PICCOLOMINI, Alessandro (1508-1578). De la Sfera del Mondo, libri quattro in lingua Toscana… De le Stelle Fisse: libro uno con le sue figure e con le sue tavole… Venice: [N. de Bascarini], 1548.

$ 9,000.00

Small 4to., (8 ¼ x 6 ¼ inches). 2 vignette title pages, historiated initials, (free endpapers partially cut away, one or two pale stains). 47 woodcut celestial maps, numerous in-text diagrams throughout, woodcut tables (some staining). Contemporary vellum (rebacked, edges repaired, some darkening).

Provenance: Contemporary pen trials to title page and binding. With the bookplate of Gustavus Wynne Cook (1867-1940). With library bookplates of Franklin Institute Library and Episc. Seminarii Finariensis. With ?19th-century bookseller ticket tipped in on front free endpaper.

Second edition, first published in 1540. A “remarkable exposition of the Ptolemaic-Aristotelian geocentric cosmography, its appendix, ‘De le stelle fisse,’ represents THE FIRST PRINTED STAR ATLAS, containing maps of the stars as opposed to simple pictures of constellations, and introducing the practice of identifying stars by letter, a method later adopted and expanded by Bayer” (Norman). “De la sfera del mondo” is a discussion of the Ptolemaic cosmography, accompanied by it magnificent celestial atlas of 47 maps, one for each Ptolemaic constellation, with the exception of Equuleus. Unusually the constellations are shown without their corresponding Greek and Roman mythological figures. In each map Piccolomini shows the comparative size of each star, the position of the celestial pole and the direction of daily rotation of the celestial sphere. Map XLVII “La Corona Australe” is the constellation popularly known as the Southern Cross, having been identified by Andrea Corsali in 1515.

“In 1501 the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512) charted what seems to have been Alpha and Beta Centauri and the stars of Crux, but the most accurate early depiction was made by the Italian navigator Andrea Corsali in 1515. Corsali described the pattern as ‘so fair and beautiful that no other heavenly sign may be compared to it.’ In more modern times, from the 13th-century, explorers of the southern oceans used the Crux (as they called it) as an important guide as the lowest pointer always points to the South” (Ian Ridpath, “Star Tales” online).

The author, a typical Renaissance man, also published plays and numerous other secular works, which when later in life he was made Archbishop of Patras and Coadjutor-elect of Siena, he sorely regretted. He was president of the Accademia degli Intronati, re-founded by a Piccolomini cousin in 1525 after the original Accademia La Grande was formed in the previous century by Pius II (Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini, Pope Pius II (1405-1464). He edited several texts of Aristotle, was the author of a volume of verse and also several philosophical and political works. Riccardi II 269 (this edition). Norman 1696 (1559 edition).