Monday, July 19, 2010

Exploring Collections: George Tannstetter as Editor

Posted by Darin Hayton on 07/19 at 10:47 PM

In 1501 Georg Tannstetter moved from the University of Ingolstadt to the University of Vienna, where he spent the remainder of his long career lecturing on astrology and astronomy, medicine, and cosmography.1
Shortly after arriving in Vienna, he earned a reputation as a talented mathematical astronomer/astrologer. By 1505 he had begun producing the annual astrological wall calendars and judicia for the city. That same year he lectured on the Theorica planetarum. The university records indicate that he lectured on the Theorica at least one more time, in 1511. Although the Acta facultatis artium are silent about which version of the Theorica Tannstetter used, he almost certainly lectured on Georg Peuerbach’s edition. In 1518 Tannstetter published an edition of Peuerbach’s text along with the more elementary De sphaera by Sacrobosco. These two texts were commonly printed together, serving as the basic and more advanced textbook for students of astronomy and astrology.2

Tannstetter was a prolific editor, usually producing editions of texts he used in his university lectures. At least three of those texts are available in Philadelphia archives.

Albertus Magnus’s De natura locorum:

In 1514 Tannstetter edited Albertus Magnus’s De natura locorum (Vienna, 1514)—a copy of which is at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, catalog record:

Title page to Tannstetter‘s edition of Albertus Magnus’s De natura locorum (Source: Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

This small text was clearly connected to important printers and publishers in Vienna: Lucas and Leonard Alantse, who supported a number of Tannstetter’s books and many of the books used at the university, paid for the initial printing costs. The books was printed by Hieronymus Vietor and Johannes Singrenius, who printed many books used at the university.

The colophon reveals that Tannstetter’s edition was intended to be used at the University of Vienna—both the printers and the people who paid for the printing focused on university texts. (Source: Historical Society of Pennsylvania)

An early reader of this copy annotated various passages, usually copying some key words in the margins to remind himself of the topic.

Annotations throughout this copy often merely copy words from the text into the margins, as here: “Dupliciter locus sumitur.” (Source: Historical Society of Philadelphia)

This wasn’t the first time Albertus Magnus’s De natura locorum had been used in the university curriculum. In the early 14th century at Padua, Pietro d’Abano used Albert‘s text when he composed his own on problems in Aristotle.4 Unfortunately, whether or not Tannstetter lectured Albert’s text is not clear—the Acta facultatis artium are incomplete and don’t record all of the lectures.

Peuerbach’s Tabulae eclypsium:

In 1514 Tannstetter also published an edition of Peuerbach’s Tabulae eclypsium bound with Regiomontanus’s Tabula primi mobilis. The local copy of this text is at the American Philosophical Society, catalog record. Comments Tannstetter made in his other lectures, where he refers students explicitly to Regiomontanus’s Tabula primi mobilis suggest that he lectured on this text. These two works treated the more advanced astrological topics Tannstetter lectured on at the university.

Like his edition of Albert’s text, this book was paid for by the Alantse brothers. This time, however, it was printed by Johannes Winterburger, another printer who published for the university.

Witelo’s Peri optikes:

At the end of his career, Tannstetter published an edition of Witelo’s Peri optikes, a copy of which is in The Historical Medical Library at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, catalog record:

Title page from Tannstetter’s edition of Witelo’s Peri optikes (Nuremberg, 1535) (Source: The Historical Medical Library, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia)

Witelo’s text opens with basic definitions and then progresses to increasingly complex propositions. In this way it resembles Euclid’s Elements.

The definitions in Witelo’s Peri optikes (Source: The Historical Medical Library, The College of Physicians of Philadelphia)

Once again, it is difficult to know if Tannstetter lectured on Witelo’s text. It seems reasonable to assume that he did. The study of optics was an important part of the astrological curriculum—understanding how light might convey celestial influences, how it was altered as it passed through various the crystalline spheres and other mediums, and how the strength of its influence changed as the angle of incidence changed were just some of the issues that made optics an important part of astrology. In 1503 Tannstetter’s colleague and friend, Andreas Stiborius, had published an edition of Grosseteste’s Libellus Linconiensis de phisicis lineis, angulis et figuris, per quas omnes actiones naturales complentur. Stiborius’s main function at the University of Vienna was to lecture on astrology and the use of astrological instruments. Tannstetter’s edition of Witelo would provide more advanced instruction that built on Grosseteste’s work.

Tannstetter’s texts suggest the vibrant and varied curriculum that flourished at the University of Vienna during the first decades of the 16th century. During that time the university provided training and education for many astronomers/astrologers, cosmographers, instrument makers, physicians and mathematicians who would become famous later in the century at other universities, including Georg Hartmann, Joachim Vadian, Jakob Milich, and Jakob Ziegler. While much of that curriculum has escaped notice because it was not recorded in the official acts of the university, with a little work we can begin to piece together a richer picture of what was happening in Vienna.

Nota bene:
Searching for texts in special collections around Philadelphia is about to get much easier. This post was made easier by a new search function here at PACHS: the “PACHS Consortium Special Collections Search Hub”. Currently in “beta” (a euphemism for “not yet ready for primetime”) the new search function is already impressive, as it allows you to search for any word across the the special collections holdings of member institutions.  More on the new search function soon.

1For a fuller discussion of Tannstetter’s teaching at the University of Vienna, see D. Hayton, “Instruments and Demonstrations in the Astrological Curriculum: Evidence from the University of Vienna, 150-1530” Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 41(2010): 125–34 (doi:10.1016/j.shpsc.2010.04.008).
2There are two early editions of these texts in Philadelphia: one in the Historical Medical Library at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia: Sacrobosco, Sphaera mundi (1490) with Regiomontanus’s Disputationes contra Cremonensia in planetarum theoricas deliramenta and Peuerbach’s Theoricae novae planetarum (Venice, 1490): catalog record, and a second in the Hagley Library: catalog record. These early editions of the Sacrobosco-Peuerbach text often included Regiomontanus’s dialog in which he pointed out many of the flaws in Gerard of Cremona’s Theorica.
4See Nancy Siraisi,Arts and Sciences at Padua (Toronto, 1973), 117–25.

Tags: albertus magnus, american philosophical society, astrology, college of physicians of philadelphia, georg tannstetter, historical society of pennsylvania, optics, peuerbach, regiomontanus, university of vienna, witelo