Astronomiae Instauratae Progymnasmata, quorum hunc cassel pars prima de restitutione motuum solis et lunae, stellarumque inerrantium tractat et praeterea de admiranda nova stella anno 1572 exorta luculenter agit. Frankfurt: Gottfried Tampach, 1610. [With:] De Mundi Aetherei recentioribus Phaenomenis. Liber Secundus.. Excudi primun coeptius Uraniburgi Daniae, ast Pragae Bohemiae absolutus. Frankfurt: Gottfried Tampach, 1610 (Colophon: Pragae Bohemorum, Absolvebatur Typis Schumanianis, Anno Domini 1603). [With:] Epistolarum Astronomicarum Libro. Quorum primus hic Illustriss. et Laudatiss. Principis Gulielmi Hassiae Landtgravij ac ipsius Mathematici Literas, unaque Responsa ad singulas complectitur … Frankfurt: Gottfried Tampach, 1610 (Colophon: Uraniburgi, Ex officina Typographica Authoris, Anno Domini, 1596).

Frankfurt: Tampach, 1610.

An extraordinary sammelband, uniting the three most important works of the great Danish astronomer, all in first edition, Frankfurt issues, in two volumes uniformly bound in contemporary vellum. “Tycho Brahe’s contributions to astronomy were enormous … He revolutionized astronomical instrumentation. He also changed observational practice profoundly. Whereas earlier astronomers had been content to observe the positions of planets and the Moon at certain important points of their orbits, Tycho and his cast of assistants observed these bodies throughout their orbits. Without these complete series of observations of unprecedented accuracy, Kepler could not have discovered that planets move in elliptical orbits … Tycho’s observations of the new star [now recognized to have been a supernova] of 1572 and comet of 1577, and his publications on these phenomena, were instrumental in establishing the fact that these bodies were above the Moon and that therefore the heavens were not immutable as Aristotle had argued and philosophers still believed … Further, if comets were in the heavens, they moved through the heavens. Up to now it had been believed that planets were carried on material spheres that fit tightly around each other. Tycho’s observations showed that this arrangement was impossible because comets moved through these spheres” (Galileo Project). Astronomiae instauratae progymnasmata was produced in 1602 by the author’s own press at Uraniborg, and only a small number were printed for dedication purposes. It contains important investigations on the new star of 1572 which Brahe had discovered in Cassiopeia. This discovery led to far-reaching consequences in the history of astronomy as this work became the foundation on which Kepler, and later Newton, built their astronomical systems” (Sparrow). De mundi aetherei contains Brahe’s observations of the great comet of 1577, the brightest of the century, and, most importantly, includes the first account of his geoheliocentric theory of the universe, according to which the inferior and superior planets of Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn revolved around the Sun, but the Sun and the Moon orbited the Earth. “There can be little doubt that Tycho regarded it [the geoheliocentric system] as his most significant achievement, and in the short term it surely was. As a geometrical equivalent of the Copernican system, it was capable of representing every aspect of the astronomical phenomena without demanding allegiance to a moving Earth, for which there would be no proof until much later” (Thoren, p. 8). The Astronomiae and De mundi were intended to form the first two parts of a trilogy, together with a work on the comets of 1582 and 1585, but this was never completed. The Epistolarum contains correspondence between Brahe and the Landgrave Wilhelm IV of Hesse-Cassel and his astronomer Christopher Rothmann, mostly concerning astronomical observations and the construction of astronomical instruments. “This correspondence covered all aspects of contemporary astronomy: instruments and methods of observing, the Copernican system (which Rothmann supported against Tycho’s system), comets, and auroras” (DSB, under Rothmann). Brahe’s description of Uraniborg contained here is one of the earliest descriptions of an astronomical observatory and its instruments. These three works were originally produced on Tycho’s private press at Uraniborg, and were then reissued with minor textual changes at Prague and Frankfurt. The Astronomiae is present here in its second issue, the other two works in their third issue; the first issues of all three works are exceptionally rare as the few copies printed were intended for presentation only.

“Tyge (Latinized as Tycho) Brahe was born on 14 December 1546 in Skane, then in Denmark, now in Sweden … He attended the universities of Copenhagen and Leipzig, and then traveled through the German region, studying further at the universities of Wittenberg, Rostock, and Basel. During this period his interest in alchemy and astronomy was aroused, and he bought several astronomical instruments … In 1572 Tycho observed the new star in Cassiopeia and published a brief tract about it the following year. In 1574 he gave a course of lectures on astronomy at the University of Copenhagen. He was now convinced that the improvement of astronomy hinged on accurate observations. After another tour of Germany, where he visited astronomers, Tycho accepted an offer from the King Frederick II to fund an observatory. He was given the little island of Hven in the Sont near Copenhagen, and there he built his observatory, Uraniburg, which became the finest observatory in Europe. Tycho designed and built new instruments, calibrated them, and instituted nightly observations. He also ran his own printing press. The observatory was visited by many scholars, and Tycho trained a generation of young astronomers there in the art of observing. After a falling out with King Christian IV, Tycho packed up his instruments and books in 1597 and left Denmark. After traveling several years, he settled in Prague in 1599 as the Imperial Mathematician at the court of Emperor Rudolph II. He died there in 1601” (Galileo Project). In 1600, Tycho met Kepler and asked him to be his assistant. This placed Kepler in a position not only to publish some of Brahe’s works after his death, but also, after many trials and tribulations, to acquire Tycho’s actual observations, from which he would deduce his laws of planetary motion.

Although Tycho intended the Astronomiae to form the first work of his trilogy, “the corrected star places which were necessary for the reduction of the observations of 1572-73 involved researches on the motion of the sun, on refraction, precession, etc., the volume gradually assumed greater proportions than was originally contemplated, and was never quite finished in Tycho’s lifetime” (Dreyer, pp. 162-3). The first to be completed, in 1588, was De mundi, Tycho’s work on the new star of 1572. “Amazed, and as if astonished and stupefied, I stood still with my eyes fixed intently upon it. When I had satisfied myself that no star of that kind had ever shone forth before, I was led into such perplexity by the unbelievability of the thing that I began to doubt my own eyes” (Astronomiae, p. 174). Thus Tycho Brahe wrote about this amazing phenomenon, a nova so bright that it could be seen in broad daylight, the star that was the beginning of the end of Aristotelian cosmology, and the star that marked the defining moment when the 26-year old Danish nobleman became a professional astronomer” (Gingerich, p. 3).

“The first chapter [of Astronomiae] deals with the apparent motion of the sun, the length of the year, the elements of the solar orbit, refraction, and gives tables for the motion of the sun. As there were a few pages to spare (the second chapter having been printed and paged first), Tycho determined to devote them to the lunar theory … and as this subject grew in importance and difficulty, it eventually delayed the publication of the volume considerably. The second chapter describes the methods of determining the places of stars, investigates the amount of precession, and contains Tycho’s own catalogue of star places. This finishes the first part of the book … [the second part] is devoted to his own observations of the star of 1572.

“The third chapter describes the appearance of the star, the gradual fading of its light, the variation of color … and gives a map of the constellation with the star in it … In the fourth chapter are given descriptions and illustrations of the sextant with which he observed the star, and of the great quadrant at Augsburg. This chapter also contains the measured distance of the new star from twelve stars in Cassiopea … In the fifth chapter the coordinates of the star both with regard to the ecliptic and the equator are computed from its distance from the other stars in Cassiopea and the places of these stars as observed at Hveen … He then turns in the sixth chapter to the question as to where the star was situated in space, and proves in four ways that it was far beyond the planets … In the seventh and last chapter of the second part of the book Tycho attempts to calculate the diameter of the new star … The apparent diameter of the new star at its first appearance he estimated at 3½’ and its real diameter must therefore have been 7 times that of the earth, or somewhat greater than that of the sun. He does not think that the diminution of light was caused by the star having moved away from us in a straight line, partly because no celestial body moves in a straight line, partly because it would, when about to disappear, have been at the incredible distance of 300,000 semi-diameters of the earth. The star must actually have decreased in size, so that at the end of the year 1573 it was about equal to the earth in size …

“This finishes what Tycho has himself found by observation and speculation concerning the star of Cassiopea, and he devotes the third part of his book, 300 pages, to an examination of the writings of other astronomers or authors about the star. First he discusses in Chapter VIII the observations of those who could not find any parallax (the last book considered being his own little book of 1573, of which he reprints the greater part, omitting the astrological predictions); next he deals in Chapter IX with those authors who thought they had found some parallax, but who did not place the star within the lunar orbit; and lastly he deals with the writers ‘who have not brought out anything solid or important, and either maintained that the star was not new or that it was a comet or a sublunary meteor.’

“Finally, the ‘Conclusion’ of the volume (pp. 787-816) gives first a rapid summary of the contents of the book, and then deals with two questions not yet touched upon, the physical nature of the new star and the astrological effect and signification … As to the nature of the star, Tycho considers that it was formed of ‘celestial matter’, not differing from that of which the other stars are composed, except that it was not of such perfection or solid composition as in the stars of permanent duration. It was therefore gradually dissolved and dwindled away. It became visible to us because it was illuminated by the sun, and the matter of which it was formed was taken from the Milky Way, close to the edge of which the star was situated, and in which Tycho believed he could now see a gap or halo which had not been there before. This idea may to the modern reader seem absurd, but it should be remembered that the telescope had not yet revealed the true nature of the Milky Way, and Tycho’s ideas about the latter were at all events a great advance from those of Aristotle (which he sharply attacks), according to which the Milky Way was merely an atmospheric agglomeration of stellar matter” (Dreyer, pp. 186-193).

“Undoubtedly the most important consequence of the new star was not the bad news for the Aristotelians, but the good news for Tycho: it won for him a fiefdom, the Island of Hven, and the funds to build a great observatory, an institution that he later boasted had cost King Frederick of Denmark a ton of gold. This observatory was just in its initial stages when the second great and unexpected phenomenon of the 1570s burst upon the stellar stage, the brightest comet of the century, the awesome and widely observed comet of 1577” (Gingerich, pp. 5-6).

“[De mundi] is divided into ten chapters. The first contains most of the observations of the comet; the second deduces new positions for the twelve fixed stars from which the distances of the comet had been measured … In the third chapter the longitude and latitude of the comet for each day of observation are deduced from the observed distances from the stars … In the fourth chapter the right ascensions and declinations of the comet are computed from the latitudes and longitudes. The fifth deals with the determination of the inclination and node of the apparent path of the comet with regard to the ecliptic, which Tycho found from two latitudes and the arc of the ecliptic between them … The sixth chapter is a more lengthy one, and treats the distance of the comet from the earth; and as this was of paramount importance as a test of the Aristotelian doctrine, he endeavors to determine the parallax in several different ways … In the seventh chapter the position of the comet’s tail is examined. The increased attention which had been paid to comets during the sixteenth century had led to the discovery of the fact that their tails are turned away from the sun … Tycho, who took nothing on trust, examined the matter, and computed from twelve observations the direction of the tail of the comet of 1577 the position of the tail with regard to a great circle passing through the sun. He found that the direction of the tail never passed exactly through the sun, but seemed to pass much nearer to the planet Venus …

“The eighth chapter is the most important in the whole book, as the consideration of the comet’s orbit in space leads Tycho to explain his ideas about the construction of the universe … which he had worked out ‘four years ago’, i.e., in 1583. The Ptolemaic system was too complicated, and the new one which that great man Copernicus had proposed, following in the footsteps of Aristarchus of Samos, though there was noting in it contrary to mathematical principles, was in opposition to those of physics, as the heavy and sluggish earth is unfit to move and the system is even opposed to the authority of scripture. The vast space which would have to be assumed between the orbit of Saturn and the fixed stars (to account for the want of parallax of those), was another difficulty in the Copernican system, and Tycho had therefore tried to find a hypothesis which was in accordance with mathematical and physical principles, and at the same time would not incur the censure of theologians. At last he had, ‘as if by inspiration,’ been led to the following idea of planetary motions.

“The earth is the centre of the universe, and the centre of the orbits of the sun and moon, as well as of the sphere of fixed stars, which latter revolves round it in twenty-four hours, carrying all the planets with it. The sun is the centre of the orbits of the five planets, of which Mercury and Venus move in orbits whose radii are smaller than that of the solar orbit, while the orbits of Mars, Jupiter and Saturn encircle the earth. This system accounts for the irregularities in the planetary motions which the ancients explained by epicycles and Copernicus by the annual motion of the earth, and it shows why the solar system is mixed up in all the planetary theories. The remaining inequalities, which formerly were explained by the eccentric circle and the deferent, and by Copernicus by epicycles moving on eccentric circles, could also, in the new hypothesis, be explained in a similar way. As the planets are not attached to any solid spheres, there is no absurdity in letting the orbits of Mars and the sun intersect each other …

“The ninth chapter is a very short one, and treats of the actual size of the comet … the diameter of the head was 368 miles … Similarly he calculates the length of the tail, and finds it equal to 96 semi-diameters of the earth … The remainder of Tycho’s book is devoted to a detailed examination of the writings and observations of other astronomers on the comet” (Dreyer, pp. 164-171).

“A lasting memorial of his activity and of the respect with which he was treated by anyone able to value his work was the collection of letters exchanged between him, the late Landgrave of Hess, and Rothmann. Rantzov [i.e., Heinrich Rantzov, governor of the Duchy of Holstein, and a close friend of Tycho] had long ago suggested the publication of this series of scientific essays, and copies of some of them had been sent to Hagecius and Peucer, who had expressed a similar wish. They were printed in Tycho’s own office, and form a quarto volume of 310 pp. and 38pp. of laudatory poems, dedication and preface. The title shows that Tycho intended afterwards to publish letters to and from other astronomers, an intention which he did not live to carry out … None of Tycho’s other letters can, however, compare in importance with the lengthy essays exchanged between Hveen and Cassel, which give a most instructive picture of the revolution in practical astronomy effected by Tycho. The dedication to Langrave Maurice alludes to the origin of Tycho’s acquaintance with Landgrave Wilhelm, the renewal of it through Rantzov in 1585, praises the Landgrave for not having studied astronomy in books but in the heavens and quotes from a funeral oration in which the hope had been expressed that the correspondence of the deceased with Tycho Brahe might be published, as it would show the world the merits of the Landgrave’s scientific work. In the preface Tycho refers to the length of time necessary to form a complete series of observations by which the restoration of astronomy might be accomplished. Though the solar orbit may be sufficiently investigated in four years, the intricate lunar course requires the study of many years, while it takes twelve years to follow the oppositions of Mars and Jupiter round the zodiac, and even thirty years to see Saturn move around the heavens. He had commenced his own observations at the age of sixteen, though the results of the first ten years’ work were less accurate than the later ones. Ptolemy and Copernicus had not observed for such a length of time, and consequently the numerical values of astronomical constants had not been well determined by them … There is towards the end of the volume a description of the instruments and buildings at Hveen, with woodcuts of the latter. Of the instruments, seven were already figured in Tycho’s other books” (ibid., pp. 228-230).

De mundi and the Epistolarum were first published, for presentation only, at Uraniborg on Tycho’s private press, in 1588 and 1596, respectively. When Brahe left Hven in 1597, settling in Prague two years later, he took with him the unsold sheets of De mundi and the Epistolarum, as well as the partially printed Astronomiae. “The first piece of work which Kepler undertook after Tycho’s death [in 1601] was to get the Progymnasmata published. The section about the lunar theory was not yet printed, but the woodcuts were ready and the text completed in manuscript. A postscript seemed desirable, explaining how the book had been written and printed by degrees, and Kepler at once wrote this appendix [pp. 817-822], which fills six pages. He first explains how Tycho’s anxiety that the book should contain the latest results of his investigations had made him push on with the printing before the whole manuscript was ready (it had been prepared in the years 1582-92). A few slight discrepancies are pointed out between these latest results and a few passages in the book, concerning the moon, but printed long before. It is also remarked that in the first chapter the planetary inequalities are referred to the sun’s mean place, while it had recently been found in the case of the moon and Mars that it is the apparent place which enters into the equations, so that the same was doubtless the case with the other planets. A dedication to the Emperor from Tycho’s heirs, a short notice to the reader (stating that the author had intended to write a preface on the utility and dignity of astronomy), and the privileges of the Emperor and James VI, were also printed, and the book was published in the autumn of 1602” (ibid., pp. 368-9). The re-issue by Tampach in 1610 is, “except for the title and pages 9-24, which were reprinted in Frankfurt, the first edition of 1602, printed in Brahe’s printing house in Uraniborg and completed in Prague” (Zinner). “The second volume of the Progymansmata [i.e., De mundi] had been ready since 1588, though Tycho had only presented a few copies to correspondents … the book was published in 1603 with a new title-page and a dedication, as well as a preface to the reader. Like the first volume, it was re-issued by Tampach in 1610 with a new title-page, and the first seven leaves (including Tycho’s own preface) and the two last pages reprinted” (Dreyer, p. 369). After Tycho’s death his heirs sold the sheets of the Epistolarum to the Nuremberg bookseller Levin Hülsius, who published the book in 1601, reprinting the first four leaves (title and dedicatory verses), and adding an engraved portrait of Tycho to the title verso. When Hülsius died the remaining sheets were given to Tampach. A new title-page was printed, omitting the portrait on the verso, and the book was issued for the third time at Frankfurt in 1610.

[Astronomiae:] Cinti, Bibl. Galileiana, 24; Gingerich, Rara Astronomica, 24; Houzeau & Lancaster, I, 2700: ‘c’est l’ancienne édition avec un nuoveau titre’; Sparrow, Milestones, 12; Zinner 4262. [De mundi:] Cinti, Bibl. Galileiana, 25; Gingerich, Rara Astronomica, 22; Houzeau & Lancaster 2699; Poggendorf I, 273; Zinner 3952. [Epistolarum:] BL 17th-C German B1968; Dibner, Heralds, 4 (first issue); Nielsen, Tycho Brahes Bogtrykkeri p. 71; Bibl. Danica II: 6, Houzeau & Lancaster, 7824; Poggendorff I, 273; Zinner 3878. Dreyer, Tycho Brahe, 1890. Gingerich, ‘Tycho Brahe and the Nova of 1572,’ 1604-2004: Supernovae as Cosmological Lighthouses, ASP Conference Series 342, pp. 3-12. Thoren, Tycho Brahe, Chap. 1 in: Planetary astronomy from the Renaissance to the rise of astrophysics. Part A: Tycho Brahe to Newton (Taton & Wilson, eds.), 1989.



Three works bound in two vols., 4to (234 x 178 mm). [Astronomiae Instauratae:] pp. [xvi], 9-112, 28, 113-256, 16 leaves numbered on recto only 257-272, 273-496, 499-822, [12]. Title-page in red and black, with numerous woodcuts in the text, including 5 full-page illustrations of instruments, a full-page star chart, and the illustration of the new star in Cassiopeia. [De Mundi:] pp. [xvi], 465, [3, Errata and Colophon, dated Prague 1603]. Allegorical woodcut illustration on title, woodcut printer's device above colophon, woodcut illustrations and diagrams (some full-page) in text. [Epistolarum:] pp. [xl], 309, [3, with Errata and colophon: ‘Uraniburgi, Ex officina Typographica Authoris, 1596’]. Woodcut vignette on title, a large woodcut illustration on the colophon, six full-page xylographic illustrations, depicting the observatories of Uraniborg and Stierneborg and the ‘Topographia’ of the Island of Hven. Some browning as always with these works, repaired marginal worming to lower outer corners of pp. 345-400 in the Astronomiae, not affecting text. Uniformly bound in contemporary vellum (a few small wormholes in the spines). Very good copies.

Item #4701

Price: $95,000.00

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