Mathematics

[Feller, Joachim] | Unentbehrlicher Leit-Stern der Reisenden so Dieselben Richtig Leitet

  • ON RESERVE. A rare 18th century German traveler’s vade mecum titled the “Expanded, Indispensable Guiding Star for Travelers” that contains religious, cultural, linguistic, medical, and navigational content, including two astronomical volvelles and a perpetual calendar. An unsophisticated copy in contemporary morocco with intact leather and brass clasps.

    No book with this exact title appears in library or auction records, but we have been able to locate earlier works with similar titles in WorldCat: Vermehrter unentbehrlicher dreyfacher Leit-Stern der Reisenden, published in Leipzig by G. Hessen in 1688 (University of Kansas) and Unentbehrlicher dreyfacher Leit-Stern der Reisenden, attributed to the 17th-century professor Joachim Feller and published in Leipzig in 1724 (Dresden University). Heidelberg University also has a copy with the same title as the Dresden copy, published by Hesse in Leipzig in 1716, which contains the same frontispiece as is present here. Our copy is an undated (and potentially unrecorded) edition published by Christian Friedrich Gessner, who was active in Leipzig up to the early 1750s. The Austrian National Library has digitised a very similar copy published by Gessner and titled Unentbehrlicher dreyfacher Leit-Stern der Reisenden — it contains the same frontispiece and cites Feller as the author, but is undated. We suspect that our edition was published in the early 1740s, based on the dates Gessner was active and the original blind stamped date on the upper board of 1745. It seems that all editions of this text are rare, undoubtedly due to its ephemeral nature as a guidebook and the stresses of travel and regular use.

    The contents of this volume were compiled to meet both the physical and spiritual requirements of a traveller in northern Europe. It begins with a chapter of prayers by the popular Lutheran theologian Johann Habermann (1560-1590), including prayers for different needs, times of day, celebrations, and religious festivals. The next chapter provides medical remedies for body parts such as “the nose”, “the mouth”, “the external parts”, and “the chest and lungs”. The ingredients are mainly spices and cordials but also, in one case, unicorn horn.

    Chapter III is a short guidebook to various regions of Europe, primarily the Germanic states and Austria, but also the Low Countries, France, Spain, and Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Russia and “Asia”, “Africa” and “America”, the final three focusing on major trading regions such as India and the Barbary Coast. There are glossaries of common words in major European languages; a list of latitudes and longitudes of cities in Europe, north Africa, and the Middle East; a ten-page list of “the most famous hostels” organised by city; and even a suggested packing list.

    The final chapter contains practical mathematical, navigational, and calendrical tools based partly on the works of astronomer Gottfried Kirch (1639-1710), the first Astronomer Royal in Berlin and the author of numerous popular almanacs and calendars. Included are two volvelles, one of which is for finding the phase of the moon. There are five mileage diagrams showing itineraries and distances from eleven central cities: Leipzig, Breslau, Prague, Vienna, Augsburg, Strausburg, Erfurt, Frankfurt, Paris, Hamburg, and Nuremberg, as well as a folding map of Holland and northern Germany. Following these are multiplication tables, monetary conversions, precious metal purity standards, and weights and measures. The final entry is the perpetual calendar with instructions for use, including a woodcut showing how to do part of the necessary calculations on the fingers and the relevant tables for use.

  • ...I. Zur Mahren Gottesfurcht Durch D. Johann Habermanns Morgen und Ubend-Seegen, und Andere Gebethe und Lieder. II. Zu Ermünschter Gesundheitdurch einen Turken Unterricht von Erhaltung Der-selben, und Berschreibung Heilsamer Hüffs-Mittel. III. Zu Richtiger Erfänntinß der Wege durch Gottfried Kirch, dem Etliche Rupffer Bengefügt, in Melchen die Wege und Städte auf eine Ganß Neue Art Gezeiget Merden. IV. Zu Turken Rechnungen in Münß, Maaß, Ellen und Gemichr, zuch einen Jmmerwährenden Calender. Leipzig: Christian Friedrich Geßner, [mid-18th century].

    Duodecimo. Contemporary dark brown morocco with the initials C. E. D. and the date 1787 blocked in blind to the upper board along with floral tools, blind fillets, leather and brass clasps. The blind stamps on the cover appear to have been re-stamped, as the initials originally read G. T. D. and the date 1745, potentially changed for a new owner. Engraved frontispiece and 2 astronomical volvelles, 5 double-page mileage charts for travelling between cities, and a folding map of Holland and northern Germany. Perpetual calendar, finger counting diagram, and typographic charts within the text. Contemporary manuscript initials “EC” to front free endpaper, pen trials to verso of final volvelle. Small repaired area on the lower board where the morocco has pulled away, binding lightly rubbed with some old scuffs, contents toned and a little spotted with occasional small chips and short closed tears, small area of dampstain affecting the lower corners of the first 100 leaves, slight loss from the lunar volvelle not affecting operation, final mileage chart and folding map creased, short closed tear to map, rear free endpaper loose. A very good, unsophisticated copy.