Poeticon Astronomicon

Poeticon Astronomicon Facsimile Edition

Venice (Italy) — January 22, 1485

The constellations as we know them today: the only surviving source for many Greek myths and how they were placed in the starry sky by Ptolemy and others

  1. Debate continues as to whether Gaius Julius Hyginus (64 BC – AD 17) authored this ancient text on astronomy

  2. 15 centuries later, this edition was published on January 22nd, 1482 in the Venetian workshop of Erhard Ratdolt (1442–1528)

  3. 44 marvelous woodcuts show the stars overlaid on the image of each constellation

Poeticon Astronomicon

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Poeticon Astronomicon

Ancient astronomy was still upheld as the gold standard in the 15th century, and guided the efforts of Renaissance astronomers. This fine codex presents the knowledge of the ancients in a printed work that is adorned with detailed woodcuts, the work of a German printer in Venice.

Poeticon Astronomicon

This ancient astronomy text illustrates various constellations and represents the only surviving source on many related Greek myths, even if they are only transmitted in an abridged version. It consists of various constellations, including 47 of the 48 identified by Ptolemy (100–170). Also called De Astronomica, it was attributed to the Roman historian Gaius Julius Hyginus (64 BC – AD 17), sometimes called Cayo Julio Higinio as a nod to his possible Spanish origins. A freedman of the Emperor Augustus (63 BC – AD 14), he was a prolific author, writing on subjects ranging from topography to literary commentaries to beekeeping – all of which are now lost and are known only by reference. However, numerous indications call into question whether he was actually the author of the work at hand: the crude style and elementary mistakes in Latin and Greek in particular make it seem impossible that a writer as skilled as Hyginus could be responsible for it. Nonetheless, the text represents a unique historical source.

Astronomical Woodcuts

De Astronomica is adorned with 44 marvelous woodcuts in the present incunabulum, an early printed book originating from before 1501. It was published on January 22nd, 1482 in the Venetian workshop of the famous German printer Erhard Ratdolt (1442–1528). These woodcuts show the stars overlaid on the image of each constellation, even if these bear little resemblance to their actual position in the sky or their description in the text. However, even though these engravings are not particularly useful, they possess a great degree of artistry and served as a template for subsequent, more accurate, sky atlases.

Codicology

Size / Format
120 pages / 23.5 × 17.0 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
January 22, 1485
Language
Illustrations
44 woodcuts of constellations, several decorated initials
Content
Treatise on astronomy
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Poeticon Astronomicon – 3400 – Biblioteca Municipal Serrano Morales (Valencia, Spain) Facsimile Edition
Vicent Garcia Editores – Valencia, 1993
Limited Edition: 3160 copies
Detail Picture

Poeticon Astronomicon

Andromeda

In Greek mythology, Andromeda is the daughter of King Cepheus of Aethiopia, and his wife, Cassiopeia. When Cassiopeia boasts that she is more beautiful than the Nereids or sea nymphs, Poseidon sends the sea monster Cetus to ravage the coast of Aethiopia as divine punishment. Andromeda is chained to a rock as a sacrifice to sate the monster, but is saved from death by Perseus, who marries her and takes her to Greece to reign as his queen. She is depicted here tied to two trees instead of a rock.

Poeticon Astronomicon
Single Page

Poeticon Astronomicon

Mars

Seated on a four-wheeled chariot drawn by two galloping horses, Mars, the Roman god of war, wears an armored breastplate, helmet, cape, and holds a sword. The woodcut “Q” and “R” initials preceding the accompanying texts are adorned with filigree tendrils, and the paragraphs have been formatted to have straight, clean margins.

The most interesting detail of this woodcut is the wheels: the front has the symbol of Aries, the rear Scorpio. Mars rules over the Aries, the first astrological sign of the Zodiac and symbol of the Golden Fleece. When the Emperor Augustus built a new forum, he made the Temple to Mars Ultor the centerpiece. It was dedicated on May 12 in alignment with the heliacal setting of the constellation Scorpio, the sign of war.

Poeticon Astronomicon
Facsimile Editions

#1 Poeticon Astronomicon

Vicent Garcia Editores – Valencia, 1993
Poeticon Astronomicon – 3400 – Biblioteca Municipal Serrano Morales (Valencia, Spain) Facsimile Edition
Poeticon Astronomicon – 3400 – Biblioteca Municipal Serrano Morales (Valencia, Spain) Facsimile Edition Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Vicent Garcia Editores – Valencia, 1993
Limited Edition: 3160 copies
Binding: Parchment on wooden board. The facsimile edition comes in a cloth-lined presentation case with gold engraved leather spine.
Commentary: 1 volume by Francisco Calero
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.
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