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Planisphere of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, in a late Roman version of Cicero's 'Aratea'

Planisphere of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, in a late Roman version of Cicero's 'Aratea'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 830

Shelfmark: Harley MS 647

Item number: f.21v

Length: 32

Width: 27.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Made in France, probably in Rheims, about 820-840, this manuscript has a copy of a famous illustrated poem, the 'Aratea', on the constellations and planets. Following the poem and pictures, it has excerpts on natural science subjects from works by Pliny and Macrobius. This manuscript is known to have been at St Augustine's monastery, in Canterbury, by the end of the 10th century. By that time, Anglo-Saxon interest in natural science, which can be seen three centuries earlier in Bede's writings, had gained widespread support by Anglo-Saxon ecclesiastics in their program to elevate the level of education for clergy and monks. Natural science was understood with the framework of Christian doctrine, although it represented a secular facet of their knowledge. The last page of the manuscript shows a copy of the 'planesphere' of Geruvigus, showing the positions of the constellations in the band of the zodiac which was believed to encircle all the planets in a perfect sphere. The scribe wishes his readers peace.

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