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Christian Works : Hie fahet an ey[n] bůch vo[n] der astronomie[n]

Beham, Lazarus active 15th century, Regiomontanus, Joannes 1436-1476

Christian Works

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This was a widely used basic textbook of astronomy, with tables giving the predicted positions of the heavenly bodies from 1477 to 1537. These positions were calculated by Johannes Müller, known as Regiomontanus (1436–1476) and originally printed in 1474 on the press which he set up in his house in Nuremberg: the first scientific publishing house.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The printer of the University Library’s Cologne edition, Nicolaus Götz, was not alone in recognizing the market potential of the <i>Kalendarium</i>, an essential tool for astrologers: at least nine editions were printed before 1500. Nor was he the only one to struggle with the technical difficulties that it presented. The tables of planetary positions required an unusually large stock of type for the tables of numbers (one printer abandoned typographic printing and carved the tables on woodblocks); and diagrams for the eclipse predictions were required. More difficult still was the manufacture of two paper instruments with moving parts included in the book. These are used to make the necessary calculations for the use of the tables.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The woodcut eclipse diagrams in the Götz edition are very crude, and we may speculate that Götz did not have access to a block cutter skilful enough to produce the fine lines needed for the instruments. His solution was to print them from intaglio plates, probably engraved by a local scientific instrument maker. This is the first known use of engraving for a scientific diagram in a book. An edition of Boccaccio printed at Bruges in the same year is celebrated as the first book to contain figurative engravings.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>It was probably another edition of the <i>Kalendarium</i> that got Columbus out of trouble in 1504. Shipwrecked on Jamaica, his raping and pillaging crew upset the native inhabitants to the point that they refused to continue to supply the ship with food. Columbus knew from his <i>Kalendarium</i> that there would be a full eclipse of the moon and he told the village elders that if they did not co-operate, God would make the moon disappear from the sky on the following night. When the moon rose and then gradually disappeared, the terrified villagers begged Columbus to intercede on their behalf. The moon was restored to the sky, and Columbus had no further problems with supplies before he was rescued by another Spanish ship.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Roger Gaskell</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>This book is on display in the exhibition <b>Haute Lecture by Colard Mansion. Innovating text and image in medieval Bruges</b> at the Groeningemuseum, Bruges, from 1 March to 3 June 2018.</p>

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