Books  General Natural History  History of Science 

Illustrating the Phaenomena: Celestial Cartography in Antiquity and the Middle Ages

By: Elly Dekker

456 pages, 16 colour plates, 170 b/w illustrations

Oxford University Press

Hardback | Oct 2012 | #197729 | ISBN-13: 9780199609697
Availability: Usually dispatched within 6 days Details
NHBS Price: £75.00 $97/€82 approx

About this book

The introduction of the moving sphere as a model for understanding the celestial phenomena caused a great breakthrough in scientific thinking about the structure of the world. It provided the momentum for making celestial globes and mapping the stars. Celestial globes were produced first by Greek astronomers, and soon became greatly appreciated in antiquity as decorative objects (3 antique globes). The design and construction of the globe varied greatly as it passed through the Arabic (10 scientific globes made before 1500) and Medieval European cultures (3 scientific globes made before 1500). It was the starting-point for the design of many maps in antiquity and later in the Middle Ages (33) serving to illustrate books such as Aratus's Phaenomena. In the early fifteenth century scientific celestial maps (5) were constructed in their own right, independent of globes. In this book all extant celestial maps and globes made before 1500 are described and analysed in detail. This prestigious study will appeal to academic historians of science and astronomy, and art historians alike.

"Behold! An astonishingly thorough account of how observers from ancient Greece to fifteenth-century Vienna and Nuremberg envisioned the star patterns. It is hard to imagine that any celestial globe or manuscript from this period has escaped Elly Dekker's meticulous sleuthing and analysis. The result is this admirable and beautifully illustrated tour de force of scholarship."
- Owen Gingerich, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics


1: Preliminaries
2: Celestial Globes in Antiquity
3: The descriptive tradition in the Middle Ages
4: Islamic celestial cartography
5: The mathematical tradition in medieval Europe
6: Epilogue

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Elly Dekker is an independent scholar studying the history of astronomy and of scientific instruments. She was awarded the Sackler Fellowship and the Caird medal for cataloguing the collection of globes and armillary spheres of the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich.

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