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New acquisition in the History of Astronomy

IMG_1308One of the newest acquisitions in the History of Science collection is the first edition of French mathematician Oronce Finé’s Protomathesis (Paris, 1532), a compendium of astronomical and geographical knowledge. This book is important as a detailed summation of the field of astronomy in the decade before Nicolaus Copernicus published his heliocentric theory of the solar system. This image from Protomathesis shows author Finé learning at the feet of the Greek muse of astronomy, Urania.

Protomathesis is also well known for its detailed illustrations of IMG_1310geographical and astronomical models and instruments like sundials and quadrants. Recent scholarship has shown that some readers traced and even excised these diagrams (like the one shown at the left) from copies of the book in order to create working instruments! Fortunately, BYU’s copy still has all its illustrations. The book has been fully cataloged and can be requested for viewing in the Special Collections reading room.

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