By Jewish scholars for the anti-king of the Holy Roman Empire: one of the most influential astronomical works of the Middle Ages with 50 full-page miniatures

Book of Fixed Stars of Alfonso the Wise

13th or 14th century

Book of Fixed Stars of Alfonso the Wise

Book of Fixed Stars of Alfonso the Wise

— 13th or 14th century

  1. One of the most influential astronomical works in Europe until the 16th century

  2. 50 whole-page astronomical miniatures with zodiac signs, animals, people, and mythical creatures

  3. The famous Alfonsine Tables, created by Jewish scholars patronized by King Alfonso X, the Wise (1221-84)

Tablas de las Constelaciones de Alfonso X el Sabio

Book of Drolleries - The Croy Hours

Orion

Here we see Orion, a mythological hunter associated with the constellation of the same name. He has the lagobolon, a cudgel used for hunting, held aloft in his right hand. Rather than showing him holding a lion’s hide, this 14th century Italian miniature shows him with a long left sleeve in the Turkish style and demonstrates other Oriental influences, which are most recognizable in the hilt of his hunting sword. Each star is numbered for identification in a key on the page facing it.

Book of Fixed Stars of Alfonso the Wise

Alternative Titles:
  • Tablas de las Constelaciones de Alfonso X el Sabio
  • Buch der Fixsterne Alfons’ X. des Weisen
  • Tables des Constellations d’Alphonse X le Sage
  • Tavola delle Costellazioni di Alfonso X il Saggio
  • Tábuas das Constelações de Afonso X o Sábio
Book of Fixed Stars of Alfonso the Wise – Ms. 78D12 – Kupferstichkabinett Staatliche Museen (Berlin, Germany)
Imageof
Price Category: €€€
Edition available
Price: Login here!
  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology

Short Description

The Book of Fixed Stars of the Castilian King, Alfonso X, is a central work of European astronomy. It contains the ground-breaking Alfonsine Tables, produced at the behest of Alfonso X (1221-84) “the Wise”, renowned as a royal patron of the sciences (especially astronomy) in the late 13th century. The improvements to Ptolemaic Cosmology, established by Jewish scholars in Toledo, became widespread throughout Europe and were decisive up until the 16th century. The manuscript from the Berliner Kupferstichkabinett illustrated the astronomical charts with wonderful miniatures, which were presumably finished in Italy in the 14th century.

Book of Fixed Stars of Alfonso the Wise

The Book of Fixed Stars of the Castilian King, Alfonso X, is a central work of European astronomy. It contains the ground-breaking Alfonsine Tables, produced at the behest of Alfonso X (1221-84) “the Wise”, renowned as a royal patron of the sciences (especially astronomy) in the late 13th century. The improvements to Ptolemaic Cosmology, established by Jewish scholars in Toledo, became widespread throughout Europe and were decisive up until the 16th century. The manuscript from the Berliner Kupferstichkabinett illustrated the astronomical charts with wonderful miniatures, which were presumably finished in Italy in the 14th century.

The Illustrated Edition of a Famous Astronomic Work

The comprehensive, 100-page manuscript is equipped with 50 extremely rich whole-page miniatures. Mysterious astronomical depictions, symbols of zodiac signs, animals, people, and mythical creatures illustrate the astronomical charts with calculations of their location in the sky. The explanatory miniatures are presented in bright colors, partly embellished with gold and silver, alongside the Latin text. The illuminated manuscript of the Alfonsine Tables from the Berliner Kupferstichkabinett offers the opportunity to delve into the birth of European astronomy, while at the same time enjoying miniatures of the highest quality.

Groundbreaking Work of European Astronomy

The basis of the manuscript was laid by Alfonso X, so named the Wise, King of Castile and Leon. Alfonso X was – as his byname betrays – well-known as a scientist. Thus he patronized many literary works, as well as composing poetic and scientific works himself. He founded a school for translation in Toledo, wherein texts from Arabic and Jewish scientists in Europe could be transcribed. The Castilian King is especially famous to this day as a patron of Astronomy. Between 1252 and 1270, he optimized the Ptolemaic Cosmology, which is known today as the Alfonso Tables. Ptolemaic Cosmology was made known to Alfonso X through Spain’s Moors. They are composed in a variety of tables for the calculation of the position of the Sun, Moon, and the five then-known Planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn). The state of this science of was improved upon through the sponsorship of the King. Thus, the Alfonsine Tables exhibit the special feature of being the very first European manuscript to mention the Andromeda-Galaxy, which was still unknown to Ptolemaic astronomy.

A Cross-Cultural Work

Alongside that, the charts were also influenced by al-Sufi (903-986) and his work The Book of Fixed Stars from ca. 964, which is the earliest illustrated book from the Islamic world. Two Jewish scholars from Toledo were responsible for the new Alfonsine Tables: Yehuda Den Mose and Isaac Ben Sid. Originally, the work was composed in Castilian, but a translation into Latin was made after that due to its grandiose reception in all of Europe. These charts were counted amongst the most influential astronomical works in Europe up to the 16th century. Testimony places this manuscript’s origins in 14th century Italy.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Tablas de las Constelaciones de Alfonso X el Sabio
Buch der Fixsterne Alfons’ X. des Weisen
Tables des Constellations d’Alphonse X le Sage
Tavola delle Costellazioni di Alfonso X il Saggio
Tábuas das Constelações de Afonso X o Sábio
Size / Format
100 pages / 38.0 x 24.0 cm
Date
13th or 14th century
Style
Gothic
Language
Illustrations
50 full-page miniatures illuminated in gold and silver
Tablas de las Constelaciones de Alfonso X el Sabio

Book of Fixed Stars of Alfonso the Wise

Sagittarius

This splendid Italian miniature is a testimony to the great and lasting impact King Alfonso X of Castile had as a student of the stars. Aside from containing the famous Alfonsine Tables and groundbreaking discoveries for astronomy, it also has marvelously artistic depictions of zodiac symbols associated with the original Ptolemaic constellations, such as this lovely depiction of Sagittarius.

Golden, eight-pointed stars in red medallions represent the constellation. The figure is depicted in detail, from his headband blowing in the wind to his strawberry blonde curls to the details of his pink tunic with blue shadows, which is trimmed with cloth of gold. Finally, the equine part of the figure rears aggressively as he shoots.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Book of Fixed Stars of Alfonso the Wise“

Tablas de las Constelaciones de Alfonso X el Sabio
Book of Fixed Stars of Alfonso the Wise – Ms. 78D12 – Kupferstichkabinett Staatliche Museen (Berlin, Germany)
Imageof

Tablas de las Constelaciones de Alfonso X el Sabio

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Patrimonio Ediciones – Valencia, 2006
Limited Edition
999 copies
Binding
Leather over wooden boards
Commentary
1 volume (268 pages) by Ana Dominguez Rodríguez, Pilar Treviño Gajardo and José Martinez Gázquez
Languages: English, German, Spanish
Price Category: €€€
Edition available
Price: Login here!
  1. Matching Works
  2. Matching Background Articles

Matching Works

Uranographia

Uranographia

An Early Modern bestseller: Johann Elert Bode's masterful star atlas

Experience More
The Codex of Astronomy and Astrology of King Wencelslaus

The Codex of Astronomy and Astrology of King Wencelslaus

Created at the magnificent court of King Wenceslas IV in Prague: a fascinatingly illuminated manuscript of astronomy and astrology in artistic perfection

Experience More

Matching Background Articles

Publisher