La Flèche: George Griveau, 1645.
Presentation copy of the first edition of this rare and richly illustrated Jesuit anti-Copernican tract by Jacques Grandami (1588-1672), rector of the Jesuit college of La Flèche, which was attended by both Descartes and Mersenne. In this work Grandami employs the ‘magnetic philosophy’ initiated by William Gilbert to refute the heliocentrist position. He also claims to have solved the problem of determining longitude at sea. In the first decades of the seventeenth century ‘magnetic philosophy’ was used both by heliocentrists and their opponents to support their positions, and Grandami had discussed his views with Descartes and Mersenne, as well as with Huygens, before the publication of this work. “In the seventeenth century debates over the Copernican hypothesis numerous astronomers used magnetism and magnetic theories of attraction to substantiate their theoretical arguments and experimental proofs. William Gilbert initiated the introduction of magnetism into astronomical debate and the analogy between magnets and celestial bodies was subsequently employed in various ways by the heliocentrists, including Kepler and Galileo. By calling up Gilbert’s magnetic philosophy in support of Copernican astronomy, Kepler and Galileo influenced the course of astronomical debate by strengthening the analogy and by cementing together the two sciences of magnetism and celestial physics. Yet magnetic arguments and magnetic analogies did not remain the province of heliocentrists alone. Opponents of Copernican theory likewise turned to magnetism, this time to refute the astronomy which common sense and Scriptural authority opposed. The hope of disproving the Copernican hypothesis by means of magnetic studies provided a strong stimulus to such studies in the scientific community” (Baldwin, p. 155). Grandami considered the present work to be a major contribution, continuing to discuss it with Huygens as late as 1669. ABPC/RBH list only two copies sold since 1942 (neither of them presentation copies): Honeyman 1979, £700 (cont. calf worn, one plate torn and repaired), this subsequently offered by Howell in 1981 for $3250; Christie's 2016, £7500 (modern binding, uncut).
The remarkable frontispiece “reflects the Jesuits’ preoccupation with magnetic cosmology. At the top two angels symbolize God’s providence in imbuing the Earth with a magnetic quality to prevent it moving. The quotation from Ecclesiastes I, 4 emphasizes the unique conformity of Jesuit magnetics with scripture. The central image is of a cherub conducting Grandami’s basic experiment to prove magnetic immobility … Navigational interests are again represented. The cherub on the right carries Grandami’s allegedly non-declining compass needle, with which he claimed to have solved the problem of longitude at sea” (Pumfrey, p. 52).
Provenance: presented by the author to an unidentified recipient ‘I. B.’ (frontispiece inscribed at foot ‘I. B. Auctor D[ono] D’ in contemporary hand); subsequently given to the library of the Jesuit domus professae in Antwerp by Daniel Papebroch in 1682 (printed title inscribed at head ‘Domûs Professae Soc: Jesu Antuerpiae’, front free endpaper with inscription ‘Musei SS. in Domo professâ Soc. Iesu Antuerp. Dedit Bibliothecae ejûsdem Domûs R. P. Papebrochius 1682’); contemporary hand-written list, on paper, of 11 books (this being the first) pasted to upper cover. Daniel Papebroch (1628-1714) was an important Flemish Jesuit hagiographer and Bollandist. He was a leading revisionist figure, bringing historical criticism to bear on traditions of saints of the Catholic Church.
The analogy between magnetic and celestial phenomena originated in William Gilbert’s seminal De magnete (1600). Gilbert stated that the Earth possessed magnetic force and behaved like a large magnet in the cosmos. The Earth was endowed with the same motions of attraction, aggregation of parts, revolution and direction that a loadstone possessed. The Earth shared with a spherical loadstone the magnetic motion of rotation: when its axis was inclined to the plane of another magnet, this magnetic force caused the Earth to rotate on its axis every 24 hours. In addition, the Earth maintained a constant orientation in space, just as a loadstone kept itself aligned in a constant north-south position. He also proposed that the magnetic influence of the Sun extends throughout the Solar System: ‘The sun (chief inciter of action in nature), as he causes the planets to advance in their courses, so, too, doth bring about this revolution of the globe [of the Earth] by sending forth the energies of the spheres …’ For Gilbert, magnetism was a cosmic force, governing and regulating the motions of the planets.
The first Continental scientists to seize upon the application of the magnetic analogy to heavenly bodies were heliocentrists, notably Kepler and Galileo. Kepler was thoroughly familiar with Gilbert’s work by the time he wrote Astronomia nova (1609). Kepler saw his own work as a celestial extension of that of Gilbert: “If I believe anything, you after reading my book will be persuaded that I have placed a celestial rooftop upon the magnetical philosophy of Gilbert, who himself has built the terrestrial foundation”. Kepler attributed magnetic force to the individual planets as well as to the Sun in order to account for the planets’ elliptical orbits. Later, in his Epitome (1617-21), Kepler deemed the interiors of these celestial bodies to be similar to those of a loadstone. Galileo, too, applied magnetism to celestial physics. In his Dialogo (1632), he turned to magnetic force to explain the constancy of the Earth’s polar tilt and discussed Gilbert’s work. He too appealed to magnetic analogy and argued that just as a loadstone was imbued with a horizontal rotatory motion to hold its axis in a constant north-south direction, so too did the Earth hold its poles at a fixed angle despite its other annual and diurnal motions.
The Jesuit Niccolo Cabeo was the first after Gilbert to publish a full treatise on magnetism, Philosophia magnetica (1629). Cabeo granted that the magnetic force of the whole Earth had some role in the cosmos, but he severely restricted this role: Gilbert had overstated the issue. Twelve years later, another Jesuit, Athenasius Kircher, published Magnes, sive de arte magnetica, in which he took up the challenge of refuting the magnetic astronomy of the heliocentrists. Three other Jesuit scientists joined the attack: the Frenchman Jacques Grandami in 1645, the Italian Niccolo Zucchi in 1649, and the German Gaspar Schott in 1657. Grandami attacked Copernican astronomy in the present work which was devoted exclusively to the subject; Zucchi and Schott embedded their challenges in larger volumes devoted to much broader subjects.
“Though there were some points of disagreement among the magnetic philosophies of the five Jesuits, all consistently defended a geocentrist cosmos and all argued that magnetism was a physical force which helped keep the Earth properly aligned in the centre of the universe. To support their various experimental arguments, each of the five turned to metaphysical arguments of final causes. None endorsed a separation of religious and scientific truth; all five believed religious truth informed scientific knowledge.
“Although Kircher’s work on magnetism antedated that of Jacques Grandami, the two Jesuits had corresponded about the matter before the publication of either work. Grandami, a French Jesuit who taught philosophy and theology at Bourges, Rennes, Tours, La Flèche, Rouen and Paris, published what he considered to be the definitive work on magnetic astronomy, his Nova demonstratio immobilitatis terrae petita ex virtut magnetica. Prior to its publication he had indicated in a letter his debt to Cabeo for his theoretical thinking: “Although gravity causes the Earth to stand in the centre of the world, it is not able to impede its circular motion around the centre, especially against the daily agitation of all the sea waters in the changing tides and in violent storms. Thus it is that another quality is added and assigned to immobility … This quality is sufficient for effecting this immobility and for restoring the Earth’s situation with the poles of the sky if by chance it should be disturbed. I call this quality the magnetic quality since in magnetic bodies the rest and constant immobility on the meridian line (or near it) are seen everywhere.”
“Grandami’s “new demonstration” consisted of a revised experiment of Petrus Peregrinus. He believed the experiment proved the quiet of the Earth and he expected it to silence all Copernican objections to a stationary Earth in revolving heavens. The experiment involved placing a spherically-shaped loadstone in a glass container. As the loadstone floated freely on water and when its north pole dipped, he observed that it would establish a stable position with its pole aligning with those of the heavens. Also, it would return to that position of dislodged again. Accepting Gilbert’s analogy of a spherical loadstone and Earth and Gilbert’s contention that the whole Earth possessed magnetic force, Grandami argued that his experiment proved that the Earth did not rotate about its axis diurnally as Gilbert had declared. To aid his reader Grandami set forth the logical parts of his “new demonstration”: no body having magnetic virtue moves around its poles (major proposition); the Earth has magnetic virtue (minor proposition); the Earth does not turn around its poles (conclusion). He claimed to have proved the major proposition from the floating loadstone experiment; the minor proposition and his fundamental idea of terrestrial magnetism he drew from Gilbert. His experiment followed closely that of Petrus Peregrinus, but his conclusion was opposed to that of his medieval predecessor who argued in favour of a suspended loadstone’s perpetual motion around its poles …
“According to Grandami, gravity kept the Earth in the middle of the universe and prevented any upward or downward motion of the terrestrial mass. But gravity alone was insufficient to keep the Earth from turning around its centre. Gravity provided no resistance to circular motion. Only magnetic force held the Earth aligned with the poles of the sky. God had placed the poles of the sky as He had in order to keep the Earth’s magnetic poles fixed and immobile. Grandami believed that the sky had no magnetic quality of its own, but rather teemed with celestial intelligences who oversaw the constant motions of the stars …
“In addition to asserting that magnetism was a primary force in maintaining the Earth’s immobility, Grandami wandered into the realms of celestial and terrestrial physics. He denied all natural circular motion in bodies other than magnets and claimed that magnets moved circularly only when suspended at their centres and when their poles were placed in a position naturally not agreeable to themselves. Furthermore he denied perpetual motion in magnets and noted that a magnet could easily be robbed of its virtue. Magnets naturally tended to stand still or to move themselves only in order to obtain a stable and quiet position” (Baldwin, pp. 167-9).
Grandami (1588-1672) entered the Society of Jesus at age 19 and, like many of his colleagues, spent his career doing ministry and teaching literature, theology, and philosophy. The list of Grandami’s publications is comparatively short, made up of only nine entries with possible duplication of the same works under different titles. All of those works are technical in nature and, with the exception of the present work, they belong to the 1660s, the last decade in the author’s life, when he was living at the Collège de Clermont in Paris.
While chronology remained Grandami’s main focus of interest throughout his career, he desired to educate the public on matters of pure science in relation to celestial phenomena. This resulted in the publication, in the years 1664–66, of three French-language booklets aimed at the growing audience of people who could read fluently their native French but did not know Latin. One of these dealt with two eclipses observed in 1666: first, the partial lunar eclipse of 16 June 1666, and second, the hybrid solar eclipse of 2 July 1666. The other two tracts dealt with the comets of 1664 and 1665. Although Grandami’s views on the nature of comets were essentially Aristotelian, whereas Aristotle regarded comets as a product of sublunar exhalations, for Grandami they belonged in the heavenly regions located beyond the Moon. But Grandami was not ready to contemplate the notion that there might be fire burning in the heavens.
Ronalds, p. 208; Wheeler Gift 122.
Baldwin, ‘Magnetism and the anti-Copernican polemic,’ Journal for the History of Astronomy 16 (1985), pp. 155-74). Pumfrey, ‘Magnetical philosophy and astronomy 1600-1650,’ pp. 45-53 in Planetary astronomy from the Renaissance to the rise of astrophysics. Part A: Tycho Brahe to Newton, 1989.
4to, pp. [viii], 170 (recte 160), with additional engraved allegorical frontispiece by F. Rousseuille, seven engraved plates (comprising nine figures), one folding, and 24 engravings in the text (two repeated from one plate); occasional light marginal dampstaining and a few spots, a very good copy in contemporary vellum.