Astronumicum Caesareum (Astronomy of the Caesars)

Peter Apian’s Astronomicum Caesareum is a masterpiece of printing. With it he aimed to overcome the arithmetical complexities inherent in the Ptolemaic geocentric representation of planetary movements by ‘a complete solution, as far as is possible, of the problem of predicting the positions of the heavenly bodies by mechanical means’. With the aid of simple tools, he thought, it should be possible to plot the paths of planets and the movements of the stars, and calculate the occurrence of eclipses and comets. The Astronomicum endeavoured to supply these tools in the form of highly intricate moving discs, or volvelles, from which information could be obtained through combinations of circles and angles.

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Woodcuts, many of them volvelles (movable discs)

In Latin; sixty leaves, 465 x 315 mm

Mid-nineteenth-century English binding: brown calfskin with blind tooling