[Colophon:] Venice; ibid: Petrus Liechtenstein; ibid, 28 December 1503; February 1504.
First edition, the fine Doheny copy, of Alfonso de Córdoba’s rare astronomical tables, an important source for Copernicus who referred to them in the Commentariolus. They are here bound with the second edition of Regiomontanus’s astrological tables, the Tabulae directionum, compiled in 1467 and first published in 1490; according to Zinner, these tables were also used by Copernicus..
First edition, the fine Doheny copy in an untouched near-contemporary binding, of Alfonso de Córdoba’s rare astronomical tables, an important source for Copernicus who referred to them in the Commentariolus (the first draft of his planetary theory, which remained unpublished until the late 19th century). They are here bound with the second edition of Regiomontanus’s astrological tables, the Tabulae directionum, compiled in 1467 and first published in 1490; according to Zinner (p. 95), these tables were also used by Copernicus. The Tabulae directionum contain the first table of tangents for use in astronomy. Córdoba’s tables are divided into two parts: the first includes a dedication to Ferdinand V (1452-1516) and Isabella (1451-1504), King and Queen of Spain (who, most famously, sent Columbus on his voyage to discover a route to the East Indies) and a set of canons in sixty chapters explaining the use of the tables, with several examples; the second part contains the tables. “In the Commentariolus, Copernicus refers to the length of the year, and mentions the values given by four astronomers: Hipparchus, Ptolemy, al-Battani and a fourth referred to as ‘Hispalensis’ whose identity remained a mystery until the 20th century, when he was identified as Alfonso de Córdoba, a Spanish astronomer and doctor of arts and medicine probably born in 1458 in Seville” (Chabas). We have almost no information about Alfonso de Córdoba’s life, and even the date of his death is unknown. ABPC/RBH lists no other complete copy of the Córdoba since Honeyman (19th century binding), no complete copy of the first edition of the Regiomontanus and no other copy of the second.
Provenance: Quaritch, Catalogue 1422 (2013) (£15,000); Christie’s, The Estelle Doheny Collection from St. Mary’s of the Barrens, Perryville, Missouri, 14 December 2001, lot 253 (realized $6,462); (note in Christie’s citation): Given to Western Province by the Roman Province of the Congregation of the Mission, 11 September 1954 – donated by them to SMS, 14 May 1967; early ownership inscription, cancelled but partly visible, to last page of Córdoba; erased ownership mark to title of Regiomontanus; early monastic inscription ‘Prohibitus’ to title of Regiomontanus; early unidentified manuscript call number to spine: P | III | 33.
The Alphonsine Tables were the first astronomical tables prepared in Christian Europe. They enabled the calculation of eclipses and the positions of the planets for any given time based on the Ptolemaic theory, which assumed that the Earth was at the centre of the universe. Based on the calculations of the Arab astronomer al-Zarqali (also known as Arzachel, 1029–87), the tables were prepared in Toledo, Spain, for King Alfonso X of León and Castile (1223?–84) under the direction of Jehuda ben Moses Cohen and Isaac ben Sid. The tables were not widely known, however, until a Latin version was prepared in Paris in the 1320s. Copies rapidly spread throughout Europe, and for more than two centuries they were the best astronomical tables available. They were first printed at Venice in 1483.
“As was true for almost all European astronomers at the time, Alfonso de Córdoba faithfully adhered to the Alfonsine Tables and followed a tradition in the framework of Ptolemy’s astronomy to the point that several of his tables are taken, whether directly or not, from Ptolemy’s Almagest. Among the material used by Alfonso de Córdoba we have identified the editio princeps (1483) of the Alfonsine Tables … However, Alfonso de Córdoba did not limit himself to reproducing the tables in the 1483 edition, adapting them for the time of Queen Isabella, for there are significant changes in presentation; indeed, several of his tables have very different formats from the standard ones, indicating that he had real insights into astronomy and was able to compute competently using tables. Moreover, he constructed some tables adapted to the latitude of his city, Seville, and this bears witness to his considerable computational skill. In fact, Alfonso de Córdoba’s Tabule astronomice Elisabeth Regine may be regarded as another form of presenting the Alfonsine Tables without departing from its underlying astronomical content … Alfonso de Córdoba produced astronomy at a level similar to that of the best astronomers of his time. This is probably why his tables were used by astronomers in the 1520s, notably … Nicholas Copernicus …
“The text, written in Latin, was printed at least twice. The first edition appeared in Venice in 1503 (December 28), and was printed by Petrus Liechtenstein, the same printer who had published Alfonso de Córdoba’s edition of the Almanach Perpetuum one year earlier. The second edition of the tables of Queen Isabella, edited by Luca Gaurico (1476-1558), was printed in 1524 by Lucas Antonius Iunta, also in Venice, in a volume bound with the Alphonsine Tables … The 1524 edition omits the dedication and the canons, and only displays the tables, some of them with short explanatory notes.
“As indicated in the colophon, Alfonso de Córdoba composed his work in Rome. In Chap. 1 (a3r) we are told that the epoch of these tables is noon of the civil day prior to December 24, 1474. This is precisely the date of Queen Isabella’s accession to the throne of Castile according to Alfonso de Córdoba … The text does not introduce an ‘era of Queen Isabella of Castille’; nevertheless, Alfonso de Córdoba followed a tradition well established in the Alphonsine Tables that goes back far in time: taking some significant moment in the life of a monarch as the starting point for computing planetary positions. For example, in the celebrated Alphonsine Tables, as ‘era of Alfonso’ was defined as starting on January 1, 1252, the year in which the reign of Alfonso X of Castile and León began” (Chabas).
Johannes Müller (1436-76), called Regiomontanus, was arguably the most important astronomer of the fifteenth century. Born in the Franconian town of Königsberg, he was educated at the Universities of Leipzig and Vienna, and appointed to the Arts Faculty of the latter institution in 1457. In 1461 Regiomontanus went with Cardinal Bessarion to Rome, and accompanied him on various travels around Italy. Association with the Cardinal, a native of Trebizond in Turkey and a great patron of humanist scholarship, gave Regiomontanus access to other texts, and the opportunity for him to become fluent in Greek. Between 1467 and 1471, Regiomontanus worked in Hungary.
“Regiomontanus made these tables in 1467 at the castle in Gran … With this work he was helped by Martin Ilkusz [i.e., Martin Bylica of Olkusz, 1433-93)], a Polish master from the University of Cracow as well as doctor of theology and medicine. He was probably the one who lectured on astronomy at Bologna during 1463-64, and was later in Rome as Cardinal Barbo’s astrologer during the papal election where he met Regiomontanus, who cast him as the Cracower in opposition to the Viennese man in his dialogue on Sabbonieta’s planetary theory [Disputationes contra Cremonensia in planetarum theoricas deliramenta]” (Zinner, p. 95).
“In 1467, with Bylica’s assistance, Regiomontanus computed his Tables of Directions, which consisted of the longitudes of the celestial bodies in relation to the apparent daily rotation of the heavens. These Tables, computed for observers as far north of the equator as 60°, were first published in 1490 and very frequently thereafter. Regiomontanus wrote accompanying problems and in problem 10 he indicated the desirability of abandoning the sexagesimal character of the table of sides by putting sin 90° = 100,000 instead of 60,000 (the base he had used in Triangles, book IV, theorem 25). In that work he had not employed the tangent function; but in Tables of Directions he included a table of tangents (although he did not use this term) for angles up to 90°, the interval being 1° and tan 45° = 100,000, thereby providing the model for our modern tables” (DSB).
“For the most part, this work, called Tabulae directionum, contained tables for calculating the house boundaries, with accompanying directions for use. In Section 14 he came to speak about the several different manners of calculating the houses. Leaving out the oldest and simplest way, namely dividing the zodiac into twelve equal parts, beginning from the first of Aries — which method was even used by Cardano — he described the three most important divisions of the heavens: (1) The most common division of the zodiac by the six hourly circles, going through the terrestrial North Pole and beginning from the east point; (2) Campanus’s division by six circles, the ones through the celestial poles and the perpendicular one through the east and west points being evenly subdivided; (3) The division by six circles, which also go through the celestial North and South Poles, but the equator being evenly subdivided beginning from the east point. Regiomontanus preferred this last method and used it to calculate his tables for latitudes up to 60°. At the same time he supplied all tables that were necessary for casting horoscopes, not including those of the planetary positions, and taught how to use these tables with a number of examples given in the commentary. He also gave instructions for testing and expanding his tables.
“In the commentary to these tables, he referred to a table of sines with sin 90° = 60,000, but remarked in Section 10 that a table of sines with sin 90° = 100,000 would be much more useful. In the same section he introduced his Tabula secunda, namely a table of tangents with tan 45° = 100,000 and showed its advantages … Regiomontanus may have been the first to introduce the modern table of tangents and to emphasize its usefulness … In the commentary to his Tabulae directionum he pointed out the advantages of both this table [of sines with sin 90° = 100,000] and a table of tangents with tan 45° = 100,000; hence the decimal system had been used throughout.
“He wanted to publish the Tabulae directionum in Nuremberg, but this was not to be. It was first printed posthumously by Erhard Ratdolt in Augusburg, and went through eleven editions up to 1626 … Among those who used these tables were Albert von Brudzewo, Nicholas Copernicus, Johannes Werner, J. Cario, Lucas Gauricus, Jacobus Ferdinand Bariensis, H. Altobellus, E. O. Schrekenfuchs, Georg Collimitius Tanstetter, J. Hieber and Kepler” (Zinner, pp. 92-3).
Carrie Estelle Betzold Doheny (1875-1958) married oil tycoon Edward Laurence Doheny (1856-1935) in 1900. Although overshadowed by her husband’s fame during her lifetime, she later achieved her own recognition as one of the most renowned American women book collectors of the twentieth century. She first began collecting books in the 1920s: her principal areas of interest included fine bindings, illuminated manuscripts, incunabula, and Western Americana. In 1950, she acquired the “crowning achievement” of her collection, a complete Gutenberg Bible. The collection grew to approximately 7,000 books and 1,300 manuscripts, and was housed in the Doheny mansion in Los Angeles. In 1940, Mrs. Doheny donated a large portion of her book collection to St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California, to be housed in the Edward Laurence Doheny Memorial Library. However, in 1985, church officials decided to sell the collection and use the proceeds to establish a teaching endowment. It was auctioned by Christie’s in a series of six sales from 1987 to 1989. In 1954, Mrs. Doheny donated a further portion of her collection to St. Mary’s of the Barrens in Perry County, Missouri, but in 2000 its library was closed and the Doheny treasures were sold, again by Christie’s, in the following year. The present volume was included in the latter sale.
Córdoba: Adams C2622; Houzeau & Lancaster 12712; Lalande, p. 31; Palau 61824; José Chabas, ‘Astronomy for the Court in the Early Sixteenth Century. Alfonso de Córdoba and his Tabule Astronomice Elisabeth Regine,’ Archive for History of Exact Sciences, Vol. 58, No. 3 (2004), pp. 183-217. Regiomontanus: Adams R287; BM STC It. p. 455; Zinner, Regiomontanus: His Life and Work, 1990.
4to (210 x 161mm). Córdoba: ff. , E4 blank and present. Woodcut initials, that on A1v being, according to Zinner (p. 174), an image of Regiomontanus; Liechtenstein’s woodcut device printed in red and black on E3v (minor marginal worming, not near text); Regiomontanus: ff. . Woodcut initials, that on A3r being an image of the author, Liechtenstein’s device on R6v (two small wormholes to title, not near text, dampstain to head margin affecting first half of volume, scattered ink stains, light foxing, soiling to D2-4). Later sixteenth-century limp vellum, titled in manuscript on spine: Io: Germani | Tabule | Directionū (covers somewhat cockled and soiled, slight damage to fore-edge of upper board)..