Astronomicon – Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani – MS. Bodl. 646 – Bodleian Library (Oxford, United Kingdom)

Padua (Italy) — Ca. 1460

A manuscript as a luminous mirror for the beauty of the cosmos: the first astronomical poem of Italian humanism with gorgeous illuminations commissioned by a learned English count

  1. Basinio da Parma (1425-57) published a work in 1455 describing the cosmos in detail

  2. It was copied ca. 1460 at the behest of the English scholar and Earl of Worcester John Tiptoft (1427-70)

  3. The Tiptoft Master furnished the work with 38 miniatures of constellations and diagrams of the cosmos


  1. Description
  2. Facsimile Editions (1)

Poems dedicated to the cosmos are a tradition that goes back to classical antiquity, and it was this tradition that the Italian humanist and poet Basinio da Parma (1425-57) was working when he wrote his Astronomicon. Published in 1455 while he was living and working at the court of the Malatesta family in Rimini, the work was copied ca. 1460 by Angelo Aquilano. It was then transformed into a beautifully illuminated manuscript by the so-called Tiptoft Master, who furnished the codex with 38 miniatures of constellations and celestial diagrams at the behest of the English scholar and Earl of Worcester John Tiptoft (1427-70).


Before dying prematurely at the age of 32, Basinio da Parma (1425-57) was an Italian humanist and poet who authored several important works that have survived to the present including his Astronomicon. Composed while he was living at the court of the Malatesta family in Rimini**, his work was first published in 1455. Basinio da Parma wrote the first astronomical poem of Italian Humanism in the tradition of other Astronomicon texts from ancient Rome; similar astronomical poems written by Marcus Manilius and Gaius Julius Hyginus had been rediscovered in recent decades. The manuscript known as Bodley 646 is one of the finest and most fascinating specimens of the Latin hexameter work, which describes in detail the structure of the cosmos, the constellations and their stars, and the motions of the Sun and the planets.

The Commission of an English Earl

The codex was copied by Angelo Aquilano (who is identified in the manuscript) ca. 1460 at the behest of the English scholar and Earl of Worcester John Tiptoft (1427-70), who had a number of works transcribed during his stay that were then brought back with him to England in 1461 after his two-year sojourn in Italy. The 38 miniatures of constellations in the text are clearly based on models from antiquity and are the work of the Tiptoft Master. Constellations are brightly colored and surrounded by gold leaf stars while other miniatures include two celestial diagrams containing the description of the heavens and the planets as well as a diagram of the celestial circles. A magnificent frontispiece introduces the work showing the title and author of the work in capital letters written in gold ink. A palm tree grows behind the inscription, which is held up by two cherubs flanked by red amphorae, out of which grows a garland arch. All of this rests on a marble plinth in the center of which are placed the coat of arms and the crest of John Tiptoft. The manuscript was later donated by Sir Richard Worsley to the Bodleian Library in the 17th century.


Alternative Titles
Astronomicon Libri
Astronomicon. Manoscritto Bodley 646
Size / Format
70 pages / 18.9 × 12.1 cm
Ca. 1460
38 miniatures of zodiac signs and constellations; 2 astronomical diagrams
Astronomicon by Basinio de' Basini of Parma
John Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Sir Richard Worsley

Available facsimile editions:
Astronomicon – Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani – MS. Bodl. 646 – Bodleian Library (Oxford, United Kingdom)
Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani – Rome, 2017
Limited Edition: 599 copies
Facsimile Editions

#1 Astronomicon. Manoscritto Bodley 646

Limited Edition: 599 copies
Commentary: 1 volume by Giordana Mariani Canova, Donatella Frioli, and Anna Gabriella Chisena
Language: Italian
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
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