Petrus Apianus (1495-1552), also known as Peter Apian, was Professor of Mathematics at the University of Ingolstadt in Germany and a pioneer in astronomical and mathematical instrumentation. Apian is best known for his studies in the science of cosmography and we hold several editions of his works here in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection.
Cosmography was a broad science which aimed to provide a mathematical basis for mapping the position of everything in the universe, and Apian’s work required not only his skill in mathematics but also expertise in geography, navigation, astronomy, and cartography. He published manuals for astronomical instruments, printed scientific works on his own press, and crafted volvelles, or “Apian wheels”, for the calculation of time and distance.
In 1524 Apian produced his first major work, Cosmographia, which provided readers with a guide to cosmography and an introduction to the disciplines of astronomy, geography, cartography, navigation and instrument making. Gemma Frisius (1508–1555), a Dutch mathematician and student of Apian, produced several expanded editions of the Cosmographia, including the 1545 and 1584 editions we have in SCOLAR. The book remained popular throughout the 16th century, being reprinted more than 30 times and in 14 languages.
Cosmographia describes various scientific instruments, but there are also several working paper examples of Apian’s volvelles included in the text, with which readers could find the positions of the sun, moon and planets, or calculate latitude using the sun’s height above the horizon. Interestingly, the moving parts in Cardiff’s copies of Cosmographia have been printed on the back of used paper – perhaps an early example of recycling to keep costs down. Considering the practical nature of the volvelles, it is also remarkable that these delicate instruments have survived in such good condition.
This early herbal forms part of our Continental collection and was published in Paris around 1520. Our copy of Herbarum varias qui vis cognoscere vires (‘Various types of herbs that you want to know the powers of’) has been extremely useful to its previous owners and virtually every page is covered with detailed manuscript notes, observations, lists of ingredients, recipes and other marginalia.
Herbals, from the medieval Latin liber herbalis (‘book of herbs’), contain the names and descriptions of plants with details of their medicinal or culinary properties, often with illustrations to assist with proper identification. These books were among the first literature to be produced in both the East and the West and continued to flourish long after the invention of moveable type in the mid 15th century. We have several other early printed herbals in the Cardiff Rare Books Collection but none have been quite as well used as this one!
Browsing our rare books shelves, I came across two red leather slipcases marked “Exemplaire de Marguerite de Valois”. Curiosity got the better of me and I opened the cases to discover two small but exquisite volumes of the 16th century knight’s tale, “Amadis de Gaula”. Each volume is beautifully bound in 16th century Parisian morocco, lavishly decorated with gilt wreaths, small flowers and thistles.
A little research identified these volumes as once belonging to the library of the Venetian diplomat, Pietro Duodo (1554-1611), the binding’s provenance being established by the distinctive stamps used: the upper cover contains the armorial crest of the Duodo family; the lower displays Pietro Duodo’s personal motto, “Expectata non eludet” (“She whom I await with longing will not elude me”).
From 1594 to 1597, Duodo served as ambassador to King Henry IV in Paris, and took advantage of his residency to accumulate a gentleman’s travelling library of 90 works in 133 volumes. He commissioned a Parisian workshop to produce richly decorated, personalised bindings that were colour-coded by subject: literary works were finished in olive-brown morocco; theology, philosophy and history in red; and medical titles bound in citron.
The ambassador never had the opportunity to enjoy his library – he was unexpectedly recalled to Venice in 1597 and was unable to collect the books. They remained in Paris, packed away and untouched for two centuries, until rediscovered during the French Revolution. The volumes were mistakenly attributed to the library of Marguerite de Valois, possibly due to the ornamental daisies on the covers, and were immediately highly prized by collectors. Pietro Duodo was not identified as the true owner until 1925, long after his library had been dispersed.