Observing Newton’s Comet

COMETS. Lips(en), Friedrich Gustav

Ohnvorgreiffliche Gedancken / über den im Monath Novemb(er). und Decemb(er). An(no). 1680. /und 1681. im Jenner erschienenen/ Cometen / nebenst vier erörterten Fragen über das Vorgestellte / Bedencken von Cometen; / zum andernmahl vermehrter herauß gegeben von / Friedrich Lipsen/ des Rotenburg. / Gymnasii Rectore.

Rotenburg ob der Tauber: druckts und verlegts Friedrich Gustav Lipß, 1681


Quarto (204 x 163 mm) [8] p.

Marbled paper guard. A fine copy, with a woodcut on the title showing the comet streaking through the sky above Rothenburg ob der Tauber.

Exceedingly rare, revised and expanded edition of a pamphlet on the comet of 1680 and 1681, known variously as the Great Comet, Kirch's comet (after its discoverer), or Newton's Comet. The author, Friedrich Gustav Lips of Crailsheimwas director of the imperial gymnasium at Rothenburg ob der Tauber from 1666-1683. The work contains a description of the comet and prognostications. There are two variants published in 1680 and all three editions have a different title woodcut.

The "Great Comet of 1680 (C/1680 V1) has the distinction of being the first comet discovered by telescope. The comet was discovered by Gottfried Kirch on 14 November 1680, new style, and became one of the brightest comets of the 17th century – reputedly visible even in daytime – and was noted for its spectacularly long tail. Aside from its brilliance, it is probably most noted for being used by Isaac Newton to test and verify Kepler‘s laws. John Flamsteed was the first to propose that the two bright comets of 1680/1681 were the same comet, one travelling inbound to the Sun and the other outbound, and Newton originally disputed this. Newton later changed his mind, however, and then, with Halley‘s help, purloined some of Flamsteed‘s data to indeed verify this was the case without giving Flamsteed credit.

VD17 12: 641538V; Brüning 1318 (1680 ed.); Houzeau - Lancaster 5770; Robinson no. 33; Z&K XXXI, 851; KVK: Erlangen, München; OCLC: only NYPL; COPAC: only National Library Scotland.