Rare 1st edition of Copernicus' astronomy book could fetch $2.5M

The book, which is up for auction, was highly controversial at the time as it created a new heliocentric model of the universe.
Nergis Firtina
Copernicus' heliocentric model of the Universe.
Copernicus' heliocentric model of the Universe.

Ann Ronan Pictures/Print Collector/Getty Images 

An alternative to Ptolemy's geocentric model, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium or "On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres" in English, was a groundbreaking heliocentric theory written by Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus in the Polish Renaissance.

First printed in 1543 in Nuremberg, which was part of the Holy Roman Empire, the book was controversial as it explained that the Earth revolved around the sun and not vice versa. The first edition of the book is expected to be sold for $2.5 million next month in an auction, according to Live Science.

"This book only comes up for auction once in a while," Christian Westergaard the founder of Sophia Rare Books who is handling the sale, told Live Science. "It's rare to find one in this condition. It's a completely perfect copy."

The leather-bound book's binding is the sole significant modification; according to Westergaard, it was changed at some point in the 18th century. Several times, copies that are sold have been altered, including institutional stamps being removed, pages being chemically cleaned, and other restoration work.

"Book collecting is a lot like car collecting," Westergaard added. "Collectors want the original."

Rare 1st edition of Copernicus' astronomy book could fetch $2.5M
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, libri V. Nuremberg: Johann Petreius, 1543.

The Vatican banned the copies

Among the first 500 copies that were printed, only 277 are known to still be in existence because the Vatican banned the majority that were housed in museums, libraries, and other academic institutions. In 2008, a similar copy sold at auction for $2.2 million, according to Christie's.

The manuscript also has numerous handwritten notes, including two early names that can only be read under UV light that are scrawled on the title page. "Brugiere" and "Jacobi Du Roure" are among them.

"Unfortunately, we do not know anything about the two early owners and probable annotators," Westergaard said. "They seem to have been lost in the haze of time. But maybe one day someone will succeed in shedding light on these."

The manuscript will be exhibited during the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair which will be held between April 27-30. 

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board