Earl of Macclesfield's Library Copy with Manuscript Additions (1624)

1624 - Willebrord Snellius "Tiphys Batavus"

Navigation Treatise with MSS Additions - Earl of Macclesfield's Copy

Date: 1624

SNELLIUS, Willebrord Title: Tiphys Batavus, sive histiodromice, de navium cursibus, et re navali. [Tiphys Batavus, or Histiodromice, a Ship's Navigational Course, and Naval Matters] Lugduni Batavorum [near Leiden]: ex Officinâ Elzeviriana, 1624. Rare First Edition from the Earls of Macclesfield library. 4to. 227 pages, plus title pages and 3 full page engraved plates. [the body of the work features an 8 page preface, 48 page introductory lecture, 109 page treatise, 62 pages of logarithm charts]. Further in-text woodcut diagrams, data tables and mathematical calculations appear throughout. Text is in Latin. Two ownership signatures to title page, first of Christophorus Plassius and made at Leiden in 1671, secondly of Benjamin von Munchausen dated The Hague 1675 who received the volume from Plassius. Also with the manuscript shelfmark, blind embossment, and 1860 bookplate of the Earls of Macclesfield. Detailed manuscript inscriptions and to front pastedown and rear endpapers, some by Plassius, some by a French shipbuilder. Contemporary sheepskin binding, blindstamp and gilt borders, four raised bands and gilt title to spine. Provenance: From the Shirburn Castle library of the Earls of Macclesfield, previously owned by Fellows of the Royal Society Snellius died at the young age of 46, only two years after this work was printed. In 1624, Snel published his lessons on navigation in Tiphys Batavus (Tiphys was the pilot of the Argo). The work is "mainly a study and tabulation of Pedro Nuñez’ so called rhumb lines (1537), which Snel called 'loxodromes'. His consideration of a small spherical triangle bounded by a loxodrome, a parallel, and a meridian circle as a plane right triangle foreshadows the differential triangle of Pascal and later mathematicians" (DSB). Willems 224. "Tiphys Batavus" is an important treatise on navigation in which Snellius presents early calculations and hypotheses on sailing according to rhumb lines or loxodromes. It includes several data charts, studies on degree measurement, a description on the use of a compass, and references to the fundamental principles discovered by Pedro Nuñez. His proposed calculations for longitude and latitude are illustrated with a nautical chart showing a ship's voyage in segments. Landings as precise as the small Portuguese island of Faial and the Spanish island Tenerife, and on the far away continents of Africa and America, appear in examples. In navigation, a rhumb line, loxodrome, or spherical helix, is an arc crossing all meridians of longitude at the same angle, i.e. a path with constant bearing as measured relative to true or magnetic north. It was Portuguese mathematician and royal cosmographer Pedro Nunes, in 1537, who discovered and first presented the concept of navigating by a rhumb line course, being the first to explain that the shortest distance to be travelled by a ship between two points on the earth is not a straight line but an arc. Nunes published his findings in "Treatise in Defense of the Marine Chart" which predates Snellius' masterful work "Tiphys Batavus" by only 87 years, and which forms the basis for the latter. Some mathematical development to Nunes' discovery had also been made by in the 1590s by English mathematician and astronomer Thomas Harriot who worked for Sir Walter Raleigh, and in 1594 by English mathematician and geographer Robert Hues who circumnavigated the globe with Thomas Cavendish, and was also connected to Raleigh. On pages 50 to 53 of this work, Snellius mentions Robert Hues as he presents a solution to a long-standing navigational problem which had challenged numerous eminent mathematicians, astronomers and sea captains. Snellius has been credited as being the first to find a solution. Little notable progress or discussion ensued for one hundred years, until Dr. Edmund Halley The Problem: "Given the distance sailed upon a direct course, the difference of Longitude and either the Latitude sailed-from or that come-to; to find the course steered and the other Latitude." In this period, a ship's intended latitude could be accurately established by sightings of the sun or stars. However, as there had not yet been discovered an accurate way of determining longitude, early navigators taking to the seas before the invention of the marine chronometer in the eighteenth century used rhumb line courses on long ocean passages. Employing this method, the ship would sail its course either north or south until the latitude of the destination was reached, and from there proceed east or west along the rhumb line (actually a parallel, which is a special case of the rhumb line), maintaining a constant latitude and recording regular estimates of the distance sailed, until evidence of land was sighted. An authoritative guide in its time, and now an exceedingly scarce primary source account, Snellius' influential mathematical treatise instructs and illustrates early navigators in making pertinent calculations for long ocean voyages. The publisher of this work is also notable, "ex Officinâ Elzeviriana" meaning "From the Factory of Elseveir" and referring to the celebrated Holland publishing house belonging to the Elsevier family. Flourishing in the late sixteenth to the early eighteenth centuries, the Elsevier dynasty of printers existed more than 130 years and came to the forefront of European book-printing in the seventeenth century. Its founder was Lodewijk Elsevier (1546-1617) from Leuven who had studied printing art at famous Christophe Platin in Antwerp. After Lodewijk Elsevier’s death in 1617 the family business was continued by his descendants from whom the most celebrated are: Bonaventura Elsevier (1583-1652), Isaac Elsevier (1596-1651) and Lodewijk Elsevier Jr. (1604-1670). The last of the Elseviers died in 1712 whereupon their firm ceased to exist. They worked in Leiden and Amsterdam and had representative offices in many other European towns. The Elseviers' target audience were learned readers, members of the European "scientists' republic", therefore they were selective in the books they chose to publish, and worked with the most eminent scientists of the time. Scientists and other distinguish writers considered it an honor to be published at the Elseviers' publishing house. The Elsevier printing house was founded at the Leiden University and published at least 3,000 theses, including scientific works by Galileo Galilei, R. Descartes, B. Pascal, J. Locke and others, and fictions by Moliere, F. Rabelais, G. Boccaccio, and others. The substantial manuscript notes made in this volume not only offer perspective into the application of Snellius' navigational teachings in terms of commercial and exploratory seafaring, but also reveal some of the specific individuals of note whose hands it fell into and served. Published in 1624, the first ownership confirmed is that of Christophorus Plassius of Leiden, who signed the title page in 1671. (A rather substantial Plassius ancestry derives from Leiden, suggesting that he may have obtained the volume from his father or an uncle.) The 3 pages of manuscript notes penned in Dutch on the rear endpapers, including two tables, appear to be in the same hand. Plassius makes note of certain pages of Snellius' book, and describes four ways to set a course, with the information at one's disposal (the destination's latitude, longitude etc.) Among other things, his notes also refer to an early pilot book published in 1592 and titled "Thresoor der Zeevaert" (Treasure of Navigation), by Lucas Janszoon Waghenaer, an important Dutch cartographer and one of the founding fathers and most famous members of the North Holland school, which played a major role in the early development of Dutch nautical chart-making. Just below the first, is a second signature, the volume having been given by Plassius to Benjamin von Munchausen, according to his signature and inscription dated The Hague 1675. Munchausen was an attorney at Danzig (now Gdánsk). He is recorded in England in 1673, when he was admitted to the Bodleian Library, and delivered letters from Henry Oldenburg, first Secretary of the Royal Society, to Edward Pococke and Martin Lister. Munchausen became a Fellow of the Royal Society in London in 1684, therefore maintained English connections. It is not known exactly how the volume went from Munchausen to the Shirburn Castle library of the Earls of Macclesfield, although it is quite conceivable that Munchausen gave it to mathematician John Collins (1626-1683) who was also a member of the Royal Society, and who corresponded extensively with leading scientists and mathematicians including Giovanni Alfonso Borelli, Gottfried Leibniz, Isaac Newton, and John Wallis, gathering and sharing new scientific discoveries. Collins corresponded with continental scientists via Oldenburg (cf. DSB) Collins acquired an extraordinary scientific library, including papers of Isaac Newton. The library was acquired by the first Earl of Macclesfield, Lord Chancellor Thomas Parker (1667-1732) who became a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1712. A brief and cryptic inscription to the front endpaper, made in another hand, is dated 22 July (IX. Kal. Aug.) 1692. The volume may have been at an early stage in the hands of a French merchant with Dutch connections. The front pastedown and front endpaper are consumed with detailed shipbuilding notes written in French. Building materials are listed and priced, for a wooden vessel with a keel of seventy-two feet and a height of twenty-five feet. The writer concludes that the prices given are the most that a master carpenter could charge in France, but that one could reasonably negotiate with the carpenter, although one could certainly get a better price in Holland. Willebrord Snellius (Willebrord Snel van Royen, 1580-1626) was a Dutch astronomer and mathematician, most famous for the law of refraction now known as Snell's law. In 1615 he planned and carried into practice a new method of finding the radius of the earth, by determining the distance of one point on its surface from the parallel of latitude of another, by means of triangulation. Snellius was also a distinguished mathematician, producing a new method for calculating pi, the first such improvement since ancient times. He rediscovered the law of refraction in 1621, now named after him. The lunar crater Snellius is also named after him. In addition to the 'Eratosthenes Batavus' (1617), he published 'Cyclometricus, de circuli dimensione' (1621), and 'Tiphys Batavus' (1624). He also edited 'Coeli et siderum in eo errantium observationes Hassiacae' (1618), containing the astronomical observations of Landgrave William IV of Hesse. A work on trigonometry (Doctrina triangulorum) authored by Snellius was published a year after his death.

Some splitting at spine with indication of early professional repair, otherwise in Very Good Original Condition.


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