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Treasures of the RAS: Copernicus puts the Sun at the centre of the Solar System

In this edition of Treasures of the RAS, Librarian Jenny Higham introduces De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium by Nicolaus Copernicus, one of the most important works in the history of astronomy.

In this book published in 1543, Copernicus proposed that all the planets orbit around the Sun, rather than around the Earth, as had previously been assumed.

The RAS holds a first edition of the book, one of 276 surviving copies worldwide. But why does our copy of the book look so unusual?

The title translates as On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres. The book revolutionised astronomy and cosmology, but was controversial with religious leaders and placed on the Index of Forbidden Books by the Catholic Church.