In times gone by, if a book sold fifty copies, the author was celebrated as a 'best-seller'. Some of the best-selling authors of that era led their readers to the discovery of amazing new facts about the cosmos. These truly were giants.
Thanks to the devoted work of a few scholars, and the generosity of academic institutes, some of these books can now reach the global audience that they so richly deserve.
From the Vienna University web site:
The Vienna University Observatory conserves one of the most important collections of historically significant science books reaching from the 15th to the 18th century. Especially within the Central European countries no astronomical library with a comparable, historically grown inventory exists.Thanks to the great generosity of the Vienna University, the Austrian Academy of Science, Erste Bank Austria and the Austrian government, a few of those rare books are now available to download as high quality pdf files.
The first Vienna University Observatory was founded in 1755 and Jesuit Maximilian Hell (1720-1792) was nominated as its first director. Therefore the inventory of the Astronomy Library, as well as the inventory of the Vienna University Library, mainly arose from the Jesuit's collections. The Institute of Astronomy Library contains 5 books older than 1500, 56 printed before 1600 and a total of 500 books prior to 1800 - which is the content of the Rare Book Collection and this project.
Most of the author's names should be familiar to anyone with an interest in astronomy.
Please be advised - these files are huge - you may need a bigger hard drive.
You may also need a good Latin dictionary.