporum observationibus constructae, temporumque omnium observationibus consentientes. Item novae et genuinae motuum coelestium theoricae & Astronomicarum observationum thesaurus.

Middelberg: Zacharias Roman [Colophon: Leiden: Willem Christiaens van der Boxe], 1632.

First edition, very rare, of Lansbergen’s astronomical tables. Lansbergen was a staunch Copernican, and “complained with justification that the Church opposed the heliocentric hypothesis on theological grounds alone, without examining the evidence and the scientific arguments in its support” (Heninger, The Cosmographical Glass, p.  68). Lansbergen could not, however, accept Johannes Kepler’s elliptical orbits, upon which Kepler had based his own Rudolphine Tables published five years earlier. Lansbergen attacked Kepler in his early works, and produced these rival tables which were founded on a more traditional epicyclic theory. Lansbergen’s tables were simpler than Kepler’s and were widely used by astronomers throughout the 1630s, but they eventually began to fall out of favour when they were found to be less accurate than Kepler’s. They continued to find supporters, however, as late as the 1660s (they were reprinted by Roman in 1652). Early works by Lansbergen are rare; the last copies to appear in ABPC/RBH were in the Macclesfield and Honeyman sales, neither of which included the present work; in fact, ABPC/RBH list only a single copy of Lansbergen’s tables in the last fifty years. Lansbergen’s works are most accessible in the Opera Omnia (1663), which appears with some regularity on the market.

The brilliant young English astronomer Jeremiah Horrocks (1618-1641) bought a copy of Lansbergen’s Tabulae in 1635 (when he was 16). This proved to be a fateful purchase, for his reading of this work led to his famous observation of the transit of Venus across the Sun’s face in 1639. Based on the Rudolphine Tables, Kepler had predicted that Venus would be visible on the Sun’s face on 6 December 1631, but the transit was not observed as it began after sunset in Europe. “However, Lansbergen had also predicted a Venus transit for 1639 [ironically, Kepler, using his more accurate Rudolphine Tables, had predicted that Venus would pass below the Sun’s disc on this date]. Although Horrocks placed more faith in Kepler, the possibility of a second transit piqued his curiosity. Horrocks took Lansbergen’s tables and determined that indeed, Lansbergen was correct: A transit would occur at about 3 p.m. on 4 December 1639. Using the Rudolphine Tables, Horrocks was able to understand why Kepler predicted that the second transit would pass below the visible disk of the Sun. However, with Horrocks’s revised and more accurate version of Kepler’s table it was clear that Venus would transit the southern face of the Sun, though well below the position predicted by Lansberg” (Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, under Horrocks).

Horrocks’s copy of Lansbergen’s tables is now in Trinity College Library, Cambridge, having been presented to the College by Augustus de Morgan in the 19th century. Horrocks appended a full-page diagram of the Copernican system to the book, yet with the addition of an orbit for the Sun about the earth, thus giving a shadowy impression of the Tychonic alternative. His copy also contains a list in Horrocks's own hand itemizing the astronomical books he owned and had studied by 1635. It contains 31 titles, all of them in Latin, some translated from medieval Arabic writers, and virtually all, except Pliny, highly mathematical. No less than four of the titles are by Kepler (including, of course, the Rudolphine Tables).

“Born of Protestant parents who left the Netherlands for religious reasons in 1566, young Philip Lansbergen (1561-1632) grew up in France and England, where he was educated in mathematics and theology. Upon his return to the Netherlands without a degree in 1579, he accepted employment as a minister in Antwerp, but when this city was conquered by the Spanish in 1585, Lansbergen went to Leiden to apply himself to theology. Shortly after he married Sara Lievaerts in 1586, Lansbergen moved to Goes to be a minister again. Here, alongside his religious acts, he developed his liberal views on astronomy, was engaged in politics, and practiced medicine.

“In 1613, after a series of minor incidents, Lansbergen ran into serious problems. The death of one of his patients caused a protracted medical controversy, and his opposition to the appointment of a new mayor ended in his dismissal. Thereupon, he moved to Middelburg and, provided with an annuity of “the Staten van Zeeland,” Lansbergen addressed himself mainly to astronomy, mathematics, and medicine until his death in 1632. His wife died in 1625; he left six sons and four daughters …

“Lansbergen's further works on astronomy and mathematics comprised studies on the use of the astronomical quadrant and astrolabe, the sizes and distances of celestial bodies, the design of planar sundials, and problems in spherical trigonometry” (Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, under Lansbergen).

Brunet III, col. 825; Graesse IV, p. 101; Houzeau & Lancaster 12758. Not in Honeyman, Macclesfield or Norman.

Three parts in one volume, folio (288 x 192 mm), pp. [1-23] 24-79 [1:blank]; [1-2] 3-180; 1-186 [5] [1:blank], with one folding letterpress table, including engraved title-page by Daniel van den Bremden after Adriaen van den Venne with allegorical representations of the astronomers Aristarchus, Hipparchus, Ptolemaeus, Alfonso, Brahe, Albategnius, Copernicus, and the author, engraved portrait of the author by Willem Deff, special title-page to second part, woodcut illustrations, woodcut printer’s device above colophon. Contemporary vellum, additional engraved portrait of Lansbergen pasted to inner front board, light water stain to inner klower margin of first 24 leaves. A fine and unrestored copy.

Item #4061

Price: $8,500.00

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