Coelum poëticum, seu sphaera astronomica. Vitus SCHEFFER.
Coelum poëticum, seu sphaera astronomica
Coelum poëticum, seu sphaera astronomica
Coelum poëticum, seu sphaera astronomica
Coelum poëticum, seu sphaera astronomica
Coelum poëticum, seu sphaera astronomica
Coelum poëticum, seu sphaera astronomica
The World & the Heavens in Your Hands
Celebrating the 1686 Grads in Physics & Math from Charles-Ferdinand University Prague

An Extraordinary Copy Extra-Illustrated with a Set of 4 Unrecorded Engravings
Of Celestial and Terrestrial Globe Gores and Horizon Rings
[Astronomy] / [Cartography] / [Jesuit ed.].
Prague, Typis Catharinae Czernochianae Viduae, 1686.

Coelum poëticum, seu sphaera astronomica.

4to [19.0 x 14.8], (1) f. engraved frontispiece, (9) ff., 106 pp. (1) f. errata, with (1) folding engraved leaf of celestial globe gores printed from two copperplates, and with an extra set of (4) ff. engravings (two of which are folding) comprising celestial and terrestrial globe gores and horizon rings for each globe. Bound in contemporary vellum. Binding well preserved. Occasional minor toning, the occasional minor stain, small tear to fold of the larger celestial sheet, the second horizon ring engraving trimmed inside platemark just touching image.

Extra-illustrated and rare first and only edition of an unusual 17th-century treatise on the allegorical-mythological meaning of the constellations as conveyed by ancient authors, a work especially notable for its fine folding engraving of celestial globe gores derived from the design of Johannes Oterschaden (fl. c. 1600). The present copy of the book, however, is extraordinary in that bound into the work is found a set of 4 additional engraved plates for constructing both a celestial globe and a terrestrial globe, each of which is apparently unrecorded elsewhere. This set was produced to commemorate the awarding of bachelor’s degrees in mathematics/physics in 1686 at the Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague and lists the names of all 50 graduates. The volume is thus not only of considerable cartographic importance but also a fascinating example of an early modern book enhanced by the contemporary inclusion of ephemeral material to celebrate and memorialize a special event.

Published in 1686 at Prague, the Coelum poëticum is an early work by the Jesuit mathematician-theologian Vitus Scheffer (1648-1717), who is known to have taught philosophy at the Charles-Ferdinand University between 1684 and 1686. The lofty intentions of Scheffer’s work are signaled by its fine engraved frontispiece by Gerard de Groot (fl. 1662-1716), which depicts an angel instructing the book’s dedicatee, Count J. M. G. Clary-Aldringen, that ancient constellations found on a celestial globe are but ‘fables’ and that truth is to be sought only from God above. To help readers understand the astronomical information in his text, Scheffer included a folding plate of 12 gores for a celestial globe that when built would measure just over 16 centimeters in diameter. When encountered today, the Coelum poëticum is often missing this sheet of gores. Loose sheets of the gores (e.g. at Greenwich Observatory) as well as a contemporary globe constructed using the gores (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek) are recorded in the cartographic literature, but the gores’ original connection with the Coelum poëticum has generally not been understood (e.g., in E. Dekker and in A. Fauser). It has long been recognized, however, that the design of the gores was based on the well-known Oterschaden celestial globe (c. 1600) and that the coat of arms engraved on the sheet below Pegasus is that of the Counts of Clary-Aldringen, a detail placing the work in the ambit of 17th-century Prague (see Fauser).

The additional 4 engravings bound into the present copy are found in no other examples of the Coelum poëticum and are unrecorded elsewhere. These engravings (showing some stylistic similarities to the sheet of celestial gores mentioned above) carry no indication of authorship, but, given that they are dated 1686 and relate to Charles-Ferdinand University, they perhaps should be associated with Scheffer. Two of these engravings are of celestial and terrestrial gores for globes measuring just under 10 centimeters in diameter. The celestial gores, apart from minor alterations in the drawing of a few constellation figures, are much like the larger, Oterschaden-derived set integral to the Coelum poëticum. The terrestrial gores, however, are unlike the Oterschaden terrestrial globe and instead would seem to derive from a later edition of the famous Ortelius “Typus Orbis Terrarum” world map. Bound in at the front of the book are 2 engravings lauding the 1686 graduates in Mathematics/Physics at Charles-Ferdinand University and listing each of these 50 students by name. Wonderfully, this information is encircled by horizon rings (with laurel leaves sprouting from their rims) which were intended to be cut out and used in combination with the terrestrial and celestial gores to make two 10-centimenter globes. It is possible that Scheffer had copies of his book extra-illustrated with these 4 additional engravings to present as gifts to the 50 graduates. Given that no other copies of the Coelum poëticum contain this extra set of engravings, however, it may that the commemorative gores and horizon rings were distributed loosely to graduates and that one of the students chose to have them bound up with a copy of Scheffer’s book, a fortuitous decision which led the survival of this unusual ephemeral item.

OCLC locates U.S. examples of the Coelum poëticum at NYPL, Loyola of Chicago, Linda Hall, Mount Angel Abbey, University of Chicago, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana (incomplete), and Michigan (incomplete). The 4 additional engravings are apparently unrecorded.  The present copy was sold at Reiss Auktions in 2008, lot 1301, for 6500 euros hammer, plus commission.


* Sommervogel, vol. 7, col. 723; Houzeau-Lancaster 178; E. Dekker, Globes at Greenwich, p. 528, no. GLBO172; A. Fauser, “Eine Neuausgabe des Oterschaden-Himmelsglobu,” Der Globusfreund, no. 21/23 (1972/74) (Festschrift zum 20jährigen Bestand des Coronelli-Weltbundes der Globusfreunde; IV. Internationales Symposium des Coronelli-Weltbundes der Globusfreundes, pp. 144-9).

Price: $9,850.00

See all items in Rare Books
See all items by