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TOHISHOLINESS,POPEPAULIII,NICHOLAS

COPERNICUS'PREFACETOHISBOOKSONTHE
REVOLUTIONS
Icanreadilyimagine,HolyFather,thatassoonassomepeople
hearthatinthisvolume,whichIhavewrittenabouttherevolutions
ofthespheresoftheuniverse,Iascribecertainmotionstothe
terrestrialglobe,theywillshoutthatImustbeimmediately
repudiatedtogetherwiththisbeliefForIamnotsoenamoredof
myownopinionsthatIdisregardwhatothersmaythinkofthem.I
amawarethataphilosopher'sideasarenotsubjecttothe
judgementofordinarypersons,becauseitishisendeavortoseek
thetruthinallthings,totheextentpermittedtohumanreasonby
God.YetIholdthatcompletelyerroneousviewsshouldbe
shunned.Thosewhoknowthattheconsensusofmanycenturies
hassanctionedtheconceptionthattheearthremainsatrestinthe
middleoftheheavenasitscenterwould,Ireflected,regarditasan
insanepronouncementifImadetheoppositeassertionthatthe
earthmoves.ThereforeIdebatedwithmyselfforalongtime
whethertopublishthevolumewhichIwrotetoprovetheearth's
motionorrathertofollowtheexampleofthePythagoreansand
certainothers,whousedtotransmitphilosophy'ssecretsonlyto
kinsmenandfriends,notinwritingbutbywordofmouth,asis
shownbyLysis'lettertoHipparchus.Andtheydidso,itseemsto
me,not,assomesuppose,becausetheywereinsomewayjealous
abouttheirteachings,whichwouldbespreadaround;onthe
contrary,theywantedtheverybeautifulthoughtsattainedbygreat
menofdeepdevotionnottoberidiculedbythosewhoare
reluctanttoexertthemselvesvigorouslyinanyliterarypursuit
unlessitislucrative;oriftheyarestimulatedtothenonacquisitive
studyofphilosophybytheexhortationandexampleofothers,yet
becauseoftheirdullnessofmindtheyplaythesamepartamong
philosophersasdronesamongbees.WhenIweighedthese

considerations,thescornwhichIhadreasontofearonaccountof
thenoveltyandunconventionalityofmyopinionalmostinduced
metoabandoncompletelytheworkwhichIhadundertaken.
ButwhileIhesitatedforalongtimeandevenresisted,myfriends
drewmeback.ForemostamongthemwasthecardinalofCapua,
NicholasSchnberg,renownedineveryfieldoflearning.Nextto
himwasamanwholovesmedearly,TiedemannGiese,bishopof
Chelmno,aclosestudentofsacredlettersaswellasofallgood
literature.Forherepeatedlyencouragedmeand,sometimesadding
reproaches,urgentlyrequestedmetopublishthisvolumeand
finallypermitittoappearafterbeingburiedamongmypapersand
lyingconcealednotmerelyuntiltheninthyearbutbynowthe
fourthperiodofnineyears.Thesameconductwasrecommended
tomebynotafewotherveryeminentscholars.Theyexhortedme
nolongertorefuse,onaccountofthefearwhichIfelt,tomakemy
workavailableforthegeneraluseofstudentsofastronomy.The
craziermydoctrineoftheearth'smotionnowappearedtomost
people,theargumentran,somuchthemoreadmirationandthanks
woulditgainaftertheysawthepublicationofmywritingsdispel
thefogofabsurditybymostluminousproofs.Influencedtherefore
bythesepersuasivemenandbythishope,intheendIallowedmy
friendstobringoutaneditionofthevolume,astheyhadlong
besoughtmetodo.
However,YourHolinesswillperhapsnotbegreatlysurprisedthat
Ihavedaredtopublishmystudiesafterdevotingsomucheffortto
workingthemoutthatIdidnothesitatetoputdownmythoughts
abouttheearth'smotioninwrittenfcrmtoo.Butyouarerather
waitingtohearfrommehowitoccurredtometoventureto
conceiveanymotionoftheearth,againstthetraditionalopinionof
astronomersandalmostagainstcommonsense.Ihaveaccordingly
nodesiretofromYourHolinessthatIwasimpelledtoconsidera
differentsystemofdeducingthemotionsoftheuniverse'sspheres

fornootherreasonthantherealizationthatastronomersdonot
agreeamongthemselvesintheirinvestigationsofthissubject.For,
inthefirstplace,theyaresouncertainaboutthemotionofthesun
andmoonthattheycannotestablishandobserveaconstantlength
evenforthetropicalyear.Secondly,indeterminingthemotions
notonlyofthesebodiesbutalsooftheotherfiveplanets,theydo
notusethesameprinciples,assumptions,andexplanationsofthe
apparentrevolutionsandmotions.