Copernicus' De revolutionibus first edition up 10% on estimate

A first edition copy of Nicolaus Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium coelestium has sold at the top of Christie's Valuable Manuscripts and Printed Books auction, which was held on November 20 in London.

Copernicus De revolutionibus
De revolutionibus is the most important scientific publication of the 16th century

The book is rightly described by Christie's as "the most important scientific publication of the 16th century, and a landmark in human thought". It sees the astronomer and mathematician place the Sun, rather than the Earth, at the centre of the solar system for the first time.

The first edition copy, one of only around 20 in private hands (though 277 copies exist in total), sold for £662,500 ($1m), making a 10.3% increase on its £600,000 high estimate.

The book is the earliest of the three science books that tell us most about man and his relationship with the universe, joined by Isaac Newton's Principia and Darwin's Origin of Species.

A first edition of Newton's Principia sold for $194,500 at Christie's in 2008, while another example appeared at Sotheby's in December 2012 valued at $400,000-600,000. A first edition of Darwin's Origin of Species made $32,500 at Heritage Auctions in April this year.

Also featuring in the sale was a first edition of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, one of the founding books of modern economics, which sold for £146,500 ($235,865), making a 62.7% increase on estimate.

In September, another first edition of the book sold for £46,000 ($71,815) at Lyon & Turnbull.

Paul Fraser Collectibles has some magnificent and rare books and manuscripts for sale.

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