'On Birth' by Guido Bonatti, 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.
Guido Bonatti, a famous 13th-century Tuscan astrologer, wrote treatises on all aspects of the power of the stars over human events. This page begins the treatise 'On Birth', about the influence of the positions of the stars and planets at the time of birth over a person's destiny. It is illustrated at its beginning with a picture of a birth scene, a midwife presenting the newborn to the mother, who rests in a bed.