JF Science Book
I started out in this post to write about the scholar pictured in Andrew Borde's book, The Breuiary of Healthe, for all maner of syckenesses and diseaes, Expressynge the obscure terms of Greke, Araby, Latyn, and Barbary, in Engluish concernying Phisicke and Chierurgerie...., which was printed in London in 1556. Underneath this rather long title is perhaps the earliest "modern" work on hygiene--or at least (in a real test of qualifications) it was the first book written by a medical man on hygiene that was originally written and published in English. In its way it is a wonderful book, being a compendium, really, of 384 short chapters on the this-and-that of medicine, all alphabetically arranged, which made it a simpler book to compose than a full treatise on the subject arranged in a medically-logical way. But what I liked in it was the contrasting image of the scholar, which to me is the very picture of ennui, laid side-by-side with the chief element by which this book is probably best remembered, which is "Myrth is one of the chiefest thygnes in physicke" (or "humor is the best medicine"). Borde's scholar may not be taking his own medicine, here.
In looking for the text for this fine book I came across something else, Borde's Aristotelian celestial spheres in his The First Book of the Introduction of Knowledge, printed in 1542, the year before the publication of Copernicus' De Revolutionibus. It is a magnificent woodcut, and tells the story of a vision of mankind that would soon come to vast change.
Source: the Luminarium, here.
The image shows us the geocentric universe, the creation, and eleven-sphere unit that follows the Earth at center and the four subluminaries (earth wind air fire), followed by the orbit of the Moon and Mercury and Venus, after which comes the Sun, followed by the rest of the planets. These spheres are followed by the fixed stars/the starry firmament), and ultimately by the Primum Mobile, divided into the crystalline heaven, the first mover, and the Empyrean. Its a beautiful image.
The following is in a sense a cross-section of the Borde image, which shows pretty much the same information (with the Sun being in the fourth sphere). This is manuscript is more than a hundred years earlier than the Borde, and accurately represents the elements of cosmology of the time.
Image source: Luminarium, here; From Les Echecs amoureux ("Amorous Chess") Manuscript made for Louise of Savoy, 15th c. Bibliothèque nationale de France, département des Manuscrits; Mss.fr.143, fo 20.
An even earlier version of this more-or-less static image, the perfect image of the perfect creation in which all of the stars in the visible sky were always there, in some perfect number, in the configurations for all time. (This idea of course would be one of the greatest disfigurers of ancient thought that the telescope of Galileo would provide.)
Robert Fludd, a visionary of a different sort, as his celestial sphere will show:
Fludd’s (1574-1637) features a complicated astrological existence well beyond the point of Copernicus. In addition to everything else, real and imagined, Rosicrucianism and astrology and puffy-birds, Fludd, who was an English physician, delved deeply into the real stuff of the world in this book in addition to all of the other make-believe--optics, the musical intervals, perspective drawing, hydraulic engineering, construction of lifting machines, military engineering and many other interesting, physical science topics. But this drawing, right there on the title page, reveals Fludd’s real interests and shows what governs what he does. Everything else, the math and and the physics, services this need. Of course the image is beautiful, which is why it is here, but it is also a deeply personal, exploitative, cover-all for the things that Fludd *wanted* to find.