Leiden Aratea

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Folio 58v, Orion the Hunter.

Leiden, Universiteitsbibliotheek, VLQ 79, also called the Leiden Aratea, is an illuminated copy of an astronomical treatise by Germanicus based on the Phaenomena of Aratus. The manuscript was created in the region of Lorraine and has been dated to around 816.[1] It was created for a wealthy patron, possibly Louis the Pious or his wife Judith. There are 99 extant folios that are 225mm by 200mm. The manuscript has 35 extant full-page miniatures, although at least four are known to be missing.

The illustrations are some of the first artistic depictions on paper of the Greek constellations. However, the Leiden manuscript’s artist has made no effort to place the stars correctly according to their positions in the sky so the images cannot be considered true star charts.[2]

Two copies were made of the manuscript in northern France around the year 1000. Jacob Susius acquired the manuscript in Ghent in 1573. It was owned by Hugo Grotius in 1600 and was used as a source for his edition of Syntagma Arateorum.[3] It was later in the library of Christina of Sweden and was subsequently in the possession of Isaac Vossius. It was acquired by the Leiden University Library along with the rest of Vossius's collection around 1690. A digital reproduction of this manuscript can be found on Digital Special Collections (DISC) of University Library Leiden: [1]

Some miniatures from the Leiden Aratea[edit]


  • Walther, Ingo F. and Norbert Wolf. Codices Illustres: The world's most famous illuminated manuscripts, 400 to 1600. Cologne, TASCHEN, 2005. ISBN 3-8228-5852-8
  1. ^ Richard Mostert and Marco Mostert, "Using astronomy as an aid to dating manuscripts, The example of the Leiden Aratea planetarium", Quaerendo, 20 (1999): 248-261.
  2. ^ Ridpath, Ian. "Illustrating the works of Aratus and Hyginus". Retrieved 2015-11-30. 
  3. ^ See the associated prints from Grotius' Syntagma Arateorum on Wikimedia Commons

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]