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The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  428 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
In the spring of 1543 as the celebrated astronomer, Nicolaus Copernicus, lay on his death bed, his fellow clerics brought him a long-awaited package: the final printed pages of the book he had worked on for many years: De revolutionibus (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres). Though Copernicus would not live to hear of its extraordinary impact, his book, which first ...more
Published March 1st 2004 by Walker Books (first published January 1st 2004)
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Poo1987 Roykaew
Jul 14, 2009 Poo1987 Roykaew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a triumph of hard work. A vivid, hilarious, elaborated, considerably jargon-free and, above all, humourous book accessible to everyone. The author shows a great deal of his care in details and his effort as an investigator to investigate and reveal the hidden facts of little-known life of one of the greatest astronomors of all time, and of the prominent book recognized as the one that changes the world forever, but once seen as the book nobody read. From USA to Russia, Italy to Scotland, ...more
May 15, 2014 Katie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science, history
This is a weird book to categorize: it's half exploration of the early impact of Copernicus's groundbreaking but extremely complex De revolutionibus and half academic memoir. Gingerich recounts his globetrotting adventures to track down all first and second editions of Copernicus's illustrious work, which takes him from North America to Europe to Asia, armed with a travel budget most scholars only dream of.

It's a fun story, overall. The parts about Copernicus were the most interesting from my en
Sep 29, 2012 Theresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most of us modern folks who think we've read De Revolutionibus (in translation) haven't really read the work at all. We've only read the opening theory and not the dense calculations and tables that make up the bulk of the book, which require a specialist's knowledge and in any case are 500 years out of date. Arthur Koestler made the claim that nobody probably read the book back when it was published, either.

This notion piqued Astronomy professor Owen Gingrich's interest, and so Gingrich embark
Apr 27, 2010 Elizabeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Delightful essays..... especially the title essay for book lovers. Some others a bit harder to read unless you are very interested. However, he is a delightful author.
Sep 06, 2009 Jen marked it as unfinished  ·  review of another edition
After two renewals at the library, I still never got around to reading this book. All I can say is that the title could not be more appropriate.
Read like a detective novel. Excellent dig!
I was assigned this book in a class on the Protestant Reformation. Somehow I think the title is going to be oddly prophetic for a majority of students in the class. XD

But that's not a knock on the book itself. I actually found it to be quite interesting, although I think it probably has something of a niche audience. It's an incredibly detailed account of the author, Owen Gingerich, and his quest to compile a list of every known first or second edition of Nicolaus Copernicus' On The Revolution o
Cassandra Kay Silva
This was stupid. I was hoping to read more about Copernicus and his work. I was excited because I knew some original manuscript copies were included. Of course you can't see these copies well and the author doesn't tell you the text provided by all these famous men who read this work either. I think this book could have been good if he had made a historical study of it all and provided the original text and the works notes as a final product. Perhaps others are not interested in this information ...more
May 05, 2007 Jerzy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were a few excellent sections on the ways in which Copernicus' De Revolutionibus was accepted, understood, interpreted, etc. by astronomers and the Church. I wish those chapters were organized and tied together in a more cohesive way, so that someone interested in understanding the context and effects of Copernicus' book could just read those sections.
Unfortunately, much of the rest of the book is a set of unconnected anecdotes about the author's search for copies of De Revolutionibus. Som
Jul 29, 2012 Ross rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Another disappointment. I got this book looking for a scientific explanation about how, in detail, Copernicus figured out that the sun is the center of the solar system. This book turned out to be about the author's 40 year 300,000 mile quest to find and examine all of the extant editions of de Revolutionibus" to see who owned them and what they entered as margin notes and annotations. He found 276 of them. Parts of the book are mildly interesting but I mostly had to skim. This was not science o ...more
Jul 20, 2016 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Here's an interesting book for someone looking for an offbeat science story. Gingerich tells the story of how he put together a catalog of all the known first and second editions of Copernicus' "De Revolutionibus." In this book, Copernicus suggests that the earth revolves around the sun rather than the sun around the earth. One of the most interesting aspects of this book is that I learned that the old system of epicycles, used to correct the retrograde movement of planets across the night sky, ...more
Denise Louise
Not a bad book, just not as interesting as expected. I'm sure it was fascinating for the author to travel the world looking for copies of Copernicus' book in historic libraries, but reading about it was not as much fun as it should have been. The end of the book was more interesting, with tales of how his reviews and notes were able to get stolen copies back to their rightful owners. The goal was to discover if Copernicus' new ideas about the heliocentric universe were given much thought and att ...more
Scott Kardel
While I love history of astronomy books, this one isn't high on my list. That isn't to say that Owen Gingerich didn't do an amazing thing. He did. He tracked down nearly every existing first and second edition copy of Nicolaus Copernicus' De revolutionibus (where the famed astronomer pushed the idea of the heliocentric universe). Along the way Gingerich became a noted expert on the individual editions located around the world and dispelled a popular notion that the book wasn't widely read in its ...more
Ronald Lett
Jan 31, 2016 Ronald Lett rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Although it seems to devolve in the middle into a list of Western hemisphere globe-trotting trivia, the author quite effectively disproves the myth that Copernicus's seminal text was little read. In addition, we get to learn quite a lot about the "invisible college" of how knowledge was disseminated in those time periods, and how antique books are identified and distributed throughout the pre-modern and modern world. This knowledge is well worth the trip through the myriad of locales the author ...more
A pretty good read. Has a fair amount of "technical jargon". The journey of the author to discover how the "de revolutionibus" written by Copernicus was received by his peers and the cosmological community in general was more enlightening than I had presumed. To think that less than 500 years ago the scientific community and populace still believed that the Earth was the center of the universe!!!!!! Not being a "planet techie", some of the wordage was over my head. However, I still enjoyed the a ...more
Michael Anderson
Author sets out to find all extant copies of Copernicus's famous book, which places the sun at the center of the universe, in an attempt to see how many and who read the thing, mostly by examining the margin notes put there by the readers. It highly detailed and very repetitive, in my opinion, though not without occasional mild drama. Not a bad book, it almost held my interest, but I started skimming about 70% the way through.
Jul 07, 2007 Teresa rated it liked it
There's no coherent sense of time in this nonfiction chronical, which makes the book a difficult read -- though I have no doubt this secondary book describing the author's task of cataloging all first and second editions of Copernicus' revolutionary work is far more interesting than the primary outcome.

As with many other scientific histories, the story here is in the context it provides to the progression "modern" astronomy and cosmology.
Jacob Doerr
i dident like the book. the book was about how the sun was the center of the universe and the catholic church dident like that. Nicolaus Copernicus is the main character in the book and he goes on this wild adventure to find this missing book that was taken from his university. it was also about Aristotle got throne in jail because of this idea in his head. he observed the moons of Jupiter and saw that they orbited Jupiter and not the Earth like the catholic says it does.
May 25, 2016 Lisa rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a great true story that mixed the history of science with the search for all extant copies of a book in libraries and personal collections around the world. I can't think of a book that better intersects these two subjects. the bonus? It's not fiction! The attention to marginalia, paper, and residue reminded me of People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. If you liked this book, you'll love that one!
Lance Grabmiller
I love a good intellectual mystery or personal history of crazy projects and nerdy pursuits, and the THIRTY YEAR history of this guys quest is prett awesome, but overall the book was a bit dry and boring. Interesting to read modern political history in such a "sideways" way (the shifting geo-political map of the last 30 years and how it affected his search).
Aug 26, 2012 Lou rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un precioso análisis histórico sobre el desarrollo de las tempranas teorías astronómicas geo y heliocentricas, Desde los sistemas ptolemaicos, centrándose en la influencia de Copernico hasta los descubrimientos de Galileo. Análisis del contexto cultural, histórico y religioso que rodeo dichos eventos, de una manera amena... solo para entusiastas de la historia y astronomía.
Dec 10, 2011 Elena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: popular-science
L'argomento e' davvero interessante, ma chi prende in mano questo libro deve un po' fare i conti con l'autore, un professore universitario americano con un ego troppo grande. Piu' che incentrarsi su Copernico il libro e' pieno di io, io, io e io cosa ho fatto, e bla bla bla. Nonostante questo, sfrondando come si puo', rimangono molte informazioni interessanti.
An interesting, albeit arcane, sleuthing job of who read Copernicus's paradigm-shifting work (first edition), and where they currently reside. A who's who of astronomy and physics of that day - amazing!
A science historian's quest to track down all the existing copies of the 1st & 2nd editions of Copernicus's book. Disproves Arthur Koestler's remark that no one read it, by looking at the notes made in the margins by readers
Apr 24, 2008 Stephen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: failed-to-finish
Well, I didn't manage to read this sprawling account of an academics global chase to see every single copy of the first version of Copernicus' book. Too much extraneous detail not enough drama for my liking.
Adam K
This is a little heavy on the scientific stuff, but the story is interesting!

However, it left me with this burning question: What fictional character (scientist?) had a pet named Copernicus? I know Doc Brown's dog was Einstein, so it wasn't him. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm....
Stephen Huntley
For the general reader (me) it's too dry and the author's passion over obscure minutiae is hard to relate to. There's a smattering of mildly interesting observations, revelations and discoveries but along the way it's a long, slow wade through some pretty dull stuff.
Wendy Lu
Aug 17, 2016 Wendy Lu rated it liked it
i liked it :) the whole walking us through the muddy legwork and backtracking and sunk-to-the-eyeballs-in-details of research.

i dunno -- maybe i would like science research and history research equally. i think i just really like the process of research.
Mar 07, 2014 Rocky rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: got
Loved it, I read "books about books" and ran through this on in no time, it had so much fun and interesting information that I would have to read it again to to actually take it all in (and I vary rarely reread a book).
Feb 03, 2016 Anna rated it it was ok
Not a science book! This book gives great insight into the madness of book collecting. The author's obsession takes him around the world in pursuit of copies of a book and studies the annotations of various previous owners, studies the craft of book repair and publishing, etc.
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Professor Owen Gingerich is a US astronomer. Currently, he is a senior astronomer emeritus at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and History of Science at Harvard University. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the International Academy of the History of Science. He has written over 500 tech ...more
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“'s appalling to remember that the entire Oxford University Library was sold for scrap in the mid-1500s. Nor was that situation unique to Oxford, as libraries were deconstructed throughout the land.” 2 likes
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