Auctions | May 5, 2014

Competition for Martin C. Gutzwiller’s Rare Astronomy & Science Books at Swann Galleries


New York—On April 3, Swann Galleries offered Astronomy & Science Books from the Library of Martin C. Gutzwiller, the Swiss-American physicist best known for his work on chaotic systems in classical and quantum mechanics, at auction.

Gutzwiller, who, sadly, passed away in March, built a collection that documented the transition from Ptolemaic to Copernican astronomy in the early modern era and the historical development of celestial mechanic and related advances in physics and mathematics.


Leading the sale was a handsome, unrestored sammelband that combined the writings of the greatest mathematician of the ancient world with one of the most influential texts of early Greek geometry, Archimedes, Opera Omnia . . first edition in the original Greek, Basel, 1544, bound with Apollonius of Perga, Opera, first edition, Venice, 1537, which sold for $93,750*.

Also from the 16th century was Johann Schöner, Opera Mathematica, a first collected edition of writings by Schöner, a notable polymath of the German Renaissance, comprising works on astrology, astronomy, geography, globes and astronomical instruments, all seldom seen in their original editions, Nuremberg, 1551, $62,500.

Additional works that sold well above pre-sale estimates were Sir Isaac Newton, Two Treatises of the Quadrature of Curves, and Analysis by Equations of an Infinite Number of Terms, Explained, first English edition, London, 1745, at $27,500 and Pierre-François-André Méchain and Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Delambre, Base du Système Mètrique Décimal . . .,, first edition, Paris, 1806-10, $15,000.

Also by Newton were two editions of Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica . . ., one Amsterdam, 1723, sold for $4,500, the other, London, 1726, $6,250.

Top lots included Mary Somerville, Mechanism of the Heavens, first edition, signed and inscribed, London, 1831, $8,750; Giovanni Battista Riccioli, S.J., Almagestum novum, first edition, Bologna, 1651, $8,125; Pierre Gassendi, Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler, Institutio astronomica . . ., first edition, London, 1653, $5,750; and Leonhard Euler, Methodus inveniendi lineas curvas maximi minimive proprietate gaudentes, first edition, Geneva, 1744, $5,000.

An illustrated catalogue, with complete prices realized, is available for $35 from Swann Auction Galleries, 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, and may be viewed online at

For further information, and to consign to upcoming auctions of Early Printed, Medical & Scientific Books, please contact Tobias Abeloff at 212-254-4710, extension 18, or

*All prices include buyer’s premium.

First image: Johann Schöner, Opera Mathematica, first collected edition, Nuremberg, 1551, sold for $62,500 including buyer's premium.

Second image: Archimedes, Opera Omnia . . ., first edition in the original Greek, Basel, 1544, bound with Apollonius of Perga, Opera, first edition, Venice, 1537. Sold for $93,750 including buyer's premium.