JF Ptak Science Books LLC Post 858 Blog Bookstore
I think that I'll start a thread on The History of Holes--which this post would secure nicely--though it will have to be differentiated from The History of Dots and The History of Blank and Empty Things somehow. Still, I like the idea.
These title page illustrations may or may not reveal a hole in the sky, a glimpse into a blank heaven. God knows that Heaven awaits its geology from Charles Lyell or cartography from Jed Hotchkiss, so this iconography that I’m creating for these two Renaissance views of the blank canvas of the universe may well be incomplete or completely wrong—but it is intriguing that there isn’t even a suggestion of what God’s environment might be. This assumption that one might possibly be shown the celestial surroundings may also be enormously presumptive and unknowable/unseeable by human eyes, but since we are being shown a corporeal form of the Creator I thought that the logic was also there to portray the Creator’s milieu, but it is not to be.
The first title page is for the narrative poem Le Metamorfosi, Ovid’s Metamorphoses,
translated into Italian by Gioseppe Horologgi, and published in
The image seems to catch the Creator in the act between the fourth and fifth days, floating in a cloud-framed hole in the sky. Beyond the hole there is a white emptiness—which makes me think that there is something; if there was nothing, I guess we’d have the absence of all color, or blackness. Or perhaps not. In any event I find the opening in the fabric of creation and its blankness/emptiness somehow restful.
The second image is a little more open to debate as to whether that is God in the cloud, reading, or not; I prefer to believe it so. The image is the colophon for Johann Virdung’s2 (ca. 1465-1535, of Hassfurt0 Nova medicinae methodus…3, an astrological-medical book written by a celebrated astrologer, professor and correspondent of Joahnnes Trithemius.
If this is to be the Creator in the clouds, reading a book, then I would take the white blankness behind him to be another opening in the sky. The small interesting bit about the title page is that it spells out the year and the month and the day on which the book was printed, which was not very common at all, not a bit.
I’ve certainly noticed white/blank/empty skies in prints, but I’m not so sure that the celestial hole has registered with me before today. It has the potential for an interesting idea, in the opposite-of-a-black-hole category. Maybe.
1. The contents of the work, as follows: Book I: Cosmogony, Ages of Man, Gigantes, Daphne, Io;; Book II: Phaëton, Callisto, Jupiter and Europa;;Book III: Cadmus, Actaeon, Echo and Pentheus;; Book IV: Pyramus and Thisbe, Perseus and Andromeda.;Book V: Phineas, the Rape of Proserpina;Book VI: Arachne, Niobe, Philomela and Procne; Book VII: Medea, Cephalus and Procris; Book VIII: Nisos and Scylla, Daedalus and Icarus, Baucis and Philemon; Book IX: Heracles, Byblis; Book X: Eurydice, Hyacinth, Pygmalion, Adonis, Atalanta, Cyparissus; Book XI: Orpheus, Midas, Alcyone and Ceyx; Book XII: Iphigeneia, Centaurs, Achilles; Aesacus; Book XIII: the Sack of Troy, Aeneas; Book XIV: Scylla, Aeneas, Romulus; Book XV: Pythagoras, Hippolytus, Aesculapius, Caesar.
2. Lynn Thorndike: Johann Virdung of Hassfurt again Isis 25, 1936, p. 363; Faust and Johann Virdung of Hassfurt, Isis 26, 1936/37, p. 321
3. Full title: Nova medicinae methodus, nunc primum & condita & aedita, ex mathematica ratione morbos curandi. Available here!
Other Virdung and astrology titles located at this marvelous site, here.