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Exhibit of the Month - October 2021

Ante-room to the General reading Room (gate A), open Monday to Saturday 9 am - 7 pm, admission 10 CZK (free for the NL readers).

Almagestum novum by G. B. Riccioli (1651) and Cometographia by J. Hevelius (1688) – two astronomical works preserved in the collections of the National Library of the CR. Riccioli deals mainly with the then ideas of the arrangement of the universe from Ptolemy to his own model, while Hevelius´book is about comets. Initial engravings in books are not only beautiful but also full of many symbolic hints on the subject of the books.

Almagestum novum
published in Frankfurt am Main, first printed in Bologna in 1651;
1520 pages in two volumes.
NK CR, shelf mark 14 A 15/P.1

The author of this voluminous writing is Giovanni Battista Riccioli (1598-1671), an Italian astronomer and a Jesuit, who lived and worked in Parma and Bologna. The title of his work, Almagestum novum, refers to Greek astronomer and geographer Claudius Ptolemy, who lived in the 2nd century AD and whose summary of ancient knowledge of astronomy, published in Alexandria and entitled in Arabic, was published in a Latinized version under the title Almagest.

The Ptolemaic concept of the world, in which the center of the Universe is the motionless Earth with the Sun and the planets orbiting around it, was widespread throughout the Middle Ages. Even when Nicolaus Copernicus published his model of the Earth and the planets orbiting around the Sun in 1543, it didn´t cause any revolutionary change either. The Copernicus‘ concept was hardly acceptable for the then society, because the whole philosophy of that time was based on the Ptolemaic concept of the world.

In the change of the view on the Universe, Riccioli, similarly as Tycho Brahe, was somewhere between the two views mentioned above, as illustrated on the frontispiece of his work. The engraving features the muse of astronomy Urany that „weighs“ two concepts of the Universe – the Copernican model is on the left, the Riccioli´s model is on the right; the latter depicts the Moon, the Sun, Jupiter and Saturn  orbiting around the motionless Earth while the Mercury, Venus and Mars revolve around the Sun. According to the author this view will „overweigh“ the Copernican one. Ptolemy himself lies on the ground together with the depiction of his outdated model.  In the upper part, the engraving shows the progress in astronomy made by the invention and use of a telescope: on the left, there are the phases of Venus and Mercury along with Mars; on the right side, there are the moons of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn and the Moon.

Title page (high resolution here) and frontspiece


Johannis Hevelii Cometographia
published in Danzig (Gdańsk) in 1688;
995 pages, 39 plate illustrations
NK CR, shelf mark 14. A. 26

The voluminous work was written by Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687), an astronomer and a town councillor of Danzig (Gdańsk). He was born in the family of brewing merchants and continued the brewery tradition. On the roof of his house, he had built and equipped an observatory, and he carried out his observations there. His first work dealt with lunar topography and thus he became the founder of this scientific discipline. Between 1652 and 1677, he discovered and described four new comets. His knowledge of comets is summarized in the exhbibited work. The engraved pre-title page depicts the equipment and enthusiasm of the then astronomers. Three figures represent three views on comets: the Aristotelian opinion – on the left side (comets are moving between the Earth and the Moon), the Kepler‘s one – on the right side (comets are moving along straight lines) and the opinion of Hevelius – in the middle (comets are moving along curved trajectories)., In the background of the engraving we can also see the public absorbed in observing a comet.

Title page (hign resolution here) and engraved half-title page

Oct 01, 2021
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