- Bookshop: B & L Rootenberg (United States)
- ILAB-LILA Member
- Publishing year: 1580
- Publisher: Heirs of Arnold Birckmann
- Subjects: Mathematics
- Shipment weight: 1000 g
- Publishing place: Cologne
With numerous geometrical text diagrams. Quarter vellum and marbled paper over boards; some light foxing to scattered leaves, otherwise a very nice copy. Rare illustrated edition of this classic work on optics, the most influential and widely read treatise on perspective and its underlying optical basis. Written in the second half of the thirteenth century during Peckham's professorship at the papal curia, it was "the most widely used of all optical texts . . . and remains today the best index of what was known to the scientific community in general on the subject" (DSB, X, pp. 475-476). The work's most original contribution is the description of concave refracting surfaces, the first description in a printed text of such glasses, though its greater importance probably lies in being the starting point for later attempts to make the study of perspective more mathematically rigorous. In the first part Peckham discusses the propagation of light and color, the anatomy and physiology of the eye, the act of visual perception, physical requirements for vision, the psychology of vision, and the errors of direct vision. He then goes on to discuss vision by reflected rays and presents a careful and sophisticated analysis of image formation by reflection. The subject was also of great interest to artists, who were just learning how the manifest the laws of linear perspective that apparently had been lost to the west (see Wightman, Science and the Renaissance, I, pp. 160-161). It was read by Ghiberti and studied carefully by Leonardo in the 1490's, as well as by generations of artists and architects. Peckham (ca. 1230-1292) was Archbishop of Canterbury. The text was first published in 1482-83; the present edition by Georg Hartmann appeared in Nuremberg in 1542. It was augmented with geometrical figures by Pascal Duhamel, professor of mathematics at the College Royal in Paris in 1556; this first Birckmann edition is a reprint of that, and was in turn later printed again in 1592.