The Crawford Collection
Lord Crawford : caricature from Vanity Fair, May, 1878.
The Crawford Collection at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh
The Crawford Collection of books and manuscripts held at the Royal Observatory, Edinburgh is one of the most extensive and valuable astronomical collections in the world. The collection represents a broad history of astronomy spanning the thirteenth to the nineteenth century alongside its supporting subjects of physics, mathematics and optics. The collection holds first editions of most of the works of importance in the history of astronomy : these are just a few of its treasures.
Nicholas Copernicus [1473-1543] :
De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium :
First edition. (Nuremberg, 1543).
‘On the revolution of the heavenly bodies’.
Copernicus puts forth the idea that the Earth and other planets revolve around the Sun. This heliocentric arrangement of the solar system, introduces a new physics to astronomy and, eventually, replaces the accepted idea of the geocentric system.
Anonymous : Planetenbuch :
Richly illustrated German manuscript, bound in wooden boards with text written in rhyming couplets to convey the reader's fate or destiny.
Galileo Galilei [1564-1642] :
Siderus nuncius :
First. edition. (Venice, 1610).
The invention of the telescope revolutionised astronomy and
enabled Galileo to demonstrate the merits of the heliocentric system. In this tract, 'The starry messenger' Galileo records exactly what he saw through his 'perspicilli' (spyglasses) and named the four moons of Jupiter the 'Medicae sidera' (after Cosimo Medici).
Isaac Newton [1642-1727] :
Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica :
First edition. (London, 1687).
This is one of the most important and influential books ever published. Newton demonstrated, mathematically, that the same physical laws (laws of universal gravitation) apply throughout the Universe. Newton’s law unified celestial and terrestrial physics and laid the foundations of modern astrophysics.
Alhazen [965-1040] :
De aspectibus : [circa 1269].
Originally written in Arabic around 1000, this manuscript was translated into Latin editions, like this one, in the thirteenth century, probably in Spain. The page shows Alhazen's diagram of the eye and demonstrates how light bounces from an object in every direction and enters the eye. He also clearly demonstrated that light travels in a straight line, discussed the laws of refraction, and the magnification produced by lenses. His work has earned him renown as the ‘father of optics’.
Petrus Apianus [1495-1552] : Astronomicum Caesareum :
Dedicated to Charles V, this magnificently illustrated volume depicts the epicyclic, or
geocentric, theory of the solar system system. The volume contains 21 plates with moving parts, or volvelles, some with as many as 8 layers.
Girdle almanac [circa 1461] :
Formed from sheets folded and sewn together to allow it to hang from a monk's belt - or girdle. It contains astronomical and ecclesiastical information together with lunar cycles and tables of eclipses.