It is unknown how many inhabitants of Concordia’s halls keep up with the latest discoveries and trends in the study of astronomy, but quite recently, the sky marked a sight that’s never been seen before—a green comet a mile across, with a tail millions of miles long. Its official name is C/2022 E3, for its discovery last year as it passed by Jupiter. It’s estimated that this is the first time the comet has appeared in 50,000 years, and it was supposedly visible to the naked eye on the night between Feb 1st and Feb 2nd. If you missed it, don’t despair, as you may have a chance to see it if you own a telescope. It will be marked hovering over Mars on February 10th and will be visible to those in the Southern Hemisphere in merely a month’s time.
But what has the library so interested? All this talk about comets has led us to wonder what our European ancestors thought about astronomy. How did they view the world and the surrounding universe?
Luckily, we have our Special Collections Archive, a room containing ancient tomes and pieces older than the country itself, with many a commentary and recording from ancient scholars, clergy, theologians, and cartographers. It’s to the scholars and the cartographers that we look to for this specific inquiry, and they’ve certainly provided us with their insight.
The Cupher Bible
This is one of the first copper engravings of the known universe ever made, hence the German “cupher.” The giant tome was published in the early 16th century and served as a strange marriage of religion and science, using scientific formulas and diagrams to depict God’s work. The pictures in this Bible are a pictorial encyclopedia of the early Bible stories, with many scientific descriptions about the creation of Earth and the universe.
This main picture shows the Zodiac constellations flying across the sky in a path called the ecliptic, which is the route the sun takes across our sky. Aside, several figures illustrate the placement of the moon in relation to the Earth, and the planets in relation to the sun. Later in the book, there are diagrams showing God’s creation of Heaven, Earth, and the celestial bodies surrounding our planet.
Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the Earth)
Published in 1579 by royal geographer Abraham Ortelius, this is the first comprehensive attempt at a world atlas. And no, you’re not seeing things—the atlas was carefully painted by Ortelius’ hand, so those colors are hundreds of years old.
It’s interesting, isn’t it, to observe what trade routes and expeditions shaped the formation of this atlas. For example, the Gulf of Mexico is carefully mapped out, but it’s obvious that the Europeans had not explored South America before this atlas was made.
Do you want to see these books with your own eyes? You can visit our Special Collections Archive anytime and read them from the safety of our Reading Room. We’d love to have you!