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Bassantin, James. Astronomique discours.

Lyon, J. de Tournes, 1557.

Folio (300 x 445 mm). 286, (2) pp. With 175 woodcuts and diagrams in the text, of which 14 have a total of 35 (instead of 38?) movable parts, all in fine original hand colour. Modern half calf with giltstamped title to spine.

First edition, excessively rare. Latin editions were published by de Tournes in 1559 and 1599, another French one appeared in 1613. James (or Jacques) Bassantin, son of the laird of Bassendean (Berwickshire), lived in Paris as a mathematician; he is said to have died in Scotland in 1568.

"The size of this volume and the extent of its illustrations make this an unusually fine example of the attention given to the printing of scientific works at this period" (Mortimer). "A very impressive work, though partly a plagiarism of Apianus' great Astronomicum Caesareum, 1540" (Honeyman). The proper number of movable parts is not easily determined. The Honeyman copy had 25 volvelles, the Horblit copy (according to the latest count) 36; Mortimer cites 36, though neither copy at Harvard has more than 33. In the present copy we count 35 "movable parts". Compared with the count given by Honeyman ("counting volvelles is always a risky business"), we lack one part on p. 202 and two on p. 278; further differences concern pages 205 & 209 as well as 219 & 221: here, some parts have probably been fastened in the wrong place in our copy. The three parts which the Honeyman copy (p. 216) lacks from 38 are present here, however.

Bound with four engraved plates with 2 constellation maps each (after Beaublé, probably from a Parisian edition of Flamsteed's celestial atlas) with occasional edge damage reinforced with Japanese paper.

Slightly browned and frequent waterstaining to margins (more pronounced in title page, edge flaws reinforced). Some of the large woodcut scales printed on the text leaves are trimmed; slight loss to p. 119 from overpasting. The large movable disc on p. 196 is rubbed in places; some movable parts are creased or have been re-fastened; one small dial near the edge of a disc on p. 102 appears to have been torn off. Title has handwritten ownership of "Gregorius Morel Alenconieus subdiaconus" (likely the Jansenist theologian Grégoire Morel from Alençon, 1644-1750).


Adams B 369. Houzeau/Lancaster 2592. Mortimer 47. Honeyman 244. Cartier, de Tournes 357 (and cf. 775).