De revolutionibus orbium coelestium [On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres]. Norimbergae: apud Ioh. Petreium, 1543. 6, 196 numbered leaves, tables, diagrams.
See note on typography for guidance with reading and transcription.
The Polish astronomer we know as Nicolaus Copernicus was born as Mikolaj Kopernik in Torun, Poland, on February 19th, 1473, into a prominent merchant family. In the early 1490s he was a student at the University of Cracow in Poland, where his course of studies included astronomy and astrology.
He gained further exposure to astronomy as well as mathematics while a student at the University of Bologna in Italy from 1496-1500, where for a time he lived in the same house as the University's principal astronomer, Domenico Maria de Novara. Here Copernicus learned to make astronomical observations, and was exposed to two classics of astronomy: Regiomontanus' Epitoma in Almagestum Ptolemaei, and Pico della Mirandola's Disputationes adversus astologianem divinatricenem. The first acquainted him with Ptolemy's Earth-centered cosmography, while the second was a powerful attack on the validity of astrology
After receiving a university degree in 1503, Copernicus returned to Poland where he took what was in effect a management position with a local bishopric; his astronomical studies occupied his spare time. Like many astronomers of the day, he was concerned with resolving inconsistencies left by the Ptolomaic system in explaining planetary motion.
About 1540 he and another astronomer, Georg Rheticus, issued under Rheticus's name a work, Narratio prima, which laid the theoretical groundwork for what later appeared in De revolutionibus. Various theoretical problems delayed the publication of this work until 1543, the year of its author's death on May 24, in Frauenburg, in East Prussia (now Frombork, Poland), where he had established an observatory.