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The Constellation Of Perseus, In A Scientific Textbook

The Constellation Of Perseus, In A Scientific Textbook

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1122

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Tiberius C I

Item number: f.22v

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

The 16th-century English bibliophile, Robert Cotton, sometimes bound together unrelated manuscripts. This one contains a fragment of an early 12th-century English scientific textbook from Peterborough and an 11th-century pontifical (manual of services conducted by a bishop), part of which was probably made in France but to which additions were made at Sherborne Abbey in Dorset. The scientific textbook comes from two types of sources. First, an early medieval natural science tradition began in the treatises of Isidore of Seville and Bede, and was later expanded at Fleury, most notably by Abbo of Fleury, who lived at Ramsey in the 10th century. The second part of it is a copy of a late Roman version of Cicero's latin translation of the poem by the Greek writer Aratus on the constellations, known as the 'Aratea' and which probably had a long tradition of illustration.Monks and churchmen used the textbook in their theological training. Annals in another part of the book giving the death dates of Peterborough abbots and the handwriting's similarity to that of the Peterborough Chronicle (at the Bodleian Library, Oxford) place the manuscript's origin at that monastery. This illustration depicts the constellation of Perseus, the mythological hero, who, with a helmet given to him by Pluto, and wings on his feet given to him by Mercury, was able to behead the gorgon Medusa. In this drawing Perseus has wings on his head as well as his feet, and Medusa's head in one hand. The text written within the figure was a later addition to Cicero's translation and was always written within the pictures, which usually were not outlined. This copy of the 'Aratea' differs from earlier manuscripts only in the outlined figures and the use of lower-case letters instead of Roman-style capitals for the inscription.

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