The influence of zodiac signs on people: one of the most famous codices from the rich Biblioteca Estense Universitaria in Modena

Liber Physiognomiae

Padua / Ferrara (Italy) — 1440

Liber Physiognomiae

Liber Physiognomiae

Padua / Ferrara (Italy) — 1440

  1. This exquisitely-illuminated manuscript is concerned with astrology and medicine in the Middle Ages

  2. Positive and negative character traits associated with the various zodiac signs are described in detail

  3. The days of the week, the seasons, zodiac signs, and the influence of planets and moon are also addressed

Liber Physiognomiae

Liber Physiognomiae

Leo

Each page dedicated to a zodiac symbol has a bas-de-page miniature, a lovely pen and ink watercolor drawing created with a masterful hand. Holding a Globus in his right hand, the personification of Leo is shown as a crowned king sitting in flowing robes on a wheeled throne and flanked by two lions. The two other figures are dressed as young nobles with the young man on the left being particularly fashionable, wearing a garish red hat, tights, and boots.

Liber Physiognomiae

Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
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  1. Short Description
  2. Codicology
Short Description

The Liber Physiognomiae is an Italian codex from ca. 1440. The author of the work remains unknown to this day. The exquisitely-illuminated manuscript is concerned with astrology and medicine in the Middle Ages and contains gorgeous pictures of watercolors.

Liber Physiognomiae

The so-called Liber Physiognomiae is a collected volume dealing with the astrology and medicine of the Middle Ages. The hand-written text contains 72 lavishly illustrated pages, which are divided into various thematic areas. The book contains an astrolabe, this astronomical instrument consists of two concentric discs equipped with pointers, which turn within two outer circles divided into 360 degrees. The signs of the zodiac and the months of the year are displayed on these fixed circles. The interesting and insightful work belongs among the most beloved codices of the famous Biblioteca Estense Universitaria in Modena.

The Beginnings of Humanism in Italy

The Liber Physiognomiae was used in 15th century Italy as an instrument for the interpretation of the future. The positive and negative character traits associated with the various zodiac signs are described in the astrological manuscript. Other articles deal with the individual days of the week, the four seasons, the zodiac and its planets, as well as the influence of the moon and the tables depicting the months of the year. In the middle and closing sections of the work there is a commentary on the works of Pythagoras. A particularly interesting passage addresses a biblical story about the dreams of the prophet Daniel. Here, astrological symbols were combined with traditional elements from the interpretation of dreams. The medicinal advice of Pietro d’Abano is also interesting. The manuscript delightfully documents the transition from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance, from faith and superstition to science and research.

Superb Painting

The pages of the precious manuscript show high-quality depictions in dreamy watercolors. The pictures are reminiscent of the painting style of the artist Antonio Pisanello. However, it has never been clarified whether Pisanello was actually the creator of the manuscript. The Margrave of Ferrara, Leonello d’Este, is believed to be the patron. The ruling House of Este was one of the richest noble families in Italy and produced some of the greatest art patrons of the Renaissance.

Codicology
Size / Format
72 pages / 29.3 × 21.5 cm
Date
1440
Language
Illustrations
72 richly illuminated pages, two sheets with flat astrolabes, and movable hands for finding one's horoscope
Artist / School
Liber Physiognomiae

Liber Physiognomiae

Astrolabe

This astrolabe is the most important feature of this manuscript because it is the instrument used for interpreting the future. It consists of two concentric discs with pointers, which are in turn placed within two circles divided into 360 degrees. These fixed circles display the signs of the zodiac and corresponding months of the year in neatly-written black and red ink.

Despite its generally secular character, the Renaissance was a period during which the line between superstition and science was blurred as scholars sought all-encompassing knowledge – a universal truth. Although the page itself is only a tattered fragment, its most important elements have survived in miraculously good condition, including the sun’s shimmering gold leaf.

1 available facsimile edition(s) of „Liber Physiognomiae“

Liber Physiognomiae Facsimile

Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
Liber Physiognomiae – Ms. Lat. 697 = α.W.8.20 – Biblioteca Estense Universitaria (Modena, Italy)
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Liber Physiognomiae Facsimile

1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size)
Publisher
Il Bulino, edizioni d'arte – Modena, 2000
Limited Edition
999 copies
Binding
Full leather with clamshell case
Commentary
1 volume (126 pages) by Daniele Bini, Paola Di Pietro Lombardi, and Leandro Ventura
Languages: English, Italian, German, Spanish
More Information
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: € (under 1,000€)
Edition available
Please ask for a quote!
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