Copernicus book that escaped the flames is found

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A HISTORIAN in the small town of Orense in north-west Spain says he has discovered in a school library a priceless 16th-century work by the astronomer Copernicus that somehow escaped the flames of the Inquisition.

De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestibus, (On The Heavenly Revolutions Of The Earth), printed in Basle in Switzerland in 1586, explains with diagrams and mathematical formulae how the earth revolves around the sun.

However, heliocentric theories of the universe were condemned as heresy by the Holy Inquisition, and Copernicus's work figured prominently on the Catholic Church's list of banned books that were to be destroyed. The public burning of supposedly heretical works - and people - throughout Europe and especially Spain was at its most intense around the time that the book appeared.

The Galician historian, Justo Carnicero Mendez-Aguirre, says he found the 213-page volume, bound in tooled leather and embossed with images of scholars of the time, in the library of the Posio Institute, a secondary school in Orense. "It must be one of the few remaining copies in Europe to survive the Inquisition, and it is certainly the only one in Spain," says Mr Carnicero. He believes the book layfor centuries in the vaults of a monastery. "It shows that the monasteries kept in touch with the scientific developments of the time, despite the prevailing censorship," he told the Voz de Galicia newspaper.

The work is in Latin, with corrections by the astronomer Keppler, and contains many engravings of celestial bodies and mathematical calculations. There are also notes in the margin, which were written in Latin by someone in the 16th century.

The Posio Institute houses the provincial library of Orense, created from libraries held by monasteries of the region after they were dissolved in 1836.