Sophia Rare Books
Almagestum Novum Astronomiam. RICCIOLI, Giambattista. Almagestum Novum Astronomiam. Bologna: Heirs of V. Benatius, 1651.

Rare first edition of one of the most important anti-Copernican works. In these two folio volumes Jesuit astronomer Riccioli presented a ponderous examination all the scientific arguments in favor of the geocentric theory, and compared them with those favorable to the Copernican system and those upheld by Galileo, in order to prove that the Inquisition’s condemnation of Galileo was not only justified theologically but also scientifically. Riccioli included, in the second volume, an important collection of Latin documents on Galileo’s condemnation, which was for more than two centuries the most complete and authoritative source of information about the trial.

“Following the Inquisition’s condemnation of Galileo’s astronomical theories Riccioli became one of the most ardent opponents of the Copernican system, which he tried to refute in every way. He nonetheless recognized the simplicity and the imaginative force of the Copernican theory, and a acknowledged it as the best ‘mathematical hypothesis’— while striving to divorce it from any effective notion of truth. In particular Riccioli designed a series of experiments by which he hoped to disprove Galileo’s conclusions, but instead ratified them. This is especially true of his accurate and ingenious investigations of falling bodies. Although he was somewhat hampered by his reluctance to read Galileo’s own works, his own skill as an experimenter served him well. With his fellow Jesuit, Francesco Maria Grimaldi, Riccioli succeeded in perfecting the pendulum as an instrument to measure time, thereby surpassing Galileo and his school and laying the groundwork for a number of important later applications.

Riccioli also made a number of significant astronomical measurements in an effort to expand and refine existing data. To this end he made measurements to determine the radius of the earth and to establish the ratio of water to land. His recourse to a mathematical treatment of these problems is noteworthy. He observed the topography of the moon and, in concert with Grimaldi, introduced some of the nomenclature that is still used to describe lunar features. Riccioli described sunspots, compiled star catalogues, and recorded his observation of a double star; he also noted the colored bands parallel to the equator of Jupiter and made observations of Saturn that, if he had had better instruments, might have led him to recongnize its rings.” (DSB).The maps two lunar maps in the work, drawn by Grimaldi, mainly confirmed and augmented the selenographies of Van Langren and Hevelius. However, Riccioli’s naming scheme remains in use to this day. The nomenclature was based on a subdivision of the visible lunar surface into octants, numbered in the Roman style from I through VIII. The naming scheme had two components, the first used for the broad features of land and seas, and the second for the craters. Riccioli used the names of various historical effects and weather conditions attributed to the Moon throughout history. Thus there were the seas of rain (Mare Imbrium), clouds (Mare Nubium), crises (Mare Crisium), tranquility (Mare Tranquilitatis). The landmasses were given comparable names; thus there were the lands of sterility (Terra Sterilitatis), heat (Terra Caloris), and liveliness (Terra Vitae). For the craters, Riccioli followed Van Langren’s idea of commemorating famous people. However, unlike Van Langren, Riccioli avoided political conflict by using only the names of deceased philosophers and scholars with a connection to astronomy. The first chart shows the moon without names, surrounded by four figures depicting the main phases of the moon. The second chart shows the moon divided into Riccioli's octans with all the major features named.

Cinti 124; Norman 1826; Honeyman 2641; Sotheran, Bibliotheca Chemico-Mathematica, Second Supplement, 3760; Houzeau & Lancaster 9223; De Backer & Sommervogel VI:1798-99; Riccardi I (2), 371.

Volume one (all published) in 2 volumes. Folio: 357 x 245 mm. [8], XVVII, [1], 763, [1]; [4], XVIII, 675, (1) pp. Engraved frontispiece by F. Curtus in each volume, engraved arms on dedication leaves, 2 fine engraved folding lunar maps by Domenico Fontana after Francesco Maria Grimaldi, numerous woodcut diagrams in text. 19th century vellum with gold title on double orange-green morocco label at spine, gilt spines. Occasional light browning to a few leaves, in all a very fine copy of this rare work. Price: €16,000.00




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