The Literature of the Heavens and the Science of the Stars

Robert S. Westman

in The Copernican Question

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2011 | ISBN: 9780520254817
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948167 | DOI:
The Literature of the Heavens and the Science of the Stars

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In the fifteenth century, a vast and complex literature described, explained, and invoked the motions of the heavens and their influences on Earth. From the 1470s onward, the learning of the heavens, much of it inherited from the ancient and medieval worlds, began to acquire a new sort of accessibility as it was reproduced in the medium of print. This chapter describes the broad contours of that literature and its various classifications. It shows how those categories evolved, describes how the literature worked as a body of knowledge, and considers the peculiar forms that it took in the sixteenth century. This corpus of writings—rather than an exclusive and autonomous stream of planetary theory—constituted the foundational categories of the intellectual world in which Nicolaus Copernicus was educated at Krakow and Bologna in the 1490s and in which his work took form and was later evaluated. The chapter examines Copernicus's exceptionalism and discusses printing, planetary theory, the genres of forecast, practices of classifying heavenly knowledge and knowledge makers, the science of the stars, and theoretical astrology.

Keywords: Nicolaus Copernicus; printing; planetary theory; forecast; exceptionalism; heavenly knowledge; stars; astrology; heavens; Earth

Chapter.  19773 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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