Kepler’s Most Influential Work. A Beautiful, Untrimmed Copy

Kepler, Johannes (1571-1630)

Epitome astronomiæ copernicanæ vsitatâ formâ quæstionum & responsionum conscripta, inque VII. libros digesta, quorum tres hi priores sunt de doctrina sphærica. Habes, amice lector, hac prima parte, præter physicam accuratam explicationem motus terræ diurni, ortusq; ex eo circulorum sphæræ, totam doctrinam sphæricam nova & concinniori methodo, auctiorem, additis exemplis omnis generis computationum astronomicarum & geographicarum, quæ integrarum præceptionum vim sunt complexa.

Frankfurt: Impensis Ioannis Godefridi Schönwetteri, 1635


Octavo: 18 x 11.7 cm. [28], 932 (i.e. 924), [14] p. Collation: Signatures: [asterisk]6 2[asterisk]4 3[asterisk]4 A-4S8 4T2 4V7. Complete with blank leaves ***4, Cc6 and Vvvv8, the slip with printed catchword inserted at the foot of ***3v (noted by Cinti), and the folding letterpress table.


Completely untrimmed, bound in contemporary carta rustica. A beautiful copy with clean, fresh leaves, and only minor cosmetic defects: Title page repaired in gutter, small hole in Ccc7 affecting 2 letters, quire Mmm repaired along folds, a few quires at end with small tears around the sewing, resewn with new spine lining and vellum sewing supports.

KEPLER'S LONGEST AND MOST INFLUENTIAL WORK was first published in three separate volumes from 1618 to 1621. The first published part was placed on the Index of Prohibited Books in 1619.

It is possible to see, from this uncut copy, that one half of each sheet was printed with an ample fore-edge, and the other half with a narrow fore-edge, which explains why copies generally have much narrower dimensions.

Kepler’s “Epitome” is the “first systematic complete presentation of astronomy to introduce the idea of modern celestial mechanics founded by Kepler… The title gives no inkling that Kepler had erected an entirely new structure on the foundation of the Copernican theory, that he had rescued the Copernican conception, at that time disputed and little believed, and helped it to break through by introducing his planetary laws and by treating the phenomena of the motions physically.”(Caspar, Kepler)

“Kepler designed this work as an inexpensive and readily understandable textbook of the new astronomy, hence the octavo size, the small and crowded type, and the question-and-answer format. By far the longest of Kepler’s books, it was originally issued in three parts... As a result of its Copernican view the book was placed on the Index, thereby joining Copernicus’s ‘De Revolutionibus’, which had been placed on the Index a few years earlier in 1616.

“In its comprehensiveness and systematic character the ‘Epitome’ is comparable to Ptolemy’s ‘Almagest’ and Copernicus’s ‘De Revolutionibus’. One important detail is Kepler’s extension of his first two planetary laws to all the other planets as well as to the moon and the four satellites of Jupiter’ (Johannes Kepler

Quadricentennial Celebration, University of Texas at Austin (1971), 77).

“At the same time that Kepler was preparing his planetary ephemerides and his ‘Harmonices mundi’, he also embarked upon his longest and perhaps most influential book, an introductory textbook for Copernican astronomy in general and Keplerian astronomy in particular... The ‘Epitome astronomiae Copernicanae’ gave a systematic treatment of all of heliocentric astronomy, including the three relationships now called Kepler’s laws.

“Although Bk IV came last conceptually, it was published in sequence. Subtitled ‘Celestial Physics, that is, Every Size, Motion, and Proportion in the Heavens Explained by a Cause Either Natural or Archetypal’, it is the most remarkable section of the ‘Epitome’. To a large extent it epitomized both the ‘Harmonice’ and Kepler’s new lunar theory, completed just before this part was sent to press... Kepler’s harmonic law, which he had discovered just as the ‘Harmonice’ was going to press, now received a far more extensive treatment.” (Owen Gingerich, ‘Johannes Kepler’ in The General History of Astronomy, volume 2, Planetary astronomy from the Renaissance to the rise of astrophysics Part A: Tycho Brahe

to Newton).


“Kepler’s Epitome... presents a systematic treatment of the field of astronomy, perhaps the fullest such treatment since the ‘Almagest’ of Ptolemy... Kepler, reiterating ideas that he had expressed earlier, hypothesizes that force is needed to sustain motion and that hence some force must be acting on the planets. This force, he speculates, originates from the sun, decreases with distance from the sun, can act over a vacuum, and may be magnetic. In contrast to many scientists of the time, Kepler believes much of space to be a vacuum.”(Parkinson)


Caspar 87; Cinti 97