JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 556
reader, in this new work you have the motions of the fixed stars and planets,
reconstituted from ancient as well as recent observations, and embellished by
new and marvelous hypotheses.
Therefore buy, read, and enjoy this work.” --Title page of The Revolutions of the Celestial Orbs,by Nicolaus (Koppernigk) Copernicus,1566 (second edition)
Slim is the history of published books where authors directly beseech people--right on the title page--to buy their book. But such is the case with the De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, which, when published, finally, in 1543, ushered in a new era of scientific explanation--it was perhaps the very beginning of what could be called "modern" science. And the centerpiece of it all was a fine little dot that was the symbol of our sun. It is also a little unusual that the standard symbol of the sun was presented so, even at this relatively early date for printing scientific treatises, as the sun was more often than not presented with the standard flaming circumference and human face. (Earlier in this blog I made a word map of the first ten chapters of De revolutionibus.)
But the simplicity of the representation of the sun falls quite clearly within the author's tendency of directness an plain speech. He presented his theory with ease and a calm matter-of-factness (which included 100 pages of tables, and 20,000 tabulated numbers) which, considering it was overturning an entire world view and threatening a basic tenant of the church, was pretty astonishing. It was actually quietly shocking at the time, both in how the theory was presented and how it was received.
Copernicus states very simply that "the author of this work has done nothing to cause blame" in his revolutionary work. He also states in the preface that he is not the first to work on the sun as the center of the solar system (and universe), citing for example Philolaus the Pythagorean, Lysis and others. And he also widely recognizes that there was much more to come in the future, much in the line of the way of one of the very last lines of Kepler's Harmonia: "there is still much more beyond".
Copernicus certainly did not stand for disagreement with his work, as he thought that anyone invested with a certain amount of mathematical knowledge could in no way disagree with him simple as that. I quote a rather lengthy bit from the early stages of the book:
"Perhaps there will be babblers who claim to be judges of astronomy although completely ignorant of the subject and, badly distorting some passage of Scripture to their purpose, will dare to find fault with my undertaking and censure it. I disregard them even to the extent of despising their criticism as unfounded. For it is not unknown that Lactantius, otherwise an illustrious writer but hardly an astronomer, speaks quite childishly about the Earth's shape, when he mocks those who declared that the Earth has the form of a globe. Hence scholars need not be surprised if any such persons will likewise ridicule me. Astronomy is written for astronomers."
But so much has been written about this fantastic book that I'll not go into it here. All I want to point out here in my tiny way is the urgency and importance of the solar dot--a simple representation of the sun, replacing the place of the earth in the primordial soup of the solar system, the very fabric of the construction of the universe.