Station Six: Library Treasures

Petrus Apianus

Cosmographia (1584)


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 Petrus Apianus, Cosmographia

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The second book shown here, Peter Apian's Cosmographia, was first published in Antwerp in 1550, and Wadham owns two copies, one of the 1550 edition, presented by William Talcot in the early 1620s, and another of the 1584 edition, which only came to Wadham as part of the bequest of Alexander Thistlethwayte (1717-1771). Peter Apian (1495-1552) was a German academic astronomer and geographer, who lectured in the university at Ingolstadt, where he also printed a number of high-quality specialist books in his own print-house. These included the astonishing Astronomicum Caesareum (1540), of which there are a number of hand-coloured copies in Oxford, some with seed pearls still attached to the string markers on the volvelles, or rotating paper wheels threaded to the page. The more compact Cosmographia, however, was an Apian text revised by the physician, mathematician, and instrument-maker Gemma Frisius (1508-1555), and published in Antwerp in several editions from 1539 and in Paris from 1551; it was a popular textbook. There are several volvelles in this book too, turning sections of it into a paper computer. Volvelles are fragile, and most Oxford copies of this book are defective; the Talcot copy of the Cosmographia, however, is in fine condition. By the time Thistlethwayte's copy came to Wadham, however, such books were less likely to be used as academic texts and more to be handled, if at all, as examples of fine craftsmanship.