Astronomical Images : Frontispiece with geographers and astronomers

William Cuningham

Astronomical Images

<p style='text-align: justify;'>William Cuningham (1531 ' after 1586) was a Norwich-born physician, educated at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. His <i>magnum opus</i>, <i>The Cosmographical Glasse</i>, was published in 1559 by John Day (1522-84). In it, Cuningham discussed many aspects of practical mathematics and surveying in particular. He promoted the use of instruments including the quadrant and Ptolemy's rulers. The text and images combined elements derived from the works of Peter Apian and Oronce Fine, as well as those of the English mathematician, Robert Recorde. The author gratefully recognised Day's skill and expense in producing the many images in the work. Cuningham also produced a series of almanacs and prognostications during his career, for which he was heavily criticised in William Fulke's <i>Antiprognosticon</i> (London, 1560). The title-page, cut by John Bettes, shows four groups comprising ancient authorities and various personifications. Several of the figures hold astronomical instruments. Firstly, there is a group representing the planets. At the top left: Jupiter with a mirror reflecting the Sun; top centre (within the lunette): the personification of Time as a satyr, evoking Saturn, alongside three human figures representing the three stages of life; and top right: Venus and Mars with a mirror reflecting the Moon. Below this group are found six ancient geographers or cosmographers. In the centre can be seen 'King' Ptolemy, crowned, and his predecessor, Marinus of Tyre, who is using a pair of compasses. Between them is a terrestrial globe showing Africa and Asia and the Latin inscription '<i>Virescit vulnere veritas</i>' [Truth, when wounded, flourishes]. Beneath Marinus, to the right, Strabo is shown producing a map of Britain, and below him, Polybius, using a cross-staff. To the left of Ptolemy is Aratus, and beneath him, Hipparchus, using a quadrant. Below the ancients are shown four female figures, representing the <i>quadrivium</i> (the four mathematical sciences): Astronomy with an armillary sphere; Music with a lute and music book; Geometry with a rule, set square and pair of compasses; and Arithmetic with a tablet of numbers. At the bottom in the centre is Mercury. To Mercury's left is Virgo and to his right, Gemini. According to Cuningham's text, the city of London (where this book was printed) was subject to the planet Mercury and the sign Gemini, whilst Heidelberg (where Cuningham studied for his doctorate) was ruled over by Mercury and Virgo (p. 134).</p>

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