Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodl. 646

Astronomicon Facsimile Edition

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The codex includes Basinio de Parma's Astronomicon Libri II, the first astronomical poem of Italian Humanism. Written around 1455 at the court of Sigismondo Malatesta in Rimini, it is composed of Latin hexameters. In the manuscript tradition of the poem, MS Bodley 646 represents one of the most exquisite and fascinating examples with its thirty-eight illuminations of the zodiac constellations.

Back to the Classics

The Astronomicon returns to the Classics in the full spirit of the Renaissance, a phenomenon which in Rimini found its physical realization in the Malatesta Temple. Basinio carefully describes the structure of the cosmos, the constellations and their stars, the motion of the sun and the planets. The captions, written using red ink and capital letters, accompany the miniatures and offer the reader specific indications for the acknowledgment of each stellar group.

It is worth mentioning that the stars forming the constellations embody gold gildings. The parchment codex is composed of thirty-five folios plus two endpapers.

A Few Historical Notions on the Astronomicon

Commissioned by the English Count of Worcester John Tiptoft, the parchment codex was copied in Italy around 1460, with Tiptoft's emblem standing in the richly decorated frontispiece. During his permanence in the Italian peninsula, Tiptoft transcribed a series of works which he brought with him when he got back to England. This manuscript forms part of the cultural project promoted by Sigismondo Malatesta through patronage and sponsorship of the arts.

Basinio (1425-1457) died prematurely at the age of 32; educated between Mantova and Ferrara in Vittorino da Feltre and Guarino Veronese's humanistic libraries, he had the chance to come in contact with the aforementioned codex of Arato's astrological poem.

A One-of-a-Kind Astronomy Manuscript

Taking inspiration from classic examples, Basinio's short poem elegantly describes in two books the celestial sphere, zodiacal and extra-zodiacal constellations, movements of the five planets and the effects of the Lights (Sun and Moon).

Nevertheless, the codex denotes unusual features both when considered within Basinio poetic production or in the context of the rebirth of the fifteenth-century astrological poetry. The Astronomicon books embody an isolated example, destined not to have a continuation. This lack of a follow-up is due to the intention of the Parma's poet to provide an astronomical description of the sky not oriented according to any astrological-divinatory or geometric-mathematic parameter.

Following other events, Sir Richard Worsley donated the manuscript to the Bodelyan Library in the seventeenth century.

We have 1 facsimile edition of the manuscript "Astronomicon": Astronomicon. Manoscritto Bodley 646 facsimile edition, published by Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani, 2017

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Manuscript book description compiled by the publisher.
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Astronomicon. Manoscritto Bodley 646

Rome: Istituto dell'Enciclopedia Italiana - Treccani, 2017

  • Commentary (Italian) by Mariani Canova, Giordana; Frioli, Donatella; Chisena, Anna Gabriella
  • Limited Edition: 599 copies
  • Full-size color reproduction of the entire original document, Astronomicon: the facsimile attempts to replicate the look-and-feel and physical features of the original document; pages are trimmed according to the original format; the binding might not be consistent with the current document binding.

Facsimile and commentary volume issued in a green clamshell box.

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