Astronomy in Turin. The earliest known Italian manuscript of Regiomontanus’ Calendarium

Regiomontanus, Johannes (1436-1476).

Calendarium and other related texts. Decorated manuscript on paper and vellum, in Latin. Northern Italy (probably Turin), last quarter of the fifteenth century (perhaps ca. 1474).

Regiomontanus, Johannes (1436-1476) Calendarium and other related texts. Decorated manuscript on paper and vellum, in Latin. Northern Italy (probably Turin), last quarter of the fifteenth century (perhaps ca. 1474).

206x147 mm. iii + 56 + ii leaves. Complete. Seven quires. Collation: 1-36, 410 (first leaf a parchment insert, pasted to a singleton which forms the last leaf of the bifolium), 54 (last leaf a parchment singleton), 610, 714. Blanks: 1/1r, 6/4v, 6/5r, 7/6v, 7/10v-7/14v. Text block: 140x95 mm, one column, 35 lines. Ruled in light brown ink. Some catchwords present. Text written in a small but clearly legible hand showing the influence of humanist script. Rubrics in red, astronomical symbols in faded purple, two-line initials in simple blue, or red and blue, with contrasting penwork, blank spaces for capitals. Contemporary suede leather over pasteboards, circular marks scored into boards showing places of lost metal bosses. Rebacked. Covers worn and rubbed, a few wormholes, corners damaged. Manuscript in very good condition, slight fingermarks to the lower outer corner of a few leaves, some small stains.


Fols. 1v-36r: Astronomiae kalendarium, cum tabulis astronomicis ab anno. 1475 ad 1513;

fol. 36r: Canon de aspectibus planetarum, carmen (followed by five astronomical symbols);

fols. 37v-43r: Cognitiones naturarum secundum nativitates. Secundum Quidonem Bonactum in tractatu planetarum; apparently unrecorded;

fols. 43v-44r: Ascendentia civitatum et provintiarum [sic] atque regnorum que et feliciter et infortunate disponunt;

fols. 44v-45v: Pronostica Hesdrae;

fols. 46r-48r: Pronostica nativitatum secundum mathematicos; apparently unrecorded;

fol. 49r: Tabula Salomonis;

fols. 49v-50v: Tabula planetarum;

fol. 51r-v: Dispositio Galienis [sic] physici infirmantium; apparently unrecorded.


Ten pages of diagrams illustrating the phases of lunar and solar eclipses for the years 1475-1530, two parchment leaves with four full-page diagrams, one a volvelle (middle ring wanting), others an 'Instrumentum horar[i]um inequalium' with a list of planetary bodies, a 'Quadrans horologii horizontalis' and a 'Quadratum horarium generale' with designations for latitude and longitude. Two pages of calculatory diagrams with text in red and purple ink and two further volvelle diagrams on either side of a paper leaf, a series of near-contemporary calculation numbers added down the side of one diagram.

Provenance: The Augustinian monk Antonius de Lanceo or Lanteo, monastery of San Cristoforo, in Turin (his ownership inscription on the recto of the first leaf of the Calendar, 'S[an]c[t]i Cristofori Taurini Ad usu[m] fr[atr]is Anto[ni]i de lanteo'); Joseff Gregorio from Bologna (seventeenth-century ownership inscription on the lower cover, 'Joseff Greg[o]ri[o] da Bologna'); Guglielmo Libri (1803-1869; see Catalogue of the Extraordinary Collection of Manuscripts, Formed by M. Guglielmo Libri which will be Sold by Auction by Messrs. S. Leigh Sotheby & John Wilkinson ... 28th of March, 1859, London 1859; lot 92); Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872; his pencil note 'Ph' number and the pen note “Phillipps Ms 16242” on the front pastedown; his sale at Sotheby's, 5 June 1899, Bibliotheca Phillippica xi, lot 75; sale catalogue cutting glued to the front flyleaf); Samuel Verplank Hoffmann (1866-1942).

An important testament to the history of astronomy in Turin during the fifteenth century. This precious miscellaneous manuscript was likely written and illustrated for Frater Antonius de Lanceo, an Augustinian monk at the monastery of San Cristoforo, in Turin, as his ownership inscription attests.

The volume opens with the earliest known Italian manuscript of the Calendarium by the pre-eminent German astronomer, mathematician, and instrument maker Regiomontanus (Johann Müller of Königsberg), a pupil of Georg Peuerbach and professor of astronomy at the University of Vienna before being appointed astronomer to King Matthias Corvinus. In 1475 Pope Sixtus IV summoned him to Rome to consult on the calendar reform, which would only come into effect in 1482, six years after Regiomontanus' death in the papal city in July 1476. The Calendarium gives information on lunar and solar eclipses for 1475-1530, as well as the length of days and signs of the zodiac and planets.

Only two manuscript copies of Regiomontanus' Calendarium are known to have come on the market in living memory: the manuscript presented here, and that included in a codex dated variously between ca. 1470 and ca. 1500. The latter seems to have once been preserved in the Lambach Abbey (Austria); it was later bought by Laurence Schoenberg and since 2011 has been held at Princeton University. Neither can be definitively dated to either before or after the first appearance of the Calendarium in print in 1474, with respect to which the present manuscript differs only in the alterations to the Calendar and the later sequential placement of the Quadrans horologii horizontalis and Quadratum horarium generale diagrams. Both manuscripts might be copies of Regiomontanus now-lost original manuscript, which may have been circulated among friends or fellow astronomers. An in-depth study of the relationship between these early manuscripts and the printed text has yet to be undertaken, but it is clear that no such study can afford to ignore the present manuscript.

The additional short texts copied in the last leaves are no less interesting and include a large number of astronomical writings, tabulae, and prognostica that apparently failed to be recorded in Thorndike-Kibre or elsewhere, as with the Cognitiones naturarum secundum nativitates. Secundum Quidonem Bonactum in tractatu planetarum (fols. 37v-43r), and the Pronostica nativitatum secundum mathematicos (fols. 46r-48r), which would seem to be unique examples of these texts.

During the copying of the present manuscript, Regiomontanus' Calendar was adapted to include Augustinian saints and exclude the German and Bohemian ones usually found in the work: this feature strongly indicates that the manuscript is likely to have been assembled on behalf of Frater Antonius, a member of the medieval 'de Lanceo' family from Turin who resided at the Augustinian monastery of San Cristoforo, located near San Solutore in that same city. Inscriptions discovered in two incunables now in the National Library of Turin confirm that San Cristoforo was the first Augustinian monastery established in the town, although it was destroyed by the French in 1536. Antonio de Lanteo, or Lanceo, may well have been an acquaintance of Regiomontanus, who traveled extensively throughout northern Italy between 1461 and 1467, and later in 1472 and 1475.

In the nineteenth century, this fine volume belonged to the well-known bibliophile (or bibliomane) Guglielmo Libri, and in the 1859 sale catalogue of his library the manuscript is described as “a very important collection, with fine diagrams and numerous tables”. Later it caught the attention of Sir Thomas Phillipps – arguably the greatest manuscript collector to have ever lived – and more recently of Samuel Verplank Hoffmann, who studied and taught astronomy at Johns Hopkins University. A member of both the New York Historical Society and the Grolier Club, Verplank Hoffmann intensively collected astronomical books and scientific instruments. His collection of astrolabes was acquired in 1959 by the Smithsonian Institution, and this fine manuscript – such an illustrious monument to the history of astronomy – was probably sold on 28 July 1944, the date pencilled on the front pastedown of the volume.

L. Thorndike - P. Kibre, A Catalogue of Incipits of Mediaeval Scientific Writings in Latin, Cambridge 1963; H. Größing, “Regiomontanus und Italien. Zum Problem der Wissenschaftauffassung des Humanismus”, Regiomontanus Studien, 1980, pp. 223-241; E. Zinner, Regiomontanus. His Life and Work, Amsterdam 1990; K. Mütz, “Der Kalender für Graf Eberhard im Bart und der Kalender von Regiomontanus. Zwei herausragende Werke ihrer Zeit”, Zeitschrift für Württembergische Landesgeschichte, 55 (1996), pp. 65-91; R. Kremer, “Text to Trophy. Shifting Representations of Regiomontanus's Library”, J. Raven (ed.), Lost Libraries. The Destruction of Great Book Collections since Antiquity, Houndsmill 2004, pp. 75-90; M. Wagner, Regiomontanus. Ein fränkischer Astronom, München 2005; M. Folkert, The Development of Mathematics in Medieval Europe: the Arabs, Euclid, Regiomontanus, Aldershot 2006; “Hans Sporer's Xylographic Practices. A Census of Regiomontanus's Blockbook Calendar”, B. Wagner (ed.), Blockbücher des 15. Jahrhunderts. Eine Experiementierphase in frühen Buchdruck. Beiträge der Fachtagung in der Bayerischen Staatsbiblithek München am 16. und 17. Februar 2012, Wiesbaden 2013, pp. 161-188; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 17.

$ 145.000