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Renaissance book stars in astronomy exhibition

A first edition book by leading thinker Nicolaus Copernicus is among the treasures on show at an exhibition exploring our early understanding of the Universe.

Photo of the first edition book by Nicolaus Copernicus, which will be on show at the exhibition
This first edition book by Nicolaus Copernicus will be on show at the exhibition

An ivory sundial made in 1589 and a four-billion-year-old shard of meteorite also feature in the exhibition at the University’s Main Library.

Rare book

Copernicus’s De Revolutionibus Obrium Caelestium – published in 1543 – was the first book to claim that Earth is not at the centre of the solar system.

The rare illustrated first edition once belonged to leading Scottish Enlightenment figure Adam Smith.

Amazing objects

A 16th-century pocket sundial made by the Tucher family of instrument makers from Nuremburg, Germany – who were active between 1490 and 1645 – will also be on display.

The exhibition also features a page-sized fragment of the Gibeon meteorite – named after the Namibian town where it was found – which fell to Earth in prehistoric times.

It shows a patterned cross-section caused by its cooling and landing.

Other highlights

Further attractions include a celestial globe from the 1800s, two 19th-century telescopes and an illustrated anthology from 1681 charting the passage of comets from biblical times.

A tin camera designed and used by Piazzi Smyth – the second Astronomer Royal of Scotland and a former Professor of Astronomy – will also be on display.

It was used to capture an image of the Great Pyramid of Giza, Egypt, in 1865.

A book written by Renaissance thinker Galileo Galilei in 1632, entitled Dialogo dei massimi sistemi – which was banned by the Catholic Church for more than two centuries – will also feature.

Exhibition details

The exhibition will showcase objects from the collections of the University of Edinburgh, Royal Observatory Edinburgh and Ingleby Gallery.

Astronomy Victorious: Understanding Our Universe runs from 10am-5pm, Monday-Saturday from 27 July – 27 October, and Sundays throughout August, at the University of Edinburgh Main Library, George Square.

Related links

Centre for Research Collections