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Astronomical Miscellany: MS McClean 165

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Astronomical Miscellany


PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Parchment, i paper flyleaf + 139 fols. + i paper flyleaf, 225 – 238 x 155 mm, written above top line, one extant quire mark (fol. 8v)
A: fols. 1 – 88 text block 189 – 206 x 120 – 133 mm, 43 – 52 long lines, ruled in plummet

B: fols. 89 – 116 text block 207 – 210 x c.140 mm, 37 long lines, ruled in crayon

C: fols. 117 – 134 text block 192 – 209 x 126 – 135 mm, 34 long lines, ruled in plummet

D: fols. 135 – 139 text block 178 – 187 x 128 mm, 47 long lines, ruled in plummet

BINDING: nineteenth century, black paper and parchment over pasteboards, remains of two leather ties on foredge

CONTENTS: fols. 1r – 16v Liber Iparci; fols. 17r – 38r Hyginus, De astronomia
fols. 38v – 44r Martianus Capella, De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, Bk VIII, De astronomia (excerpt); fols. 44r – 47r Raymond of Marseilles, Liber cursuum planetarum, canons (dateable to 1141, ed. Burnett and Poulle forthcoming)
fols. 47r – 47v Ten short excerpts, some derived from anonymous translations of Mudhākarāt fī ‘ilm an-nujūm, here ascribed to ‘Albimasar’ (Abū Ma‛shar), ‘Beheleindus’ (perhaps for bi-al-Kindī, i.e. by/in al-Kindī), and ‘Almersius’ (ed. Burnett 2003; Burnett 2004); fol. 48r Accessus to the science of the stars (ed. Burnett 1990), followed by definitions fol. 48v The divisions of the firmament and of time; fol. 48v Ibn as-Saffār (translated by John of Seville), On the Use of the Astrolabe, chapters 23 and 37 (ed. Millás Vallicrosa 1942, 274, 282, this manuscript not mentioned) fols. 48v – 49r Abraham Ibn Ezra, Book of the Foundations of the Astronomical Tables (excerpt); fols. 49r – 50v Theorica planetarum; fols. 51r – 66v Raymond of Marseilles, Liber cursuum planetarum, tables (ed. Burnett and Poulle forthcoming); fols. 67r – 80v Instructions related to the Tables of Pisa, includes tables of anni collecti / anni expansi and Arabic months; fols. 80r – 80v Two tables for differences between eras and for the vernal equinox, the second dated 1175; fols. 81r – 86v Adelard of Bath, Liber de astrolabio, with Prologue (unique in this MS), followed by two star tables (fols. 87r and 88v) and drawings of an astrolabe (fols. 87r – 88v, reproduced in Cochrane 1979 – 1980); fols. 89r – 102r Commentary on Porphyry, Isagoge
fols. 102r – 116v Commentary on Aristotle, Categoriae; fols. 117r – 134v Boethius, De differentiis topicis (incomplete); fols. 135v – 139r Aristotle, Categoriae, chapters 1 – 7 (incomplete).

Diagrams in brown and red ink: fol. 13r Liber Iparci, Path of the Sun; fol. 50v De compositione tabularum, Planetary movement; fol. 71r Introduction to Tables of Pisa, The unequal divisions of the ecliptic circle on an astrolabe; fol. 81v Liber de astrolabio, The unequal divisions of the ecliptic circle on an astrolabe; fol. 82r Planetary movement; fols. 83v – 84r Five smaller diagrams illustrating use of astrolabe; fol. 87r Astrolabe, climate plate, latitude 48°; fol. 87v Back of Astrolabe, incomplete, without alidade and shadow squares; fol. 88r Astrolabe, climate plate for Bath, latitude 52°; fol. 88v Design for rete, incomplete.

A: Initials [10 – 22 ll.] with foliate, zoomorphic and geometric motifs outlined in red ink, often on green, blue, brown or yellow grounds, that on fol. 44r with gold leaf; alternate red and green initials [2 – 4 ll.] with minor ornament in same or alternate colour; tables in red and occasionally green (fols. 46r, 51r – 66v, 79r), that on fol. 64v including acanthus ornament in both colours.

B: Black penwork initials [2 – 4 ll.] with foliate motifs, faces (fol. 89r) or hybrids (fol. 94v), occasionally tinted in light brown; initials sketched in plummet or spaces left blank after fol. 97v.

C: Red or black penwork initials [1 – 3 ll.]; tables [5 – 18 ll.] in red (fols. 131r, 131v).

D: Spaces left blank for initials; capitals highlighted in yellow.


History note: At least part A was in the Benedictine Abbey of St Trond by the thirteenth century (place name and dates 1286, 1287, 1285, 1288 added on fol. 66r); Prof. August Constantin Naumann, Freiberg; his sale, T.O. Weigel, Leipzig, 6 June 1854, lot 16; Prince Baldassarre Boncompagni (d.1894), no. 360 written in red ink on spine, fragment of paper label with printed no. 320 pasted over spine (Narducci 1862, no. 360, second ed. 1892, no. 320(360)); purchased from Wesley by Frank McClean (1837 – 1904); his bequest, 1904.

Place(s) associated

  • St Trond ⪼ Meuse

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1904) by McClean, Frank


Twelfth century, third quarter
Production date: circa AD 1175 : probably soon after 1175

People, subjects and objects depicted

Materials used in production


Techniques used in production

Penwork Illumination

Inscription or legends present

  • Text: aquilonalia tenens
  • Type: Secundo folio

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: MS McClean 165
Primary reference Number: 170728
Project ID: 478
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Wednesday 9 March 2022 Last processed: Wednesday 9 March 2022

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Manuscripts and Printed Books

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