Peri optikes [in Greek], id est, De Natura, Ratione, & proiectione radiorum visus, luminum, colorum atque formarum, quam vulgo Perspectivam vocant, libri X.

Norimbergae [Nuremberg]: apud Joann Petreium, 1551

Folio, (iv) + 297 leaves. Title printed in red and black with a large woodcut vignette demonstrating optical problems, full-page woodcut of the arms of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and the dedicatee, and numerous woodcut diagrams in the text. 18th century Italian(?) half sheep (spine neatly restored), unlettered, marbled sides, some wormholes in the binding just entering the first few leaves. Light browning (heavier in some gatherings) after aa1 which appears to be printed on different paper stock to the first 184 leaves, otherwise a nice copy. Early note of purchase for 15 soldi from one Bottero on front endpaper, small defaced library stamp in lower margin of title.

Second edition, a reissue of the first of 1535 with the same collation, of the Perspectiva by the Polish friar and physicist Witelo who flourished in the second half of the thirteenth century. Considered the first textbook of optics written by a European, this was the work from which Renaissance Europe learned optics and the source for many optical texts that would appear subsequently. It influenced Leonardo da Vinci, Giambattista della Porta, Tycho Brahe, Galileo and Descartes, among others, and was the starting point of Kepler’s study of the retinal image. “While John Peckham’s Perspectiva communis was medieval Europe’s most used basic optics text, Witelo’s Perspectiva was the advanced comprehensive equivalent… There were several reasons for its utility. First, though following Alhazen closely, Witelo imposed a Euclid-like structure of theorems or propositions, including enunciations, definitions and proofs. This made the text more accessible and didactic; significantly more useful as a textbook than Alhazen’s De Aspectibus. Second, Witelo’s Perspectiva included a long first book that introduced all the plane and three-dimensional geometry that would be required to study the subsequent text… Third, Witelo’s Perspectiva included topics not covered in the De Aspectibus, including mirror foci, refraction by glass spheres, and atmospheric refraction” (DiLaura). DiLaura, Bibliotheca Optica, 23. Sarton II, pp. 1027–1028. Thorndike II, pp, 454–456. King, History of the telescope, p. 26. For the first edition of 1535 see Stillwell, The awakening interest in science, 254. This edition is rarer than the first; it is not, for instance, in the NLM which has the first.


In stock

Unsure of some of these terms? Click here to download a copy of Carter & Barker, ABC for Book Collectors (2006), which has full explanations.