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Copernicus.- Digges (Leonard) A Prognostication everlastinge of righte good effecte...to judge the weather by the Sunne, Moone, Starres, Comets, Rainebow, Thunder, Cloudes..., first edition with the translation of Copernicus, collation: pi2, A-L4, M2, N-O4, P2, (lacking blank leaf G4 and the folding woodcut following leaf 42), partially printed in black letter, large woodcut illustration on title depicting the signs of the zodiac in relation to the human body (Luborsky-Morley Ingram, Type B.1), woodcut of ship at sea bearing the arms of the dedicatee (see Luborsky-Morley Ingram, Type 1, state 1) to title verso , numerous woodcut illustrations and diagrams illustrating measuring instruments, mariners' cards, the geocentric universe, constellation Orion etc., sig.L1 folded at edges, trimmed close, occasionally with loss of headlines/pagination, side-notes or signatures/catchwords and to edge of 2 woodcut diagrams, loss of most of the author's name at foot of dedication leaf, small stain to title and last couple of leaves, early 20th century full tan calf, gilt, by R. Wallis, small 4to (177 x 127mm.), Imprinted at London by Thomas Marsh, 1576.

⁂ A book of legendary rarity: the 1576 enlarged edition of Leonard Digges' work, supplemented by his own son Thomas with the first translation into a vernacular language ever to appear of the groundbreaking cosmological section of Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium coelestium. A milestone in the history of astronomy and history of scientific ideas in England.

The Prognostication everlastinge was originally published by the mathematician Leonard Digges in 1555. The work belonged to the long tradition of popular almanacks, calendars, and ephemerides, and enjoyed a wide circulation, being often reprinted in subsequent years. In 1576 his son Thomas Digges, one of the most esteemed English mathematicians of the Elizabethian age, published a new edition of his father's work, adding an Appendix entitled A Perfit Description of the Caelestial Orbes according to the most aunciente doctrine of the Pythagoreans, latelye revived by Copernicus and by Geometricall Demostrations approved. The volume is introduced by Thomas Digges's new dedicatory letter to Sir Edward Fines, High Admiral of England, a feature which could explain the presence on the verso of the title-page of the woodcut showing a warship bearing Fines's arms, which only appeared in this 1576 edition.

The Perfit Description of the Caelestial Orbes is a translation, or a paraphrase, into English of the three chapters from Book 1 of Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium, first published in 1543. Digges translates in particular chapters 7-8, in which Copernicus rejected Ptolemy's and Aristotle's arguments against the motion of Earth, and chapter 10, dealing with the order of the celestial spheres. Digges also adds to Copernicus's text some highly significant passages of his own, in which he affirms the infinity of the heliocentric universe, a question which was widely debated among contemporary theologians and philosophers.

This edition is of the greatest rarity: only 3 copies are recorded in institutional libraries - BL, Huntington and Folger.

Rothamsted acquisition date 1925.

Literature: STC (2nd ed.) 435.47; Bosanquet clxxx; Brüning Kometenliteratur 317; F. R. Johnson - S. V. Larkey, "Thomas Digges, the Copernican System and the Idea of Infinity of the Universe in 1576", Huntington Library Bulletin 5 (1934), pp. 69-117; A.R. Hall, The Scientific Revolution, London 1954, p. 104; P. D. Omodeo, Copernicus in the Cultural Debates of the Renaissance. Reception, Legacy, Transformation, Leiden 2014, pp. 171-175.

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Copernicus.- Digges (Leonard) A Prognostication

Estimate £15,000 - £20,000
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Auction Curated By:
Rupert Powell
International Head of Books and Works on Paper
Justin Phillips
Early and Continental Printing
220 Queenstown Road
London, SW8 4LP
United Kingdom
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