Important acquisitions

Elucidatio fabricae ususque astrolabii, Ioanne Stoflerino iustengensi authore.

Author Stoeffler, Johannes
Title Elucidatio fabricae ususque astrolabii, Ioanne Stoflerino iustengensi authore.
Imprint Paris: Hieronymum de Marnef, & Gulielmum Cavellat
Date of Publication 1570
Language Latin
Notes Johannes Stoeffler (1452-1531) was professor of mathematics at the newly founded University of Tuebingen, who wrote the first German work on the astrolabe. The astrolabe was an inclinometer, a device invented in c. 150 BC by the Ancient Greeks. It had a variety of uses such as locating and predicting the positions of the sun, moon, planets, and stars, determining local time given local latitude and vice-versa, and in surveying and triangulation. Used in Europe from the Middle Ages onwards, Stoeffler's work was a comprehensive manual of the instrument. The first part concerns the construction of the astrolabe. The full page woodcut illustrations are extended by paper strips to almost double the page size and clearly show the various stages in the construction process. The second part explains the use of the astrolabe with equally remarkable woodcut illustrations. First printed in Oppenheim in 1512, 1513 and 1524, further editions were printed in Paris in 1553, 1564,1569 and 1570. NLS already has three 16th-century editions of this work, but this particular copy has been acquired for its provenance. At the foot of title page is the signature "Alexander seton", which indicates that this book was formerly in the library of Alexander Seton (1556-1622), Chancellor of Scotland 1605-1622 and 1st Earl of Dunfermline. Seton came from a pious Catholic family and, as a younger son, was destined for a career in the church. In 1571, when he was about fifteen, he was sent to the Jesuit-run German college in Rome, presumably to avoid the upheaval caused by the Reformation in Scotland. In Rome he acquired an enthusiasm for books and a knowledge of mathematics. From Italy he travelled to France, where he studied law, and presumably purchased Stoeffler's 'Elucidatio fabricae' at this time. By late 1580 he was back in Scotland. Given the political and religious climate in Scotland in the 1580s a career in the church was no longer an option. He did, however, manage to have a successful if somewhat turbulent career in politics, conforming outwardly to the established church while remaining privately loyal to his Catholic faith. In 1604, as the highest ranking official of King James's government, the King made Seton chief Scottish negotiator for the proposed Anglo-Scottish Union. The negotiations failed but James was sufficiently impressed by his conduct to appoint him lord chancellor of Scotland in 1604. He subsequently became the King's principal adviser and agent in Scottish affairs in 1611. As a very wealthy man he had a large collection of books; on his death in 1622 the libraries at his properties at Pinkie and Fyvie were valued at the huge sum of 1333 6s 4d. According to his descendant Walter Seton, writing in 1923, this book "was probably one of his earliest purchases. He was using [this] signature up to about 1586". Walter Seton was then the owner of this book and ten others with the same provenance.
Shelfmark RB.s.2906
Reference Sources Oxford Dictionary of National Biography; bookseller's notes; Walter Seton 'Some relics of Alexander Seton, Earl of Dunfermline', Scottish Historical Review, vol.20, no.79 (1923) pp.187-89.
Acquired on 04/07/14
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