Astronomy and Astrology
Gazing upon the stars, trying make sense of them and to find order in the swirl of light is one humanity’s oldest pastimes, and manuscripts on astronomy and astrology, considered to be one and the same at the time, were among the most complex and beautiful of the European Middle Ages.
In the early and high Middle Ages, the main focus was on ancient mythology with the traditional constellations. The production of manuscripts concerned with the stars increased significantly from the 12th century onward and by the Late Middle Ages, works on astronomy and astrology were widespread and were being utilized by rich burghers and aristocrats alike for advice on daily life, for example, to look up the best time to build a house or travel.
Developing the skills to map the stars helped with the development of cartography and geography – two disciplines crucial to the Age of Exploration that developed at the end of the Middle Ages, when Europeans began sailing around the world looking for sea routes to access the spices and goods of the Far East.
These manuscripts distinguish themselves equally for their artistic refinement and their value as evidence of early scientific research and are among the most interesting examples of medieval book illumination.