Copernicus: De Revolutionibus

Nuremberg: 1543
Sp Coll Hunterian Cz.1.13

The groundbreaking De Revolutionibus by Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) rejected earlier views of the cosmos in favour of a heliocentric system with the sun - not the earth -  at its centre. He argued that the earth was not static but rotated on its axis and revolved around the sun. On display below is the famous diagram of this sun-centred planetary system.

A Polish cleric of the Catholic Church and former student of Cracow, Bologna and Padua universities, Copernicus began work on De Revolutionibus in 1517. It was eventually published in 1543, shortly before his death, with the encouragement and assistance of the mathematician Joachim Rheticus. The work garnered him immediate, if posthumous, fame. Now recognised as one of the fathers of modern science, Copernicus' great work has been described as a “monument of scientific genius” and marks a huge and important stride forward in human understanding of the natural world.

Our copy is important for containing annotations by the great cartographer Gerardus Mercator (1512-1594) and the Dutch mathematician Willebrord Snell (1586-1626). You can read more about our copy of this work in a Special Collections book of the month feature.

Image: double page opening featuring a diagram depicting Copernicus' heliocentric theory.

Go to the next book in the exhibition: Tycho Brahe: Astronomiae Instauratae Mechanica