The book’s main aim is to show that many of Copernicus’ contemporaries did in fact read De Revolutionibus carefully, which the Gingerich does by hunting down as many first and second edition copies as he can (published in 1543 and 1566 respectively) and examining the notes the various readers left in the margins.
In Copernicus’ own introduction to De Revolutionibus, he wrote about his concern that his ideas about the mobility of the Earth would lead to his “being hissed off stage”. Gingerich adds in a foot-note:
Copernicus used the Latin word explodendum, which means “being hissed or clapped off the stage.” The Oxford English Dictionary confirms that this is also the original but now obsolete meaning of the English word explode, which did not pick up the modern meaning of “to blow up with a loud noise” until around 1700. Shakespeare never used the word despite its theatrical connotation, but his contemporary Kepler did, undoubtedly in an echo of Copernicus’ usage, when in the introduction to his Astronomia nova, he wrote (in Latin), “First, Ptolemy is certainly hissed off the stage.” Kepler may have been sensitized to the word by Galileo, who used it in his first letter to Kepler in 1597.(p. 135)
My elementary Lewis and Short gives the following definition for explodo:
explodo, si, sus, ere [ex+plaudo], to drive out, hiss away, hoot off… To reject, disapprove.
Cicero uses the word in a similar context, in his De Divinatione (Concerning Fortune-telling):
Explodatur haec quoque somniorum divinatio pariter cum ceteris.
This fortune-telling by means of dreams must also be hissed off stage, along with all the rest.
(De Divinatione II.48)