1 Introduction

On the twelfth of February of 1494,Footnote 1 the Netherlandish printer of Paris, Wolfgang Hopyl (fl. 1489–1523), added the final, lengthy colophon to an edition of Sacrobosco's Sphaera. The book was a remarkable accomplishment, bringing together a wide range of new elements of the printer's art, so Hopyl quite rightly styled himself an “ingenious printer” (ingeniosus impressor): “Printed at Paris in the neighborhood of St. Jacques, near the sign of St. George, in the year of Christ, creator of the stars, February 12, 1494. Done by the ingenious printer Wolfgang Hopyl, who always keeps this adage firmly in mind: ‘Great things are not done by strength or speed or bodily swiftness, but by planning, judgment, and authority.’ With the aid of the most diligent correctors, Lucca Walter Conitiensis, Guillaume Gontier, Jean Griettan, and Pierre Griselle—lovers of mathematics” (Sacrobosco 1494).Footnote 2

Before 1495, Johannes de Sacrobosco's (1195–1256) treatise had been printed in quarto format, without commentary—Hopyl himself had been the first to print Sacrobosco in Paris in 1489 (Sacrobosco et al. 1489). But in 1495 Hopyl spread the Sphaera out over large folio pages, set off with the extensive commentary of Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples (1455–1536), then at the beginning of his reimagination of university teaching and especially mathematical works (Chaps. 9 and 13). As he did for Lefèvre's many other commentaries and textbooks, Hopyl carefully indexed the paragraphs of Lefèvre's comments with numbers printed in the margins, allowing the reader to flip back to the analytical index of the work, printed at the outset. Likely with Lefèvre's input, Hopyl and his shop had devised new woodcuts, rearranging the entire visual program of the Sphaera. Perhaps the most difficult innovation, from the point of view of both printer and reader, was the suite of tables throughout the book, which transformed the Sphaera from a largely qualitative work of description into a primer in calculation, beginning with the tutorial on sexagesimal arithmetic that opened the book.

All of these elements made the Textus de sphaera a challenging book to print, labor captured in the colophon in two ways. Hopyl offered his own account of the task with that line from Cicero (106–43 BCE): “Great things are not done by strength or speed or swiftness of body, but by planning, judgment, and authority.”Footnote 3 Hopyl defined his ingenuity not as the quick flash of insight, but as methodical labor. Moreover, the labor had been shared, for in the next line he listed several of Lefèvre's students as “correctors” (recognitores), defined also by their love of mathematics (matheseos amatoribus). As Lefèvre himself indicated in the prefatory epistle, young associates such as Jean Griettan were “skilled in abacus and calculation” and had contributed significant work to the book, possibly to its tables and calculations (Sacrobosco 1494, sig. [i]v.).Footnote 4

Elsewhere I have commented on the distinctive features of Lefèvre's commentary on the Sphaera, on the significance of this work's tables for fostering quantitative skills among Renaissance readers, and on its place within the larger typographical program of Lefèvre's circle (Oosterhoff 2018, 133–150; 2020, forthcoming). In this chapter, I wish to focus instead on the printer's relationship to Sacrobosco. Beyond Paris, this unusual version of the sphere was soon copied in omnibus editions of the Sphaera printed in Venice (Sacrobosco et al. 1499, 1508, 1531a; Ptolemy et al. 1518a, 1518b).Footnote 5 Within Paris, however, the book remained connected to Hopyl (Sacrobosco et al. 1500), and then to the printers who took over his press, first Henri Estienne I (Sacrobosco et al. 1507, 1511, 1516) and then Simon de Colines (1480–1546) (Sacrobosco et al. 1521, 1527, 1531b, 1534, 1538). Beyond small corrections, Lefèvre himself did not substantially modify the book in its later imprints, except to include two smaller works with the edition of 1500: the medieval propositions of Boethius' (ca. 480–ca. 525) translation of Euclid (323 BCE–285 BCE), and a treatise on an astrolabe ring by the Jewish papal physician Bonet de Lattes (ca. 1450–ca. 1515).Footnote 6 The later editions of Colines add only small ornaments and some marginal annotations, likely at the hand of Oronce Fine (1494–1555), and a new frontispiece, also by Fine. Until its last edition in 1538, the Textus de sphera remained a visually distinctive and regularly reprinted item in the Estienne press catalog.

I shall argue that following Sacrobosco through the early Estienne press will illuminate a claim often made regarding print and the early modern sciences, namely that the print shop was a space in which handworkers and headworkers shared knowledge, creating space for artisans to claim intellectual prestige (Eisenstein 1980, Chap. 6).Footnote 7 The following section will focus on what these editions of the sphere reveal about the printer's claims to own distinctive abilities, what I shall call “printer's ingenuity.” In the period approximately between 1490 and 1520, print was a much more fluid phenomenon, both socially and technically, than it would be later, so Estienne (and, as we shall see, his predecessor and partner Johann Higman (d. 1500)) represents an effort to defend the publisher's status as a craftsman. In the third section, I will especially depend upon the shifting roles of colophons and title pages. The next section will return to another experimental element in this edition of Sacrobosco: frontispieces. Using this evidence, I shall suggest that even these objects—reimagined wholly within the print shop—help us to detect subtly changing attitudes towards the very practice of astronomy.

2 Printer's Ingenuity and Mathematical Books

When Hopyl called himself ingeniosus, he was invoking complex Renaissance debates over the intellectual value of artisanal skill (Marr et al. 2018, 19–52). The root word ingenium was often associated with swift, powerful invention, drawing on Cicero's influential characterization of the innate abilities of outstanding orators. But painters, sculptors, and other artisans also argued that their work also displayed the creative qualities of ingenuity. This ambivalence of ingenium as both intellectual and embodied was deepened through the question of speed: was it quick or slow? Innate or acquired? The common doublets ars et ingenium or industria et ingenium could be seen as opposing—or they could function in pleonasm, shading from one to the other, from quick wit to plodding diligence (Marr et al. 2018, 9, 46–50, 88; Baxandall 1963, 304–326, 1986, 15–16). Wielded by literary elites, the plasticity of these terms could swiftly turn ingeniosus from a term of praise into a demeaning association with grubby manual labor.Footnote 8 As Eisenstein has recently documented, throughout the early modern period, from Trithemius to Moxon, printers could be dismissed as “mere mechanics” (Eisenstein 2012, esp. 15–19).

The negative associations of craft may have kept Hopyl, his partner Johann Higman, and the elder Henri Estienne somewhat more darkly in the shadows of print history than they might otherwise have been. Instead, the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century historians of this dynasty focused on those accomplishments that were easily recognized by early Enlightenment belles lettres: the Herculean Thesaurus linguae latinae (first ed. 1531) of Robert Estienne (1503–1559) (Estienne 1531), or the many Greek and Latin editions edited and published by Henri Estienne [II] (Almeloveen 1683; Maittaire 1709).Footnote 9 Even that incisive Victorian Mark Pattison, setting straight the earlier bibliographers by rereading “the great printers Stephens” in their sixteenth-century culture, had few words for the elder Henri Estienne—father to Robert and grandfather to the more famous Henri; Pattison had little use for mathematical works such as Sacrobosco (Pattison 1865).

But the first generation of Hopyl, Higman, and Estienne vaunted their craft status, as I shall consider in a moment (This even though they could claim some credit in learning—Higman, at least, had studied for the BA at Paris). The business aspects of print mattered. In the 1490s Hopyl and Higman reveal an energetic entrepreneurial campaign to engage the widest possible range of markets: devotional works, classical standards like Virgil (70–19 BCE) and Seneca (d. 65), collections of medieval letters, scholastic quaestiones on Aristotle (385–322), university textbooks, Lorenzo Valla's (1407–1457) Elegantiae (Valla 14901491), and theological dialogues. Hopyl even published a little in Dutch and French. As Andrew Pettegree has observed, the late fifteenth-century print was no place for idealistic dreams, requiring a strong stomach for risk and a keen eye for saleable products (Pettegree 2010, 53–55). As scholars and printers experimented and negotiated over new ways of producing, distributing, and selling books, the famously selective and erudite Aldus Manutius (1449–1515) offered only one model of success (in the 1490s it was hardly evident that his press would find the public needed for success).

One place to gain a market was in the universities. The library that Beatus Rhenanus (1485–1547) assembled during his studies at Paris from 1503 to 1507 shows Lefèvre's Sacrobosco commentary a key ingredient in his studies in Lefèvre's circle (Oosterhoff 2018).Footnote 10 In the first instance, it appears that the 1495 edition of Sacrobosco was a bespoke product for a specific circle of teachers—its reprinting in Venice and its presence throughout European university libraries suggests the book found a much wider university market within a decade. It is important to stress, however, that this was not necessarily obvious or easy in the late 1480s, when Hopyl started to produce university textbooks. Severin Corsten has observed how the most widely used university texts—the standard manuals of logic to be mastered by arts bachelors—took decades to be widely published in print (Corsten 1987). Fifteenth-century manuscript production of university texts was highly regulated, with jobs flowing through the hands of libraire jurés, the four official booksellers who were legally sworn by the university to regulate the city's book trade—such booksellers had long subcontracted to shops of manuscript copyists, illuminators, binders, as well as presiding over bookstalls, and they retained all of these functions near the end of the fifteenth century.Footnote 11 Did libraire jurés spot an opportunity and therefore become printers? Or did printers, having already entered the book market, then compete to gain the university's support as libraires jurés? Either way, by the late 1480s—nearly twenty years after the first press was set up in Paris—some libraires jurés were also printers, such as Antoine Vérard (fl. 1485–1512), who specialized in French courtly texts, books of hours, histories, and liturgical books, which could be illuminated and bound for particular clients (Winn 1997). Larger establishments such as Vérard joined forces with smaller presses to complete larger jobs, combining their access to specific markets. It seems likely that Hopyl and Higman began their partnership for this reason; Hopyl was a libraire juré, and although both men retained their own premises, they partnered on academic texts from the 1480s until Higman died in 1500. By Higman's death, university books formed a large part of their shared and separate catalogs.

Another way to capture a market was to attach one's press to a famous author, as Lukas Cranach (1472–1553) (Chap. 5) did with Martin Luther (1483–1556) and Johann Amerbach (1440–1513) and Johann Froben (1460–1527) did with Erasmus (1466–1536). Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples and close collaborators such as Josse Clichtove (1472–1543) and Charles de Bovelles (1479–1566) eventually would perform this function in Paris. Already, Hopyl and Higman had published several of their first works. Shortly after Higman's death, Henri Estienne I married Higman's widow, Guyone Viart (fl. ca. 1500–post 1520).Footnote 12 Possibly having apprenticed with Higman or Hopyl, he was now proprietor of Higman's press, and also inherited the close relationship with Lefèvre and his circle. For nearly sixty of almost 130 editions that Henri Estienne produced, Lefèvre was author, editor, translator, or contributor in some other way. Many more of the remainder of Henri's corpus was linked to one or another person in Lefèvre's network.Footnote 13

As seen at the outset of this chapter, Hopyl presented his ingenuity as a matter of care, thoughtful judgment—and diligent craft. In fact, Hopyl, Higman, and Estienne stressed this language for themselves in many colophons, a manuscript object which persisted in printed works well into the first few decades of the sixteenth century, as title pages gradually filled out. What had been a protective sheet intended to protect a text block before consumers had their purchases bound, was becoming a site for advertisement, including publication details of printer, time, and place. Lefèvre's 1497 edition of the Nicomachean Ethics (Lefèvre d’Étaples 1497) advertised both the expense and diligentia of Hopyl and Higman; after Higman's press was taken over by Henri Estienne, the same formula advertised the partnership of Hopyl and Estienne for a Windesheim breviary (Breviarium Canonicorum 1502).Footnote 14 Of course, printers were not always the only ones with money at stake in producing careful copies. Nevertheless, formulas of this kind draw attention to the link between financial value and craft.

That link emerges only more strongly when we compare printers' privileges elsewhere. A word search of the EMoBookPrivileges database of such privileges in Venice turns up ingenium (or Italian variants) in a couple of dozen examples. Three early cases mention Johann von Speyer (fl. 1468–1477), one of the brothers who first set up a press in Venice in 1469: “The art of printing books was brought into this glorious city of ours, and day by day it grows more famous and populous through the work, study, and ingenuity of Master Johann von Speyer, who chose our city out of all the others….”Footnote 15 In the 1490s, another Venetian legal formulation could draw on the associations of cunning deceit attached to the word: “If anyone wants to print, or have printed the aforesaid volumes, he may not do so himself or through another, using any mode or connivance, for the next ten years….”Footnote 16 Occasionally, a formulation used ingenium to refer to authorial invention; but the main goal of such privileges was to protect the labor and livelihoods of printers. Indeed, the use of ingenium in these privileges often reinforces the idea that the work of printing was closely intertwined with the artisan's powers of invention. In one more occasional phrase, ingenium suggests the printer's capacity to make the text anew, as when the privilege indicates that the book (volumen) can only be printed by the named artisan or those selected by him, “in that style and arrangement which he intends to be done according to his ingenuity and new invention.”Footnote 17 These examples from Venice bestow creative powers on the printer, while also, within the legal frame of the privilege, protecting labor and financial investment.

Some of the most intriguing evocations of printerly ingenuity come from colophons of mathematical works such as the Textus de sphaera that I have already quoted from. In 1496, Higman and Hopyl together also published Lefèvre's most heroic mathematical work, a multimodal study of medieval numbers and music theory (Lefèvre d'Étaples 1496).Footnote 18 This was a book of daunting complexity, including Lefèvre's reworked demonstrations set off from enunciations, a treatise on music theory, an introduction to Boethian arithmetic, and a medieval number game—each treatise with unusual tables and the margins of most pages bearing diagrams. In the end, the printers recorded their efforts: “these two parts of the quadrivium, the best and leading parts of the liberal arts [i.e., arithmetic and music], alongside certain aids, Johann Higman and Wolfgang Hopyl took care to supply for the use of students, with diagrams and the weightiest of labors and cost. At Paris, in the year of salvation of our Lord, who set out all things in number and harmony, they put an end to this task in that year, on July 22, devoting their labors to studious men, to farewell everywhere, forever. So also does David Laux, a Briton from Edinburgh, who diligently corrected the whole work from the exemplar.”Footnote 19 The cumbersome Latin reinforces the cause of these men's difficulties: a complex layout of “little helps” (amminicula) and “diagrams” (formulas). The idea of labores is repeated, even as the printers avow their worth to studiosi. In 1514, reprinting this same work, Henri Estienne adopts these sentiments for his own.Footnote 20 In other works, Estienne sets his specific form of printerly ingenuity as diligence and labor combined with good judgment. Josse Clichtove's work De mystica numerorum (1513) includes the colophon “By Henri Estienne, careful and industrious craftsman of the art of printing books.”Footnote 21 An edition of Clichtove's commentary on Lefèvre's astronomical Theoricae from 1517 closely follows the formula: “Henri Estienne, careful and industrious artisan of bookmaking….”Footnote 22 In each of these cases, the nature of the ideal printer is one of industrious care and craft. The vocabulary of diligence and industry overlaps with the well-known language of Herculean labors that Erasmus would project on the basis of editing Jerome's letters, and which Robert Estienne would again claim for himself in his exhaustive (and exhausting, as he claimed in his preface) Thesaurus linguae latinae (1531).Footnote 23

The formative influence of this period on the nature of the book becomes clear when we look at colophons together with the title pages that gradually replaced them as the Estienne press grew into a dynasty (Smith 2000). The first impression of the Textus de sphera in 1495 bore only the simple sheet with title that early printers used to protect the block of text. In 1507, Henri Estienne the Elder added a floriated frame to the title, which he updated for the 1511 and 1516 editions (Fig. 1). Colophons, meanwhile, shrank. Even as he added title pages, Estienne streamlined his colophons: “Impressum Parisii in officina Henrici stephani e regione Schole decretorum sita. | Anno Christi siderum conditoris 1507. Decimo die Nouembris.”

Fig. 1
figure 1

Left: Title pages of Lefèvre, Textus de sphera (Paris, 1495, 1507, 1511 [repeated 1516]). Universitätsbibliothek Basel, shelfmark CC II 7:3, https://doi.org/10.3931/e-rara-49305 / Public Domain Mark; Center: Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Res/2 Astr.u. 45 f, https://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:bvb:12-bsb10196242-9; Right: Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Düsseldorf, https://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:hbz:061:1-18933 / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

Changes in the next generation were subtle, but with dramatic effect. When Henri Estienne died around 1520, his widow Guyone Viart married once again, and Simon de Colines took over the press (quite likely one of Estienne's employees or colleagues) since Henri's son Robert was not old enough to acquire the rights of a master printer until 1526 (Armstrong 1954). Meanwhile, Colines continued to work closely with Lefèvre's circle, and in 1521 demonstrated both his inheritance of Estienne's press with an edition of Lefèvre's Textus de sphaera—now spelled with a classicizing ligature, “Æ.”

Up-to-date orthography was the least of the changes Colines made. Indeed, his attention to page design and space can be seen as a significant step towards the “style of Paris” analyzed by Isabelle Pantin elsewhere in this volume (Chap. 9). Such design choices reflected Colines' own distinctive ingenuity. Perhaps even more than Higman—who had studied for the BA at the University of Paris—or Estienne the Elder, Colines represented the most material, messy labor of the printer's many tasks, for he became well known as a type-cutter. His edition of the Sphaera, therefore, was no longer in the gothic type still used by Estienne, but now was in a spaciously formed roman type. His reimpressions of works once printed by Higman and Estienne, retained the claim of diligence and labor advanced by his predecessors.Footnote 24 But when he devised his own branding, he preferred the formulation “printed in his own most splendid of types” (pressit suis typis nitidissimis). One poet distinguished Colines’ skill in punching type (Visagier 1537, 56):

Printers are three, who must be held the best,

Beside them pale and meagre all the rest

Stephanus for correctness; Colines for the art

Of cutting type; and Gryphius, for his part,

Dexterity alike of hand and mind

Being his, a master of them both we find.Footnote 25

In 1521, Colines displayed not only his ownership of Estienne's enterprise but also his prowess on a beautiful new title page, which included all the information once reserved for the colophon: title, printer's name, place, date (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2
figure 2

Frontispiece of Lefèvre, Textus de sphaera, 1521. First printed as a frontispiece to (Fine 1515). Universidad de Deusto, Biblioteca Bilbao Sótano, 2 Fondo Antiguo 871–96“1” G 33 a, https://hdl.handle.net/11656/4868 / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

I have not found explicit links between mathematical texts like the Sphaera and printerly ingenuity. Nevertheless, such links are not hard to infer. As we have seen, mathematical works required particular care and skill to set beautifully (Chap. 13). Tables and diagrams were easy to set badly, and their sheer complexity required special attention.Footnote 26 Furthermore, getting mathematical details right demanded special ability from correctors of such books—a problem we can sense in the numbers of correctors listed in the first edition of the Textus de sphaera. The significance of this labor directly impacted costs, one tenuous line of evidence suggests. The nineteenth-century bibliographer of the Estiennes had access to book catalogs of Robert Estienne from the 1520s and 1530s, which include copies of Lefèvre's edition of Euclid and the Textus de sphaera, both published 1516. The massive Euclid (522 folio pages) is listed at twenty-five sous;Footnote 27 the Textus de sphaera (64 folio pages) was twelve sous. Meanwhile, large volumes of Lefèvre's commentaries on Aristotle's political works—294 large-format pages, but devoid of woodcuts—went for four to ten sous (Renouard 1843, 1–23).Footnote 28 Mathematical works like Lefèvre's commentary on Sacrobosco offered an ambitious printer a chance to boast, and perhaps also to charge accordingly.

There is another possible way mathematics was tied especially close to printerly skill. Colines worked closely with two outstanding print designers who aligned their craft with mathematical mastery. Colines collaborated with Geofroy Tory (ca. 1480–ante 1533) on one Aediloquium and several Books of Hours (Aediloquium 1530; Renouard 1894, 65).Footnote 29 Tory is most widely recognized now for his Champfleury (Tory 1529), which used the earlier works of Lefèvre's student Charles de Bovelles—published by Henri Estienne—to develop quasi-mathematical figures such as a Vitruvian man, and who also used the writings of Luca Pacioli (1447–1517) and Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) to suggest mathematical principles of font design (Bowen 1979, 13–27). Tory's fertile profusion of mythology and Pythagorean allusion is aimed to destabilize hierarchies: certainly to offer French as a learned, literary language, but also to trumpet the significance of visual design—and implicitly the printer's craft—as an intellectual project. He alluded to Bovelles' vernacular mathematics in particular to exemplify the kind of theorizing he wanted more of.Footnote 30

But perhaps the more audacious bid for joining mathematics to the printer's craft as a shared intellectual project is found on Colines' new title page for Lefèvre's Sphaera commentary. This woodcut (Fig. 2) had been designed by another of Colines' associates, Oronce Fine.Footnote 31 This was not Fine's first creative effort to use the printer's mode of self-advertisement to set himself before a public. As Isabelle Pantin has shown, Fine first used this engraving in 1515 as the frontispiece to a collection of Theoricae (Pantin 1993, 90, 2009). There, Fine advertised himself where one might expect, at the end where the colophon was preceded by an acrostic poem on Fine's name, concluding in the distich “if you seek the one who corrected this and artfully decorated it with diagrams, the first elements [i.e., first letters of the lines] will give it.”Footnote 32 Fine invites the reader to play, to puzzle out his role in assembling the work, together with the long title that indicated how “all the works here recently were corrected with the greatest of diligence, together with figures and the most suitable engravings added in their place, far more accurately than before.” Diligence becomes here not merely a matter of plodding industry, but of outstanding wit and sharp judgment, cutting into the printer's form. Fine's most daring move then is also his most playful: the seated figure, set at a table of mathematical books and instruments between the Muse Urania and Ptolemy, is Fine himself.Footnote 33 The engraver is the astronomer.

3 Astronomical Practice in Frontispieces

Now I would like to contribute to a project that Isabelle Pantin has engaged in at various points, namely considering these early, experimental frontispieces and what they say about astronomy. Efforts to understand the programmatic role of frontispieces in making early modern astronomy have been—apart from Pantin's work—focused chiefly on later periods (Burnett 1998; Remmert 2006, 2011; Söderlund 2010; Kaoukji and Jardine 2010). My argument about the contents of these books, which I also make elsewhere, is that they represent a shift towards the actual practice of astronomical mathematics, particularly the skills of calculation (Oosterhoff forthcoming). In them, astronomy was not only about conceptualizing the movement of the heavenly spheres, but even for novices was increasingly about calculating those motions. I will not cover that ground again but will suggest that these frontispieces mark a trend in raising the status of mathematical work by setting calculations alongside bookwork. Practitioners such as Oronce Fine used the print shop as the locus from which to reshape their personas in relation to books, practice, and experience, and they projected that reshaping in frontispieces.

Images prefacing early printed editions give a sense of the approach these books taught. The first printed editions of these books had no images, only leaving blank spaces in those pages where manuscripts usually bore illustrations. A copy of the first Venice edition from 1472 in the Cambridge University Library shows what printers likely expected: a later reader drew in their own diagrams.Footnote 34 Like many books published in the first decades of print, the book bore no title page and no frontispiece. We find the first astronomical frontispiece in a Venetian edition published in 1482 by Erhard Ratdolt (1442–1528) (Sacrobosco et al. 1482), who had substantial experience with illustrated texts and had developed a particular interest in technical books (Chap. 3). Therefore, Ratdolt's introduction of images reflects not only the experience of a printer but specifically a printer seeking to associate himself with mathematical practice. The book includes the Sphaera, Johannes Regiomontanus' (1436–1476) diatribe against Gerardus Cremonensis (1114–1187), and Georg von Peuerbach's (1423–1461) new Theoricae of the planetary motions (Pedersen 1978; Pantin 2012). The image comprised a fist holding an armillary sphere, labeled with the arctic and Antarctic poles, and the signs of the zodiac (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3
figure 3

Frontispiece of Sacrobosco, Sphera, printed by Erhard Ratdolt in Venice with Regiomontanus' Contra Cremonensia and Peurbach's Theorica nova (Sacrobosco et al. 1482), frontispiece. Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Ink I.502, https://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:bvb:12-bsb00054605-7 / CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

On its own, the armillary sphere was short-lived as a frontispiece; later editions of these texts moved it a few pages deeper into the text, using it to accompany a discussion of the tropics, equinoxes, and the zodiac (Fig. 4, left). Instead, beginning with the Venetian edition of Johannes L. Santritter (fl. 1480–1492) from 1488, we find a woodcut that was later appropriated by Ottaviano Scoto (fl. 1479–1498) and copied in several other places (Fig. 4, right). The image depicts the three figures of Astronomia, Urania, and Ptolemy, with the heavens above and the earth below. The contrast of heavens and earth emphasizes the terrestrial profusion of life, with rabbits, a lizard, and a stag resting and foraging between sprouting grass and flowers. The bottom of the image is demarcated by craggy earth. In contrast, the regularly positioned stars shine through a regular, diaphanous arc that demarcates the heavenly spheres from earth's atmosphere. Heaven's intelligent order beams from the faces given to the sun on the left and the moon on the right, who benevolently gaze on earth. The eyes of the sun and moon underscore the visual nature of astronomy.

Fig. 4
figure 4

copyright the Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma

Left: Sacrobosco with Peuerbach and Regiomontanus printed in Venice by Ottaviano Scoto I (Sacrobosco et al. 1490, a3v). This standardized image is precisely modeled on the 1482 Ratdolt frontispiece (Fig. 3), but now printed as a visualization tool later in the text. Courtesy of the Library of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Rara J655sm. Right: Sacrobosco with Peuerbach and Regiomontanus from the same work (Sacrobosco et al. 1490, a1v (frontispiece)). This woodblock seems to have first been used as the frontispiece for the 1488 Santritter edition in Venice. Image courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries;

Such images organized a much older iconography of astronomy that framed astronomers with their instruments. A fifteenth-century manuscript of Nicole Oresme's (1320–1382) Traitié de l'espere opens with a miniature of the scholar working on a text, overshadowed by an enormous armillary sphere.Footnote 35 An Italian manuscript of the Greek text of Ptolemy's (b. 100) Cosmographia similarly presents Ptolemy as a king standing beside a table piled high with instruments and books, holding an astrolabe up to his eye.Footnote 36 These in turn pick up motifs traceable through the medieval iconography of the liberal arts. I will not extend this iconographical study, though that would be revealing; rather, I will focus on the formal elements of these images that frame the contents of these books, because these subtle formal shifts bring changing attitudes to the fore.Footnote 37

This early frontispiece (Fig. 4, right) suggests a deep ambivalence about observation in astronomical practice. Certainly, it reflects on vision and the significance of images in late medieval astronomy, as Barker and Crowther have argued. But these are bookish practices of visualization (Crowther and Barker 2013, 439–441). The figures focus our attention on books for mediating the knowledge gained by observation and instruments. The only figure to look directly upward is the muse Urania, focusing her gaze with a shading hand. Her feet stand firmly on the earth; with freely flowing hair, a naked body, and only enough cloth to cover her groin, she represents a corporeal vision that has not been chastened through learning. The art itself, Astronomia, sits at the center in a chaste, flowing robe, enthroned on what might be the lecturer's cathedra. Her feet, unlike Urania's, are firmly planted on the dais that bears her throne. She appears to be associated with observation, for in her right hand she holds an astrolabe by its ring, gazing across its sights—but in fact, she looks into Urania's face. On her other hand, Astronomia holds the reduction of the universe to its most abstract mathematical essentials: a small armillary sphere. The figure of Ptolemy, who sits with one foot on the dais and the other on the earth, reminds readers of this singular authority as the “prince of astronomers.” This figure also underscores the centrality of books. The bearded sage—wearing the fur-lined robes and bejeweled headwear appropriate to the King of Egypt that Renaissance readers thought he was—reads from a book held open to the viewer. Three diagrams are just visible: a T-O map of the world, a dot in a circle commonly associated with the rotundity of the earth, and the circles of the tropics, with the ecliptic drawn across them. Ptolemy reveals to the reader the knowledge acquired from Urania and Astronomia through the written book.

In the next decades, this frontispiece combined with the armillary sphere to inspire an iconographical sub-tradition for astronomical books. But it is possible to detect two subtle shifts within this tradition: first, an increased emphasis on the schematic, diagrammatic, formal structure of mathematical astronomy; and second, an increased emphasis on the astronomer as an observer of the skies.

The first shift, emphasizing the schematic form of the heavens, is seen in the first edition of Lefèvre's Textus de sphaera of 1495 (Sacrobosco 1494), which thickened Sacrobosco with Lefèvre's commentaries as well as a new suite of illustrations.Footnote 38 These images tend to be angular, and devoid of text, characteristics already visible in the frontispiece (Fig. 5). In the rough, the figures of Urania, Astronomia, and Ptolemy indicate direct influence of the earlier Venice frontispiece: naked and long-haired Urania raises her arm, in precisely the same gesture to the heavens; a draped Astronomia gazes through the alidade in the center, with an armillary sphere in her left hand; Ptolemy expounds from a T-O map in a book. But the frontispieces also differ in important ways. The heavens have changed dramatically. The sun and moon smile down, but they and the stars have been brought down to earth, with no border separating them from the figures. They have been forced into mere decoration by a large armillary sphere reintroduced into the top half of the image. Urania no longer gazes at stars, but at the vast instrument that displays the polar circles and the heavenly tropics, with the zodiac wrapped around them. A second change is that all words are removed from the image, instead placed outside the border. Below the woodcut is a series of descriptions, keyed to letters in the image. The evacuation of words from the woodcut itself and the new central focus on the armillary sphere underscore the text's emphasis on schema, the stripped-down diagram. As we shall see further on, this text aims to lead the reader to mastery of information through calculation.

Fig. 5
figure 5

Frontispiece of Lefèvre, Textus de sphera printed in Paris in 1494 (new style 1495) (Sacrobosco 1494). Universitätsbibliothek Basel, CC II 7:3, https://doi.org/10.3931/e-rara-49305 / Public Domain Mark

The second shift, towards observation, can be seen in Ottaviano Scoto's similar combination of armillary sphere and depiction of astronomy's teachers in 1496 posthumously published Epytoma (Regiomontanus 1496) of Ptolemy's Almagest by Johannes Regiomontanus (Fig. 6). Here the focus is again on an armillary sphere at the center of the frontispiece. The frill from the Santritter frontispiece which separates heavens, planets, and stars from the earth below has been reintroduced above the armillary sphere. Around the frontispiece a banner bears a now-familiar phrase, Altior incubuit animus sub imagine mundi.Footnote 39 But the greatest innovation is in the figures below the instrument. Ptolemy is now on the left, peering down into an open book that is invisible to us. The real source of knowledge is visible in the figure of Regiomontanus himself, who sits across from Ptolemy, with a closed book on his lap: he points a finger to the armillary sphere, which sits on the table between the astronomers. The modern astronomer has read the book and now turns to the instrument. The central image of Astronomia lecturing is eclipsed by the mathematically comprehended heavens themselves. The pedagogy of the arts disciplining the muses has been replaced by the discussion of experts, debating over a desk of books and instruments.

Fig. 6
figure 6

Frontispiece of Regiomontanus, Epytoma (Venice: [Johannes Hamman], 1496). ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Rar 4361, https://doi.org/10.3931/e-rara-528 / Public Domain Mark

The iconography suggests Regiomontanus as an alter Ptolemeus, an astronomer who can be compared with the discipline's greatest ancient authority. Regiomontanus here stands at the beginning of Renaissance mathematicians' efforts to fashion themselves as authors, authorities, and indeed “famous men.”Footnote 40 But the reason for Regiomontanus' fame is found in Regiomontanus' closed book and the finger he aims at the heavenly system. Regiomontanus persistently endeavored to reconcile the predictions yielded by the Ptolemaic theories of the planets and their motions with the results of his experience. He had grave concerns about the adequacy of the standard model, based on his own observations.Footnote 41 Regiomontanus vied with Ptolemy, using Ptolemy's tables as the starting point for further, sharper observation.

As an observer, Regiomontanus was an outlier among mathematical practitioners before Tycho Brahe's (1546–1601) systematic observations of the late sixteenth century. But Regiomontanus' frontispiece influenced someone rather more typical: Oronce Fine, whose frontispiece from 1515 we have seen (Fig. 2). By 1515 Oronce Fine had probably been in Paris for about five years. He was teaching at his alma mater, the Collège de Navarre, but also acquired a reputation as an illustrator of books. In the context of the earlier frontispieces, it is clear that Fine was self-consciously setting himself within a tradition. He partly draws on Lefèvre's frontispiece but also adapts many of the elements in the frontispiece to Regiomontanus' Epytoma of 1496, including its motto. The sun and moon are properly placed at the top, and the armillary sphere is labeled, as in the Epytoma. The biggest difference is in the figures below: Fine himself, whose table bears instruments new to these frontispieces; a square and a compass; and the pointed finger, which is directed towards Ptolemy, who gazes at the heavens through a quadrant. Fine thus seems to recognize Ptolemy as the source of observation, while he directs his own instruments to calculate from those given values.

The ambiguous nature of observation between books and firsthand experience is found in two more frontispieces Fine designed, one added to an edition of Lefèvre's Textus de sphaera from 1527 (Sacrobosco et al. 1527) (Fig. 7), and another to his own mathematical compendium of 1532 (Fine 1532; Axworthy 2020) (Fig. 8). Isabelle Pantin has explored these images more fully than I can do here (Pantin 2009). In the earlier illustration (Fig. 7), Fine has simplified the iconography. The frontispiece self-consciously advertises Fine's expertise—this was a precarious point in his career (Oosterhoff 2016, 556)—as Fine lays himself at full length below the heavenly model. Thus he presents himself as the noble soul in the banner borrowed from the frontispiece to Regiomontanus' Epytoma and repeated in his own earlier woodcut: “The lofty soul reclined [incubuit] below the image of the world” (altior incubuit animus sub imagine mundi). The reclining astronomer carelessly leaves his book open on the grass, unattended, as his mind inclines itself to the contemplation of heaven. Head on hand, Fine draws on the well-known iconography of melancholy, his contemplation preparing him to receive heavenly insight (Klibansky et al. 1964).

Fig. 7
figure 7

Frontispiece of Lefèvre, Textus de sphaera, printed in Paris by Simon de Colines in 1527, and designed by Oronce Fine, and first included as the title page of the Textus de sphaera for this edition (Sacrobosco et al. 1527). Bibliothèque municipale de Bordeaux, shelfmark S 161(3), http://uranie.huma-num.fr/idurl/1/1511 / CC

Fig. 8
figure 8

Frontispiece of Oronce Fine, Protomathesis printed in Paris by Gerard Morrhius & Jean Pierre in 1532 (Fine 1532, AA8v, sig. O1v). On the title page of this work, Fine noted that “The author drew this figure by his own skill” (Hanc Author proprio pingebat marte figuram). ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Rar 9724 GF, https://doi.org/10.3931/e-rara-9142 / Public Domain Mark

But the iconography is paradoxical, for while Fine seems to denote receptive repose, he also connotes the labor of intellectual industry. The verb form incubuit could be the perfect tense of either incubare or incumbere. The former could describe merely going to bed, but the most widely used dictionary of the Renaissance, Calepino, first noted that incubare implies a sustaining, internal activity, in preparation for something.Footnote 42 Likewise, the verb incumbere can mean “to recline,” but also includes the more active sense of “to press, incline downward.” For this sense, Calepino's first example was incumbere studiis, “to set down to one's studies.” The word, therefore, encompasses both inspiration and labor, and the motto's dominant meaning seems to be one of diligent watchfulness. The high-minded must learn to see intellectually through lower means, through physical lines, illustrations, and diagrams drawn with the compass and square found in the earliest frontispiece. This industry and physical vigor of astronomical vision could not have escaped Fine himself, who was a skilled craftsman, renowned for his design of the visual arrangement of his many mathematical books, as well as frontispieces such as this one.

Indeed, this seems to be the point of the studious practitioner in Fine's frontispiece from the Protomathesis of 1532 (Fig. 8). The astronomer wields four instruments of mathematical practice: a book, an astrolabe, a quadrant, and a sundial. In fact, all of them are instruments Fine discusses in the book. The Protomathesis is a compendium of four books, the first two dedicated to arithmetic and geometry, the last two on cosmography and sundials. The organization of the cosmography and sundials is carefully orchestrated. The book ends with techniques for designing and using a wide range of sundials and quadrants, from very simple cylinder dials to complex astrolabes. All of this machinery depends on the measurement of heavenly bodies and earthly coordinates. Therefore, the instruments draw their design from the foregoing book: the Cosmographia, sive mundi sphaera, Fine's contribution to spherical astronomy. The astronomer, surrounded by his instruments, looks to Urania, who points a telling finger at the model of the heavens. The pair marks a shift towards instruments and towards observation. But the parameters for those instruments are set by a sequence of tables that Fine presents at the center of his treatise on the sphere. The work of observing is inextricable from his making of books.

4 Conclusion

I have argued that the early Estienne press (like others) presented the printer's work in a language that evaluated diligence and craft, which included claims about good judgment. This is a familiar story in some respects: the language of ingenuity has long been part of the story of the rising status of the artist in Renaissance Europe.Footnote 43 This framework has even been applied, though less directly, to the familiar problem of explaining the rising status of mathematics from a mechanical to an intellectual enterprise. But that account usually is limited to later in the sixteenth century, perhaps with the exception of Oronce Fine.Footnote 44 The time and place I wish to engage here is earlier, and more central; the Estiennes offer a glimpse of these ideals early in their formation. These printers insisted on claiming their own intellectual—and laborious—contributions to the products they sold.

The nascent tradition of astronomical frontispieces explored here offers a parallel line of argument. Old dichotomies between hand knowledge and book knowledge simply do not explain these frontispieces. These images reveal, I have argued, a rising appreciation of the astronomer as an observer, committed to calculation and instruments—but the book never disappears. Bookish knowledge is expected to document and support the astronomer. Of course, artisans of the book, whether Fine or the Estiennes, had every reason to ensure that the intellectual value of craft was as much about books as about other practices. This is an assumption that we historians need to remember not only with textbooks but other genres of practical manuals.

But it may be that mathematical works offered a more obvious place for relating craft, insight, and labor. I have proposed the hypothesis—to be considered alongside the cases analyzed in the rest of this volume—that the Sphaera offered the Estiennes a particularly useful opportunity to make clear just how necessary printerly care and diligence were in order to produce reliable work. Recognizing the significance of this labor allows us to chart a middle course between Eisenstein's early claim that technical books benefitted from easy replication, and Adrian Johns' counterclaim that early modern books were defined by their unreliability (Eisenstein 1980; Johns 1998). Replication was difficult work; printers could claim ingenuity in privileges and colophons precisely because replication was possible but not easy.