Inscriptiones haffnienses latina danicae et germanicae.Copenhagen: Henricus Gödianus, 1668.

RESEN Peder Hansen (1668)


Available to view at our Curzon Street shop.


With five folding illustrations (two engravings, three woodcuts) and further woodcut illustrations throughout, woodcut head- and tailpieces, Roman, Italic, Gothic, Greek and Hebrew type. 

4to (203 x 155mm). [16]ff. 431, [11]pp. Contemporary vellum over pasteboard, spine gilt in compartments with repeated lyre motif, yapp edges (lacking label in second compartment, minor chipping to foot of spine with some loss). 

Copenhagen, Henricus Gödianus, 1668. 

An unusual and handsomely illustrated guide – published in this sole edition - to inscriptions found on important buildings in the city of Copenhagen, with a large section on the life, works and observatory of Tycho Brahe, and his sister Sophie; from the library of alchemist, writer, diplomat and polymath Thomas Henshaw (1618-1700), with his exlibris note on the front endpaper. 

Born in London to two 'great chemists' in 1618 (according to Hartlib), after time at Oxford and admission to Middle Temple, Henshaw was captured procuring horses and funds for Charles I's cause during the Civil War. The terms of Henshaw's release - that he not rejoin the king's forces - provided him an opportunity to go abroad, including a year in Italy in the company of John Evelyn. On his return to London in 1649, Henshaw's interest in alchemy encouraged friendships with Thomas Vaughan, Robert Child and Elias Ashmole; his extensive alchemical library proved an invaluable resource for Ashmole's publications.  Though a lawyer by training, 'Henshaw relinquished any intention of practicing law, but at the Restoration he emerged into a more public role', as a member and then vice-President of the Royal Society, and as French secretary to Charles II, James II and William III (ODNB).

Henshaw's inscription on the free endpaper, 'Ex libris Tho. Henshaw Empt. Hafniae Junij 3d 1672' indicates that he purchased this volume while on extraordinary embassy to Christian V of Denmark, as secretary to the Duke of Richmond. Henshaw was appointed in 1671 and remained in Denmark until 1674 (ODNB), despite a gloomy view of the country as 'one of ye dullest places that ever mortalls layd out their pretious minutes in' (Henshaw, cited in Pasmore, p.186), and a difficult place to procure books. Only a month after he purchased this volume, Henshaw wrote to Henry Oldenburg that ‘it is here ye worst and ye dearest place in ye whole world for books unlesse at an Auction, wch I purpose to try my fortune at if I can have time hereafter' (Hall & Hall eds., The Letters of Henry Oldenburg, Vol. IX, no. 2141, 6 July 1672). 

Nonetheless, he was able to conduct scientific research while there, and also met with fellow scientists including Rasmus Bartholin (see Pasmore p.187), who seemed to become a good friend, a 'very learned man and a very civill gentleman' (Letters, Vol. IX, no.2141) and whose brother Thomas - with whom Henshaw enjoyed 'a great deale of good discourse' (Letters, Vol. X, no.2456) - is referred to in this volume in relation to the anatomical theatre (item 10). Given Henshaw's scientific and alchemical interests, it is easy to see why this volume, with its extensive discussion of astronomer and alchemist Tycho Brahe, appealed; indeed, in a letter to Henry Oldenburg of 14 March, 1673/4, less than a year after the inscription in this volume, Henshaw recounts a trip across the frozen sea to Brahe's island the previous month: 'the Baltick see hath been all frozen over above sixe weekes hereabout, and…I passed over once in a sled my self, and went twice in a sled to ye Isle of Ween [Hven]' (Letters, Vol.X, no.2456). 

The work runs comprehensively through religious, royal and secular buildings in the city, and further afield, providing transcriptions of notable inscriptions at each site. Included are some of Copenhagen’s oldest religious buildings, including the Church of the Holy Ghost, the Church of St Peter,  and the Trinitatis Church – part of the Trinitatis complex which includes the library, and the Stellaborg roundtower (now known as the Rundetaarn), illustrated here in a handsome, fold-out engraving by Johann Andreas Greyss, dated 1657. Completed in 1642,  it would still have been a new addition to the city’s skyline at the time Resen was writing. Along with descriptions of ‘new’ buildings, the work provides an important record of monuments and buildings that have since gone; the Domus Anatomicae, Copenhagen’s first anatomical theatre, was built only twenty years prior in 1648 and destroyed by fire in 1728. Also present here are several of the city’s schools, and other public buildings, along with a brief description of those to be found on the nearby island of Amager, part now of present-day Copenhagen.  

 The significant remainder of this work is dedicated to astronomer and alchemist Tycho Brahe (1546-1601), and the inscriptions and monuments to be found at his observatory and laboratory complex, Uraniborg – and the underground observatory Stjerneborg (Stellaeburgus in Latin), on the island of Hven. Built in 1576, ‘what would become internationally famous as the Uraniborg estate extended over the whole island, […] besides the house and garden, the complex consisted of an observatory with pioneering astronomical instruments, a paper mill and printing press, farms, woods and fishponds’ (Parrott, p.66). By the time that Resen compiled the present account, however, it had been abandoned for over 70 years. Brahe’s residence and work there lasted for only twenty years; he fled in 1597, and the site was destroyed in 1601. This volume provides an interesting, aggregate account of the site, drawn from several contemporary sources, prime among them the 1601, Nuremberg printing of Brahe's Astronomiae Instaurate Mechanica. The illustrations of the house and garden are all woodcut copies of the plates in the Mechanica, as is that of the mechanical globe; the map of the island of Hven is based on that by Willem Jansz Blaeu in his Atlas of 1663, which he drew based on his experience there as a student of Brahe in the 1590s. 

Following copies of letters from Brahe to Conrad Peucer, is the epic poem Urania Titani, written by Brahe for and about his sister, Sophie, and her separation from her betrothed, Nicholas Lange. Sophie Brahe (c.1559-1643) worked alongside her brother at Uranienborg and was a horticulturist, chemist and astronomer in her own right. 

Provenance: 1. Thomas Henshaw (1618-1700), writer and alchemist, with his manuscript note of purchase on front pastedown, 'Ex libris Tho. Henshaw Empt. Hafniae Junij 3d 1672'. Henshaw's only surviving child, Anne, married Thomas Halsey (1655-1715) of Gaddesden, hence 2. Library label of Gaddesden Place, Hertfordshire, with the arms of Sir Walter Halsey, 2nd Baronet (1868-1950) with motto 'nescit vox missa reverti' and manuscript shelf mark 'E 4', and further two shelfmarks (one cancelled) on front endpaper. 

References: A.R. Hall & M. B. Hall (eds.), The Correspondence of Henry Oldenburg, XIII Vols. (Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1965-86). S. Pasmore, 'Thomas Henshaw F.R.S. (1618-1700)', Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London 36.2, (1987), pp.177-88. V. Parrott, 'Celestial Design or Worldly Magic? The invisibly integrated design of Uraniborg', Garden History 38.1,  2010, pp. 66-80.  DSB II, 404 (Brahe).

Stock Code: 244513

close zoom-in zoom-out close zoom