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Illustrating the Phaenomena

Elly Dekker

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780199609697
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191745645 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609697.001.0001
Illustrating the Phaenomena

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The introduction in antiquity of the moving sphere as a model for understanding the celestial phenomena provided the momentum for making celestial globes and mapping the stars. The globe is the most deceptive of all early scientific instruments. Invented by the Greeks as a scientific instrument imitating the phenomena such as the rising of the setting of the stars and precession, it became soon used in antiquity in education to circumvent the complicated mathematics of the sphere, and by artists for decorative purposes symbolising the world at large. The globe was also the starting-point for the construction of maps in antiquity. Although no antique celestial maps have survived medieval copies of them are included in illustrated astronomical books such as the Latin translation of Aratus's Phaenomena describing how the constellations are located with respect to each other. The cultural impact of globes is echoed in the oldest known ceiling painting of the celestial sky in the bath house of Quṣayr cAmra built in the first half of the eighth century. The complete absence of celestial maps other than the retes of astrolabes in the Islamic tradition is a puzzle that needs further study. The construction of globes varied greatly as it passed from Greece to the Arabic and Medieval European cultures. The constellation design of Islamic globes stands out from later western globes made in the early fifteenth century by the way constellations are drawn on a sphere. The first celestial maps in the mathematical tradition also emerged in the early fifteenth century foreshadowing the modern period in celestial cartography in the Western World.

Keywords: antiquity; middle ages; celestial cartography; globes; celestial maps; projections; astronomy; stars; constellations

Book.  480 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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Table of Contents

Preliminaries in Illustrating the Phaenomena

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Celestial Cartography in Antiquity in Illustrating the Phaenomena

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Islamic Celestial Cartography in Illustrating the Phaenomena

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Epilogue in Illustrating the Phaenomena

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