On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres
Digital Animation. 17 minutes, 5 seconds
De revolutionibus orbium coelestium
Language codes: lat
See also: 52.092:094
Personal Author: Copernicus, Nicolas
Title: De revolutionibus orbium coelestium
Publication info: Nuremberg : Johannes Petreius, 1543
Physical descrip: 196p : ill, diagrams
General Note: signed on the title page
General Note: Airy Library Collection
Acquisitions source: Airy Collection
Binding: 28cm, 20cm, 5cm
©National Maritime Museum, London
In 1543, the Polish astronomer Nicolas Copernicus published the book On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, in which he positioned the sun at the centre of our solar system, contesting the belief systems of the time that put the earth at the centre, with the sun, moon, planets and stars all rotating around it.
In 2007, Leanne Bell requested to view the book in the Caird Library at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. When the book was brought out from storage it was encased in a box with conservation notes which detailed the history of its care. This book about the source of light on earth was positioned in the light of the library on a desk by a window. After one minute in the light, each page was turned and photographed in sequence.
The resulting animation is a meditation on the book - the rational, scientific contents of which would normally be inaccessible to the average reader. The ideas Copernicus outlined in this book reflect a historic moment in astronomy, which undoubtedly altered human’s understanding of the universe and our place within it. These ideas were surely startling at the time, but science has since contested and built upon them to such an extent that this imposing book is somewhat like a tombstone to the Copernicus contribution to human thought. The removal of the physical book in to the image of a book as light on a screen is a more ethereal container for these ideas.