Diplomacy, patronage and the preface to De revolutionibus

Geoffrey J Blumenthal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Some classics of the Copernicus literature have provided interpretations of the preface to De Revolutionibus, including its use of the modes of standard dedicatory letters to patrons, without exhausting the important matters which are blended within it. It is proposed that existing interpretations do not take sufficient account of Copernicus’ considerable experience of diplomacy, especially with the papacy, nor of his experience as secretary to the ruler of an episcopal princedom with high material living standards but unusual obligations and potential dangers. A long list of reasons why the preface to De revolutionibus was not a conventional request for patronage is compiled; it is proposed that Copernicus’ preface is a hybrid that may possibly be best termed an ‘act of diplomacy’ aimed at the pope, Curia and heads of catholic institutions. It is concluded that Copernicus’ primary concern was for the preservation and dissemination of his cosmology, and he used his diplomatic experience in furthering that aim.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-92
JournalJournal for the History of Astronomy
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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