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Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts

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Astrological treatises
Belgium, Bruges, early 15th century, in or before 1403
MS M.785 fol. 9v

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Second Decanus of Gemini in three zones:
1) Sphaera Persica:
Man, inscribed VIR AUREO CANENS CALAMO TERLBELES ARABICES, with pouch at waist, playing shawm beside tree, around which twines serpent, inscribed SERPENS UEL COLUBER ASCENDENS ARBOREM FUGIENS TERWELEM (sic) (Constellation: Hercules); headless animal with bat wings, inscribed MEDIUM CERASTIS (Astrological Sign: Cerastes); wolf, inscribed LUPUS ASSIGNATUS (Constellation: Lupus).
2) Sphaera Indica:
Man, inscribed VIR ETHIOPE CUIUS CAPUT UITRE RAPIENS EX ARBORE ET ORTO, wearing helmet and armor, with sword sheathed at waist, holding bow in right hand and object, possibly mirror or monstrance, in left hand, beside three trees, two with fruit, inscribed LIGNUM ODORIFERUM DE PARADYSO. Man, inscribed ORTOLANUS CUM LANCEA ET RAPA IN MANU DEXTRA (sic), with pouch at waist, holding spear in left hand, hoes ground beneath trees with hoe held in right hand (Astrological Sign: Vir Ethiops).
3) Sphaera Graeca:
Right hand, inscribed DEXTRA AURIGE MANUS (Constellation: Auriga); hindquarters of bull, inscribed POSTERIORA TAURI (Constellation: Taurus); Orion, inscribed CAPUT ORIONIS HUMERI MANUS PECTUS PES DEXTER, with left leg missing (Constellation: Orion); headless forequarters of rabbit, inscribed PECTUS LEPORIS (Constellation: Lepus).
The three registers correspond to three different astrological systems, the Persian, Indian, and Greek. The top register corresponds to the Sphaera Persica (also called the Sphaera Barbarica), the middle register to the Sphaera Indica, and the lower register to the Sphaera Graeca (the familiar Ptolemaic constellations). However, aesthetic concerns took precedence over strict adherence to this division. When there was a lack of space, figures from one sphere might be represented in the wrong register, and when there was empty space in a register, objects related to the astrological figures were added.

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