Rheticus, Copernicus and Reinhold

Copernicus permitted Rheticus to publish a first account, the Narratio prima, of his theory that the earth was a planet moving annually around a central sun and rotating daily as it moved. The tract was addressed to Schöner, whose name appears with that of Copernicus on the title-page of 1540.

Rheticus returned, first to Wittenberg in 1541 and to Nuremberg the following year, carrying the precious manuscript Copernicus had entrusted to his care, with the understanding that it would be published. He reported on his journey to the waiting Schöner and left Copernicus’s work with the printer Johannes Petreius, who completed its publication in 1543. There are two copies of the first edition De revolutionibus in the exhibition.

There was a range of responses to the Copernican hypothesis from contemporary astronomers. All could appreciate its mathematical quality but only a few were convinced of its physical truth. Erasmus Reinhold, for example, astronomy professor in Wittenberg, published a volume of tables in 1551, having used Copernicus’s theory for his calculations but without accepting it as a real account of the cosmos.

Featured Objects

15. Nicolaus Copernicus, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (Nuremberg, 1543)
16. Georg Joachim Rheticus, Narratio prima (Basel, 1566), printed with the second edition of Copernicus, De revolutionibus
24. Erasmus Reinhold, Prutenicæ tabulæ coelestium motuum (Tübingen, 1551)


Previous Panel: Johann Schöner in Nuremberg
Next Panel: Gemma Frisius in Louvain