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Lot 0121
Astronomy.- Digges (Leonard) A Prognostication everlasting of right good effect, largely printed in black letter, woodcut astronomical illustration on title, woodcut illustrations, diagrams, initials and decorations, folding woodcut plate present and intact (between M2 and M3), soiled, some foxing, browning and light staining, title and first few leaves with corners restored, title also with tear repaired to verso, later half calf over marbled boards, rubbed, old catalogue description cutting pasted along spine and over label, [STC 435.59], small 4to, Imprinted at London by Felix Kyngstone, 1605.

⁂ The rare 1605 edition of Digges's Prognostication everlastinge, the last to be printed, and offered here with the folding woodcut plate depicting the Copernican universe in all its heliocentric glory.

This celebrated diagram, often lacking in recorded copies of all editions of the work, first appeared in the 1576 edition, and represents a sort of visual introduction to Thomas Digges' appendix A Perfit Description of the Caelestial Orbes. In effect, it portrays Digges's particular view of a heliocentric universe. Digges not only supports the Copernican theory, but in addition advocates cosmological infinity, a feature not explicitly affirmed by Copernicus. "Digges's illustrative and rightly famous diagram of planetary orbs is different from that in De revolutionibus in the significant aspect that it represents the orb of the fixed stars as open. Stars are in fact scattered beyond the sphere of Saturn. This diagram exerted great influence in England, where the infinity of the universe became part of the Copernican theory. Gilbert, for one, adopted this image in De mundo nostro sublunari philosophia nova (New Philosophy of Our Sublunary World, 1651), adding the remark that stars appear to us to be at rest because they are beyond the action of the Sun, which extends only up to Saturn" (P.D. Omodeo, Copernicus in the Cultural Debates of the Renaissance, p. 171).

This folded diagram, the very first illustration to depict an infinite universe, was included in subsequent editions of the Prognostication, always re-using the same wood-block of 1576. Minor differences are detectable: the caption surmounting the diagram, in the types employed for setting it, and the division of lines.

A copy of the 1605 edition, complete with the Copernican diagram as here, was sold at the Horblit's sale (Sotheby's 1974, lot 304).

Rothamsted acquisition date 1930.

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Astronomy.- Digges (Leonard) A Prognostication

Estimate £4,000 - £6,000
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London, UK
Auction Curated By:
Rupert Powell
International Head of Books and Works on Paper
Justin Phillips
Early and Continental Printing