Book of Fixed Stars of Alfonso the Wise

Ms. 78D12 - Kupferstichkabinett Staatliche Museen (Berlin, Germany)

Alternate 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

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Codiology

Alternate 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

Type
Extent / Format

100 pages / 38.0 x 24.0 cm

Date
13th or 14th century
Style
Genre
Language
Patron

Maybe Alfonso X, the Wise (1221 - 1284), King of Castile, León and Galicia

Illustrations

50 full-page miniatures illuminated in gold and silver

Short description

The Book of Fixed Stars of the Castilian King, Alfonso X, is a central work of European Astronomy. It contains the game-changing Alfonsine Tables, which Alfonso X, with his byname of “the Wise”, gave forth as a royal patron of the sciences (especially astronomy) in the late 13th century. The improvements, established by Jewish scholars in Toledo to the Ptolemaic cosmology, were found 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 presumably were finished in Italy in the 14th century.

Facsimile editions available

Description

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 game-changing Alfonsine Tables, which Alfonso X, with his byname of “the Wise”, gave forth as a royal patron of the sciences (especially astronomy) in the late 13th century. The improvements, established by Jewish scholars in Toledo to thePtolemaic Cosmology, were found 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 presumably were finished in Italy in the 14th century.

The Illustrated Edition of a Well-Known Astronomic Work

The 100-paged, comprehensive 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 calculation to their location in the sky. In bright colors, partly even embroidered with gold and silver, the explanatory miniatures are provided along with the Latin text.

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 gave patronage to many literary works, as well as himself composing poetic and scientific works. In Toledo he founded a school for translation, wherein texts from Arabic and Jewish scientists in Europe could be understood. Especially known is that the Castilian King is even famed 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.
The Ptolemaic Cosmology was made known to Alfonso X through the Moors in Spain. The composed in a variety of table-catalogs the calculation of the position of the Sun, Moon, and the five then-known Planets (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn). Through the sponsorship of the King, this current stance of science of was brought in and improved upon. Thus the Alfonsine Tables exhibit the special feature of being the very first European manuscript to mention the Andromeda-Galaxy, which was even unknown to the Ptolemaic planetary system.
Alongside that, the charts were also influenced by as-Sufis (903-986) and his work *”The Book of Fixed Stars”** from the year 1009, which is the earliest illustrated book from Islam. For the new Alfonsine Charts, two Jewish scholars from Toledo were responsible; Yehuda Den Mose and Isaac Ben Sid. Originally the work was composed in Castilian. But after that, due to such a grandiose reception in all of Europe, a translation into Latin was made. Until the 16th century, these charts counted amongst the most influential astronomical works in Europe. Testimony places this manuscript as presumably originating from Italy in the 14th century.
The illustrated issue of the Alfonsine Charts 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.

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