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In: An Annotated Census of Copernicus' De revolutionibus


As a young teacher in Graz in the 1590s, Johannes Kepler became fascinated with the pattern of conjunctions of Saturn and Jupiter (which occur approximately every 20 years) and the way they moved around the zodiac in an 800-year cycle. He had the opportunity to follow the beginning of a new 800-year cycle in 1603–04 and was astonished when a brilliant (super)nova appeared near Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars on 11 October 1604. The time of the birth of Jesus would have been near another of these conjunctions, two 800-year cycles earlier, and Kepler conjectured that a conjunction just beginning a series in the so-called fiery signs could have triggered the star of Bethlehem. He recorded his conjectures in De stella nova (1606) and then again, with more chronological detail, in De vero anno (1614), in the year in which University of Groningen was established.

In: The Star of Bethlehem and the Magi
In: Nuncius
In: Between Demonstration and Imagination
The Annotated Census lists and describes - on the basis of direct examination - all of the 560 located copies of the first and second editions of Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium coelestium that survive in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, as well as several copies of known provenance destroyed, stolen or otherwise lost in modern times. The entry for each copy lists its present location and describes particulars of its binding, size, and any shelf marks. A short history is given of the provenance of each copy, wherever possible with identification of owners and dates of ownership. Marginalia and interlinear notes are also indicated together with transcription and translation of the more important ones. The content of the more significant notes is discussed (with reference to the modern literature), analyses that sometimes develop into substantial essays. Numerous plates show examples of the handwriting of the major annotators. Appendices list the other works bound with De revolutionibus, and prices at auction going back to the 18th century.
The density and quality of the data provided about the copies make this a fascinating reference work not only for scholars interested in the history of astronomy but especially for all those interested in printing in the early modern period. The census will also provide an almost inexhaustible mine of information concerning the spread of ideas, scholarly networks, book collecting, and library development from the 17th to 20th centuries.