In the 1549 first edition of the Initia doctrinæ physicæ—essentially the first scientific textbook of the Reformation—Philipp Melanchthon refutes the heliocentrism of Copernicus with a single blow, invoking Ecclesiastes 4:5: “The earth remains forever. The sun rises and the sun sets.” Moreover, he writes, referring to Copernicus, "that Polish astronomer who makes the earth move and the sun stand still":
But some dare say, either because of the love of novelties or in order to appear ingenious, that the earth moves, and contend that neither the eighth sphere nor the sun moves while they assign other movement to the celestial spheres and place the earth among the stars. The joke is not new. There is a book by Archimedes called ‘De Numeratione Arenae,’ in which he reports that Aristarchus of Samos defended this paradox, that sun remains fixed and the earth turns round the sun. And although clever workers investigate many questions to give expressions to their ingenuity, the young should know it is not decent to defend such absurd opinions publicly, nor is it honest or a good example.
But in the present, second edition of 1550, Melanchthon famously revises his theretofore steadfast denial of the heliocentric model of the solar system, stating that, in fact and indeed, Copernicanism is in accord with the tenets of the Reformation. The above paragraph, for example, was completely revised in the present and all subsequent editions. Melanchthon began to support two pro-Copernican professors at the University of Wittenberg, Georg Joachim Rheticus and Erasmus Reinhold, and thus began what came to be known as the Wittenberg Interpretation. Melanchthon was first introduced to the idea of Copernican heliocentrism in 1540, with the publication of Rheticus's Narratio prima, but Melanchton remained a staunch supporter of the Ptolemaic theory. It was only a few months after the publication of the 1549 edition of the Initia doctrinæ physicæ that Melanchthon began to appreciate Copernican mathematics, and in fact wrote to Caspar Cruciger, even before the 1549 edition was published: "For this and similar observations of motion we begin rather to admire and love Copernicus." Given Melanchthon's influence, his change of heart can be regarded as one of the most vital and pressing in the history of astronomical thought, and one of the sharpest hairpins in the many convolutions of the Protestant Reformation. There are four known 1550 editions of this revised text: Oporinus's Basel edition (our book), Hans Lufft's Wittenberg edition, Christian Egenolff's Frankfurt editon, and a pirate Lyon imprint. Six copies total located in American libraries.
Full title: DOCTRI- | NAE PHYSICAE | ELEMENTA, SIVE INI- | tia, dictata in Academia | Vuitebergenſi: || PER PHILIPPVM ME- | lanthonem. || Ex postrema autoris recognitione. || Cum locuplete rerum & uerborum | in his memorabilium | Indice. ||| BASILÆ, PER IOAN- nem Oporinum. [Colophon, z8r]: BASILEAE, EX OFFI- | cina Ioannis Oporini, Anno Sa- | lutis humanæ M. D. L. | Menſe Maio.
Basel: Oporinus, 1550.
Four works in octavo, 168 x 115 x 58 mm (binding), 165 x 112 x 54 mm (text block). Ad I: a-p8; 237  pp. Ad II: α8, δ8, b-f8; 95, . Ad III: A-G8, 108,  pp. Ad IV: α10, a-z8; , 336,  pp. Contemporary blind-rolled calf, initialed "M.W." and dated "1556" in gilt on upper cover. Rolls with images of figures, one labeled "P.E.S." Rolls and tools not recorded in online Einbanddatenbank. Extremities worn and abraded, with loss to caps and upper joint, text block somewhat pronated, but binding and board attachments structurally sound. Interior: First free end wanting; intermittent marginal dampstaining to Initia doctrinæ physicæ.
Contemporary custodial remark in ink on title of first work: Insevitur bibliothecae Limpurgensis F.F. Min.; scattered contemporary and later annotations; modern cataloguer's penciled remarks to upper pastedown.
VD16 M3470; USTC 640444; Westman, Robert S., "The Melanchthon Circle, Rheticus, and the Wittenberg Interpretation of the Copernican Theory," Isis, Vol. 66, No. 2, June 1975, pp. 164-89; Kobe, Donald H., "Copernicus & Martin Luther: an Encounter Between Science & Religion," American Journal of Physics Vol. 66, March 1998, pp. 190-196.
Status: On Hold