An Oxford academic’s 467-year-old astronomy book, which was the first ever to be written in English, has fetched £10,000 at auction.

The 'incredibly scarce' first edition of The Castle of Knowledge by Welshman Robert Recorde was found in an old box of books by antiques experts.

It was the first astronomical text to be published in English in 1556 and is believed to be the oldest surviving example of its kind in existence.

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The historical book - published before famous Italian astronomer Galileo was even born -.went under the hammer at Hansons Auctioneers today (Wed).

It sold for £10,000 to a private international buyer.

Oxford Mail: A 467-year-old astronomy book is up for action

Jim Spencer, head of books at Hansons, said: “I was thrilled to see the book achieve the price it deserved.

"It was an amazing discovery, the most important scientific text I've ever handled.

"It's the first astronomical treatise to be published in English.

“The book was printed 467 years ago, before many of the major astronomers had even been born, including Galileo (1564-1642), who’s described as the father of observational astronomy, Kepler, Huygens, Newton and Herschel.

“The vendor consigned a large box full of antiquarian books, and this one jumped out at me with its allegorical woodcut title page and charming illustrations.

"It felt special. A little research quickly revealed its significance and scarcity.

"The author, Robert Recorde, invented the equals sign, so the equation I proffer for this auction is: important book = big price.

“I could only find one other copy sold at auction. It fetched $90,000 (£74,200) at Bonhams in 2007.

"The same book previously sold at Sotheby’s in 1971. Admittedly our copy was not so well-preserved, but it was just incredibly rare." 

Experts say the book is important for three reasons including being the oldest surviving original English astronomy book, rather than a translation.

It is is one of the first English astronomy books to mention Polish astronomer Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres), and the heliocentric system.

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Oxford Mail: A 467-year-old astronomy book is up for action

Oxford Mail: A 467-year-old astronomy book is up for action

Oxford Mail: The 'incredibly scarce' first edition of The Castle of Knowledge by Oxford academic Robert Recorde

In addition, Recorde not only refers to ancient Greek philosopher Plato but also to fellow Greek philosopher Proclus, so had access to Neoplatonic source material.

Recorde was born around 1512 in Tenby, Pembrokeshire and studied at the University of Oxford in about 1525.

After choosing medicine as a profession, his studies continued at the University of Cambridge in 1545. He later returned to Oxford and taught mathematics

He also worked in London as physician to King Edward VI and Queen Mary, to whom some of his books are dedicated.

He was controller of the Royal Mint but after being sued for defamation by a political enemy, he was arrested for debt and died in the King's Bench Prison, Southwark, in 1558.