Novae coelestium terrestriumq[ue] rerum observationes et fortasse hactenus non vulgatae.

Naples, Gaffaro, 1646.

4to., ff. [6, including engraved title and engraved portrait of the author; the two leaves of index bound in after the portrait, as sometimes], pp. 151, [1], with 27 full-page engraved illustrations of the moon, a large folding engraved plate of the moon, and 26 woodcuts of planets against a black back ground, mostly full-page; occasional minor damp-staining; a few marginal tears; small area of the folding plate restored; a very good copy in contemporary limp vellum.


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very rare first edition, complete with the folding plate that is sometimes missing, of this famous work of observational astronomy by francesco fontana, ‘the most renowned italian telescope maker’ (dsb) of his time, and ‘perhaps the first to use a keplerian telescope for regular planetary observation’ (King, The History of the Telescope p. 46).

‘Fontana, a lawyer by trade, began drawing the moon in 1629, and several of his early sketches were circulated and even printed in the works of other astronomers in the early 1640’s. Not until 1646 did Fontana manage to publish his findings under his own name. The Observations contains woodcut illustrations of a number of planets, but the illustrations of the moon are engraved and make up the bulk of the work.

‘In fact, this might be called the earliest lunar atlas, since it features images of the moon at nearly every phase of the lunar cycle. Four of the early drawings of 1629-30 [recte 1629-40] are included, but the remaining twenty-five [recte 24] were all made in the last months of 1645’ (William B. Ashworth, Jr., The Face of the Moon. Galileo to Apollo p. 4).

‘He saw the belts of Jupiter and a marking on Mars which he took to be a permanent feature of the planet. This was probably the Syrtis Major, a region visible at opposition with a small telescope and recorded a few years later by Christian Huygens and Robert Hooke. Fontana’s observations of the moon resulted in his making drawings to show the surface features at different phases and, while observing Venus, he noticed irregularities along the inner edge of the crescent which he took to be mountains’ (King, ibid.).

The first chapters contain a very early history of the invention of the telescope, and Fontana’s claim ‘that he had conceived the use of a positive eyepiece before Kepler introduced his telescope but, for this as for his invention of the microscope, we have only his own testimony and that of two fellow Jesuits’ (King, ibid.), ‘at the same time his book contains the first publication concerning a compound microscope of the Keplerian form, i.e. with a convex lens as eye-piece’ (Clay, The History of the Microscope p. 9).

Carli and Favaro 211; Houzeau and Lancaster II, 1328; Riccardi I/1 467 (‘raro ed apprezzato’); The Face of the Moon 4.