Collectibles

First published book on heliocentric theory heads for auction

First published book on helioc...
The book is expected to sell for between £1,200,000 and £1,800,000, which due to Brexit, is a lot cheaper in US dollars this week at an estimate that translates into just $1.6 to $2.4 million. We expect it will considerably exceed its estimate as the last time a copy came to auction was at a Sotheby's New York auction in November, 1989.
The book is expected to sell for between £1,200,000 and £1,800,000, which due to Brexit, is a lot cheaper in US dollars this week at an estimate that translates into just $1.6 to $2.4 million. We expect it will considerably exceed its estimate as the last time a copy came to auction was at a Sotheby's New York auction in November, 1989.
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De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the revolutions of the heavenly spheres), by Nicolaus Copernicus was finally published in 1543, though its core was written at least three decades prior, and Copernicus resisted publication, finally handed one of the first printed copies on his death bed (as the above quite famous illustration depicts). He was thus spared the fury of the Catholic Church which regarded his heliocentric views as heresy. A century later, Galileo Galilei experienced persecution for promoting the same ideas, spending the last 25 years of his life under house arrest. In his lifetime Copernicus would never grasp the importance of his work, or that the book he resisted publishing would be forever recognized as a landmark event in the history of science.
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De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the revolutions of the heavenly spheres), by Nicolaus Copernicus was finally published in 1543, though its core was written at least three decades prior, and Copernicus resisted publication, finally handed one of the first printed copies on his death bed (as the above quite famous illustration depicts). He was thus spared the fury of the Catholic Church which regarded his heliocentric views as heresy. A century later, Galileo Galilei experienced persecution for promoting the same ideas, spending the last 25 years of his life under house arrest. In his lifetime Copernicus would never grasp the importance of his work, or that the book he resisted publishing would be forever recognized as a landmark event in the history of science.
More than just contradicting religious doctrine, 'De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium"' threatened mankind's self perception. As Sigmund Freud so eloquently put it in his A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (delivered as lectures between 1915 and 1917 and translated into English in 1920): "Humanity has in the course of time had to endure from the hands of science two great outrages upon its naive self-love. The first was when it realized that our earth was not the center of the universe, but only a tiny speck in a world-system of a magnitude hardly conceivable; this is associated in our minds with the name of Copernicus, although Alexandrian doctrines taught something very similar. The second was when biological research robbed man of his peculiar privilege of having been specially created, and relegated him to a descent from the animal world, implying an ineradicable animal nature in him: this transvaluation has been accomplished in our own time upon the instigation of Charles Darwin, Wallace, and their predecessors, and not without the most violent opposition from their contemporaries. But man's craving for grandiosity is now suffering the third and most bitter blow from present-day psychological research which is endeavoring to prove to the 'ego' of each one of us that he is not even master in his own house, but that he must remain content with the veriest scraps of information about what is going on unconsciously in his own mind. We psychoanalysts were neither the first nor the only ones to propose to mankind that they should look inward; but it appears to be our lot to advocate it most insistently and to support it by empirical evidence which touches every man closely." Another copy of "De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium" sold for $1,295,767 (GBP £825,250) at a Sotheby's auction in November, 2011, and another for $1,069,805 at a Christies auction in December, 2013.
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More than just contradicting religious doctrine, 'De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium"' threatened mankind's self perception. As Sigmund Freud so eloquently put it in his A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (delivered as lectures between 1915 and 1917 and translated into English in 1920): "Humanity has in the course of time had to endure from the hands of science two great outrages upon its naive self-love. The first was when it realized that our earth was not the center of the universe, but only a tiny speck in a world-system of a magnitude hardly conceivable; this is associated in our minds with the name of Copernicus, although Alexandrian doctrines taught something very similar. The second was when biological research robbed man of his peculiar privilege of having been specially created, and relegated him to a descent from the animal world, implying an ineradicable animal nature in him: this transvaluation has been accomplished in our own time upon the instigation of Charles Darwin, Wallace, and their predecessors, and not without the most violent opposition from their contemporaries. But man's craving for grandiosity is now suffering the third and most bitter blow from present-day psychological research which is endeavoring to prove to the 'ego' of each one of us that he is not even master in his own house, but that he must remain content with the veriest scraps of information about what is going on unconsciously in his own mind. We psychoanalysts were neither the first nor the only ones to propose to mankind that they should look inward; but it appears to be our lot to advocate it most insistently and to support it by empirical evidence which touches every man closely." Another copy of "De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium" sold for $1,295,767 (GBP £825,250) at a Sotheby's auction in November, 2011, and another for $1,069,805 at a Christies auction in December, 2013.
The book is expected to sell for between £1,200,000 and £1,800,000, which due to Brexit, is a lot cheaper in US dollars this week at an estimate that translates into just $1.6 to $2.4 million.We expect it will considerably exceed its estimate as the last time a copy came to auction was at a Sotheby's New York auction in November, 1989.
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The book is expected to sell for between £1,200,000 and £1,800,000, which due to Brexit, is a lot cheaper in US dollars this week at an estimate that translates into just $1.6 to $2.4 million.We expect it will considerably exceed its estimate as the last time a copy came to auction was at a Sotheby's New York auction in November, 1989.
The book is expected to sell for between £1,200,000 and £1,800,000, which due to Brexit, is a lot cheaper in US dollars this week at an estimate that translates into just $1.6 to $2.4 million. We expect it will considerably exceed its estimate as the last time a copy came to auction was at a Sotheby's New York auction in November, 1989.
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The book is expected to sell for between £1,200,000 and £1,800,000, which due to Brexit, is a lot cheaper in US dollars this week at an estimate that translates into just $1.6 to $2.4 million. We expect it will considerably exceed its estimate as the last time a copy came to auction was at a Sotheby's New York auction in November, 1989.

Christies will auction a work of considerable scientific gravitas on July 13 in London. It is a first edition of the first printed book to propose that the Earth revolved around the Sun.

De Libris Revolutionum Eruditissimi Viridoctoris came not from Nicolaus Copernicus, but from his only student, Georg Joachim Rheticus, and when published in 1540, provided the momentum needed for Copernicus to finally have his landmark De revolutionibus orbium coelestium published in 1543.

Rheticus (1514-1574) published this first book on the subject based on his studies under Copernicus, all the while imploring his master to finally publish the master work which had been finished for 25 years.Copernicus resisted publishing De revolutionibus orbium coelestium for 30 years due to his fear of the Catholic Church, but when Rheticus published this book in 1540, Copernicus finally gave Rheticus the go ahead to publish the major work for him.

De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the revolutions of the heavenly spheres), by Nicolaus Copernicus was finally published in 1543, though its core was written at least three decades prior, and Copernicus resisted publication, finally handed one of the first printed copies on his death bed (as the above quite famous illustration depicts). He was thus spared the fury of the Catholic Church which regarded his heliocentric views as heresy. A century later, Galileo Galilei experienced persecution for promoting the same ideas, spending the last 25 years of his life under house arrest. In his lifetime Copernicus would never grasp the importance of his work, or that the book he resisted publishing would be forever recognized as a landmark event in the history of science.
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the revolutions of the heavenly spheres), by Nicolaus Copernicus was finally published in 1543, though its core was written at least three decades prior, and Copernicus resisted publication, finally handed one of the first printed copies on his death bed (as the above quite famous illustration depicts). He was thus spared the fury of the Catholic Church which regarded his heliocentric views as heresy. A century later, Galileo Galilei experienced persecution for promoting the same ideas, spending the last 25 years of his life under house arrest. In his lifetime Copernicus would never grasp the importance of his work, or that the book he resisted publishing would be forever recognized as a landmark event in the history of science.

Rheticus is referred to as the "only student" of Copernicus, but given they worked together for many years, understudy might be a better description of the relationship, as Rheticus prepared the De revolutionibus orbium coelestium Copernicus' manuscript for printing, and the famous illustration above shows the finished and printed book being given to Copernicus on his deathbed.

The book is expected to sell for between £1,200,000 and £1,800,000, which due to Brexit, is a lot cheaper in US dollars this week at an estimate that translates into just $1.6 to $2.4 million.We expect it will considerably exceed its estimate as the last time a copy came to auction was at a Sotheby's New York auction in November, 1989.
The book is expected to sell for between £1,200,000 and £1,800,000, which due to Brexit, is a lot cheaper in US dollars this week at an estimate that translates into just $1.6 to $2.4 million.We expect it will considerably exceed its estimate as the last time a copy came to auction was at a Sotheby's New York auction in November, 1989.

The copy of De Libris Revolutionum Eruditissimi Viridoctoris is expected to sell for between £1,200,000 and £1,800,000which due to Brexit, is a lot cheaper in US dollars this week at an estimate that translates into just $1.6 to $2.4 million. We expect it will considerably exceed its estimate as the last time a copy came to auction was at a Sotheby's New York auction in November, 1989.

We've been following the scientific manuscripts and instruments market since we began, and we have maintained for many years that the scientific book and instrument marketplace is considerably undervalued by comparison to many other auction marketplaces.

This book is a landmark work and if it sells for the mid-point of its ultra conservative estimate, $2 million, it will become one of the top 20 most valuable scientific documents ever sold.

More than just contradicting religious doctrine, 'De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium"' threatened mankind's self perception. As Sigmund Freud so eloquently put it in his A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (delivered as lectures between 1915 and 1917 and translated into English in 1920): "Humanity has in the course of time had to endure from the hands of science two great outrages upon its naive self-love. The first was when it realized that our earth was not the center of the universe, but only a tiny speck in a world-system of a magnitude hardly conceivable; this is associated in our minds with the name of Copernicus, although Alexandrian doctrines taught something very similar. The second was when biological research robbed man of his peculiar privilege of having been specially created, and relegated him to a descent from the animal world, implying an ineradicable animal nature in him: this transvaluation has been accomplished in our own time upon the instigation of Charles Darwin, Wallace, and their predecessors, and not without the most violent opposition from their contemporaries. But man's craving for grandiosity is now suffering the third and most bitter blow from present-day psychological research which is endeavoring to prove to the 'ego' of each one of us that he is not even master in his own house, but that he must remain content with the veriest scraps of information about what is going on unconsciously in his own mind. We psychoanalysts were neither the first nor the only ones to propose to mankind that they should look inward; but it appears to be our lot to advocate it most insistently and to support it by empirical evidence which touches every man closely." Another copy of "De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium" sold for $1,295,767 (GBP £825,250) at a Sotheby's auction in November, 2011, and another for $1,069,805 at a Christies auction in December, 2013.
More than just contradicting religious doctrine, 'De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium"' threatened mankind's self perception. As Sigmund Freud so eloquently put it in his A General Introduction to Psychoanalysis (delivered as lectures between 1915 and 1917 and translated into English in 1920): "Humanity has in the course of time had to endure from the hands of science two great outrages upon its naive self-love. The first was when it realized that our earth was not the center of the universe, but only a tiny speck in a world-system of a magnitude hardly conceivable; this is associated in our minds with the name of Copernicus, although Alexandrian doctrines taught something very similar. The second was when biological research robbed man of his peculiar privilege of having been specially created, and relegated him to a descent from the animal world, implying an ineradicable animal nature in him: this transvaluation has been accomplished in our own time upon the instigation of Charles Darwin, Wallace, and their predecessors, and not without the most violent opposition from their contemporaries. But man's craving for grandiosity is now suffering the third and most bitter blow from present-day psychological research which is endeavoring to prove to the 'ego' of each one of us that he is not even master in his own house, but that he must remain content with the veriest scraps of information about what is going on unconsciously in his own mind. We psychoanalysts were neither the first nor the only ones to propose to mankind that they should look inward; but it appears to be our lot to advocate it most insistently and to support it by empirical evidence which touches every man closely." Another copy of "De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium" sold for $1,295,767 (GBP £825,250) at a Sotheby's auction in November, 2011, and another for $1,069,805 at a Christies auction in December, 2013.

Even the most valuable first edition copy of his master's master work De revolutionibus orbium coelestium only achieved $2,210,500 at a Christie's (New York), June, 2008 auction.

The Rheticus book is just one of an outstanding array of important books from the Scientific Library of Giancarlo Beltrame, and what we're seeing at this auction is only half the collection, so given the extraordinary depth and breadth on display, we can't wait for the second half.

Giancarlo Beltrame took the helm of the family company, AFV Acciaierie Beltrame S.p.A, founded in 1896, and recast it as one of the main players in the global steel industry. Over the years, Beltrame has collected scientific instruments, rare books, autograph letters and prints.

His world-renowned scientific library includes some of the most important texts on astronomy (his passion, as can be seen from the number of first editions relating to the science), geography, mathematics, technology and medicine, but also philosophical works, esoteric texts and humanist literature.

3 comments
hibni
The title of this article should say "The oldest existing book [...]", because the first book published on heliocentric theory was written by Aristarchus of Samos. The original book is lost (like most of scientific publications of ellenistic period), but his theory survived.
amazed W1
This book and the contemporary delays in its and Copernicus's and Galileo's views should be compulsory reading for all would be scientists. This because it is an uncontroversial reminder of what happens when a bureaucratic elite amongst the knowledge holders, who may well be academics as well as religious or political fanatics, stifle the study of new theories through everything from peer group pressure to physical threats. For instance we still have no calm and objective assessments of why black holes and not plasma stream electrostatic effects explain why the observed mass could not produce the observed forces, or why one or two of the saner objections to global warming being due solely to anthropomorphic effects are rejected, etc etc!
SimonMitton
I am a professional historian of science, specializing in the history of cosmology. Copernicus did NOT fear the Church. What he feared was "being hissed of the stage". That's how he put it.