The visual display of planetary latitudes.

Although reprinted in black-and-white, a planetary graph of this type appears on page 28 of Edward Tufte’s Visual Display of Quantitative Information. Yesterday evening, while the first few snowflakes fell, I thought of writing a quick post on the eleventh-century Vatican Pal. lat. 1577 (fol.82v) to provide some context for this image, and a partial […]

Doppelmayr and the illustration of early modern physics.

During his long tenure at professor of mathematics in Nürnberg, Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr (1677-1750) translated the Astronomia Carolina of Thomas Streete into Latin, composed a book on sundials, wrote on spherical trigonometry, and rendered the sectors, calipers and scales of Nicolas Biot into German. He wast most famous for his celestial atlas, but also compiled […]

The half-redacted sphere of Pythagoras.

Over the passage of decades, layers of meaning and controversy can gather in manuscripts like accumulated seasons of fallen autumn leaves. At some point in the ninth century, a scribe in the Abbaye de Saint-Amand in the Foret de Vicoigne in far northern France copied a creed ascribed to St. Ambrose in tiny Carolingian minuscule […]

Johannes Trithemius and the orthographies of invention

Soon after Johannes Trithemius (1462-1516) arrived at the Schottenkloster in Würzburg, he was again expressly invited to join the company of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I (1459-1519) in Mainz and Cologne; his Polygraphiae was still in process. In his efforts to establish Trojan origins for the Hapsburgs, Trithemius managed to fabricate the existence of […]

Terminus: a copy and imperfect mirror.

  In his 1848 Gromatici Veteres (a title which makes me think of Nick Park’s stop-motion animation), Lachmann relied on the famous (and obviously ancient) Codex Acerianus. But he also used another manuscript from the former ducal library at Wolfenbüttel (Cod. Guelf.105 Gudianus Lat.) as a principal source, and relegated the collations of Vatican Pal. […]

Terminus: concedo nulli

The image above is from a lavish Carolingian manuscript ( fol.50v) made at Aachen c.825. The manuscript incorporates fragments of various Roman Agrimensores, or gromatic writers, including Frontinus and Siculus Flaccus, who wrote technical treatises on the rather complicated practice of surveying land in Rome. As a whole, the Latin of the fragments is quite […]

Galileo, the diagram, and the physical object

Around 1598-1600, Galileo Galilei composed a compact and elegant treatise on mechanics for his pupils at Padua; from fol.16r from his manuscript at the BCN Firenze, Ms.Gal.72, we have the simplest example I could think of to illustrate the contemporary tension between his diagrams and drawings. At the top right, we have a crosshatched cube […]

Radical departures from the text of Apollonius

 The symbol Rx, which we see on prescription slips from the physician’s office or in the windows of pharmacies, was once most commonly a brevigraph for recipere, which the third conjunction allows us to identify as the present infinitive of recipio, and which leads us to the countless quoted passages of things being taken back, […]

Visualizing the order of the world in Isidore of Seville

On folio 138r of Boulogne-sur-Mer Bibliothèque Municipale Ms.0001 (another edition of the tremendously popular Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville), we have a small illustration of his description of the Earth (XIV.2), dovetailed above the decorated A. In the manuscript, the passage reads: Orbis a rotunditae circuli dictus, quia sicut rotus est. Unde brevis ae(tiam) rotella, […]

Mapping the shadow of the earth.

In May, 1555, the Bohemian astronomer, mathematician and astrologer Cyprián Karásek Lvovický (c.1514-1574) dedicated this hybrid print/manuscript (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek Cod.icon 181) treatise on lunar eclipses through 1600 to Ferdinand I, King of Bohemia and Hungary, and future Holy Roman Emperor. It was based upon data established in the Prutenic Tables of Erasmus Reinhold. On fol. 36v […]

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