1st Edition

The Revival of Planetary Astronomy in Carolingian and Post-Carolingian Europe

By Bruce S. Eastwood Copyright 2002

    This title was first published in 2002: Before the introduction of Greco-Arabic mathematical astronomy in the 12th century, what astronomy was there in the medieval West? While we know of developments in computus, which calculated with solar and lunar cycles to create Christian calendars, and in monastic time-telling by the stars, was anything known of the five planets? Using glosses, commentaries, and diagrams to the early manuscripts of four classical Latin authors - Pliny, Macrobius, Martianus Capella, and Calcidius - Bruce Eastwood provides evidence for the extensive development of the sixth liberal art, astronomy, from the time of Charlemagne forward, with a particular focus on the diagrams used and invented by Carolingian and later scholars. Learning to understand the motions of planets in terms of spatial, or geometrical, arrangement, they mined these Roman writings for astronomical and cosmological doctrines, in the process not only absorbing but also creating models of planetary motions. What they accomplished over three centuries was to establish a basic set of models that showed the reasoned order of the planets in the heavens.

    Contents: Introduction; Astronomy in Christian Latin Europe, c.500-c.1150; Plinian astronomy in the Middle Ages and Renaissance; Plinian astronomical diagrams in the early Middle Ages; Origins and contents of the Leiden planetary configuration (ms. Voss. Q.79, f. 93v): an artistic astronomical schema of the early Middle Ages; The astronomy of Macrobius in Carolingian Europe: Dungal's letter of 811 to Charles the Great; The astronomies of Pliny, Martianus Capella, and Isidore of Seville in the Carolingian world; Astronomical images and planetary theory in Carolingian studies of Martianus Capella; Plato and circumsolar planetary motion in the Middle Ages; Heraclides and Heliocentrism: texts, diagrams, and interpretations; Calcidius's commentary on Plato’s Timaeus in Latin astronomy of the 9th to 11th centuries; Index.


    Bruce S. Eastwood

    '... Eastwood's work has to be hailed as a significant contribution to our understanding of the history of astronomy. His book will certainly function as a cornerstone for all future study of Medieval astronomical diagrams.' Metascience