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Pisces from the 'Aratea,' in a Scientific Miscellany

Pisces from the 'Aratea,' in a Scientific Miscellany

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1040

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Tiberius B V

Item number: f.33v

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

While the Anglo-Saxons understood natural science within a framework of Christian doctrine, it represented a secular facet of their knowledge. This manuscript contains a calendar, a map of the world, astronomical materials, and a 'Marvels of the East' (on the strange inhabitants of other parts of the world). Written in Old English and Latin, it is one of the most lavishly illustrated secular books of the early middle ages. Nonetheless, its origins are not easily determined. Its features point to Canterbury, Winchester and Gloucester, with current opinion supporting Christ Church, Canterbury. How it was used is unknown: it is so unique nothing compares with it. In the 12th century it belonged to the library of Battle Abbey. One of the sections of the manuscript is made up of a poetic treatise on the stars and planets called the 'Aratea,' which is a late Roman version of Cicero's latin translation of the Greek writer Aratus' poem on the constellations. The 'Aratea' had a long tradition of illustration. This page presents the verses on Pisces, which are at the bottom of the page. The writing at the top, over the not very lively fish, is a later addition to Cicero's translation which gives legend and lore about the sign represented.

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