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Tycho Brahe: a picture of scientific life and work in the sixteenth century/Chapter 5

< Tycho Brahe: a picture of scientific life and work in the sixteenth century



In the beautiful scenery along the coast of the Sound between Copenhagen and Elsinore, the isle of Hveen with its white cliffs, rising steeply out of the sea, forms a very conspicuous feature. It is about fourteen English miles north of Copenhagen, and about nine miles south of Elsinore, rather nearer to the coast of Scania than to that of Seeland. The surface is a nearly flat tableland of about two thousand acres, sloping slightly towards the east, and of an irregularly oblong outline, the longest diameter extending from north-west to south-east and being about three miles long. From time immemorial it was considered an appendage to Seeland, but in 1634 it was placed under the jurisdiction of the court of justice at Lund in Scania, because the inhabitants had complained of the long distance to their former court of appeal in Seeland.[1] In consequence of this change the island was ceded to Sweden in 1658, when the Danish provinces east of the Sound were conquered by the king of Sweden. Though there are no considerable woods on the island and the surface is but slightly undulated, the almost constant view of the sea in all directions, studded with ships and bounded by the well-wooded coasts
of Seeland and Scania in the distance, helps to form very attractive scenery, which adds to the peculiar charm the island has for any one who is interested in the great memories connected with it. One can understand why Tycho calls it "Insula Venusia, vulgo Hvenna," as if it were worthy of being called after the goddess of beauty. Another name, which Tycho mentions as sometimes applied to the island by foreigners, is "Insula Scarlatina," and with this name a curious and probably apocryphal story is connected, which is told by the English traveller, Fynes Moryson (who was in Denmark in 1593), in the following words: "The Danes think this Iland of Wheen to be of such importance, as they have an idle fable, that a King of England should offer for the possession of it, as much scarlet cloth as would cover the same, with a Rose-noble at the corner of each cloth. Others tell a fable of like credit, that it was once sold to a Merchant, whom they scoffed when he came to take possession, bidding him take away the earth he had bought."[2]

The island forms one parish, and the church, which is the only building to be seen with the naked eye from the Danish coast, is situated at the north-west corner of the island, close to the edge of the cliff. As already mentioned, the island is a table-land, with steep cliffs round nearly the whole circumference, through which narrow glens in several places form the beds of small rivulets, the prettiest one being Bäkvik, on the south-east coast. At the time of Tycho Brahe the inhabitants lived in a village called Tuna (i.e., town, Scottice, "the toun"), towards the north coast; there were about forty farms, and the land was tilled in common. From the map in Blaev's Grand Atlas it appears that most of the land in the south-eastern half of the island was only used for grazing. We give here a reduced copy of Blaev's map, which agrees well with

Hveen at the Time of Tycho Brahe.

Explanation of the Map.

A. Uraniborg.
B. Stjerneborg Observatory.
C. Farm.
D. Workshop.
E. Windmill.
F. Village.
G. Paper-mill.

H. Church.
I. Hill where Petty Sessions were held.
K, L, M. Fish-ponds.
N. Grove of nut-trees.
O. Morass with alder trees.
P, Q, E, S. Ruins of old forts.
T. A small wood.

Tycho's own map,[3] except that we have slightly altered the contour of the island, in accordance with modern maps.[4]

Neither before Tycho's time nor afterwards has this little island played any part in the history of Denmark, and yet tradition points to a time long ago when even this little spot is supposed to have been the scene of heroic deeds. On the map appear the ruins of four castles or forts, which are supposed to have been destroyed in 1288, when the Norwegian king, Erik the Priesthater, ravaged the coasts of the Sound. Nowadays a few stones and a slight rise of the ground scarcely marks the site of each fort, but in Tycho's time there were more distinct traces of them left.[5] Their names were Nordborg, on the north coast; Sönderborg, on the south-west coast; Hammer, at the north-east, and Carlshöga, at the south-east corner. Tycho's friend and former tutor, Vedel, published a colleclection of ancient Danish popular ballads and romances,

among which are three which give the following account of the traditions about these ruins.[6]

Lady Grimhild, who owned the whole island, made a festival at Nordborg, to which she, among others, invited her brothers, Helled Haagen and Folker, the minstrel, both well-known figures in Danish mediaeval ballads. She intended, however, to slay the two brothers, with whom she was at enmity, but they accepted her invitation, though they were warned while crossing the Sound, first by a mermaid and next by the ferryman, both of whom were beheaded by Helled Haagen as a punishment for the evil omen. On arriving at Nordborg they were well received by Grimhild, who, however, soon persuaded her men to challenge the brothers to mortal combat. She was specially infuriated against Helled Haagen, and enticed him into promising that he would confess himself defeated if he should merely stumble. To bring about this result, she had the lists covered with hides, on which peas were strewn, and of course Helled Haagen slipped on these, and, true to his vow, remained lying and was slain. His brother, Folker, was likewise killed. But one of Grimhild's maids, Hvenild, after whom the island got its name, bore a son who was called Ranke, and who afterwards avenged the death of his father Helled Haagen. The poems merely mention the revenge, without going into details, but in his introduction Vedel tells how Ranke enticed Grimhild into a place in Hammer Castle, where he said his grandfather, Niflung or Niding, had hidden his treasure, but when she had gone inside, he ran out and bolted the door, leaving her to die of hunger. The resemblance of this story to the principal events of the Niebelungenlied is striking, and doubtless the story is, both in the German epic and in the Scandinavian tradition, derived from a common source.[7]

Nearly in the centre of the island, 160 feet above the level of the sea,[8] Tycho selected a site for his new residence and observatory, which he very appropriately called Uraniburgum or Uraniborg, as it was to be devoted to the study of the heavens. The work was at once commenced, and on the 8th August 1576 the foundation-stone was laid. The French minister Dancey had asked to be allowed to perform this ceremony, and had provided a handsome stone of porphyry with a Latin inscription, stating that the house was to be devoted to philosophy, and especially to the contemplation of the stars. Some friends and other men of rank or learning assembled early in the morning, "when the sun was rising together with Jupiter near Regulus, while the moon in Aquarius was setting; libations were solemnly made with various wines, success was wished to the undertaking, and the stone was put in its place at the south-east corner of the house at the level of the ground."[9] The building operations were now steadily proceeded with under the direction of the architect, Hans van Stenwinchel from Emden, but Tycho doubtless superintended the work himself, as he seems to have almost constantly resided in the island. We find, at least, that he took observations pretty regularly from December 1576. On his birthday, the 14th December, he commenced a series of observations of the sun, which were steadily continued for more than twenty years.[10] Having now plenty of occupation, Tycho thought it best to decline an offer made to him the following year by the professors of the University, who on the 18th May 1577 unanimously paid him the compliment of electing him Rector of the University for the ensuing year, although it had not, since the Reformation, been customary to elect anybody to this post who was not a professor. Tycho replied on the 21st May, expressing his appreciation of the proffered honour and his regrets that the building operations and other business obliged him to decline the post offered him.[11]

Although the house was probably soon sufficiently advanced to enable Tycho to take up his residence in it, it does not appear to have been completed till the year 1580. Uraniborg was situated in the centre of a square enclosure, of which the corners pointed to the four points of the compass. The enclosure was formed by earthen walls, of which the sides were covered with stones, about 18 feet high, 16 feet thick at the base, and 248 feet from corner to corner.[12] At the middle of each wall was a semicircular bend, 73 feet in diameter, and each enclosing an arbour.[13] At the east and west angles gates gave access to the interior of the enclosure, and in small rooms over the gateways English mastiffs were kept, in order that they might announce the arrival of strangers by their barking.
Uraniborg and Grounds.
At the south and north angles were small buildings in the same style as the main edifice, and affording room respectively for the printing office and for the domestics. Under the latter building was the castle-prison, probably used for refractory tenants.[14] Inside the walls were first orchards with about three hundred trees, and inside these, separated from them by a wooden paling, flower-gardens. Four roads ran through the orchards and gardens from the four angles of the enclosure to the open circular space in the middle, where the principal building was situated on a slightly higher level than the surrounding grounds. Uraniborg was built (apparently of red bricks with sandstone ornaments) in the Gothic Renaissance style, which towards the end of the sixteenth century was becoming more generally adopted in the North of Europe, where the heavier mediæval style had hitherto still been the ruling one, so that Tycho Brahe's residence became epoch-making in the history of Scandinavian architecture. The slender spires and tastefully decorated gables and cornices were indeed in better harmony with the peaceful and harmonious life of a student of the heavens than the more severe and dry Gothic style which the Renaissance was superseding; and the pictures, inscriptions, and ornaments of various kinds profusely scattered through the interior reminded the visitor at every step of the pursuits and tastes of the owner.

The woodcut below (which, like the previous and following ones, is a reduced copy of a figure in Tycho's own description) gives a general idea of the aspect of the edifice from the east, and by comparison with the plan of the ground-floor on the next page, the reader will get a clear idea of this remarkable structure.[15] The base of the principal and central part was a square, of which each side was 49 feet long, and to the north and south sides of this there were round towers 18 feet in diameter, surrounded by lower outhouses for fuel, &c., while narrow towers on the east and west sides contained the entrances. Including the towers, the entire length of the building from north to south was about 100 feet. The central part was surmounted by an octagonal pavilion, with a dome with clock-dials east and west, and a spire with a gilt vane in the shape of a Pegasus. In the pavilion there was an octagonal room with a dial in the ceiling, showing both the time and the direction of the wind, and round the pavilion ran an octagonal gallery, north and south of which were two smaller domes with allegorical

Uraniborg from the East.

figures on the top. The height of the walls of the central building was 37 feet, and the Pegasus was 62 feet above the ground. The two towers north and south were about 18 feet high, and had each a platform on the top surmounted by a pyramidal roof made of triangular boards, which could be removed to give a view of any part of the sky. North and south of these observatories were two smaller ones, each standing on a single pillar, and communicating with the larger ones; they were also covered with pyramidal roofs, and were not built till after the completion of the house. Galleries around the towers gave the means of observing with small instruments in the open air, and on the east and west side of each gallery there was a large globe to serve as a support for a sextant. When not in use these globes were protected by pointed covers, of which the two eastern ones are visible on the figure. This also shows the foundation-stone in the south-east corner, and next to it a door leading down to the basement.

Plan of the Ground Floor of Uraniborg.

A. East entrance.
B. Fountain.
C. West entrance.
Φ. Passages.
D. Sitting-room in winter.
E, F, G. Guest-rooms.
H. Kitchen.
K. Well.
L. Stairs to upper storey.

P. Stairs to laboratory.
R, O. Aviaries.
T. Library.
W. Great globe.
S. Cellar for charcoal for the laboratory.
Z. Wood cellar for kitchen.
V. Tables.
Y. Beds.
4. Chimneys.

The south-east room on the ground-floor was the sitting-room of the family in winter; later on it was enlarged by pulling down the wall between it and the passage west of it. The three other rooms were guest-rooms, but the south-west room, in which a large quadrant was attached to the west wall, was probably also used as a study. In the storey above there were the red room to the north east, the blue room to the south-east, the yellow room (a small octagonal one) over the porch on the east side, and on the west side one long room, the green one, with the ceiling covered with pictures of flowers and plants. Tycho specially mentions the beautiful view from this room of the Sound, with its numerous sails, particularly in summer. Above the second storey there were eight little rooms or garrets for students and observers. The south tower contained in the basement a chemical laboratory with furnaces, &c., above that on the ground floor was the library, and above that the larger southern observatory. In the north tower the centre of the basement was occupied by a deep well built round with masonry, which reached to the kitchen above.[16] Over the kitchen was the larger northern observatory.

In the library the great globe from Augsburg was mounted. It was five feet in diameter, the inside made of wooden rings and staves firmly held together. When returning to Augsburg in 1575, Tycho found that it was not perfectly spherical and showed some cracks, but after it had in the following year been brought to Denmark, the cracks were stopped and the sphericity made perfect by covering it with numerous layers of parchment. It was then left to dry for two years, and as the figure remained perfect, it was covered with brass plates, on which two great circles were engraved to represent the equator and the zodiac, divided into single degrees, and by transversals into minutes. Gradually the stars and constellations were laid down on it as their positions resulted from the observations, and not till about twenty-five years after the construction of the globe had been commenced was it completely finished.[17] It was mounted on a solid stand, with graduated circles for meridian and horizon, and a movable graduated quadrant for measuring altitudes. On the horizon was the unavoidable inscription stating how the great work of art was made. A hemispherical cover of silk could be lowered over it from the ceiling to protect it from dust. In addition to this great globe, the library or museum contained four tables for Tycho's assistants to work at, also his collection of books and various smaller knicknacks, portraits of astronomers and philosophers, among whom Hipparchus, Ptolemy, Albattani, Copernicus, and the Landgrave figured conspicuously. There was also a portrait of George Buchanan, who played so important a part in the religious and political revolutions in Scotland, and whose acquaintance Tycho had probably made in 1571 when Buchanan was in Denmark. This portrait had been presented to Tycho by Peter Young.[18] Under the pictures were versified inscriptions composed by Tycho.[19]

We may form some idea of the elegance and taste which pervaded Tycho's residence by examining the large picture which adorned his great mural quadrant. This instrument was, as already mentioned, mounted on the wall in the south-west room on the ground-floor, and consisted of a brass arc of 63/4 feet radius, 5 inches broad and 2 inches thick, fastened to the wall with strong screws, and divided in his usual manner by transversals; it was furnished with two sights, which could slide up and down the arc. At the centre of the arc there was a hole in the south wall, in which a cylinder of gilt brass projected at right angles to the wall, and along the sides of which the observer sighted with one of the sliding sights. This was one of the most important instruments at Uraniborg, and was much used. It is, therefore, no wonder that Tycho (who claimed it as his own invention) wished to fill the empty space on the wall inside the arc with a picture of himself and the interior of his dwelling. Tycho is represented as pointing up to the opening in the wall, and he says the portrait was considered a very good likeness; at his feet lies a dog, "an emblem of sagacity and fidelity." In the middle of the picture is a view of his laboratory, library, and observatory, and on the wall behind him are shown two small portraits of his benefactor, King Frederick II., and Queen Sophia, and between them in a niche a small globe. This was an automaton designed by Tycho, and showing the daily motions of the sun and moon and the phases of the latter. The portrait was painted by Tobias Gemperlin of Augsburg, whom Tycho had encouraged to come to Denmark; the views of the interior of Uraniborg by its architect, Stenwinchel; and the landscape and the setting sun by Hans Knieper of Antwerp, the King's painter at Kronborg. The picture bears the date 1587, but the quadrant itself had been in constant use since June 1582.[20]

Another instrument on which Tycho found room for a picture was his smallest quadrant, one of the earliest instruments constructed at Uraniborg. The radius of the quadrant was only 16 inches (one cubitus); the divided arc was turned upwards, and within it were forty-four concentric arcs of 90° to subdivide the single degrees according to the plan proposed by Pedro Nunez. On the empty space between the centre and the smallest of these arcs was a small circular painting, representing a tree, which on the left side is full of green leaves and has fresh grass under it, while on the right side it has dead roots and withered branches. Under the green part of the tree a youth is seated, wearing a laurel wreath on his head and holding a star-globe and a book in his hands. Under the withered part of the tree is a table covered with money-boxes, sceptres, crowns, coats of arms, finery, goblets, dice, and cards, all of which a skeleton tries to grasp in its outstretched arms. Above is the pentameter, "Vivimus ingenio, cætera mortis erunt," pointing out the vanity of worldly things, while only earnest study confers immortality. The first part of the sentence is over the green part, the second over the withered part of the tree. In another place[21] Tycho had a similar picture, in which there appeared among the green leaves symbols of the life and doctrine of Christ, while the symbols of philosophy are moved over to the withered side under the dominion of Death, and the inscription is changed to "Vivimus in Christo, cætera mortis erunt," so that the two pictures showed the superiority of the noble efforts of the human mind over trivial occupations, and yet the insufficiency of either except man turns to the Redeemer. This small instrument does not seem to have had any fixed place, and was afterwards removed to the subterranean observatory, but the larger ones were all erected in the observatories at the north and south ends of Uraniborg. In each of the two small observatories there was an equatorial armillary sphere, of which the northern one was ornamented with pictures of Copernicus and Tycho himself.[22] In the large southern observatory were the following instruments. A vertical semicircle (eight feet in diameter) turning round a vertical axis, and furnished with a horizontal circle for measuring azimuths (fol. B. 5); a triquetrum, or, as Tycho calls it, "instrumentum parallacticum sive regularum" (fol. C.); a sextant for measuring altitudes with a radius of 51/2 feet (fol. A. 5); and a quadrant of two feet radius with an azimuth circle (fol. A. 4). In the large northern observatory were another triquetrum of peculiar construction, with an azimuth circle 16 feet in diameter, resting on the top of the wall of the tower (fol. C. 2); a sextant of 4 feet radius for measuring distances (fol. E.); and a double arc for measuring smaller distances. Probably the last two instruments were removed or used on the open gallery when the triquetrum was erected, as the latter must have been large enough to fill the whole room, and, indeed, even in the southern observatory there cannot have been much elbow-room for the observers. In the northern observatory was also preserved an interesting astronomical relic, the triquetrum used by Copernicus, and made with his own hands.

By degrees, as Tycho's plans for collecting observations became extended and a greater number of young men desired to assist him, he felt the want of more instruments and of more observing rooms, in which several observers could be engaged at the same time without comparing notes. In 1584 he therefore built an observatory on a small hill about a hundred feet south of the south angle of the enclosure of Uraniborg, and slightly to the east. In this observatory, which he called Stellæburgum (Danish, Stjerneborg), the instruments were placed in subterranean rooms, of which only the roofs rose above the ground, so that they were well protected from the wind. As shown by the view and plan on p. 106, there were five instrument rooms, with a study in the centre, and the entrance to the north. The north-east and north-west rooms were built somewhat later than the others, and were nearly at the

Stjernborg, seen from the West.

level on the ground.[23] The whole was surrounded by a low wooden paling, forming a square with semicircular bends at the middle of each side, and the sides facing north, south, east, and west. The enclosure was 57 feet square, and the diameter of the semicircles was 20 feet. The entrance was on the north side, and a door and some stone steps led down to the study. Over the portal were three crowned lions hewn in stone, with the appropriate inscription—

          SOLA ARTIS

Below this and over the door was the coat of arms of the Brahe family, and some other allegorical figures.

On the back of the portal, towards the south was a large tablet of porphyry, with a long inscription in prose, stating that these crypts had, like the adjoining Uraniborg, been constructed for the advancement of astronomy, at incredible labour, diligence, and expense, and charging posterity to preserve the building for the glory of God, the propagation of the divine art, and the honour of the country. Going down the steps to the "Hypocaustum," another slab over the door exhibited a versified inscription, expressing the surprise of Urania at finding this cave, and promising even here, in the bowels of the earth, to show the way to the stars. The study was about 10 feet square, and only the vaulted roof and the top of the walls were above the ground. The vault was sodded over to look like a little hill, "representing Parnassus, the mount of the Muses," and on the middle of it stood a small statue of Mercury in brass, cast from a Roman model, and turning round by a mechanism in the pedestal.[24] The study was lighted by four small windows just above the ground, and contained a long table, some clocks, &c., and on the wall hung a semicircle in brass, 8 feet in diameter, for measuring distances of stars, and which, when required, could be placed on a stand outside, similar to those which Tycho used for his sextants. On the ceiling was represented the Tychonian system of the world, and on the walls were portraits of eight astronomers, all in a reclining posture, namely, Timocharis, Hipparchus, Ptolemy,

Plan of Stjerneborg.

A. Entrance.

B. Study.

C. Crypt with large armillæ.

D. azimuthal quadrant.

E. zodiacal armillæ.

F. azimuthal quadrant.

G. sextant.

H, I. Stone piers for portable armillæ.

K, L, N, T. Globular stands for sextants.

M. Stone table.

O. Tycho Brahe's bed.

P. Fireplace.

V. Table.

Q. Bedroom for assistant.

S. Unfinished subterranean passage towards Uraniborg.

Albattani, King Alphonso, Copernicus, Tycho, and lastly Tychonides, an astronomer who is still unborn. Under each portrait was the name, approximate date, and a distich setting forth the merits of each. While that under Tycho's picture leaves posterity to judge his work, the lines under the picture of his hoped-for descendant are less modest, expressing the hope that the latter might be worthy of his great ancestor. Tycho was represented as pointing up to his system of the world, while his other hand held a slip of paper with the query, "Quid si sic?"

In the centre of each crypt was a large instrument, the floor rising gradually by circular stone steps up to the walls.[25] The instruments were an azimuthal quadrant (quadrans volubilis) of 51/2 feet radius, with an azimuth circle at the top of the wall (Mechanica, fol. B. 2), a zodiacal armillary sphere (C. 4), a large quadrant of brass (radius 7 feet) enclosed in a square of steel, and likewise furnished with an azimuth circle on the wall (B. 4); a sextant of 51/2 feet radius for measuring distances (D. 5), and in the largest southern crypt a large equatorial instrument, consisting of a declination circle of 91/2 feet diameter, revolving round a polar axis, and a semicircle of 12 feet diameter, supported on stone piers, and representing the northern half of the Equator (D. 2). In addition to these fixed instruments, there were various smaller portable ones kept at Stjerneborg, which could be mounted on the pillars and stands outside or held in the hand; namely, a portable armilla 4 feet in diameter,[26] a triquetrum, a small astrolabium or planisphere, the small quadrant described above, and two small instruments made by Gemma Frisius, namely, a cross-staff and a circle (annulus astronomicus), both of brass. With the exception of these two and the triquetrum of Copernicus, all the instruments in Tycho's possession were made in his own workshop, which was situated close to the servants' house, about 100 feet to the west.[27]

Tycho would scarcely have been able to construct these magnificent instruments if he had not continually been provided with new sources of income through the liberality of his royal patron. We have seen that Tycho, from February 1576 enjoyed an annual pension of 500 daler (£ 114). In addition to this, the king granted him on the 28th August 1577 the manor of Kullagaard, in Scania, to be held by him during the king's pleasure. Kullagaard is situated near the north-western extremity of Scania, on the mountain of Kullen, which forms a steep promontory in the Kattegat. The king's letter stated expressly that Tycho Brahe should not, like his predecessor, be bound to keep the lighthouse of Kullen in order; but apparently the king soon found that this exemption was a mistake, and already on the 18th October 1577 a second royal letter was issued, in which it was stated that as the late holder of the benefice had received it for the purpose of keeping the light going, in order that seafaring men should have no cause for complaint, the same should be done by Tycho, if he wished to continue to hold the manor.[28] This obligation was apparently not to the taste of Tycho; at least he must have been negligent in seeing that the light was regularly attended to, for already in the autumn of 1579 the governor of Helsingborg Castle was ordered to take possession of Kullagaard manor, in order to keep the lighthouse properly attended to, as complaints had frequently been made about it. As Tycho, however, begged to be allowed to keep the manor, on the plea that he had no other place from which to get fuel for Uraniborg, the king again granted him the manor on the 13th November 1579, on condition that the light was regularly lighted.[29] In May 1578 he had also been granted the use of eleven farms in the county of Helsingborg, free of rent, to be held during the king's pleasure. These and the Kullen manor he lost again for a while in August 1580, probably because he had in the meantime been granted other sources of income; but he received them again in June of the following year, "to enjoy and keep, free of rent, as long as he shall continue to live at Hveen," with the repeated injunction to keep the light at Kullen in order. On the 27th October 1581 the customs officers at Elsinore were instructed, that whereas the light was in future to be kept burning in winter as well as in summer, they were out of the increased lighthouse fees received from navigators to pay Tycho Brahe 300 daler a year for the increase of trouble. This seems, however, to have been more than the additional fees amounted to, and on the 9th July 1582 the order about the 300 daler was cancelled by a royal decree, in which it was stated that Tycho was already in receipt of sufficient payment for keeping the lighthouse.[30] In 1584 the governor of Helsingborg Castle and the chief magistrate of Scania were ordered to proceed to Kullen, together with Tycho, to examine the light- house, which was said to be very dilapidated. The tower was ordered to be rebuilt in August 1585 at the public expense, and at the same time the indefatigable generosity of the king dictated a letter to the customs officers at Elsinore, commanding them until further orders to pay Tycho 200 dalers annually, in order that the light might be kept burning summer and winter as long as navigation lasted.[31]

We have seen that Tycho Brahe already in 1568 received the king's promise of the first vacant canonry in the cathedral of Roskilde. In 1578 this promise was more distinctly renewed, as by royal letter, dated Frederiksborg the 18th May, Tycho was appointed to succeed to the prebendbend attached to the chapel of the Holy Three Kings[32] in the said cathedral whenever the holder of it should die. In the meantime he was to enjoy the income of the Crown estate of Nordfjord in Norway, with all rent and duty derived from it.[33] He had not to wait very long for the prebend, as Henrik Holk, who had held it since the Reformation, died in 1579, on the 5th June of which year the canonry was conferred on Tycho. In the patent all the temporalities of the above-mentioned chapel were granted to Tycho during pleasure, including the canon's residence, farms, and other property belonging thereto, on the condition that hymns were daily to be sung in the chapel to the praise of God, and that for this purpose two poor schoolboys were to be kept in food and clothes in order to assist the vicars-choral in the daily service. Furthermore, he was to maintain two poor students at the University of Copenhagen, and to see that these, as well as the two choir-boys, were diligent, and fit to devote themselves to learned pursuits. The chapel and residence were to be kept in proper repair, and the tenants to be dealt with according to law and justice, and not to be troubled by any new tax or other impost.[34]

About a month after the prebend had been granted to Tycho, he was ordered, in accordance with the rules of the chapter, to allow the widow of his predecessor and the University of Copenhagen to enjoy annum gratiæ of the rents and other income of the prebend. With characteristic coolness the astronomer seems to have turned a deaf ear to this injunction, and he even went so far as to forbid the tenants to pay anything to the widow. On the 3rd December 1579 the king therefore found it necessary to send a second and peremptory order to pay to the widow and the University what was due to them.[35] Three years later Tycho thought that he saw a chance of making the heirs of Henrik Hoik disgorge some of the money he had been obliged to let them have, for it appears that some repairs had to be made to the chapel, and that Tycho demanded payment for these from the heirs. But here again the king showed that, however favourably disposed he was to the renowned man of learning, he would have no injustice done to anybody; and in July 1582 he directed that the repairs were to be paid for out of public funds, but that in future Tycho, or whoever else might hold the prebend, was to pay for them.[36] We shall afterwards see that the possession of this prebend gave rise to more serious troubles to Tycho Brahe.

It was mentioned above that Tycho obtained a grant of the Crown estate of Nordfjord on the west coast of Norway, to be held by him during the time that he was waiting for the vacancy in the prebend. But when he got possession of the latter, the king did not deprive him of the Nordfjord estate, but granted it to him again on the 13th June 1579, during pleasure, free of rent, and merely with the usual stipulation that he was to keep the tenants under the laws of Norway, and not injure any of them, nor was he to cut down any of the woods on the estate.[37] This benefice may only have been intended to indemnify Tycho for the year of grace which he was to pay out of the Roskilde prebend, for on the 10th August 1580 the king's lieutenant at Bergen was ordered to receive the Nordfjord estate from Tycho Brahe, and in future to account to the king's exchequer for the income of the same. Tycho must, however, have persuaded the king that he could ill afford to lose this income, for already, on the 11th November 1580, a new grant of the estate was made to Tycho in exactly the same terms as the previous one, and two months afterwards the lieutenant at Bergen was directed to hand over the estate to Tycho Brahe, and to refund all money received from it during the time he had been deprived of it.[38] The king evidently now thought that he had done enough for Tycho, for on the 29th March 1581 he wrote to him that although Tycho had applied to have the pension of 500 daler continued, still, as he had been provided for in other ways, the pension was to be paid for the past year, but was then to cease. The same day the chief of the exchequer, Valkendorf, received instructions to this effect; but already six months after he was directed again to pay the pension to Tycho, who seems to have received it without interruption till 1597.[39]

Tycho continued in undisturbed possession of the Norwegian estate till March 1586, when he and several other tenants of Crown estates in Norway received notice to surrender them, as "fish and other victuals" which they produced were wanted for the navy. It was, however, stated that they were not to consider this as a sign of disgrace, but that they would be indemnified in other ways. Thus Tycho got in the first instance 300 daler from the treasury,[40] and on the 11th September following he was informed that he would, until further notice, receive an annual sum of 400 daler from the customs paid at Elsinore. This grant was renewed on the 4th June 1587, the money to be paid annually on the 1st May.[41] The estate of Nordfjord was restored to Tycho in June 1589, and the grant was renewed in June 1592, when the allowance from the Sound duties was discontinued.[42]

It would not at the present time be easy to form an accurate opinion as to the actual amount of income enjoyed by Tycho Brahe during the years he lived at Hveen (though we may mention here that, according to his own statement, it was about 2400 daler a year), and on the other hand we have no way of knowing exactly how much he spent on his instruments and buildings.[43] But at any rate, it will be evident from the above account of the various grants of land and money that King Frederick II. had very amply provided for his wants, and never forgot the promises made to Tycho when the latter was prevailed on to settle in his native country. The circumstances which gradually led to his being deprived of most of these grants will be detailed in a future chapter; but we may here mention that Tycho, shortly after the death of King Frederick II., in 1588, represented to the new Government that his great expenses in connexion with the scientific work at Hveen had caused him to be in debt to the amount of 6000 daler. This sum was at once ordered to be paid by the Government, so that Tycho might reasonably hope, even after the death of his royal patron, to be able to continue the work so munificently supported by the late king.

  1. There is still extant a Latin poem written by T. Brahe in 1592, "In itinere a Ringstadio domum," in which he charges the judge who had tried some lawsuit of his with injustice. Danske Magazin, ii. p. 279. About the change of jurisdiction see Bang's Samlinger, ii. p. 265 (Weistritz, ii. p. 226, and i. p. 56).
  2. An Itinerary written by Fynes Moryson, &c., London, 1617, fol., p. 60. The story also occurs in P.D. Huetii Commentarius de Rebus ad eum pertinentibus, Amsterdam, 1718, 8vo, p. 85. Tycho merely mentions the name Scarlatina, Astr. Inst. Mech., fol. G. 2, and De Mundi Aeth. Rec. Phaen. ii. Preface.
  3. Astr. Inst. Mechanica, fol. I. 2, and Epist. Astron., p. 264. There is a small copy of it on the frontispiece of Kepler's Tabulæ Rudolpliinæ.
  4. I possess another large map (18 in. by 13 in.), with one page letterpress on the back, "Topographia Insulæ Huenæ in Celebri Porthmo Regni Daniæ quem vulgo Oersunt uocant. Effigiata Coloniæ, 1586." I believe it belongs to Braunii Theatrum Urbium. There are very few details on it, and the coast-line is very incorrect, but the plans and views of Uraniborg in the corners of the map, and the descriptive letterpress on the back, are of value, as they contain some particulars not to be found elsewhere, and the author has evidently got reliable information, probably from A. S. Vedel, who is known to have contributed to the work. Willem Janszoon Blaev (1571- 1638) had himself lived at Hveen with Tycho. The following particulars from the description of the island in his son's Grand Atlas, ou Cosmographie Blaviane (Amsterdam, 1663, vol. i. p. 61), are of interest:—"Elle est fertile en bons fruits et n'a aucune partie qui soit sterile, elle abonde en toutes sortes de gros bestail, nourrit des daims, lievres, lapins et perdrix en quantité La pesche y est de tous costez: elle a un petit bois de couldriers, noisettiers, dont jamais les noix ne sont mangées des vers ny vermoluës. Il ne s'y trouve aucun loir ny taulpe. . . . Cette isle n'a point de riviere, mais quantité des ruisseaux et fontaines d'eau douce. Vne entre autres qui ne gele jamais, ce qui est tresrare en ces quartiers." A similar account is given in Wolf's Encomion Regni Daniæ, Copenhagen, 1654, p. 525.
  5. The Swedish antiquarian, Sjöborg, who visited the island in 1814, mentions a place close north of the south-east ruin, called Lady Grimhild's grave, of which he could find no trace. On the north-east coast there was another ruin, apparently a quadrangular building, 80 feet by 24, with a walled-in enclosure in front. It was called the Monks' Kirk, but nothing is known about it, and it is not mentioned by Tycho. See Sjöborg, Samlingar för Nordens Fornälskare, T. iii., Stockholm, 1830, pp. 71-82. About the four castles see also Braun's map, where it is stated that there were (in 1586) no ruins left, but only traces of the foundations.
  6. I take the following account from the Danish poet Heiberg's delightful article on Hveen and its state in 1845, in his year-book, Urania, for 1846.
  7. According to another tradition mentioned by Sjöborg (l. c., p. 74), Ranke threw the keys of Hammer Castle into the sea, and bewitched the castle so that it sank into the earth or into the sea; but if there shall ever be three posthumous men in the island at the same time, each called after his father, then Hammer Castle shall again stand in its old place, and the keys be found. Other traditions say that Hvenild was a giantess (Jettekvinde), who carried pieces of Seeland in her apron over to Scania, where they formed the hills of Runeberga, but as her apron-strings burst on the way, she dropped a piece in the sea, which formed the island of Hveen. The hill close to Uraniborg, Hellehög, where in Tycho's time the local court was held, is evidently called after Helled Haagen.
  8. According to Picard 27 toises (Ouvrages de Mathematique, p. 71).
  9. Astron. Inst. Mechanica, fol. H. 6.
  10. "Die 14 qui mihi est natalis feci primam observationem Hvenæ ad Solem circa ipsum Solstitium hybernum et inveni alt. ☉ meridianam minimam quæ illic potest 10° 43'." Previous to this date there is only an observation of Mars on the 22nd October.
  11. Tycho's answer is printed in Danske Magazin, ii. p. 202, see also Rördain, Kjöbenhavns Universitets Historie, Copenhagen, 1872, vol. ii. p. 174.
  12. Here and in the following, English measures are always used. Tycho expresses all his measures in feet, of which one is 0.765 French foot=0.815 English foot, or in cubits of 16.1 English inches. See D'Arrest's paper on the ruins of Uraniborg in Astron. Nachrichten, No. 1718.
  13. On the figure on Braun's map (see above, p. 90 note) the four walls are perfectly straight, and the four arbours are in the middle of the flower-gardens. The semicircular bends were therefore later improvements.
  14. See letterpress on Braun's map. This cellar is one of the very few remnants now left of Tycho's buildings.
  15. The buildings and instruments are described in Epist. Astron., p. 218 et seq., and Astron. Inst. Mech., fol. H. 4 et seq. Some short Latin inscriptions, with which various places in the house were ornamented, are given in Resenii Inscriptiones Hafnienses (1668), p. 334, reprinted in Weistritz, i. p. 225.
  16. This well, from which the water could be pumped up and sent to the various rooms by concealed pipes, is still in existence.
  17. Astr. Inst. Mechanica, fol. G. The globe must have been quite finished about 1595; it is said to have cost Tycho about 5000 daler (Gassendi, p. 135).
  18. Young had been the first tutor to James VI., and became afterwards his almoner. He was several times in Denmark. Tycho had sent his little book about the new star to Buchanan, who thanked him for it in a letter dated Stirling, the 4th April 1575. In this letter Buchanan (who was then Lord Privy Seal) expresses his regret that he has not had leisure to finish his poem on the sphere (it was published after his death), and praises Tycho's book for having refuted popular errors. T. Brahei et ad eum Doct. Vir. Epist., p. 18.
  19. As specimens Tycho prints the poems on Ptolemy and Copernicus. Epist. Astron., pp. 239-240.
  20. There are a few meridian altitudes of Spica observed in April 1581, "per magnum instrumentum," which probably were also made with this quadrant.
  21. It is not stated where. I conclude from the description in Epistolæ Astron., p. 254, that these were two different pictures, and not one picture seen from two points of view, as one might almost conclude from Astr. Inst. Mech., fol. A.
  22. Astr. Inst. Mechanica, fol. C. 5 (north one) and D. (south one). The first observations, "per armillas astrolabicas," are from 1581. References to the descriptions and figures of the other instruments are given above in the text.
  23. This appears from the stone steps leading up to the crypt E., found in 1823, as we shall see in the Appendix. The above figure also shows that not only the roofs, but most of the walls of crypts D. and E. were above ground. The quadrant in the crypt D. was erected in December 1585, twelve months after Tycho had placed in position the stone on which the lower end of the axis of the instrument in crypt C. was supported. When he had built the three crypts, he perhaps regretted having sunk them in the earth, and therefore built the two new ones higher.
  24. In addition to this, Tycho possessed several other automata, which startled the peasants of the island, and made them believe him to be a sorcerer. Gassendi, p. 196.
  25. The number of steps in each crypt may be seen on the plan above. The floor of the crypt G (where the sextant was placed) was flat.
  26. This was placed either at H or at I, and served to measure declinations of stars near the horizon which could not be got at with the subterranean instruments. See Epist. Astron., p. 229.
  27. In 1577 Tycho had employed a smith at Heridsvad, but he was not able for the work. T. B. et Doct. Vir. Epist., p. 42.
  28. Friis, Tyge Brahe, pp. 80-81.
  29. Ibid., p. 96.
  30. Friis, Tyge Brahe, pp. 116-117.
  31. Ibid., p. 148.
  32. Anglice, the Three Wise Men of the East. The chapel is an excrescence on the south side of the cathedral, built in 1464. Among other royal tombs, that of Tycho's patron, Frederick II., is in this chapel.
  33. Royal letter, printed in Danske Magazin, ii. p. 203 (Weistritz, ii. p. 92.)
  34. Ibid., p. 204 (Weistritz, ii. p. 94).
  35. Danske Magazin, ii. p. 208 (Weistritz, ii. p. 100).
  36. E. C. Werlauff, De hellige tre Kongers Kapel i Roeskilde Domkirke (Copenhagen, 1849), p. 17.
  37. Danske Magazin, ii. p. 206 (Weistritz, ii. p. 97).
  38. Both letters to the lieutenant are printed in Danske Magazin, ii. pp. 211-212 (Weistritz, ii. p. 106).
  39. Letter to Tycho Brahe of March 29th, printed in Friis, Tyge Brahe, p. 114; letter to Valkendorf of same date, in Danske Magazin, ii. p. 217 (Weistritz, ii. p. 117).
  40. Friis, Tyge Brahe, p. 161.
  41. Letters of 11th September 1586 and 4th June 1587, printed in Danske Magazin, ii. pp. 244-245 (Weistritz, ii. p. 165-166), where is also a letter from Tycho to Niels Bilde, who doubtless then was lieutenant at Bergen, asking him to assist Christopher Pepler, formerly Tycho's steward at Nordfjord, to get payment for some money still due to him.
  42. Friis, p. 180; Danske Magazin, ii. p. 280 (Weistritz, ii. p. 228).
  43. Tycho in 1598 estimated the total cost of all his buildings and instruments at 75,000 daler (about £17,000). See below, Chapter X.