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Spherae tractatus Ioannis de Sacro Busto Anglici uiri clariss. Gerardi Cremonensis theoricae planetarum ueteres. Georgii Purbachii theoricae planetarum nouae. Prosdocimi de Beldomando Patauini super tractatu sphærico commentaria, nup[er] in lucem diducta per L. Ga[uricum] nunq[uam] amplius i[m]pressa. Ioannis Baptistæ Capuani Sipontini expositio in sphæra & theoricis. Ioannis de Monte Regio disputationes contra theoricas Gerardi. Michaelis Scoti expositio breuis & questiones in spheera. Iacobi Fabri Stapulensis paraphrases & annotationes. Campani co[m]pendium super tractatu de sphera; eiusdem tractatulus de modo fabricandi spheram solidam. Petri Cardin de Aliaco Epi[scopi] Cameracensis 14 quæstiones. Roberti Linconiensis Epi[scopi] tractatulus de sphæra. Bartholomei Vesputii glossulee in plerisq[ue] locis sphere; eiusdem oratio, De laudibus astrologie Luce Gaurici castigationes & figure toto opere dilige[n]tissime reformate; eiusde[m] questio nunquid sub æquatore sit habitatio; eiusde[m] oratio de inue[n]toribus & laudibus astrologie, Reuere[n]dissimo Cardin. Ep[iscop]o D. Bernardo Tridento[rum] principi dicata. Alpetragii Arabi theorica planetarum nuperrime Latinis mandata literis a Calo Calonymos Hebreo Neapolitano, ubi nititur saluare apparentias in motibus planetarum absq[ue] eccentricis & epicyclis.Venice: Lucantonio Giunta, 1531.
First edition of this very rare and important collection of commentaries on the Sphere of Sacrobosco, together with original works on the same subject, including the first edition of the only printed work of the great Arab astronomer al-Bitruji, "the outstanding astronomer among the Spanish Aristotelians" (DSB). This is an extremely rare work. We have located no other complete copy at auction.

Very little is known of Sacrobosco's life. "About 1220 he went to Paris, where he spent most of his life and where he was elected as a member of the university on 5 June 1221. Elected professor of mathematics soon afterward, he won wide and enduring renown and was among the first exponents in the thirteenth century of the Arab arithmetic and algebra. By 1231 he was the outstanding mathematician and astronomer... Sacrobosco's fame rests firmly on his De sphaera, a small work based on Ptolemy and his Arabic commentators, published about 1220 and antedating the De sphaera of Grosseteste. It was quite generally adopted as the fundamental astronomy text, for often it was so clear that it needed little or no explanation. It was first used at the University of Paris... During the middle ages the De sphaera enjoyed great renown, and from the middle of the thirteenth century it was taught in all the schools of Europe. In the sixteenth century it gained the attention of mathematicians, including Clavius. As late as the seventeenth century it was used as a basic astronomy text... After Manilius' Astronomica, The Sphere was the first printed book on astronomy (Ferrara, 1472). Twenty-four more editions appeared in the following twenty-eight years, and more than forty editions from 1500 to 1547" (DSB).

De sphaera attracted numerous commentaries from the thirteenth through to the seventeenth centuries. Since it was composed and first used at Paris, it is natural that the earliest commentaries were produced there. The first of these is usually ascribed to Michael Scot (ca. 1175 - ca. 1235); it was composed between 1230 and 1235, and printed first at Bologna in 1495 and for the second time in the present collection (ff. 180v - 194v). Scot was born in Scotland and educated at Durham, Oxford and Paris. "In his writings Michael presented himself as a highly regarded scientific companion and consultant to Frederick II, the most faithful among astrologers. It is as "astrologer to the emperor" that he is often referred to by Salimbene and other writers" (DSB, under Michael Scot). "Thorndike suggested that its twenty-eight 'lectiones' somehow reflect a course of lectures. Whether authentic or not, this work is an important document belonging most probably to Michael's time" (DSB, under Sacrobosco).

Moving forward two hundred years, we find in the collection three commentaries from the early 15th century. The extensive commentary of Prosdocimus de Beldemandis (d. 1428) is published for the first time in this collection (ff. 1r - 57v). Prosdocimus studied at the universities of Padua and Bologna. His wide range of interests included arithmetic, music, astronomy and astrology. Luca Pacioli listed him among the authorities upon which he drew for his Summa (1494): 'the most perspicacious Megaran philosopher Euclid and Severino Boetio, and, among our moderns, Leonardo the Pisan, Giordano, Biagio of Parma, Giovan Sacrobosco, and Prosdocimo the Paduan.'

Pierre d'Ailly (1351-1420) was a French astrologer, theologian and, from 1411, cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church. He studied in Paris, becoming rector of the Collège de Navarre in 1384 and chancellor of the University of Paris from 1389 to 1395. His Imago mundi (ca. 1410) influenced Christopher Columbus in his estimates of the size of the world. The date of composition of his 'fourteen questions' on De sphaera (ff. 146v - 166r) is uncertain; they were first published at Venice in 1508. Topics covered include: whether astrology is part of the mathematical or natural sciences; whether mathematical entities are wholly abstracted from motion, matter and sensible qualities; whether there are precisely nine celestial spheres; whether the movement of the primum mobile about the earth is uniform (d'Ailly decides that it is uniformly difform); whether the celestial spheres below the primum mobile have several movements, whether the heavens and four elements are spherical; whether there can be equinox over the whole earth simultaneously; whether all ten circles are true circles; whether latitude can be told from the elevation of the pole; whether the distances of the poles of the zodiac from the poles of the universe equal the maximum declination of the sun; whether it is possible for two equal arcs to begin to rise simultaneously, yet always more of one rise than that of the other; whether natural days are unequal; whether only one northern quarter of the globe is habitable; whether eccentrics and epicycles are necessary; and whether eclipses of sun and moon are possible (see Thorndike, pp. 39-40).

Francesco Capuano da Manfredonia (fl. 15th century) was a professor of astronomy at Padua. His important commentary on De sphaera (ff. 58r - 126r) may have influenced Copernicus. "In 1499, while Copernicus studies in Bologna, the commentary on Sacrobosco's Sphere by the Padua master Francesco Capuano da Manfredonia first appears in print. It will be revised and reprinted several times thereafter. Like Copernicus, Capuano has a high view of astronomy and mingles astronomical and physical considerations (flies moving on wheels, men on ships, impetus, comets, raptus). Also, Capuano offers a flawed argument against a two-fold (diurnal and zodiacal) motion of the Earth. Multiple thematic resonances between Capuano's commentary and De revolutionibus, I, 5-11, suggest the hypothesis that Copernicus is answering Capuano, whose work was owned by Joachim Rheticus, if not Copernicus himself" (Shank). According to Houzeau & Lancaster (2269), Capuano's commentary first appeared at Venice in 1495.

The other two commentaries in the collection date from the late 15th or early 16th centuries. The great French theologian and humanist Jacques le Fèvre d'Étaples (ca. 1455 - 1537) was instrumental in introducing a new curriculum of studies in Paris, with an emphasis on science and mathematics, and the philosophy of Aristotle instead of the Scholastics. A prolific author and commentator, his commentary on De sphaera (ff. 126v - 146r) was first published at Basel in 1485, with several later editions through to the first half of the sixteenth century. It was followed a year later by his commentaries on the Arithmetica and Musica of Boethius, and the Arithmetica of Jordanus Nemorarius.

First published in 1508, the latest commentary in the collection (ff. [7]r - [8]v) is that of Bartolomeo Vespucci, nephew of the explorer, navigator and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci, and professor of astronomy at the University of Padua. In 1504 Machiavelli sent a now lost letter to Bartolomeo asking if it was possible for a man to resist the influence of the stars. In his reply, Vespucci reassured Machiavelli that "all the ancients proclaimed with one voice that the wise man himself is able to alter the influences of the stars." Over the next few years Machiavelli would continue to contemplate the possibilities of combating destinies that had been written in the stars.

Among the original works in the collection are three which competed with De sphaera as the standard textbook of theoretical astronomy in the late Middle Ages. First printed at Ferrara in 1472, Theorica planetarum (ff. 169r - 175r) served students for at least another century, providing a concise summary of Ptolemaic astronomy seen through the mediation of Arabic scientists. The work is traditionally ascribed to the prolific translator of Arabic scientific works Gerard of Cremona (ca. 1114 - 1187), but some scholars believe that the author is actually the obscure mid-13th century astrologer Gherardo de Sabbonieta. The collection also includes (ff. 175v - 180r) an attack on the Theorica planetarum by Regiomontanus (1436-1476), first published at Nürnberg in 1474.

The second of these works (ff. 166r - 168v) is the De spera of Robert Grosseteste (ca. 1175 - 1253), "the central figure in England in the intellectual movement of the first half of the thirteenth century" (DSB). Probably composed between 1215 and 1230, and first published at Venice in 1508, scholars are divided as to whether Grosseteste's work influenced, or was influenced by, that of Sacrobosco. The content and order of treatment of the topics is much the same in both texts, although Grosseteste's is only about half as along as Sacrobosco's. "Grosseteste's first chapter roughly corresponds to Sacrobosco's first and second chapters. Grosseteste's second chapter on equality and diversity of days and nights in different parts of the world, his third chapter on the rising and setting of the signs, and that part of his fourth chapter which is on the sun's eccentricity and the seven climes parallels sections of Sacrobosco's third chapter, where, however, the rising and setting of the signs come first... Grosseteste's last chapter, which opens with the fixed stars and two zodiacs, mobile and immobile, bears less resemblance to Sacrobosco, although it ends, like the latter's fourth and last chapter, with treatment of the moon's course and with eclipses" (Thorndike, p. 11).

The third of the thirteenth century astronomical textbooks in the collection (ff. 195r - 206r) is the Tractatus de spera of Campanus of Novara (d. 1296), first published in 1518. Campanus is best known for the first printed (Latin) edition of Euclid (1482). The Tractatus is a popular work based upon, but not to be confused with, his Theorica planetarum, a highly technical work the influence of which seems to have been confined mainly to professional astronomers.

The collection also includes (ff. 206v - 268r) the most important 15th century textbook of astronomy, that of Georg Peurbach (1423-1461), the teacher of Regiomontanus. "Around 1454 Peurbach composed his textbook of astronomy, Novae theoricae planetarum (published in Nürnberg, 1473), which became the standard astronomical text for over a century and a half, as well as writing, with Regiomontanus, the Epitome of Ptolemy (published in 1496), the clearest and most accurate exposition of Ptolemaic astronomy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Following Arab astronomers, Peurbach added trepidation to Ptolemy's six motions of the celestial spheres and substituted solid crystal spheres for the hypothetical circles employed in Ptolemy's Almagest" (Stillwell). Peurbach and Regiomontanus were the outstanding astronomers of their time and their early deaths were "a serious loss to the progress of astronomy [which] left the technical development of mathematical astronomy deprived of substantial improvement until the generation of Tycho Brahe" (DSB).

The first part of the volume opens (ff. [2]r - [6]v) with the Oratio de inventoribus et astrologiae laudibus of Luca Gaurico (1476-1558), which concerns the fate of man as influenced by the stars; it was first published at Venice in 1508. Gaurico became famous as an astrologer throughout Europe after twice predicting in 1529 and 1532 the ascension of Alessandro Farnese who, as Paul III, rewarded him by making him bishop of Giffoni in 1539. He served as the editor of the present collection, and is also known for the first published Latin translations of Archimedes' works De Mensura Circuli and De Quadratura Parabolae (1503), and his editions of Pecham's Perspectiva Communis (1504) and Trapezuntius's translation of the Almagest (1528).

The second part of the present volume comprises the first edition of the only printed work of the great Arab-Andalusian astronomer Nur ad-Din al-Bitruji (d. 1204), known in the West by the Latinized name of Alpetragius. He wrote the Kitab-al-Hay'ah about 1185. There were two Latin translations. The first was made by Michael Scot in 1217, but was not printed until 1952 (see Carmody). The second, by Calonymos ben David from a Hebrew translation, was published for the first time in the present collection. Al-Bitruji advanced a theory of planetary motion in which he wished to avoid both epicycles and eccentrics, and to account for the phenomena peculiar to the wandering stars, by compounding rotations of homocentric spheres. This was a modification of the system of planetary motion proposed by his predecessors, Ibn Bajjah (Avempace) and Ibn Tufail (Abubacer).

Al-Bitruji's astronomy is divided into two main parts. The first eight chapters present his thesis, supported by a number of metaphysical principles. "It is... possible to find in these chapters a new insight into rational mechanics as opposed to mechanisms, into cosmology as opposed to sheer mathematics, into time as opposed to clock-work space figurations ... The remainder of the work, beginning with chapter nine, shows that al-Bitruji was competent in spherical trigonometry, since he established a number of locus problems intended to prove his thesis and illustrate the principles involved" (Carmody, p. 12).

"Al-Bitruji's astronomical system spread through much of Europe in the thirteenth century. William the Englishman cited it; and Grosseteste referred to it in several works, even plagiarizing from it in his refutation of the Ptolemaic system... Albertus Magnus spread al-Bitruji's ideas in simplified form, although he ultimately preferred the Ptolemaic system. His De caelo, or a similar work, may have been the source in which Dante found the ideas of al-Bitruji... Roger Bacon, in his Communia naturalium, expounded al-Bitruji's system in detail and compared it with Ptolemy's... In his Opus maius Bacon discussed al-Bitruji's theory of the tides" (DSB).

Adams H721; Houzeau & Lancaster 755, 1233, 1617, 1632, 2269, 2270, 2348, 2431, 4799; Michael H. Shank, 'Setting up Copernicus Astronomy and natural philosophy in Giambattista Capuano da Manfredonia's Expositio on the Sphere', Early Science and Medicine, Vol. 14 (2009), pp. 290-315; Carmody, F. J. (ed.) (1952) Al-Bitruji. De motibus celorum (University of California Press); Lyn Thorndike, The Sphere of Sacrobosco and its commentators, University of Chicago Press, 1949.. Two volumes bound in one (as issued), folio (305 x 220 mm), ff. [viii], 268 [i.e. 266]; 27, [1]. Alpetragii Arabi theorica planetarum... with separate title page and foliation. Contemporary vellum, manuscript title on spine

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Last Found On: 2013-08-20           Check availability:      Antikvariat    

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