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Aquarius, from Hygenus's 'Poetical Astronomy', in a Collection of Natural Science and Historical Writings

Aquarius, from Hygenus's 'Poetical Astronomy', in a Collection of Natural Science and Historical Writings

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1200

Shelfmark: Royal MS 12 C IV

Item number: f. 24v

Length: 21.5

Width: 15.3

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

In the middle ages, natural science included the physical world, planets, stars and heavens. It could include descriptions of exotic peoples and distant regions, lore on animals and astrological treatises. A component of the knowledge maintained and studied by monks, natural science treatises represent a significant subject category in their libraries. This manuscript contains writings on the heavens--often with a mythological spin--and historical material on foreign peoples. It belonged to the priory of Rochester cathedral.

In this manuscript, the 'Poeta Astronomica' by the Roman mythologist Hyginus, was copied in a peculiar way. Its first thirty pages are written in two columns, the outer one in small handwriting, which makes it resemble commentaries which were sometimes placed alongside the main text. What the outer column contains, however, is a large portion of the text which should be inserted on page 12. The second column on this page has a discussion of the constellation Aquarius, giving the number of stars in each of its parts and when it appears in the sky.

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