Joseph Scaliger, reading the architecture of night.

Scaliger Vitruvius

Just past the oak-leaves of the historiated capital N, Joseph Scaliger quietly corrected accents in brownish ink, and wrote corrections in the margins of his 1552 edition of Vitruvius, De architectura libri decem, which is now Universiteitsbibliotheek Utrecht ex. AA qu 39. There are more interesting annotations, but I would like to set up a rather strained allusion about not having posted anything new in several months. The underlined (provindemiam, majorem) surfaces in the note to Astronomicon I, 318 from Scaliger’s second edition of Manilius.

After he described the seven-starred Plough (which the Greeks called ἄρκτος or ἑλίκη) swimming in the sky with its custodian behind, Vitruvius mentioned the nearby constellation Virgo, with Provindemia Major (προτρύγετος), an especially brilliant and colorful star, on its right shoulder. But ε-Virginis is really nothing that remarkable: at a distance of approximately 109.6 light-years from Earth, it has an apparent magnitude of only +2.826 (compare +0.98 for Spica), and a G8 III spectral type that shines with a yellowish-white light not unlike the color of the Sun.

Now known as Vindemiatrix, the heliacal rising of Provindemia occurred just before the vintage, when grapes were gathered from the vines. When he returned to this passage with his pen, Scaliger dropped the comma (in his commentary, he would drop majorem), corrected the Greek, and combined the two sentences, to properly end at Arcturus dicitur. For all of this, Scaliger confessed: Totus locus hodie mendosissime legitur, ne ab interprete quidem doctissimo intellectus. Ultimately, a line might be drawn from Arcturus to Spica just as easily, and the sapphire-blue Spica is far brighter, but nowhere near the right shoulder of Virgo. In any case, somebody else is probably thinking of Scaliger’s marginalia at the moment (this book was uploaded for a reason), but his annotations are beautiful enough to make note of. And I needed to post something. They made me keeper of vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept. There. That’s the last time I’ll quote something I don’t believe in. But it still makes good literature, and an apt metaphor for the act of not keeping up with a blog.