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The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus Hardcover – Jan 2004

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Walker & Company (Jan. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802714153
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802714152
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 3 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,593,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By HaraldK on 21 Jan. 2006
Format: Paperback
Everyone interested in old books and/or the origins of the heliocentric world view will find this book interesting. While not a page turner like a well written novel, the book is nevertheless an interesting read. The author describes his 30 year hunt of the remaining copies of "De Revolutionibus", the book written and published in the 16th century by Nicolaus Copernicus detailing how, contrary to popular belief at the time, the earth and the planets revolve around the sun. Gingerich describes his detective work to find the books. He takes us along when interpreting the marginal notes, which sometimes show how scientists used the book at the time and learned from each other by even copying those notes. Because the book is rare today, it is much sought after by collectors and invites for fraud and stealing. Some of the anecdotes describe how Gingerich helped to get stolen books back to their owner. Worth a read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 42 reviews
69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
An introduction to bibliophilia 16 Mar. 2004
By Michael T Kennedy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The story of Copernicus and his description of the heliocentric universe forms the background of this fascinating book. The scientific revolution began with Copernicus. Owen Gingerich is an astrophysicist and historian of science who began his whimsical quest in 1970 as part of the preparation for the 500th anniversary of Copernicus birth in 1973. International scholarly celebrations were planned and Gingerich was on the committee to prepare them. The question arose whether many owners of the book had actually read all the way through this massive and rather tedious tome. Gingerich happened to be visiting Scotland at the time and decided to look at a copy of "De revolutionibus," known to be in the Royal Observatory in Edinburgh. To his surprise, the copy was heavily annotated all the way through. It had been very carefully read by someone. The reader had even corrected a number of errors in the text. Gingerich searched for evidence of the reader's name. Finally, he discovered the initials ER stamped on the cover. With a shock, he realized that these might be the initials of Erasmus Reinhold, the leading mathematical astronomer of the generation after Copernicus. Gingerich eventually found samples of Reinhold's writing and confirmed his hypothesis. For the next 30 years, he searched for other copies of the great work and recorded the annotations placed in the margins by owners during the Renaissance. He became an expert on Copernicus and the sociology of science in the 15th and following centuries. He also became an expert on paper-making, printing and binding. This resulted in several detective stories as book thieves and forgers were uncovered and prosecuted. I found the details of the book-making science nearly as interesting as the main story and have ordered books on early printing and paper making. This is a book for those interested in history and in astronomy. Occasionally the details get to be slow going but these spots are few and the story moves along well. If you are interested in the history of the Renaissance, this will fill in places missing in most political histories. It is excellent writing and excellent history.
40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
A fascinating mix of history, science, and bibliomania 15 Feb. 2004
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
It's remarkable that a complicated science book published more than 460 years ago could come alive in the pages of a new book, but that's the case in The Book Nobody Read-the story of astronomer Owen Gingerich's 30-year quest to see in person every existing copy of Nicolaus Copernicus's revolutionary 1543 book De revolutionibus, which for the first time suggested that the Sun, not the Earth, was at the center of the universe.
Gingerich found copies originally owned by Galileo, Kepler, and a host of important figures in the 16th century, many of them annotated-and in those annotations he found fascinating information about the debate between scientists and the Catholic Church over the true state of the universe, and about how knowledge spread in the 16th century. Along the way he shows us how he found the books (all over the world, from Beijing and Melbourne to Europe, Scandinavia, and America); takes us to the trial of a man accused of stealing a copy (Gingerich was the expert witness for the prosecution) and to a dramatic auction of another copy (he often consults to auction houses); offers intriguing details on how Copernicus's massive book was printed and speculates on how many copies would have been printed; and perhaps most interestingly, weaves into his story those of 16th- and 17th-century scientific intellectuals whose insights are cornerstones of our knowledge today.
Book jackets often overstate a book's significance, but the last paragraph of this jacket description seems very accurate: "Part biography of a book, part scientific exploration, part bibliographic detective story, The Book Nobody Read recolors the history of cosmology and offers new appreciation of the enduring power of an extraordinary book and its ideas." This is one of the smartest books I've read in a long time.
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
First Class Detective Story 17 Dec. 2006
By Stephen Williams - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
First Class Detective Story

The author chronicles his 30 year search for fate of the original copies of the Copernicus's revolutionary text. This makes for a first rate detective story. The book is as hard to put down as any good mystery.

Gingerich shows that the history of astronomy is interwoven with the entire history of mankind.

See Also:

The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus

and

God's Universe

Highly recommended.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Copernicus for Bibliophiles 23 Jun. 2004
By Bruce Crocker - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
In the year of my birth, Arthur Koestler threw down a gauntlet when he labeled Nicolaus Copernicus' De revolutionibus [arguably the greatest science book of the last few thousand years] "the book nobody read." Owen Gingerich, astronomer and bibliophile, picked up that gauntlet and did battle with Koestler in the way a scientist must do battle - find empirical evidence that the book had been read. The Book Nobody Read is Gingerich's popular account of his decades long effort to track down every extant copy of the first and second edition of De revolutionibus to look for evidence of use [mainly using the marginalia left by the readers/owners]. The book flap blurb nails the book when it calls The Book Nobody Read "part biography of a book, part scientific exploration, [and] part bibliographic detective story." The blurb writer could have tossed in adventure story, too. I enjoyed the book immensely, especially the excellent way in which The Book Nobody Read illustrates the use of the scientific [empirical] method for what many folks would perceive as a non-traditional use. As a bibliophile and science teacher, I'm probably a member of the perfect audience for this book. I include the previous statement as a caution, because at least one of the reviewers seems to have misjudged what the book was about. If you are interested in traditional biography and want a book on Nicolaus Copernicus, The Book Nobody Read may disappoint. If you like books on books and have an interest in history [especially the history of science], I think you'd rate this book a classic.
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
First Class Detective Story 1 Sept. 2008
By Stephen Williams - Published on Amazon.com
First Class Detective Story

The author chronicles his 30 year search for fate of the original copies of the Copernicus's revolutionary text. This makes for a first rate detective story. The book is as hard to put down as any good mystery.

Gingerich shows that the history of astronomy is interwoven with the entire history of mankind.

See Also:

The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus

and

God's Universe

Highly recommended.
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