Sphaera mundi. Add: REGIOMONTANUS, Johannes (1436-1476). Disputationes contra Cremonensia deliramenta. Add: PEUERBACH, Georg von (1423-1461). Theoricae novae planetarum

Autore: SACROBOSCO, Johannes de (d. 1244 or 1256)

Tipografo: Erhard Ratdolt

Dati tipografici: Venezia, 6 July 1482



4to (194x147 mm). [60] leaves. Collation: a-g8 h4. 30-31 lines, Gothic type, first six lines of l. a2 printed in red, four 11-line woodcut initials in contemporary handcoloring, several 5-lines woodcut initials (partially colored), frontispiece woodcut of armillary sphere on a1 verso (partly colored), 39 woodcut diagrams in text (many half-page), of which 7 are coloured in green and/or yellow wash by a contemporary hand as usual. Modern morocco gilt, old marbled edges. Small repair to the lower margin of l. a1 with no loss, worm track to the gutter of a few leaves skillfully repaired with no loss, ll. g3-6 heavily browned, some scattered foxing and staining, overall a good copy fully annotated in the margins in Latin and Greek by a contemporary hand (some of the notes are slightly trimmed).


First Ratdolt edition of Sacrobosco's astronomical treatise Sphaera mundi (sixth edition overall) and first edition to be printed together with Purbach's Theoricae novae planetarum, appeared only once previously.

“Sacrobosco's Sphaera, written in Paris around 1220, enjoyed a long popularity as the leading introduction to spherical astronomy. First printed in 1472, it went through at least a score of editions in the fifteenth century and something over 100 in the sixteenth” (O. Gingerich, Sacrobosco as a Textbook, in: “Journal of History of Astronomy”, 19, no. 4, Nov. 1988, p. 269).

“Sacrobosco's fame rests firmly on his De sphaera, a small work based on Ptolemy and his Arabic commentators […] It was quite generally adopted as the fundamental astronomy text, for often it was so clear that it needed little or no explanation. It was first used at the University of Paris […]

During the Middle Ages the De sphaera enjoyed great renown, and from the middle of the thirteenth century it was taught in all the schools of Europe. In the sixteenth century it gained the attention of mathematicians, including Clavius. As late as the seventeenth century it was used as a basic astronomy text, but after 1700 it was completely forgotten” (D.S.B., XII, pp. 60-61).

Sacrobosco's text is accompanied in this edition by a treatise of J. Regiomontanus, which is a critique of an anonymous thirteenth-century university textbook usually attributed to Gerard of Cremona (Theoricae planetarum communis), and by G. Peuerbach's Theoricae novae planetarum, another fundamental text on astronomy for generations of students.

Peuerbach's renowned work on the theory of planets - actually a lecture script by his pupil Regiomontanus  - was written in 1460, one year before his death, and first published at Nuremberg around 1473. The Theoricae novae planetarum is based on the familiar teachings of Ptolemy, Al-Battani, Al-Farghani and caliph Al-Mammun's astronomer, whose name is unknown. The word “novae” in the title is not meant to refer to a completely new theory but only to emphasize that this work is a compilation of the latest contemporary scientific knowledge. Peuerbach's work gradually replaced leading textbooks of the time such as the Sphaera by Johannes de Sacrobosco. By the middle of the 17th century the Theoricae novae was printed no less than 56 times, which made it to one of the most significant scientific books in the Renaissance. Even Kepler and Copernicus founded their theories on this work (cf. E.J. Aiton, Peurbach's ‘Theoricae Novae Planetarum'. A Translation with Commentary, in: “Osiris”, 2nd. series, 3, 1987, pp. 5-44).

“Peurbach's book was of great importance because his models remained the canonical physical description of the structure of heavens until Tycho Brahe disproved the existence of solid spheres. Even Copernicus was to a large extent still under their influence, and the original motivation for his planetary theory was apparently to correct a number of physical impossibilities in Peurbach's models relating to a non-uniform rotation of solid spheres” (D.S.B., XV, pp. 473-479).


Goff, J-405; Klebs, 874.9; Sander, 6661; Essling, 258; BMC, V, 286; GW, M14652; HC 14110* = H 14102; J. Bennett-D. Bertoloni Meli, Sphaera mundi: astronomy books in the Whipple Museum 1478-1600, Cambridge, 1994, pp. 14-15, no. 2.