Gassendi, Pierre (1592-1655). Institutio Astronomica... London, Jacob Flesher, 1653.

Gassendi, Pierre (1592-1655). Institutio Astronomica... London, Jacob Flesher, 1653.


Gassendi, Pierre (1592-1655).

Institutio Astronomica: Juxta Hypotheseis tam Veterum quàm Recentiorum. Cui accesserunt Galilei Galilei Nuntius Sidereus; et Johannis Kepleri Dioptrice..s. 

London, Jacob Flesher, 1653.

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Galileian astronomy in the library of an English astronomer. The Jesse Ramsden copy

Gassendi, Pierre (1592-1655).

Institutio Astronomica: Juxta Hypotheseis tam Veterum quàm Recentiorum. Cui accesserunt Galilei Galilei Nuntius Sidereus; et Johannis Kepleri Dioptrice..s. London, Jacob Flesher, 1653.

Two parts in one volume, 8° (180x114 mm). Collation: A-N8, O4; 2A-L8. [16], 199, [1]; 173, [1] pages. Complete with fol. 2L8 blank. Roman and italic type. The first title-page printed in red and black. Four full-page woodcuts printed as plates and uncounted in the collation, bound between fols. 2B8 and 2C1, and depicting the Pleiades, Orion's belt, the Praesepe cluster, and the Orion Nebula. Astronomical woodcuts, including images of the moon, showing its uneven, mountainous surface. Contemporary English blind-tooled calf. Covers within two concentric blind frames, floral tools at each corner. Spine with four raised bands. A very good copy, faint stains on the title-page.

Provenance: the renowned English mathematician and instrument maker Jesse Ramsden (1735-1800).

An exceptional copy – once belonging to Jesse Ramsden, one of most skilled mathematical instrument makers of the second half of the eighteenth century – of the first edition of this famous scientific collection.

The volume contains the second edition overall of Gassendi's Institutio Astronomica, which first appeared in Paris in 1647, and the first edition to be printed in England of two landmarks in the history of telescopic astronomy: the Sidereus Nuncius by Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), the celebrated work – first printed in Venice in 1610 – in which the Florentine scientist announces his discovery of Jupiter's moons, and the Dioptrice by German astronomer Johann Kepler (1571-1630), whose first edition had been published in Augsburg in 1611.

“Galileo's 'Starry Messenger' contains some of the most important discoveries in scientific literature. Learning in the summer of 1609 that a device for making distant objects seem close and magnified had been brought to Venice from Holland, Galileo soon constructed a spy-glass of his own [...] Within a few months he had a good telescope, magnifying to 30 diameters, and was in full flood of astronomical observation. Through his telescope Galileo saw the moon as a spherical, solid, mountainous body very like the earth – quite different from the crystalline sphere of conventional philosophy. He saw numberless stars hidden from the naked eye in the constellations and the Milky Way. Above all, he discovered four new 'planets', the satellites of Jupiter that he called (in honor of his patrons at Florence) the Medicean stars. Thus Galileo initiated modern observational astronomy and announced himself as a Copernican” (PMM).

The volume comes from the library of the pre-eminent English mathematician, astronomical and scientific instrument maker Jesse Ramsden (1735-1800), known for the design of the telescope and microscope eyepiece (ocular) that bears his name, which is still commonly used today. Ramsden was elected to the Royal Society in 1786, and for his formidable inventions and instruments he was awarded the Copley Medal in 1795. A crater on the moon is also named in his honor. “The whole of those hours which he could spare from the duties of his profession were devoted either to meditation on further improvements of philosophical instruments, or to the perusal of books of science, particularly those mathematical works of the most sublime writers which had any connection with the subjects of his own pursuits” (A. Mc. Connell, Jesse Ramsden, Appendix 1, p. 303).

This copy belongs to the variant bearing a comma in line 3 of the title-page, after the word 'Astronomica'.

Wing G-291A (with the comma in line 3 of the title-page); Carli-Favaro 52; Cinti 301; Riccardi I, 508; A. McConnell, Jesse Ramsden (1735–1800): London's Leading Scientific Instrument Maker, Aldershot 2007; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 205.

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