Written in the 16th century by Peter Apian (1495-1552), Cosmographia provided instruction in astronomy, geography, cartography, navigation, and instrument-making and was based on the writings of Ptolemy. 

The most surprising feature of the book, given the time as which it was created, is the use of three-dimension, interactive additions to the text that are offered for the reader to use as reference, referred to as volvelle, or the Apian wheel. Star charts like these consist of multiple layers of cut and shaped paper fastened together with string, that can be rotated to find information about stars at different times.  

There is also an exquisitely drawn fold-out map of the various winds, depicted as Gods.

It’s no surprise that this book remained in use for hundreds of years, and continues to be used even today. At Special Collections, you can find the 1553 edition.

-Written by Katharine Pigliacelli, graduate student employee

Apian, Peter. Cosmographia. Antverpiae: Ex officina Arnoldi Coninx, 1584.

Treasure Thursday (because we totally didn’t forget to post this on Tuesday)

This is an animation of the  Astronumicum Caesareum (Astronomy of the Caesars). It is a masterpiece of printing.

Apian sought to make astronomy easy in this lavish book for royal patrons. He reduced complex astronomical computation to simple mechanics with the aid of paper volvelles – those pictured are for Mars – adapted from the astrolabe. The discs enabled the casting of horoscopes (used by doctors to treat patients), and the forecasting of eclipses and comets. The reader was expected to know little more than the most basic mathematics.