Folio. ff [liv], ):(4 , A-E6 ,F4 ,G-H6 ,I4 (E4 signed F4) Roman letter with some Greek, woodcut initials, elaborate head and tailpieces, title with large engraved portrait of the author within architectural border containing the arms of the families of Brahe and Bille, 25 full page illustrations of astronomical instruments etc., 6 of which are engraved, 18 woodcut, and 5 smaller woodcuts, occasional marginal pencil annotations, bookplate of J.L.E. Dreyer on pastedown, with his autograph on fly 1875, F.J.M. Duarte's on pastedown. Very light dampstaining to lower outer corners. A fine, unusually clean copy in contemporary vellum over boards, cloth chemise and quarter morocco slipcase. With some C19 printed and ms. material, probably Dreyer's.
Second edition of one of Brahe's most important works, a description of his astronomical instruments and of the observatory at Hven and the earliest obtainable edition. It comprises exactly the same sheets as the first with a new t-p. The first was produced for private distribution only and probably between 60 and 100 copies were printed. Tycho became adept at designing scientific instruments, including the sextant, and making observations during his early travels in Europe. Upon his return to Denmark he fell into favor with King Frederick II who provided Tycho with the monetary support he needed to continue his astronomical research. In 1576, the King gave him the small island of Hven in the Danish straits, and Tycho quickly began construction of his observatory complex which he christened Uraniborg (heavenly castle). He designed massive instruments for his observatory with which he hoped to obtain the most accurate astronomical observations ever made. Tycho believed that if he could construct large stable instruments that were precise, easily readable, and used with painstaking care, he could provide the world with the observations it needed to finally uncover the true nature of the universe. In 1584 he added a second observatory, Stjerneborg, with additional instruments in 5 subterranean rooms and a study with only the vaulted roof and the tops of the walls above ground. Brahe's brass-encased globe was housed in the library of the main building: "On this globe, over the years, Tycho marked the exact positions, referred to the year 1600, of the fixed stars that he observed... In the southwest room on the ground floor at Uraniborg... was Tycho's most famous instrument, the mural quadrant [for measuring the altitude at which celestial bodies crossed the meridian], with a radius of about six feet... Inside the quadrant's arc, for ornamental purposes, was painted a life-size portrait of Tycho seated at a table, with arm outstretched as though pointing to a cylinder..." (DSB). The Mechanica begins with a dedication to Rudolf and is followed by a poem to Tycho by his good friend Holger Rosenkrantz. Next are twenty-one illustrations of his astronomical instruments and their corresponding descriptions (originally, Tycho had planned for eighteen woodcut illustrations, but decided to include four new engravings of other instruments he thought worthy of mention). After two pages of brief descriptions of other instruments, the twenty-second instrument (the great brass globe) is described, followed by a description of Tycho's astronomical accomplishments. Tycho includes an appendix describing his observatory facilities at Hven and the construction of his instruments including some woodcuts. The work then closes with a supplement on the measuring scales and sights of his instruments. After Tycho's death in 1601, it his heirs sold the Mechanica's woodcuts and copper-plate engravings to the Nürnberg writer and printer Levinus Hulsius. The only difference in content between the 1598 edition and the one of 1602 is that the latter includes a portrait of Tycho bound in place of the vignette on the first edition's title page (although a few of the 1598 copies did have a different watercolor portrait pasted on the back of the title page).
A very interesting provenance; The Danish astronomer John L. E. Dreyer, wrote the standard biography of Brahe, and edited an important edition of his works. He also published a supplement of approximately 1000 new "nebulae" to Herschel's 'A General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars', London 1864, followed by 'The New General Catalogue of Nebulae and Clusters of Stars' in 1888. It is a compendium of all the lists of nonstellar objects compiled by 19th-century observers including Herschel's. An unusually clean and good copy (It is most often heavily browned due to the poor quality of paper used) of this seminal work.
BM STC Ger. C17 B1969. Houzeau and Lancaster 2703; Norman 320; Barchas collection, Stanford, 277. Sparrow, Milestones of Science 29. Honeyman I 490.