Via the Bad Astronomer: Christie’s is auctioning an original 1543 edition of De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium, the book in which Nicolaus Copernicus explained that the Earth revolves around the sun.
Funnily enough, he wasn’t thrown into jail or excommunicated or anything like that. Sixty years later, however, Galileo Galilei published Sidereus Nuncius… and that didn’t end well. (Not well for Galileo, at least – the rest of us are, fortunately, now standing on the shoulders of a giant.)
Copernicus’ book is expected to fetch about a million US dollars (plus buyer’s premium). It’s the highlight of a massive collection of scientific books and papers, stacked to the brim with absolute gems: a first edition of Sidereus Nuncius ($250,000 plus possible excommunication); a collection of Albert Einstein’s papers ($250,000 plus buyer’s premium equal to its mass times the speed of light squared); a first edition of Newton’s Principia Mathematica ($180,000, does not include the apocryphal apple); and a first ed of On the Origin of Species ($120,000, plus a jihad on your head from these clowns).
Update: Wow, there’s some gold on the second page. A first edition of Galileo’s Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo (Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems), the book for which he was convicted of heresy (and the book was subsequently banned for over two hundred years); a first ed of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations for the classical economists in the house, or a first ed Das Kapital for the weirdo commies; Louis-Jacques Daguerre’s discovery of photography…
… and the list goes on! Hooke (inventor of the compound microscope)! Huygens! Mendeleev (creator of the periodic table)! Napier (discoverer of logarithms)! Newton! Mendel (father of genetics)! Brahe! Crick and Watson (discoverers of DNA)! Hippocrates! Rontgen (discoverer of X-rays)! Pasteur! Pascal! Samuel Johnson (creator of the dictionary)! Edward Jenner (discoverer of the smallpox vaccine)! Alan Turing! And a real Enigma machine!
Does anyone have a spare eighty grand? I’d love to get my hands on that copy of the Dialogo.