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Burton on Ptolemy

Ptolemy’s authorship of the Ὁ Καρπός (the Centiloquium) has been rejected for the last 120 years or so, since Franz Boll argued concisely that it couldn’t be by Ptolemy.[1] Who originally composed the work and when, however, continues to exercise modern scholars. Medieval scholars, however, seem to have universally accepted that Ptolemy was the author. […]

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Monks Using Astronomical Instruments

The manuscript Ambrosiana H 57 sup. includes two texts on the astrolabe, Philoponus’s as well as an anonymous one from perhaps the late 13th century (though this copy is dated 14th century). Along with these texts are a couple Ptolemaic works and Theon of Alexandria’s “Commentarium paruum in Ptolemaei canones.” The manuscript itself is lovely […]

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Byzantine Tables of Planetary Hours

The tradition of planetary hours established a ruling planet for each hour of each day. The first hour of the day was ruled by the planet that also gave the day its name, e.g., the sun ruled the first hour of Sunday. Each subsequent hour was ruled by the next planet in the series: Saturn, […]

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Missing Archives

Not a day goes by that I don’t miss being able to work in the archives. Travel restrictions that prevent me from going to and working in the archives I need for my research depresses me, to say the least. The fact that there is no end in sight compounds my feelings of loss.[1] There […]

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Fun with Astrological Abbreviations

Copies of Ὁ Καρπός, a Greek collection of astrological aphorisms that was for centuries attributed to Ptolemy, often contain a variety of common and sometimes not so common abbreviations and symbols for astrological terms. Aphorism 97 in this particular manuscript (BnF gr. 2509) includes three typical abbreviations. Ὁ κύριοσ τῆσ πανσελήνου ἢ τῆσ συνόδου, ὅτε […]

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Aphorism 75 and the Challenges for a Critical Edition

Critical editions are incredibly handy. They transform historical artifacts into an easily read, generic version of some text. They smooth out differences between versions, they correct grammar, and they normalize orthography. The labors of intrepid and tireless editors save us untold time and energy.[1] But those same labors, those efforts to efface differences and to […]

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Byzantine Astrolabe (sort of)

In a fragment on the astrolabe attributed to John Kamateros are a handful of interesting diagrams illustrating the various parts of an astrolabe. Here is the diagram showing the rete. There is also diagram illustrating the plate, and two showing different views of the back of the instrument.

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Filed under “Amusing Diversion”

Working through a manuscript I came across this folio with a large diagram of the zodiac in the center. What caught my attention was the drawing in the upper right corner. The scribe seems to have thrown his arms up in confusion (?), exasperation (?), or simply resignation. Either that, or he’s being held up […]

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Digital Manuscripts

Elly over at Medieval Robots revels in how digital humanities are making medieval and early modern material available to broader audiences (see her “How Early Modern Animal Jetpacks Went Viral). I too am delighted to see digital resources making so much material available both for scholarly use and for the interested audience. Recently the Vatican […]

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A Scurvy Epidemic in 17th-Century England

Direct-to-consumer drug marketing has become an important part of the pharmaceutical industry. We see ads on TV, in magazines and newspapers, on webpages, and we hear them on the radio. Mary Ebeling has recently written about how companies use checklists to present symptoms. She finds that the checklist has a particular authority with consumers that […]