Lapidary of Alfonso X the Wise

Lapidary of Alfonso X the Wise Facsimile Edition

Spain — 1253

Astrology commissioned by the Spanish king Alfonso the Wise: the healing effects of stones and gems in luminous miniatures

  1. King Alfonso X of Castile (1221–1284) earned his epithet ‘the Wise’ because of his enthusiasm for the arts and sciences

  2. His treatise addresses the magical and medical effects of gems and stones in connection with astrology

  3. Originating ca. 1253, it contains luminous miniatures, historiated initials, and astrological tables

Lapidary of Alfonso X the Wise

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Lapidary of Alfonso X the Wise

King Alfonso X of Castile earned his epithet ‘the Wise’ because of his enthusiasm for the arts and sciences. A special testimonial to his fame as a scholar can be found in the manuscript from 1253 known as the Lapidary of Alfonso X the Wise. This treatise commissioned by the King is concerned with the magical and medical importance and effect of gems and other stones in connection with astrology. The gorgeous manuscript in El Escorial presents this work adorned with exuberant splendor!

Lapidary of Alfonso X the Wise

Zodiac signs, constellations, heavenly bodies and their movements: the science of astrology was an ambitiously practiced field of research. Theories both new and forgotten were thought out and investigated with respect to ancient authors before they were finally recorded in precious manuscripts. The connection with minerology was a particular area of this work with astrological phenomena. In the so-called lapidaries – scientific treatises on this theme – the importance and effect of stones and gems and their relationship to astrology was recorded. This lapidary was among a number of works that Alfonso had translated from Arabic and Hebrew into Latin and Castilian by Yehuda ben Moshe, a Rabbi, astronomer, and personal physician to the King.

The Learned King as Author

Even King Alfonso the Wise occupied himself with this field of research lying between astrology and the natural sciences. The Castilian King Alfonso X (1221–1284) earned his epithet because of his fame as a scholar. He was an enthusiastic scholar and poet, who came into contact with numerous new fields of knowledge through the Moors in particular. Alfonso X not only founded a school for translators in Toledo and was a patron of art and science, but was also himself the author of a few papers and books. As a result, his thematic areas ranged from history, cosmology, and philosophy to astronomy and mathematics.

A Gorgeous Manuscript between Art and Science

The manuscript with the Lapidary of Alfonso X the Wise originated in 1253. Having said this, the impressive parchment manuscript amazes not only with of its substantial scholarly content, but also with its exceptionally beautiful artistic design. The exuberant illumination consists of luminously colorful miniatures, which visualize the theories in gorgeously ornamental depictions, e.g. with astrological tables. Additionally, artful historiated initials can be found with gorgeous scenic depictions, and at the beginning of the manuscript, there is a miniature of its presentation to the King.


Alternative Titles
Primer Lapidario del Rey Alfonso X El Sabio
Lapidarium von König Alfons des Weisen
Lapidario del Rey Alfonso X
Size / Format
94 pages / 40.2 × 29.1 cm
Gothic Textura Quadrata Gothic Textura Rotunda Gothic Textura Semiquadrata
638 colorful miniatures and initial letters
A summa of Greek, Hellenistic and Arabic treatises probably compiled by the royal physician and prominent astronomer Yehuda ben Moshe
Previous Owners
King Philip II of Spain (1527–1598)
Don Diego de Mendoza

Available facsimile editions:
Lapidary of Alfonso X the Wise – ms. H. I. 15 – Real Biblioteca del Monasterio (San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain) Facsimile Edition
Edilan – Madrid, 1982
Limited Edition: 1500 copies
Detail Picture

Lapidary of Alfonso X the Wise

Attending a Lecture

The outer wall of a Gothic building with pointed arches has been removed to reveal a room with columns adorned with gold leaf, which is full of students sitting on the ground and packed shoulder to shoulder. Each holds a closed book and rests their heads on their hands as they listen intently. The varying hats they wear indicates that the audience is composed of Christians, Jews, and Muslims. Seated on a throne, the instructor holds an open book in his left hand while gesturing with his right.

Lapidario de Alfonso X el Sabio
Single Page

Lapidary of Alfonso X the Wise


The purpose of this astrological lapidary is to establish a connection between various zodiac signs and gemstones that were believed to have medical applications. Therefore, each page displaying a different zodiac sign shows people mining for the precious and semi-precious gemstones whose effects are supposedly supplemented during the “reign” of that sign.

Aries, whose symbol is the ram, is the first sign of the zodiac and begins with the March equinox. Although the diamond is most closely associated with Aries, it was also believed that topaz, sapphire, jasper, bloodstone, aquamarine, clear quartz, amethyst, and aventurine would be positively affected by this fire sign and would have been collected by the wealthy who were born under it.

Lapidario de Alfonso X el Sabio
Facsimile Editions

#1 Lapidario de Alfonso X el Sabio

Edilan – Madrid, 1982

Publisher: Edilan – Madrid, 1982
Limited Edition: 1500 copies
Binding: Brown suede leather
Commentary: 1 volume (256 pages) by Jose Luis Amorós Portolés and Ana Domínguez Rodríguez
Language: Spanish
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: €€€ (3,000€ - 7,000€)
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