Alpharino's Treatise on Geomancy, in a Collection of Astronomical Treatises and Tables
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
Believed to have been made for presentation to Henry VII, this manuscript contains astrological tables and treatises along with some other texts. A team of three artists created its decoration, varying with first- and second-rate renditions of later 15th century English painting and highly skilled work in Flemish style. An inscription on one of the pages gives the date of completion (30 June 1490) and the name Johannes Wellys, thought to be the scribe. Henry VII was the earliest English king known to have a library. A luxury illustrated book on astrology would have been desirable for a king because the stars were believed to exert powerful influences upon human character and affairs.
Astrology overlapped into the occult and alchemy, with variations such as geomancy, which was a kind of short-hand, low-tech astrology. It was done by drawing a series of dots on the earth or parchment and then applying complex astrological calculations to them in order to make predictions. Nonetheless, kings and other men in charge paid geomancers for their advice. The coloured discs on this page present geomancy patterns in gold. The author of the treatise, originally written in Hebrew, is identified as Alpharino.