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The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  312 ratings  ·  40 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
Hardcover
Published March 1st 2004 by Walker & Company (first published January 1st 2004)
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Poo1987 Roykaew
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
Katie
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
...more
Elizabeth
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.
Jen
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.
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
Theresa
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
...more
Chelsea
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
...more
Wendy Lu
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.
Ross
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
Jerzy
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
...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
Mel
Becky, tell Michelle that I DID read it! Pretty good. I was partly just fascinated by how zealous the guy is.
Barbara
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
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.
Teresa
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.
Lou
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.
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).
Elena
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.
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....
Converse
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
Rocky
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).
Stephen
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.
Yunju
It's a really interesting book. The topic could be boring, but the author made it feel like reading a detective fiction, so you learned but still entertained.
Miranda
my copy has a better cover than this. but i liked this book. but i like dorky history books. it's about copernicus and his heliocentric ways.
Kadri
A really fascinating read about Copernicus's De Revolutionibus. Also an interesting insight to rare books and what might happen to them.
Richard
Copernicus’ book. Lots of copies and analysis of marginal writing to see which scientific greats read which volume. Uniquely interesting.
Grumpylibrarian
I heard Owen Gingerich speak at the LoC congress on the Waldseemüller Map this spring. He was fascinating. Let's see how the book goes...
Christiane
A well-researched text that explains how science began to adopt Copernicus's revolutionary idea that the sun was the center of the universe
Greg Good
An autobiographical adventure story centered on the astronomer-historian author's fascinations with Copernicus and book collecting.
Anne
Part travelogue, part treasure hunt, part history. A little disjointed, but the asides about Charles Eames and bookworms were fun.
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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
More about Owen Gingerich...
God's Universe Nicolaus Copernicus: Making the Earth a Planet God's Planet Cosmology + 1 (Readings from Scientific American) The Great Copernicus Chase And Other Adventures In Astronomical History

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“...it'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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