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Selected art, 28 November 2011
Tycho Brahe: De Nova et nullius ævi memoria prius visa Stella, iam pridem Anno à nato Christo 1572. Mense Nouembri primùm Conspecta, contemplatio mathematica [...]. Copenhagen: Lorenz Benedicht 1573. 4to. 54 leaves. Illust. With 6 woodcuts of Tycho Brahe's astronomical discoveries. Title elegantly repaired on lower corners with no text loss to title. Minor text loss to the verso of title, but elegantly restored. Underlinings and marginal notes in old hand on 16 pages. Dampstaining to upper margin on several leaves and upper corners and lower right corner throughout. Bound in later half vellum. With small book mark on inner front board. Extremely rare complete copy.
References: Dreyer, p. 38–69; R.A. Sparrow, p. 41; Thesaurus # 239; Rosenkilde, p. 19–28; Ekman Collection # 494; Lauritz Nielsen # 429.
Provenance: The Tycho Brahe Planetarium in Copenhagen.
This extremely rare first edition of Tycho Brahe's important work on his observation of the new star in 1572 revolutionised the methods of astronomy. Brahe (1546–1601) had been interested in the celestial spheres since he was a child and had a strong suspicion that the prevailing methods of astronomy were inaccurate. He was, of course, right, but it was difficult to disregard the methods and philosophy of the learned men of the Antiquity and the Middle Ages, from Aristotle to Regiomontanus, who thought the celestial spheres to be invariable. But with his observation of the new star suddenly appearing in the constellation of Cassiopeia on 11 November 1572 and the publication of his observations, he proved that the celestial spheres were in fact variable, contrary to common beliefs. Furthermore he introduced a completely new method based on accurate measuring of observations and precise descriptions of the phenomenon of the new star. All observations were of course made only by eyesight and with the help of instruments invented and refined by Brahe himself (the telescope was not invented until after Brahe's death). Until Brahe's work the science of astronomy was largely based on philosophical convictions and inherited observations from the Antiquity to the Middle Ages. Even Copernicus used the material of his ancestors to deduce his famous theories on the universe. “De Nova Stella", as Brahe's work is commonly called, made Brahe internationally renowned and proved that there was an immense need to revise the existing methods. "Without [Tycho Brahe] the Copernican theory would have remained an unconfirmed hypothesis" (Sparrow p. 41). "De Nova Stella" was only printed and distributed in few copies. Only part of it was later reprinted in Brahe's famous work "Astronomiæ Instauratæ Progrymnasmata” (1602). Today only a couple of copies are known to exist outside public collections. This is the first complete copy to be sold at auction in Denmark in nearly 50 years.
Tycho Brahe (b. 1546, d. 1601)