Rare and Archival Materials

The NOAA Central Library hosts a collection of Rare Books and Archival material, including:

NOAA's Collection of Rare 19th Century Oceanography Books

This collection features 19th century rare books that are part of the larger NOAA Central Library Special Collections Room and which capture the spirit and accomplishments ofthe formative years of oceanography. The volumes are diverse, including official accounts and results of oceanographic cruises, descriptions of traditional and new technologies, personal reminiscences, the first English-language textbook of oceanography, and even a German-language volume selected for the beauty of its presentation, as much as for its content. Many of the authors were among the "founding fathers" of modern oceanography.

Treasures of the NOAA Central Library

The Library's Special Collections include works by prominent authors in the history of science whose publications are bench marks in the evolution of meteorology, mathematics, astronomy, and physics. Authors include Hippocrates, Aristotle, Claudius Ptolemy, Euclid, Saint Albert Magnus, Sir Francis Bacon, Johannes Kepler, Evangelista Torricelli, Robert Boyle, Sir Isaac Newton, Daniel Bernoulli, Benjamin Franklin, Guiseppe Toaldo, and Michael Faraday. Rare Books date from:

1400-1500 - 2 incunabula
1501-1600 - 33 titles
1601-1700 - 96 titles
1701-1800 - 371 titles

Highlights from the Collection:

Johannes Kepler 1571 - 1630

image of Kepler's tabulae rulolphinae1. Tabulae Rudolphinae: quibus astronomicae scientiae...
Ulm: Typis Jonaw Saurii
[18], 125, [3], 115 [i.e.119], [1], [1] and folded leaf of plates
Call number: QB41 .K43 1627
Tabulae Rudolphinae (pdf format, 31 MB)

About this work: Tabulae Rudolphinae or Rudolphine Tables is a planetary table and star catalog published in 1627, but written by Johannes Kepler much earlier. During the time of the Thirty Years' War, it was being printed for the first time, when the printer's shop caught fire in the midst of a peasant rebellion. The fire burned almost everything in the shop, including much of the printed edition of Tabulae Rudolphinae1. It is a work that was based primarily on the observations of Tycho Brahe, but includeds Kepler's laws on planetary motion. It incorporates calculations using logarithms to provide tables for determining the positions of planets for past, as well as future, dates. Examples include the transits of both Mercury and Venus of the sun. For its time, it was quite accurate. This work has been considered by many scholars to be the first modern tabulation of astronomical tables. It contains the positions of over a thousand stars and was the first catalog to include corrective factors for atmospheric refraction and logarithmic tables2. It was dedicated to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II.

2. Joannis Kepleri astronomi opera omnia
Frankfort: Heyder & Zimmer
8 vols in 9
Call number QB3 .K3 1858 v.1-8, pt.1
Volume 1 (pdf format, 42M)
Volume 2 (pdf format, 54M)
Volume 3 (pdf format, 44M)
Volume 4 (pdf format, 42M)
Volume 5 (pdf format, 42M)
Volume 6 (pdf format, 48M)
Volume 7 (pdf format, 50M)
Volume 8, part 1 (pdf format, 31M)

About this work: Johannes Kepler was a famous German astronomer who lived from 1571 to 1630. He is often considered the father of modern astronomy because of the extensive work he did studying the solar system and universe. Joannis Kepleri Astronomi Opera Omnia or The Complete Works by the Astronomer Johannes Kepler is a tidy version of Kepler's work. It was edited by Christian Frisch and the version we have was published from 1859-1871 in eight volumes by Heyder and Zimmer in Frankfort, Germany. Astronomia Opera Omnia is all of Kepler's surviving notes and documents in which description of his work and biographical details of his life, even including the information about his mother's witchcraft trial, are revealed. It is such an important work because it contains major accomplishments, such as Tabulae Rudolphinae and Harmonices Mundi. In his introduction of Astronomia Opera Omnia, Frisch stated that his goal in putting together all of Kepler's work was to provide a worthy dedication to Kepler, whom he considered as a great scientist and as one of his nation's heroes. Frisch also hoped to make Kepler's ideas accessible to many different educated people, which was what made this work significant; it allowed others to appreciate Kepler's work without going through huge amounts of notes and documents. The unabridged version, expectedly, of his work was quite raw; it contained sequential errors and other mistakes that Kepler crossed out. So, basically, Frisch made it readable (if you can read Latin, of course!)

1Albert Van Helden, “Johannes Kepler 1571-1630,” The Galileo Project at Rice University, http://galileo.rice.edu/sci/kepler.html (accessed July 13, 2009).

2Encyclopædia Britannica, s.v. “ Rudolphine Tables,” http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/ topic/512279/Rudolphine-Tables (accessed July 13, 2009).

For more information on these materials or the NOAA Central Library Rare and Archival Collection, please contact the Library Reference Desk, 301-713-2600, ext. 157.

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