Scientists examined handwritten notes from Copernicus’ book collection

More than half a thousand handwritten notes made on the margins of books by Nicolaus Copernicus were found in the collection of the seminary library "Hosianum" in Olsztyn. Digitized prints of the great astronomer’s notes will soon be available online.

The fact that the record books, whichóaccording to researchers, will soon be available on the website of the Warmia Digital Library, which was announced during a scientific conference organized by the Library of the Warmia Metropolitan Seminary "Hosianum". She summarized the project with the followingóThe project is financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, the local government of. Warmia and Mazury and the city of Olsztyn. It consisted in preserving books with Copernicus’ notes and reading, translating and studying these notesów.

According to the director of the Warmia Digital Library ks. Tomasz Garwolinski, so far 523 handwritten notes have been identified in 10 printed works, whichóre were part of the former Copernicus collection.

Astronomer’s notes on the margins of the books in the collection "Hosianum" discovered prof. Teresa Borawska from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń. She published the first results of her work in 2009., However, the discovery became known only four years lateróź. Now, further interdisciplinary work is being carried out to identify these notesów.

– By examining Copernicus’ notes, it is much easier to question their authenticity than to confirm it. Therefore, we will never be one hundred percent certain by whom they were crossed out,” wrote prof. Borawska in a speech read out during the conference.

In the opinion of the researchersów, Latin notes left by Copernicus in his university textbooks, show that he was a diligent student of Roman and canon law and thus enjoyed a reputation as a good jurist. It was in the legal codes that most of his entries were identifiedów. In other works read by Copernicus – in philosophy or theology – these notes are much fewer.

According to Fr. Garwoliński, this is an interesting discovery as it has hitherto been thought that Copernicus did not like studying law and that no books have survived from which he hadóof which he studied. As he admitted, researchers are impressed by the awareness that they are touching the same books, from whichóThe books used by the great astronomer.

– Research has confirmed that he was comprehensively educated. He wrote meticulously, which may indicate that he was a very orderly and precise person,” said the director of the Museum. library "Hosianum".

Book collectionsór Copernicus

Conference participants stressed the historical importance of the research, as there are few mementoes left in Poland testifying to the great astronomer’s bibliophilic fondness. Book collectionóCopernicus numbered 100-150 works. So far only 54 prints and two manuscripts have been found. Most books were plundered and taken away by the Swedes in the 17th and early 18th centuries. The others were probably destroyed or scattered around Europe during the Napoleonic wars and World War II.

The largest number of books from the collectionóThe Copernicus exhibit is now in the Uppsala University Library. There are 11 such works preserved in Olsztyn – nine in the library "Hosianum", two in the collection of the Museum of Warmia and Mazury. Before they came to Olsztyn, they had been stored at the castle in Lidzbark Warmiński and then in Frombork.

According to the researchers, finding further surviving copies requires painstaking searching, going through virtually every volume preserved in the Warmia collections, whichóry móThe volume could be read in the first half of the 16th century. It is also necessary to precisely identify the characteristic features of not only Copernicus’ handwriting but also that of other canonicalóin whichórymi wspóhe worked on and exchanged books.

As part of the project, 10 books from Copernicus’ former library underwent conservation. As móAccording to the conservator Dorota Jutrzenka-Supryn from the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, all these books are made of excellent material, because they were created in the so called “old” or “new” period. the golden age of paper, that is the beginnings of paper craftsmanship. However, for many hundreds of years they were kept in róThey were destroyed in various conditions, mainly during the Second World Warónally caused by biological factors. One of the books was afflicted with the so-called. Another was repeatedly flooded, which resulted in substances penetrating the pages that destroy cellulose.

According to Jutrzenka-Supryn, according to current trends, the interference of the conservator must have been almost invisible. Therefore, it was necessary to carry out a lot of research prior to conservation. – During the analysis, the features thatóThey have to be preserved in paper and those in whichóThe research has confirmed that Copernicus was comprehensively educated and is now housed in the Uppsala University Library.

What Copernicus wrote down?

The most common traces left in the books read by Copernicus are handwritten underlining, whichóhe authorship of which is the most difficult to confirm. Sometimes next to them in the margin there is a schematic drawing of an index finger, whichóThis made it easier to find the marked fragment of the. There are also corrections of printing errorsóof printing errors caught by Copernicus. He crossed out inóAt the time, he misspelled a word and wrote on the margin the correct.

The astronomer also put in his books the so-called. dispositional type glosses, i.e. words or króSome sentences to make it easier to read and remember the most important information. There are also broader notes – records of reflections on the reading. He used róAlso blank pages to write down comments and passages of interestóin text, or even astronomical observations or prescriptions. In one of his works, Copernicus recorded his reflections on Martin Luther’s doctrine.