FIRST STAR ATLAS

Della sfera del mondo ... divisa in libri quattro ... Delle stelle fisse, libro uno con le sue figure, e con le sue tavole ... Editione tertia.

Venice, Nicolo de Bascarini, 1552.

Two parts in one vol., 4to, ff. 58, 122, [4]; italic letter, general title and separate title to part two, with woodcut printer’s device of a tree withstanding a gale; woodcut diagrams and 48 full-page woodcut star maps, tables printed within ruled borders; wormhole in top inner margin of three gatherings just touching a few running headlines, another wormhole in the blank bottom inner margin of another three gatherings, some occasional light stains and soiling; generally a good unwashed copy in modern calf, blind-stamped panel to covers, gilt-lettered spine.

£2500

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A collected edition, using the same woodcuts, of two companion works which had earlier appeared independently in 1540. Both are in the vernacular, by which Piccolomini sought to extend scientific knowledge beyond the university confines. The first is his treatise on the sphere of the universe; the second – more significant – is his book on the fixed stars with 48 star maps. ‘This modest book was, in fact, the first printed star atlas. That is, it was the first printed set of maps of the stars, as distinct from simple pictures of the constellations such as illustrated the various editions of Hyginus. Of equal importance was Piccolomini’s pioneer use of letters to identify the stars – a practice later adopted with some modification by Bayer and, through him, by all modern astronomers. At the bottom of each map is a scale of degrees, correct for that particular map. The words ‘PARTE VERSO IL POLO’ on each map indicate the direction of the equatorial pole, and the words ‘VERSO DOVE’ and ‘DONDE,’ meaning ‘toward which’ and ‘from which,’ indicate the direction of daily rotation of the celestial sphere … The star magnitudes 1-4, are well graduated. The most notable stars in each constellation are identified by consecutive Latin letters, ‘A’ representing the most important star (usually the brightest)’ (The Sky Explored, p. 200).
 
Adams P1108; BL STC Italian p. 514.

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