Cosmographicus Liber a Petro Apiano Mathematico Studiose Collectus.

Landshut: Johann Weissenburger fur Petrus Apianus, 1524.

First edition, very rare, of one of the most important geographical and astronomical texts of the Renaissance, and perhaps the most significant and influential of the 16th century instrument books for navigators and travellers. “During the first half of the sixteenth century Germany was the principal center of both mathematical and descriptive geography … [The] German school of geographers had its greatest exponents in Peter Apian (1501-52) and Sebastian Münster (1489-1552). Apian was an astronomer and mathematician; in his Cosmographicus Liber … subsequently edited by the great Flemish mathematician Gemma Phrysius [Frisius] under the simpler title Cosmographia, he based the whole science on mathematics and measurements, following Ptolemy in making a distinction between geography (the study of the earth as a whole) and chorography (the study of specific areas). His work may best be described as a theoretical textbook; for a hundred years it was a standard source” (Penrose, pp. 308-9). “Starting with the distinction between cosmography, geography, and chorography, and using an ingenious and simple diagram, the book defines terrestrial grids; describes the use of maps and simple surveying; defines weather and climate; and provides thumbnail sketches of the continents … The success of this and his previous works led to Apian’s appointment as professor of mathematics at the University of Ingolstadt, where he remained until his death. He was knighted by Charles V” (DSB). The maps on page 2 and 63, and the following passage in the text (p. 69), ‘America quae nunc Quarta pars terrae dicitur ab Americo Vespucio eiusde(m) inve(n)tore nomen sortita est. Et non immerito: Quoniam mari undig clauditur Insula appellatur…’, make this edition of the ‘Cosmography’ much sought after. Here Apianus attributes the discovery of America to Vespucci, which is called an island because it is surrounded by water on all sides. “The content was largely appropriated directly from Ptolemy, but it is the book’s volvelles that represent its main selling point and principal innovation. Whereas earlier books of similar content were largely constructed around sets of tabular information, Apianus’ volvelles turned the pages of Cosmographicus Liber into functional computers, enabling skilled users to make calculations involving navigation, distances and time” (Barentine, p. 152). Apianus used volvelles so effectively in his work that they are sometimes known as Apian wheels. The paper volvelles also served a commercial purpose – they provided his readers with a model of the real instruments Apianus could produce and which were available for purchase.

Provenance: several contemporary annotations from at least two different hands.

“Petrus Apianus, also known as Peter Apian, Peter Bennewitz, and Peter Bienewitz, was one of the foremost mathematical publishers, instrument makers and cartographers of the sixteenth century. Born on 16 April 1495 in Leisnig, Saxony, he was one of four sons of Martin Bienewitz, a shoemaker of comfortable middle-class extraction. He was educated first at the Latin school in Rochlitz, and then from 1516 to 1519 at the University of Leipzig where he studied astronomy, mathematics, and cosmography. While at Leipzig, he Latinized his surname to ‘Apianus’, deriving from apis (‘bee’) and equivalent to Biene in German. Apianus relocated to Vienna in 1519 to complete his degree at the University of Vienna, taking a B.A. two years later during an outbreak of plague. Fleeing the city, he landed first in Regensburg before settling in Landshut. He married Katharina Mosner, the daughter of a local councilman, in 1526 and by her had fourteen children. Among his sons was Philip Apianus, born 1531, who would later follow his father into the study of mathematics.

“Apianus was fascinated first and foremost by cosmography, a broad science of the Renaissance which set out to explain everything in the universe within a mathematical framework. He excelled in its study and later became one of its most famous practitioners; by modern standards, he can be thought of as one of the best applied mathematicians of his day. His interest in cartography was stimulated during one of the most momentous periods in European history: the Age of Exploration, witnessing the trailblazing voyages of the likes of da Gama, Columbus, and Magellan. His first published work was a world map, Typus orbis universalis (1520), itself based on a contemporary map drawn by the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller. The following year, Apianus published Isagoge, a geographical commentary on the 1520 map.

“The work that firmly established Apianus’ academic credentials was Cosmographicus Liber, published by the printer and priest Johann Weyssenburger at Landshut in 1524. Frequently known as the Cosmographia in later editions, it was a lavishly-illustrated treatise on astronomy, navigation, geography, cartography and weather; it contained digressions on various map projections, the shape of the Earth, and descriptions of the use of mathematical instruments … The Cosmographia attracted the attention of the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1500–1558), who praised the work at the Imperial Diet of 1530 and issued printing monopolies to Apianus’ press in 1532 and 1534. In 1535, Charles granted Apianus the right to display a coat of arms.

Cosmographicus Liber … was an immediate success enjoying at least 45 editions in four languages by at least 18 different publishers and remained in print for over a half-century after Apianus’ death. Gemma Frisius (born Jemme Reinerszoon, 1508–1555) carried out a careful correction and annotation of the 1524 version; the result was published in 1529 as a second edition, entitled Cosmographia von Petrus Apianus. Two years later, a less expensive, abridged version of Apianus’ original called Cosmographiae introductio was published at Ingolstadt. But it was the 1533 edition of Frisius’ annotated version, including his short works De locorum describendorum ratione (Concerning the method of describing places) and De eorum distantijs inueniendis (On the determination of distances), that earned the book its greatest popularity and secured its place in history.

“However, some of Apianus’ success was merely the result of fortuitous timing: a European reading public with an appetite for all things related to the New World ate up the book’s detailed discussion of newly-discovered lands in America. Again, he seems to have merely recycled content from previous authors; his information appears to be substantially drawn from the accounts in Cosmographiae introductio by Martin Waldseemüller, published at St. Die in 1507, and Johann Schöner’s Luculentissima quaeda[m] terrae totius description (The most brilliant description of the entire Earth), printed in 1515 at Nuremburg. Apianus’ work so strongly resembles Schöner’s book that Cosmographicus Liber may simply be an abridgment of its text …

“Apianus introduced one new figure in Cosmographicus Liber, an alternate figure for the bright stars of Ursa Major he called ‘Plaustrum’ (p. 21). Apanius’ figure shows a team of horses pulling a wagon, consistent with the European alternate view of Ursa Major as a four-wheeled wagon or ‘wain.’ The dualism of the Bear/Wagon is at least as old as ancient Greece” (Barentine, pp. 147-152).

“The Cosmography instructs its readers on how to determine latitude, longitude and the time with the aid of instruments. For the measurement of longitude it proposes a recent technique involving an instrument for measuring angles called the Jacob’s staff. After having expanded the construction of a personal Jacob’s staff, Apian explains how longitude can be derived with the aid of the staff, astronomical tables and a little calculation. In itself his explanation is quite difficult to interpret, and fortunately Apian inserts an illustration of the construction and use of this instrument (p. 32). However, on closer inspection this picture is more than a mere illustration. It provides a valuable compliment to the text by incorporating a visual explanation of the geometrical basis of this technique of finding longitude which the text does not even hint at. Apian makes two lines of vision intersect in the moon and shows by graduated marks on either side of the intersection that the difference between the angles of vision of two observers is equal to their difference in longitude. The geometry is extremely simple (the picture clearly shows the quality of opposing angles without verbalising it) but driving it from Apian’s text would be very difficult.

“The Cosmography also incorporates five volvelles, i.e. paper instruments with moving parts. The first of these is intended to show that the terrestrial latitude of a place is equal to the observed height of the world (p. 17). The accompanying text explicitly refers to Sacrobosco’s Sphere (book II), which contains a proof that ‘the elevation of the pole of the world above the horizon is as great as the distance of the zenith from the equator’ … The relevance of this proposition to the investigation of latitude was recognised by only some of Sacrobosco’s commentators, which indicates the disciplinary separation between late medieval astronomy and cosmography. Apian therefore translates Sacrobosco’s proposition to one concerning latitude by clarifying that the latitude of an observer is the arc between the pole of his horizon (zenith) and the terrestrial equator. More important for the matter at hand is the fact that Apian does not incorporate Sacrobosco’s verbal proof but instead uses the volvelle to make a visual point. The somewhat laborious reading of a simple but non-illustrated mathematical proof is replaced with a device which immediately shows the relation between terrestrial latitude and the height of the pole in a small model.

“Two other volvelles offered by Apian are two-dimensional models of the quantified path of the Sun across the sky over the Earth’s surface. Determining the quantity of solar movement in Apian’s time could proceed in two general ways: calculating the motion in astronomical tables or visualising it on an instrument. A distinguishing characteristic of mathematical instruments in Apian’s time is the visualisation of the relations between quantified data.

“These volvelles are conceptually based on familiar astronomical calculating instruments, but are modified to suit a didactic and cosmicgraphical purpose. The first of both volvelles, the so-called organum Ptolomei, may be regarded as a universal sundial designed for instruction (p. 24). It has three movable parts: a rectangle representing the horizon, a triangle measuring the Sun’s altitude, and a rotatable disk indicating the Sun’s declination, its hour-lines and the altitude of the celestial pole. The double didactic efficacy of the instrument is remarkable. First of all it provides a two-dimensional model of the Sun’s annual and daily path across the heavens (the rotatable disk), related to the perspective of a terrestrial observer (the horizon). Compared to a regular sundial, this rare instrument employs a much more transparent projection which distinctly models and visualises its astronomical basis. As such it provides a powerful introduction to visual thinking about astronomical phenomena and relations. Learning this skill most probably was indispensable to a proper understanding of the principles of mathematical instruments in this period. On this basis the organun Ptolomei secondly instructs on the specific techniques of time measurement by means of the Sun’s movement. If properly positioned for a specific latitude, the intersection of the triangle with a grid of parallel- and hour-lines on the rotating disc works like an equatorial sundial, while the intersection of the horizon-line with this grid can easily be related to the set-up of a horizontal sundial. Apianus however did not provide a practical instrument: inserting it in a book and producing it in paper made it quite impossible to keep his instrument in the horizontal plane as was required.

“The second volvelle of this type is a paper astrolabe equipped with a geographical or map-plate (p. 63). This exclusively cosmographical variant of the age-old astrolabe indicates the latitude and longitude of a region, the movement of the Sun as seen from the Earth, and the relative time in different parts of the Earth. Notwithstanding its typical plate, this model referred the reader of the Cosmography to a type of projection different from that of the organum Ptolomei but very common for designing astrolabes. It thus literally offered a different perspective to the forementioned visual thinking about astronomical concepts as well as a modest reference to more common astronomical astrolabes. In both cases the latter function can be interpreted as a reference to commercially available mathematical instruments. A remarkable example of this is a brass astrolabe made in 1560 by a genius Egidius Coignet from Antwerp, which has Apian’s geographical place on the front and the organum Ptolomei on the back. The link between this extraordinary instrument and Apian’s Cosmography is evident. The precise nature of the relationship however is not. Coignet seems to have made this instrument for a rich commissioner with a non-professional interest in instruments and exquisite design, who was acquainted with Apian’s Cosmography. The symbiosis between cosmography and instrument-design not only made cosmographical treatises depict actual instruments, but also led to occasional brass implementation of paper instruments contained in these treatises” (Vanden Broecke, pp. 139-141).

Copies of this book are very rarely found complete. We believe that a complete copy should have volvelles on pp. 17 (2 moving parts), 24 (3), 50 (1), 63 (4), and on the first leaf of the appendix (2), and a woodcut in two parts illustrating the ‘Instrumentum syderale’ pasted on to the last leaf of text (or sometimes the final blank). Of the 5 copies listed on ABPC/RBH in the last 60 years, only one (Sotheby’s 1965) appears to have been complete. The present copy, like the British Library copy, lacks the volvelle on p. 50 (not called for by Borba de Moraes) and also the two-part woodcut pasted to the last page. However, it includes the thread with original lead weight on p. 24 that was not mentioned in the description of the copy offered by Sotheby’s in 1965 and which seems to be almost always lacking.

VD 16, A 3080; Sabin I, 1738; Borba de Moraes I, 35; Harrisse 237; Suarez 91, 46; Kleinschmidt, Ruling the Waves 223; Stillwell (Science) 136; Harrisse 127. Barentine, Uncharted Constellations: Asterisms, Single-Source and Rebrands, 2016. Penrose, Travel and Discovery in the Renaissance 1420-1620, 1952. Vanden Broecke, ‘The use of visual media in Renaissance cosmography: the Cosmography of Peter Apian and Gemma Frisius,’ Paedagogica Historica 36 (2000), pp. 131-150.

Small 4to (200 x 160mm), pp. [viii], 104, (8, last blank), title-page with large woodcut illustration of a globe, woodcut coat-of-arms of Archbishop Matthaus Lang of Salzburg on title-page verso, last leaf of the foreword with a large woodcut depicting a sphere, all printed in red and black. With volvelles on pp. 17, 24, 63 and the first leaf of the appendix as called for by Borba de Moraes (that on f. 24 with original lead weight). Early vellum over boards. A crisp clean copy. Quarter morocco case.

Item #5332

Price: $135,000.00

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