• 315 JOHANNES de SACRO BOSCO. (c. 1195 – c. 1256) (also called John or Johannes Halifax, Holyfax, Holywalde, Sacroboscus, Sacrobuschus, de Sacro Bosco, or de Sacro Busto) And Georgius de Monteferrato

Figura sphere cu[m] glosis Georgii de Mo[n]teferrato artiu[m] [et] medici[n]e doctoris : gradiam [et] gloriam dabit dominus.

Venice [Jacobus Pentius, de Leuco] for Georgius de Monteferrato 1500, die 28 ianuarii.                    $11,000


(“The use of type 68G and of woodcut capitals in this book connect it with the latter part of 1500 and it is therefore taken to be dated ‘more veneto'”–Catalogue of books printed in the XVth century now in the British Museum)


sb26 2Quarto, 8 ½ X 5 ½ inches .  26 lvs, A-E4 F6 .   There is a large woodcut on title page ‘sphera mundi’, see to the left and three other large woodcut diagrams in text. Woodcut capitals, also spaces with guide-letters. Tear repaired in corner of f. 2, with some text loss.

This copy is bound in full laced cased later vellum, blue edges,and recent  marbled endpapers.

This is a illustrated incunable printed by Jacobus Pentius, de Leuce who started printing in 1495, his press was chiefly active after the turn of the century.

In 1220 Sacrobosco wrote Tractatus de Sphaera a book on astronomy in four chapters. The first chapter deals with the shape and place of the Earth within a spherical universe. The second chapter deals with various circles on the sky. The third chapter describes rising and setting of heavenly bodies from different geographical locations while the fourth chapter gives a brief introduction to Ptolemy’s theory of the planets and of IMG_1643eclipses.

This book, which predates Grosseteste’s astronomy book, is well written and was widely used throughout Europe from the middle of the 13th Century.

Sacrobosco’s De sphaera mundi was the most successful of several competing thirteenth-century textbooks on this topic. It was used in universities for hundreds of years and the manuscript copied many times before the invention of the printing press; hundreds of manuscript copies have survived. The first printed edition appeared in 1472 in Ferrara, and at least 84 editions were printed in the next two hundred years. The work was frequently supplemented with commentaries on the original text. The number of copies and commentaries reflects its importance as a university text.[4] de Sphaera, which was widely read and influential in Europe during the later medieval centuries as an introduction to astronomy. Though principally about the heavens it also contains a clear description of the Earth as a sphere, in the first chapter. “The Sphere” was required reading by students in all Western European universities for the next four centuries.

Goff J421 ; Klebs, A.C. Incunabula scientifica et medica,; entry 874.30; BMC V 566; HCR 14126; Essling 264; Sander 6668; Pell Ms 6718 (6683); Hillard 1153; Péligry 480; IGI 5353; Hubay(Augsburg) 1247; Pr 5705; GW M14661

United States of America.  The Walters Art Museum Library, Library of Congress, New York Public Library,  Huntington Library,  Smithsonian Institution,  Univ. of Chicago, Williams College.





  • 300J JOHANNES de SACRO BOSCO fl1230

(Francesco Capuano Di Manfredonia fl 15thcentury)

Sphera mundi nouit[er] recognita : cu[m] co[m]me[n]tarijs [et] authorib[us] in hoc volumine co[n]te[n]tis vz   Capuano, Giovanni Battista Cichi Eschulani cum textu. Ioannis Baptiste Capuani. Jacobi Fabri Stapulensis. Theodosii de spheris cum textu. Michaelis Scoti questiones. Petri de Aliaco cardinalis q[uaesti]ones. Roberti Linconiensis Compendium. Theodosij iterum de spheris cum textu. Tractatus de sphera solida. Theorice planetarum conclusiones cum expositione. Campani Tractatus de sphera. Eiusdem tractatus de computo maiori. Joannis de monte regio in cremone[n]sem disputatio. Theorice textus cu[m] Joa[n]nis Baptiste Capuani exp[ositi]one. Ptolomeus De speculis. Theorica planetarum Joannis Cremonensis, plurimum faciens ad disputationem ioannis de monte regio, qua[m] in aliis hactenus i[m]pressis non reperies.


Venetijs: Luce antonij de giu[n]ta …,1518.     $6,000


Folio.     Inches. A6, B-z8, Aa-Ff8, Gg6.

This copy is bound in full contemporary vellum.

Inner joints have been repaired there is worm tracks at the fold, the free endpaper has 15181an ownership mark of the old hand. There is water staining throughout,but hardly browned.









At the turn of the century from 1480 to 1531 more than half a dozen different commentaries on Sacrobosco’s Sphera were printed yet among them all this one is arguably the most influential and important one, compiled by Francesco Capuano, (At some point he became known as Johannes Baptista Capuanus si Pontinus, de Manfredonia)  Capuano was an author and professor of astronomy at Padua, Republic of Venice, then later became a bishop. This commentary was first printed in 1495 and was reprinted six times, up through 1531

“In 1499, while Copernicus studies in Bologna, the commentary on Sacrobosco’s Sphere IMG_1651by the Padua master Francesco Capuano da Manfredonia first appears in print. It will be revised and reprinted several times thereafter. Like Copernicus, Capuano has a high view of astronomy and mingles astronomical and physical considerations (flies moving on wheels, men on ships, impetus, comets, raptus). Also, Capuano offers a flawed argument against a two-fold (diurnal and zodiacal) motion of the Earth.

Multiple thematic resonances between Capuano’s commentary and De revolutionibus, I, 5-11, suggest the hypothesis that Copernicus is answering Capuano, whose work was owned by Joachim Rheticus, if not Copernicus himself.”1 The authors who Capuano choses gives us a good picture of the state of teaching Astronomy in the late 15thcentury.” Shank (2009)


Capuano’s compelation adds a different selection of commentators and sources than other editions. Here are the Authors:

Michael Scott; 1175? -1234?

Petrus de Alliaco. (Pierre d’Ailly);1350-1420

Robertus Linconiensis.(Grosseteste); 1175-1253

Joannes  Regiomontanus, 1436-1476.

Cecco d’Ascoli.1269-1327, ; In spheram enarratio.

Jacques Lefèvre d’Etaples; d.1536. ; In astronomicum introductorium Ioannis de Sacrobosco commentarius.

Theodosius de Tripoli.( Θεοδόσιος);  160 B –100 BC;     De spheris cum textu.

Johannes Cremonensis. 1114 – 1187; Theorica planetarum.

Thorndike states that unlike the other 1518 edition this text is the same as the 1499 edition.


Houzeau / Lancaster I, 1642. EDIT 16 CNCE 29259. STC 597. Essling 1975. – Not in Adams.

  • Shank, Michael H. (2009), “Setting up Copernicus? Astronomy and Natural Philosophy in Giambattista Capuano da Manfredonia’s Expositio on the Sphere”, Early Science and Medicine, 14 (1–3): 290–315, doi:10.1163/157338209X425597
  • Boner, Patrick J. (2010), Change and Continuity in Early Modern Cosmology, Archimedes Series, 27, Springer, p. 14, ISBN 94-007-0036-9
  • L Thorndike, The Sphere of Sacrobosco and its Commentators (Chicago, 1949).
  • Owen Gingerich, Sacrobosco as a textbook. Journal for the History of Astronomy19(4) (1988), 269-273.
  • L Thorndike, The Sphere of Sacrobosco and its Commentators(Chicago, 1949).
  • J F Daly, Biography in Dictionary of Scientific Biography(New York 1970-1990).
  • Olaf Pedersen, “In Quest of Sacrobosco”, Journal for the History of Astronomy, 16 (1985): 175-221. Pedersen identifies 35 printings in Venice, another 35 in Paris, and more in 14 other cities throughout Europe.
  • IMG_1648