Astronomical Images : Horizon

Johannes Sacrobosco

Astronomical Images

<p style='text-align: justify;'>Very little is known about Johannes Sacrobosco except that he was probably British, taught astronomy at Paris University, and died there in the second quarter of the thirteenth century. <i>Sphaera mundi</i>, his major work, was an extraordinarily popular astronomical textbook for several generations. Manuscripts of it circulated through all the main European centres of learning. It was first published in 1472 in Ferrara, and went through dozens of editions up to the mid-seventeenth century. This image is taken from an edition of Sacrobosco's <i>Sphaera</i> that was supplemented by a commentary by Jacobus Faber Stapulensis (Jacques Lefèvre d'Etaples, c. 1460-1536), an important theologian, philosopher, humanist and metaphysician. A commentary by Faber on Sacrobosco was first published at Venice in 1499, and went through several subsequent editions. In this edition, Sacrobosco's text with commentary was accompanied by <i>Annulus astronomicus</i> by the fifteenth-century physician, Bonet de Lates (a Jew from Provence and astrologer to Pope Alexander VI), and a summary of Euclid's <i>Elements</i> by Boethius. The woodcut here is used illustrate the horizon, as the legends indicate, but also incorporates a traditional cosmological diagram: the region of the Elements is represented in the centre, with Earth surrounded by the regions of Water, Air and Fire, followed by seven spheres for the planets, the sphere of the fixed stars indicated by the zodiac signs and one outer circle (usually called the 'Empyrean').</p>


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