Johannes de Sacrobosco

Editions of the 
Tractatus de Sphaera

     Johannes de Sacrobosco's 13th century Tractatus de Sphaera was one of the most popular astronomical books of all times. Before the invention of the press, it was widely used in manuscript form. In the 15th century, shortly after the development of printing, it was one of the first scientific books to be published, in 1472. Afterwards, it underwent successive editions – more than 200, up to the 17th century. 
     We present here the result of a preliminary survey of the editions and commentaries of the Tractatus de Sphaera that we have been able to find. Of course, this is not a complete list. It is a first step towards a full bibliography of published editions of Sacrobosco's famous work. 
     There are also some later editions with a purely historical aim (such as Thorndike's edition). They are not listed here.
     This survey used several bibliographic instruments, such as the two standard historical astronomical bibliographies – those of Lalande and Houzeau & Lancaster:
  • LALANDE, Jérôme de. Bibliographie astronomique; avec l’histoire de l’astronomie depuis 1781 jusqu’á 1802. Paris : De l’Imprimérie de la République, an XI [1803]. Reprint, Amsterdam: Meridian Publishing, 1970.
  • HOUZEAU, J.C.  & LANCASTER, A. B. M. Bibliographie générale de l’astronomie. Bruxelles: F. Hayez, 1882-1889. 2 vols. in 3 parts. Reprint, London : The Holland Press, 1964.
  • There is an electronic version available (page by page) online at this address :
         We have consulted several printed and online library catalogues, and NUC (the United States National Union Catalog), that was very helpful:

    • LIBRARY OF CONGRESS & AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION. National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints. A cumulative author list representing Library of Congress printed cards for books, pamphlets, maps, atlases, music, and periodicals, and titles reported by other North American Libraries. London: Mansell, 1968-1981. 754 vols.
         Information about the editions of Sacrobosco's works can be found at NUC vol. 513. It lists about 170 different editions (there is some overlap of entries describing the same work).
         Whenever possible we have added information about libraries where each edition can be found. All USA locations provided by NUC were included. Information about other libraries was not sistematically included – practical issues limited the scope of this survey.
         Although those sources are sometimes unreliable, they are very useful. In some cases, those bibliographies provide a very short description of editions that we have been unable to find in any library, and in those cases we have added a warning that the edition is doubtful. 
         Additional information and corrections are welcome, of course. .
    Roberto de Andrade Martins
    Group of History and Theory of Science
    University of Campinas (Unicamp), Brazil

    Note added in February 2018:

         The survey presented here was gradually developed by myself (Roberto de Andrade Martins) from around 2000 to 2003. On July 6th 2003 I notified the History of Astronomy discussion list (HASTRO-L) about the availability of my Latin edition of Sacrobosco. One of the replies to my message was by Jürgen Hammel, on July 8th 2003, announcing that he was preparing the publication of his survey of editions of Sacrobosco, that was due to appear in 2004 on the journal Acta Historica Astrononomiae. He had been able to find 168 editions. On the same day, I posted a new message to HASTRO-L informing that I had already found more than 200 editions and that I would make the content of my database available soon. The present survey was published online on September 3rd 2003, containing the description of 287 editions - however, about 50 of them were classified as "doubtful". Very small changes were introduced after that date.
         This work was developed while I was a professor at the University of Campinas (Unicamp), Brazil. After my retirement from that institution, in 2010, the current survey of editions of Sacrobosco's Sphaera was transferred to the new Group of History, Theory and Science Teaching at the University of São Paulo
         The present work has now, after 15 years, been superseded by a new database of editions of Sacrobosco's Sphaera that was prepared at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG) under the direction of professor Matteo Valleriani. The new database was made public in February 2018 and it is available at the following address: The scope of the two databases is not exactly the same, because of our different choices concerning what should be counted as an edition or commentary of Sacrobosco's Sphaera. The MPIWG database contains many new resources that could not have been developed 15 years ago, including a detailed description of the parts of each edition, and links to all digital versions that are now available on the Internet. 
    Editions of Sacrobosco's Tractatus de Sphaera
        You can look for specific editions of Sacrobosco's book in chronological order, following the links below.
    15th century
    17th century
        You can also use the form below to search for information about editions of Sacrobosco's book, in the GHTC (Group of History, Theory, and Science Teaching) website ( You may ensure that the search results will only contain information about Sacrobosco's book by adding the word "Sacrobosco" to your search.

        You can also use the above form to search the whole Web (World), or Brazilian sites, by selecting different buttons.

    Johannes de Sacrobosco - Editions of the Tractatus de Sphaera - home
    Roberto de Andrade Martins -
    Group of History and Theory of Science, University of Campinas, Brazil - GHTC