For Coffee With A Codex on November 29 we took at look at LJS 490, a German astronomical compendium written in the mid-fifteenth century. Cities in the Baden-Württemberg region of Germany are mentioned frequently, which probably means that it was written there, or written to be used there. The style – many short texts written by multiple hands in a somewhat disorganized manner – suggests that it may have been the work of students.
The manuscript includes a variety of different texts, many of them unidentified, but they tend to focus on three different main types of texts: Tables about locations of astronomical objects, treatises on astronomical instruments, and treatises on other scientific subjects.
The script is a typical 15th century Gothic cursive, written by at least three different hands. Many of the pages, particularly early in the book, have occasional rubrication in a bright red ink. There are many diagrams illustrating either astronomical events or how to use some different relevant instruments – astrolabes, quadrants, and sundials. There are also occasional marginal drawings that are less formal.
The texts are presented in an organization that seems somewhat piecemeal, as though the book wasn’t planned out before the scribe started writing. For example, there are separate sections on astrolabes on folios 17r-22r, 29r-33v, 43r-49r, interspersed with shorter texts on such varied topics as a table of fixed stars, practical geometry, the use of the quadrant and the Jacob’s staff. It is likely that the book was used as a practical school text.
Find out more about LJS 490 by viewing the digitized version and reading the full catalog records on BiblioPhilly.
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