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Lewis Evans Library

Johannes Stöffler, Elucidatio fabricae ususque astrolabii (Oppenheim, first edition 1513, second edition 1524), folio 76v (detail).

Johannes Stöffler, Elucidatio fabricae ususque astrolabii (Oppenheim, first edition 1513, second edition 1524), folio 76v (detail).

The library of Lewis Evans (1853-1930), the founder of the Museum, was presented to the University of Oxford in 1924, along with his magnificent collection of sundials, astrolabes, and other early mathematical instruments. It is one of the world’s finest collections of early printed books and manuscripts on such instruments and the techniques of making and using them; at its heart is an unrivalled sequence of works on sundials and ‘dialling’.

Some of the earliest technical and mathematical works printed in Europe are represented. The oldest book is the Kalendarium of Regiomontanus, an astronomical calendar, published at Venice in 1476. There are also various editions, from 1513 onwards, of the classic textbook on the astrolabe, Johannes Stöffler’s Elucidatio fabricae ususque astrolabii; and of the first full-length book devoted to sundials, Sebastian Münster’s Compositio horologiorum of 1531. Evans’s collection is exceptionally rich in rare books on these specialised subjects from the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, and in at least nine languages. There are about 1,000 printed works altogether, and over 100 volumes in manuscript.

For more on Lewis Evans and his collecting, see the biographical account by Tony Simcock.