First Edition of the French physician and astronomer Jean François Fernel's first published work, a pleasingly designed and printed treatise on astronomy, navigation, the science of astrolabes, and practical geometry, written when Fernel was only 24,1 and published before he turned 30. The work, which is of serious and persistent interest to the early-modern study of cosmography (for want of a better inclusive term), is also compelling for its signal contribution to the literature of the record of the earliest European Americana: on recto of the third leaf, the contemporary Paris jurist and poet Jehan le Lieur has composed an address in nine Latin distichs to the reader that applauds the "hardy race" of Americans, and praises both the book and Fernel's invention, insisting that all be grateful for it, and that it be used to find even stranger new worlds.2 Harrisse remarked dismissively that "This work contains only a few unimportant lines in the versified address to the reader by Jehan Le Lieur."3 We vigorouly disagree with Harrisse's assertion that the lines are "unimportant," especially to the study of early European Americana. Taken as a whole, Le Lieur's poem is not only an acknowledgment of the importance of the macroscopic examination of the world and the peoples that populate it, but also presents a practical solution for updating navigational instrumentation in order to raise the stakes of new-world exploration. A new, unpublished translation of Le Lieur's poem:
Jehan Le Lieur, a poem to the reader.
Let the hardy race of American applaud, let the Indian applaud, and let the Arab, enriched with the income from his blazing hot land, applaud. Let those applaud, whose desire it is to see strange realms, and let him applaud who is eager to sail up swift water courses. Behold, the territories of Asia lie open, now the realms of Europe draw near; the ship-wrecking rocks of Africa lie open. May the wave-wandering sailor recognize a region scorched with heat that cannot be tamed, and acknowledge the waters of Charybdis. Here a gnomon will indicate the path of the sun to you and the hours with its slender shadow, and the direction of the wind. Here, as it reveals geometrical signs in an easily understood series, it will teach you the size of the sun from which all life springs. It will teach you which stars can influence humans, and which stars shine in the star-bearing firmament. Whoever you are, come hither, peruse these writings with a grateful heart, which will give you no little glory. And so be grateful to Fernelius, and grateful to his work. A dread Fury assails the hearts of the ungrateful.
According to J. Henry, in a 2011 dissertation, Fernel's Monalosphaerium,
"…was specifically concerned with describing [Fernel's] newly invented ‘monalosphaerium’ and instructing the reader in its various uses. Fernel’s instrument was essentially an astrolabe which managed to project all the information provided in different inscribed sections of an astrolabe on to one circle. He admitted its similarity to an astrolabe but believed it was an improvement upon the traditional instrument because it was equally comprehensive, but more convenient in use (a6r). The altitudes of the Sun, Moon and stars could be read from the monalosphaerium, and the lunar cycle derived from it. Thanks to inscribed coordinates of latitude and longitude of major cities, the latitude and longitude of any place could be found, and distances from one place to another. It was also useful, at least on a starry night, for giving the time in ‘equal hours’, and could be used to proceed from equal hours to unequal, and vice versa (5r & 18r). And, of course, it could be used as a perpetual calendar, particularly for calculating Easter and other moveable feasts (7v). Fernel also showed how it could be used for determining the critical days in various fevers, and for drawing up horoscopes."4
Withal, Fernel's Monalosphaerium is a far more notable member of the bibliotheca americana vetustissima than it has thus far been given credit for, and is deserving of a fresh look vis-a-vis early European new-world exploration.
Paris: Simon de Colines, 1526.
Folio, 309 x 215 x 9 mm (text block), 320 x 224 x 14 mm (clamshell). a-g6; , 36 ff. Title text within woodcut entrelac border on a criblé ground probably designed by Oronce Finé. Numerous woodcut and typographic illustrations in text. Recent limp binding of machine-made decorated paper, three front and three rear free ends; text block sewn all along on three thin sunk cords, the ends of which are fanned out and pasted down to the outer free ends but inside covers. Interior: A washed copy. Title with gutter restoration, and a fore-margin mend which just touches woodcut border; pale, uniform, transparent damp to a few gatherings. Leaves crisp and well-sized. A peculiar binding by any standard, but competently executed, and clearly intended as a temporary measure in anticipation of a permanent binding. Housed in a buckram clamshell case.
Acquired by W. S. Cotter Rare Books from Albert Roque of Els Llibres del Tirant, Madrid, March 2021. Valid export license on file.
USTC 184658 (confused entry); Alden/Landis 526/3 (noting Le Lieur address); Harrisse (BAV add.), p. 94 (noting first line of Le Lieur address); Adams F251; Moreau III 1204; Renouard (de Colines) 85 (noting Fernel was only 24 when he wrote the Monalosphaerium); Pettegree 70356; Houzeau 3260; Sherrington, C. J. Endeavour of Jean Fernel, CUP: 1946, pp 153-4; Henry, J. "Mathematics Made No Contribution to the Public Weal: Why Jean Fernel Became a Physician," Centaurus, 53(3), which has been published in final form at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0498.2011.00234.x pp. 17-18; Hazon, J.A. (Ed.), Notice des hommes les plus célébres de la Faculté de Médecine en l'Université de Paris, Paris: 1778, pp. 30-36.
1Renouard, Philippe. Bibliographie des éditions de Simon de Colines. Paris: Guillemin, 1894, pp. 85-6
2[Translation © 2021 J. Holland and W. S. Cotter]
Ioannis le Lieur, Ad lectorem carmen.
Plaudat Americæ gens apera: plaudat & Indus,
Plaudat & ardenti foenore dives Arabs.
Plaudant regna quibus cura est monstrosa videre,
Plaudat qui celeres scandere glíscít aquas.
Ecce patent Asiæ fines, iam regna propinquant
Europes: Libyæ naufraga saxa patent.
Indomito agnoscat zonam sudore perustam,
Noscat fluctivagus nauta charybdis aquas.
Hic Eclicen gnomon vobis signabit, & horas
Prætenui umbella, ventus & unde ruat.
Hic facili serie Geometrica signa recludens,
Vos docet omnipari portio quanta soli est.
Hic docet humanos quæ sidera flectere possint,
Et quæ stellifero sidera in axe mícant.
Quisquis ades, animo gratanti hec scripta revolve,
Quæ tibi parturient non decus exiguum.
Fernelio gratare igitur, gratare labori:
Ingratorum animos torua Megera premit.
3Harrisse, Henry. Bibliotheca Americana Vetustissima…Additions. Paris: Tross, 1872, p. 94.
4Henry, J. "Mathematics Made No Contribution to the Public Weal: Why Jean Fernel Became a Physician." Centaurus, 53(3), 193- 220, which has been published in final form at http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0498.2011.00234.x pp. 17-18.
Status: On Hold