Scientist of the Day - Johannes Petreius
Johannes Petreius, a German printer, died in Nuremberg on Mar. 18, 1550; his day and year of birth are unknown. Petreius was the foremost publisher of scientific books in the sixteenth century. The most famous book to emerge from his press was De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (1543) by Nicholas Copernicus (see fifth image above), but Petreius also printed books by such important authors as Regiomontanus (fourth image above), Girolamo Cardano, Johannes Schöner, Peter Apian, Witelo, and Ptolemy of Alexandria. When Georg Joachim Rheticus went to visit Copernicus in 1539, he brought several books with him, as presents, including the Petreius editions of Apian’s instrument book (second image above) and Witelo’s book on optics (third image above). The suspicion is that Rheticus was trying to show Copernicus what a fine printer Petreius was, so that Copernicus might choose Petreius as publisher for his own book. And that is exactly how things turned out. A detail from the Regiomontanus book shows the typical Petreius imprint, embellished by a fine example of Petreius' ability to print complicated astronomical diagrams (first image above).
The Linda Hall Library has one of the finest Petreius collections in the United States, with twenty-five Petreius imprints in our holdings. We used to be able to add a Petreius printing to the collection every few years, but Petreius books now command such a high price that further acquisitions seem unlikely. But we are pleased with what we have.
Dr. William B. Ashworth, Jr., Consultant for the History of Science, Linda Hall Library and Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Missouri-Kansas City