History of Astronomy and Mathematics

Early printed editions of astronomical treatises originally authored in antiquity and the Middle Ages, as well as holdings documenting the major astronomical breakthroughs during the scientific revolution in Europe, are found in our history of astronomy and mathematics special collections.

Specific items include treatises authored by Ptolemy, Abū Maʿshar, King Alfonso X of Castile, and Johannes de Sacrobosco; the first two editions of Nicolaus Copernicus’ treatise defending the theory of heliocentrism; and numerous early editions and translations of the works of Galileo Galilei, Tycho Brahe, and Johannes Kepler. 

We also hold the “big four” star atlases that were published during Europe’s golden age of celestial cartography: 

  • Johannes Bayer’s Uranometria (Augsburg, 1603
  • Johannes Hevelius’ Prodomus astronomiae & Firmamentum Sobiescianum (Gdansk, 1690)
  • John Flamsteed’s Atlas coelestis (London, 1729)
  • Johann Elert Bode’s Uranographia (Berlin, 1801).
In 2022, we discovered that a single-leaf manuscript supposedly written by Galileo himself, recording his discovery of the four moons of Jupiter, is in fact a 20th century forgery.

In addition to a focus on illustrating the major scientific developments in the history of astronomy in Europe, we consider the history of astronomy from an interdisciplinary perspective in our collecting. This includes connections with the history of mathematics and the historical relationship between astronomy and astrology. 

The collection is in the Special Collections Research Center.

Important related collections 

Our holdings on the history of astronomy are complemented by astronomical and astrological texts in the papyrology collection.

Sun face in the center of orbiting earths in the solar system.

Scenographia Systematis Copernicani, from an atlas of hand-colored double maps by Andreas Cellarius (1708).


Pablo Alvarez

Curator, Special Collections Research Center