The Eagle and Dolphin, 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.
The collection includes the Tables of Alphonso, produced in 13th-century Spain under Alphonso X, well-known for his encouragement of astrology and knowledge of ancient treatises such as Ptolemy's 'Almagest' learned from Arab scholars. The tables give the locations of constellations at different times of the year. Most are arranged two per page, as on this one with Aquila (Eagle) and Delphin (Dolphin). Each constellation is depicted in a painting within the column of the table.