A Beautiful Copy of "One of the Most Exquisitely Illustrated Astronomical Works Ever Printed” -Kenney

Marinoni, Giovanni Jacopo de (1676-1755)

De Astronomica Specula Domestica et Organico Apparatu Astronomico.

Vienna: Leopold J. Kaliwoda, 1745


Folio: 36.6 x 25.4 cm [12] ff., 210 pp., [1] f. Collation: [a]2, b-d2, )(2, )()(2, A-Z2, Aa-Zz2, Aaa-Iii2. Including an engraved frontispiece signed Sedlmayr after Bertoli and a title printed in red and black. The text is illustrated with 17 half- to full-page engravings and 43 added engraved folding plates. Complete.


Bound in a contemporary calf, the spine richly tooled with gold ornaments and a lettering piece, also gilt, with minor scuffing and wear to the extremities, and small defects to the spine. The text itself is in exceptional condition. The text and engravings are printed on heavy, high-quality paper. Internally and externally, a very handsome copy.

First edition of this lavishly illustrated description of Marinoni's astronomical observatory in Vienna and its instruments, including the astronomer's numerous telescopes, the (fixed) mural quadrant, the quadrant "ampliatus" and the position micrometer, with its screws, indices and two-lens telescope. One of Marinoni's micrometers, a gift to Eustachio Manfredi, the first Director of the Bologna Observatory, was used by the Bolognese astronomers to observe the transit of Venus in 1761. The various instruments are described in detail along with their actual positions in the building, so that the reader has an exact idea of how an XVIIIth-century observatory was arranged. These same instruments were later used by the Jesuit astronomer Maximillian Hell at the astronomical observatory of the University of Vienna. Thus, this work provides us with a detailed knowledge of the equipment of the first two Viennese observatories.

"Marinoni was born in Udine, Italy (the Austrian border area) and studied in Vienna. He was appointed Imperial Court Mathematician and in 1726 became director of the Academy of Geometry and Military Science. He visited Bologna and later Paris to see astronomical instruments in use there before designing and building his observatory in Vienna." (Kenney)

The observatory, which Marinoni had discussed with Leibnitz as early as 1714, was completed in 1733. Marinoni’s was the first astronomical observatory established in Vienna. Like his great predecessors Tycho Brahe and Jan Hevelius, Marinoni designed his home observatory himself, and constructed many of the instruments used therein. However, Marinoni also imported instruments from Pavia, Venice, Milan (from Pietro Patroni), and London (from the optician and telescope maker Edward Scarlet).

The “De Astronomica Specula Domestica et Organico Apparatu Astronomico” was to the 18th century what Tycho Brahe’s “Mechanica” was to the 16th and Hevelius’ “Machina Coelestis” to the 17th. All three works provided their contemporary audiences with painstakingly detailed descriptions and depictions of state-of-the art astronomical instruments and the observatories constructed for their use. As a record of the state of astronomical technology in the mid-18th century, Marinoni’s work is a work without equal. After his death in 1755, Marinoni’s instruments became the property of the Austrian Empress Maria Theresia (reg. 1740-1780), who used them to equip the newly established astronomical observatory at the University of Vienna. Marinoni’s own house was deemed to far from the university, so it was decided to construct a four-storey tower and to move the instruments there.

The Jesuit astronomer and mathematician Maximilian Hell was appointed as the first director of the observatory and was charged with overseeing its construction and the installation of the instruments. It was from the new observatory, using Marinoni’s instruments, that Hell made his observations for his annual ephemerides and observed the transit of Venus in 1761, using Marinoni’s micrometer and the Newtonian telescope that Marinoni had bought from Edward Scarlet. Hell’s astronomical work brought him to the attention of King Christian VII of Denmark and Norway, who invited him to mount an expedition to observe the 1769 transit of Venus from Vardö. Upon returning to Vienna, Hell sought to derive the sun’s parallax from his observations of the two Venus transits. Even after the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, Hell continued in his post as director of the university observatory, ably assisted by his colleagues Anton Pilgram and Franz Triesnecker (also former Jesuits).

Kenny, Catalogue of Rare Astronomical Books, p. 200 (1745); Riccardi I.119; Poggendorff II, 53; Lalande 426; Mayer II, 27; see Zinner, Astronom. Instrumente, 206 and 437; Turner, Early Scientific Instruments. Europe 1400-1800, p. 223: "a remarkable collection of equipment".