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Peter Apian and his Astronomicum Caesareum


  • Graz University Library, manuscript collection SOSA IV 28402
  • MS 124 from Stift Rein Library

Time: 1540


Peter Apian: 1495 - 1552; German humanist, known for his works in astronomy. mathematics and cartography. His original name was Peter Bennewitz or Bienewitz. He studied mathematics and astronomy in Leipzig and Vienna. From 1525 he worked as a mathematician at the University of Ingolstadt.


Other important publications:

  • 1520: Tipus Orbis universalis juxta Ptolemaei Cosmographi Traditionem et Americi Vespucci aliorumque lustrationes a Petro Apiano Leysnico, elucubratus, Anno D. 1520, the first map of the whole world including America
  • 1524: Cosmographicus liber, an important work on astronomy and navigation
  • 1533: Instrument Buch, a scientific book on astronomical instruments in Germany



Photo: Peter Apian, Astronomicum Caesareum,
S. Draxler (2008)

Astronomicum Caesareum: summarizes the astronomical knowledge of that time.


The Graz edition contains

  • 60 pages printed on both sides,
  • 41 full-page hand coloured astronomical and astrological woodcuts,
  • 21 volvelles, scientific instruments to calculate the position of planets, sun and moon, and to determine eclipses,
  • a star map and a description of the 48 star constellations and 1022 visible stars listed in the Almagest of Ptolemy,
  • an explanation for the use of the volvelles for the birthdays of Charles V and Ferdinand I,
  • an explanation of the meteoroscopium, an instrument to calculate right anlge spherical triangles,
  • the first description of the tail of a comet.

The Rein manuscript MS 124 contains the drawings of Peter Apians Astronomicum Caesareum, consisting of

  • 36 in large parts coloured drawings,
  • 21 volvelles, almost all of them fully functional,
  • but no text nor explanations.

There are some significant deviations between the printes editions and the manuscript. It seems that the author was familiar with astronomy, and therefore omitted or chanced some details.

Many pages of the manuscript contain an interesting watermark, which could not be found so far in one of the major watermark catalogues.


S. Draxler & M. E. Lippitsch. Peter Apian and his Astronomicum caesareum. Proc. 2nd  EHoP Conf. 31-46 (2012)


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