Canones super Novum Instrumentum Luminarium, docens quo pacto per illud inveniantur Solis & Lunae medii & veri motus, lunationes, coniunctiones, oppositions, caput draconis, eclipses, horae inaequales, & nocturnae aequales, ortus solis & occasus, ascendens coeli, intervallum, au reus numerus, &c. Sebastian MÜNSTER.
Canones super Novum Instrumentum Luminarium, docens quo pacto per illud inveniantur Solis & Lunae medii & veri motus, lunationes, coniunctiones, oppositions, caput draconis, eclipses, horae inaequales, & nocturnae aequales, ortus solis & occasus, ascendens coeli, intervallum, au reus numerus, &c
Canones super Novum Instrumentum Luminarium, docens quo pacto per illud inveniantur Solis & Lunae medii & veri motus, lunationes, coniunctiones, oppositions, caput draconis, eclipses, horae inaequales, & nocturnae aequales, ortus solis & occasus, ascendens coeli, intervallum, au reus numerus, &c
Canones super Novum Instrumentum Luminarium, docens quo pacto per illud inveniantur Solis & Lunae medii & veri motus, lunationes, coniunctiones, oppositions, caput draconis, eclipses, horae inaequales, & nocturnae aequales, ortus solis & occasus, ascendens coeli, intervallum, au reus numerus, &c
Canones super Novum Instrumentum Luminarium, docens quo pacto per illud inveniantur Solis & Lunae medii & veri motus, lunationes, coniunctiones, oppositions, caput draconis, eclipses, horae inaequales, & nocturnae aequales, ortus solis & occasus, ascendens coeli, intervallum, au reus numerus, &c
User's Guide to a Paper Instrument
Illustrated by Hans Holbein
Colophon: Basel, Cratander, 1534.

Canones super Novum Instrumentum Luminarium, docens quo pacto per illud inveniantur Solis & Lunae medii & veri motus, lunationes, coniunctiones, oppositions, caput draconis, eclipses, horae inaequales, & nocturnae aequales, ortus solis & occasus, ascendens coeli, intervallum, au reus numerus, &c.

4to. [20 x 15.5 cm], 51 pp, (1) p. woodcut printer’s device. With large woodcut on title page and 6 woodcuts in text, woodcut initials. Bound in half vellum over marbled boards with gilt title label on cover. Only minor rubbing to binding, clipped dealer description and bookplate of the Swedish architect Theodor Wåhlin (1864-1948) inside upper cover. Internally clean and fresh.

Very rare first Latin edition of one of Sebastian Münster’s (1488-1552) earliest astronomical works, the Canones super Novum Instrumentum Luminarium, a treatise on the use of an elaborate device known as the Instrumentum Novum (‘New Instrument’). The volume instructs users how to calculate such astronomical information as the appearance of eclipses, the waxing and waning of the moon, the paths of the sun and moon, the precise hour at nighttime (using the polestar), horoscopes, various astrological information (medical, agricultural, meteorological, etc.), and the like. The work is notable (beyond its purely scientific utility) for being illustrated by the renowned painter and printmaker Hans Holbein the Younger (1497/8-1543): “Holbein’s designs for the circular diagrams on Münster’s [Instrumentum Novum] and for the accompanying manual were more visually appealing than their tabular predecessors” (Karr Schmidt, p. 306) and so the present volume surpassed in aesthetic terms Münster’s previous works on scientific instrumentation, his 1525 Sonneninstrument mit ein Landtafel and his 1529 Instrument über den Monslauff.

 

The present Canones super Novum Instrumentum Luminarium has a title-page woodcut by Holbein and 6 further woodcuts in the text, and represents one of a small number of collaborations between the artist and Münster undertaken while both resided in Basel. Holbein’s charming title page, which depicts two astronomers measuring the heavens with an armillary sphere and a sextant, recalls his recently completed masterpiece The Ambassadors (1533, National Gallery, London) and its intricate still-life depictions of complex astronomical instruments. It has been suggested that the astronomer Niklaus Kratzer (c.1487-1550), whose portrait Holbein had recently painted, first drew Münster’s attention to the artist’s skill in delineating scientific and mathematical instruments while he and Münster were residing in Basel in the autumn of 1529: “In this way, no doubt, the author and the artist came into personal contact…” (Chamberlain, Hans Holbein the Younger, Vol 1, p. 350). Holbein was also responsible for illustrating Münster’s Wandkalender (1533) and provided several illustrations for his horological works.  

 

Münster first published a guide to lunar motion in German in 1529 (Erklerung des newen Instruments), of which the present work is a revised and expanded version in Latin. Evidently intended to reach a wider audience, and perhaps building on Münster’s growing fame as an astronomer, the present work includes a new table of major European cities and their precise latitudes so that the reader could adjust Münster’s instructions for use in a specific locale. In addition to Holbein’s new design for the title page in this Latin version, the 6 woodcuts in the text have all been redesigned from the German version (especially distinctive are the lively faces of the moon and sun, which also appear in the chart). A new preface by Münster, dated 1534, promises that his methods are good for at least 48 years. In some ways the present work may be taken as an early precursor to the Organum Uranicum (1536), which also included instructions for calculating the paths and conjunctions of the sun, moon, and planets.

 

The Instrumentum Novum chart discussed in the present volume is exceedingly rare and today  un-acquirable: We have located just one U.S. example, a later edition (1554?), housed at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Münster’s paper instruments had very low survival rates: “Discarded after use, like outdated wall calendars, they are known in only one or two impressions each” (Karr Schmidt, p. 306), and their accompanying manuals are nearly as rare as the charts themselves, with the two hardly ever encountered together. Burmeister notes copies of the German and Latin versions of the chart only at the Basel UB (the latter perhaps the same example in the Kupferstichkabinett of the Basel Kunstmuseum [Inv: 1923.165-66] reproduced in Karr Schmidt). The present Canones super Novum Instrumentum Luminarium is rare in U.S. libraries: We locate copies at the Morgan Library and the Smithsonian, while the 1529 German version, with a different title-page (not by Holbein), is held only by Harvard. A further German edition of 1554 is held only at Princeton.

 

The present copy carries the bookplate of the Swedish architect Theodor Wåhlin (1864-1948), who, in addition to designing a great variety of buildings across Sweden (especially in Mälmo and Lund), served from 1902 until his death as the architect of Lund Cathedral, a church renowned for its remarkable 15th-century astronomical clock (the Horologium mirabile Lundense). Wåhlin was responsible for restoring this clock in 1923, and he undoubtedly used the present copy of Münster’s Canones super Novum Instrumentum Luminarium as a guide to its technology. He wrote of this experience in Horologium mirabile Lundense: det astronomiska uret i Lunds Domkyrka (1923), in The mediaeval astronomical clock in Lund Cathedral, with a survey of some similar clocks on the Continent and in England (1930), and in the articles “Astrolabe Clocks and Some Thoughts Regarding the Age and Development of the Astrolabe,” and “The Availability of the Astrolabe for the Construction of Sundials,” in R. T. Gunther, ed., The Astrolabes of the World (Oxford UP, 1932).

 

* Burmeister 39; Zinner 1566; Holbein-Kat. (1960) 425; Panzer IX. 407. 974.b; cf. also Wolf, Hans Holbein the Younger, 1497/98-1543: The German Raphael (this title page pictured on p. 73). The paper instrument is described and illustrated by Suzanne Karr Schmidt in Susan Dackerman’s Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge, cat. no. 73, pp. 306-9.

 

Price: $18,500.00

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