Union Académique Internationale

Correspondance de Johannes Hevelius

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Project 84, adopted in 2013

The Astronomer Johannes Hevelius had built in Gdansk, in the years 1640-1650, one of the most famous observatories in Europe. During more than 40 years, he observed a wide variety of celestial phaenomena, e.g. the motion and the topography of the Moon, the sunspots, the satellites and the spots of Jupiter, the rings of Saturn (that he was unable to identify), the comets and their trajectories, he completed the map of the sky and was very skillfull in the construction of instruments. Using his own press, he provided his books with luxurious illustrations. He received a regular gratification from Louis XIV and was elected fellow of the Royal Society (1664). His correspondence is the last important unedited scientific correspondence from the time of Galileo to Newton. It consists of more than 2000 letters, mostly in Latin, exchanged with more than 400 scholars in Britain, France, Italy, United Provinces and, to a lesser extent, in the Empire. His networks also included princes (Leopold of Toscany), high civil servants (Colbert) or powerfull courtiers (Des Noyers). Their patronage gave more prestige to an amateur who was, in fact, one of the most important brewers in Gdansk. The edition is divided and scheduled according to the scientific partners of Hevelius or the thematics. The volume I: Prolégomènes critiques, 2014, 654 p., directed by Ch. Grell, contains a biography of Hevelius (separately published also in Polish), a history of the text transmission (H. Siebert), a list of the letters stolen by the famous Libri (S. Keyes), but the core of the book is the chronological list of all the identified letters. Annexed to the volume are complete bibliographies, notably of the publications in German (K.D. Herbst) and Polish (M. Jasinski). The volume II: Correspondance avec la cour de France, 2017, 538 p., by Ch. Grell is the critical edition with an introduction, French translations and commentaries of 123 letters (1654-1680) concerning the financing of research in the 17th. century by princely patronage. Hevelius was awarded from 1664 to 1672 and dedicated two of his books to Louis XIV, i.e. the Cometographia (1668) and the Machina Coelestis (1673). Hevelius aimed to get the favor of the King and of his allmighty minister Colbert. These letters are a unique document in this respect. This book of Ch. Grell has been honoured in 2018 by the Gobert Medal of the Institut de France. The volume III will contain the correspondence with Lubienietski (95 letters from 1664 to 1674) by M. Jasinski and is scheduled for 2018. Lubienietski is the author of the famous Theatrum cometicum (1668) and the main subject is the observation and interpretation of comets. The volumes IV and V are concerning Pierre des Noyers, a pupil of Roberval and the diplomatic secretary of the Queen of Poland, i.e. more than 250 letters (1646-1686) edited by Ch. Grell with Igor Kraszewski (Poznan) and Damien Mallet (Bordeaux). Des Noyers is the most important correspondent of Hevelius regarding the number of letters and the diversity of the information. He played the role of a link between Hevelius, Ismaël Boulliau, and Italian and Jesuit networks. These volumes are planned for 2019-2020. The volume VI: The correspondence with the Jesuits, by Noël Golvers (Leuven) is in progress and planned for 2021.