Peri optikes [in Greek], id est de natura, ratione, & proiectione radiorum visus, luminum, colorum atque formarum, quam vulgo Perspectivam vocant, libri X. Nuremberg, Johannes Petri, 1535. In-folio, cold-stamped fawn calf, frame and central panel drawn with filets and castors, title in capitals on first cover, spine decorated (contemporary binding).
Dibner, Heralds of Science, no. 138.
Rare first edition of one of the oldest books on geometrical optics.
It was published by Petrus Apianus and Georg Tanstetter, who dedicated it to a Count Palatine of the Rhine and Duke of Bavaria, whose coat of arms is woodcut full-page opposite the privilege, issued by Charles V in 1532.
The title, printed in red and black, is decorated with a large woodcut illustrating optical experiments and phenomena. Numerous geometric figures in the text.
Born in Silesia in the 1220s and died at the end of the 13th century, the Polish monk Vitellion (or Witelo), canon of Wroclaw, was one of the great scientists of his time. He was one of the three great Western perspectivists, along with Roger Bacon and John Pecham, who studied the question of optics in the Middle Ages, more precisely between the 1260s and 1270s.
De perspectiva, his best-known work, was written around 1270 at the request of William of Moerbeke, a scholar versed in the sciences and natural philosophy who had met at the papal court of Viterbo. Pecham's treatise was indeed published first, around 1482 in Milan, but Vitellion's publication was several decades earlier than Bacon's Perspectiva, which appeared very late, in Frankfurt in 1614.
De perspectiva borrows very largely from the work of the mathematician and physicist Ibn al-Haytham (10th-11th century), known as Alhazen (Alacen in Latin), and especially from his De aspectibus, which had a considerable impact on the new European conception of optical theories. It was Vitellion, moreover, who contributed mainly to the dissemination of the work of this Arab scholar.
Vitellion is probably familiar with Euclid's Optics, Al-Kindi's De aspectibus and the physiological and psychological work of Galen. His work] deals in ten books with geometric theorems, the propagation of light and colour in straight or refracted lines, the physiology and psychology of vision, the reflection of rays and the formation of images by different forms of mirrors. Book X, in particular, deals with refraction, especially vision by rays refracted on flat or spherical surfaces (cf. Gérald Péoux, "L'Homme, l'air et les refractions à la fin du XVIe siècle", in Bulletin de l'Association Guillaume Budé, 2010/2, pp. 227-250, note 15).
Exceptional copy in contemporary stamped binding, this one titled on the first cover: perspectiva vitellion.
Handwritten in ink at the top of the title. Slight marginal wetness on a few leaves. Spine redone.
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