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The Authors of the Early Modern Commentaries on De sphaera

February 14, 2018


February 13–15, 2018
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin

Rationale and Objectives

Johannes de Sacrobosco compiled his Tractatus de sphaera during the thirteenth century in the frame of his teaching activities at the then recently founded University of Paris. The Tractatus, a qualitative introduction to geocentric cosmology, became a mandatory text all over Europe, and a tradition of commentaries was soon established and flourished until the second half of the 17th century. The original tract reappeared in the later treaties, but these were gradually enriched with further commentaries, chapters on different subjects, and a myriad of notes. The title also changed slightly so as to include the name of the original author; Sacrobosco became synonymous with his introductory textbook on cosmology.

A long list of scholars broached this subject and produced new commentaries. A recent census shows that, after the spread of printing technology, over 300 different editions of treatises on The Sphere of Sacrobosco were produced until 1650.

Scientific commentaries are genuine scientific works that have to be investigated not only in reference to the work on which it comments, but also and especially as independent scientific contributions that need to be socially, institutionally, and intellectually contextualized around their authors. Such authors have always had their own agendas, and these may have differed radically from that of the author of the so-called original work.

Approach and research questions:
The workshop focuses on the period of production of commentaries on The Sphere of Sacrobosco from 1472, the year of the first printed publication, to 1650, by which time the relevance of the treatise as a textbook had clearly declined.

The aim of the workshop is to determine what kind of intellectuals the authors of The Sphere were, their educational and social backgrounds, how their careers developed after the publication of their commentaries, the institutions and patrons they were affiliated with, what their agenda was, and whether and how they actually accomplished it.

Following to this approach, the papers can consider both single authors and one or more welldefined groups of authors.

By referring to these aspects, the discussions will consider specific characteristics of the treatises and, using the knowledge gathered on the individual authors of the commentaries, more general inferences will be drawn about the social diffusion of the commentaries and the relation between their production and institutional affiliations. Finally, the discussions will focus on possible processes of transformation that were linked specifically to the profiles of the authors of the commentaries.

February 13th 2018

4:30 pm

Informal Gathering

5:00 pm

The Sphere. Knowledge System Evolution and the Shared Scientific Identity of Europe Matteo Valleriani

Feburary 14th 2018

9:20 am

Introduction Matteo Valleriani



9:30 am

André do Avelar and the Teaching of Sacrobosco’s Sphaera in the University of Coimbra

Roberto de Andrade Martins

Commentator: Tayra M.C. Lanuza Navarro

10:15 am

The Reception of Cosmography in Vienna during the »Integral Humanism«: Georg von Peuerbach Johannes Regiomontanus and Sebastian Binderlius

Thomas Horst

Commentator:Elio Nenci

11:00 am

Coffee Break



11:30 am

John of Glogów and the Humanist Response to Peurbach

Peter Barker

Commentator: Angela Axworthy

12:15 pm

Conrad Tockler’s Research Agenda

Matteo Valleriani

Commentator: Kathleen Crowther

1:00 pm




2:15 pm

Oronce Fine: From the Edition of Sacrobosco’s Sphere (1516) to the Cosmographia (1532)

Angela Axworthy

Commentator: Richard Oosterhoff

3:00 pm

Pedro Sánchez Ciruelo. A Commentary to The Sphere with a Defense of Astrology

Tayra M.C. Lanuza Navarro

Commentator:Peter Barker

3:45 pm

Coffee Break



4:15 pm

Francesco Capuano da Manfredonia

Elio Nenci

Commentator: Charlotte Girout

February 15th 2018

9:30 am

Sacrobosco’s Sphere in Spain and Portugal 

Kathleen Crowther

Commentator: Roberto de Andrade Martins

10:15 am

Borrowers and innovators in the printing history of Sacrobosco: The case of the “in-octavo tradition“ 

Isabelle Pantin

Commentator: Marius Buning

11:00 am

Coffee Break



11:30 am

The Sphere of Elie Vinet, Christophorus Clavius and Guillaume des Bordes : Networks and Knowledge’s Building 

Charlotte Girout

Commentator: Matteo Valleriani

12:15 pm

A Lathe and the Material Sphere: Astronomical Technique at the Origins of the Cosmographical Handbook

Richard Oosterhoff

Commentator: Isabelle Pantin

1:00 pm




2:15 pm

Franco Burgersdijk (1590–1635): Editor of the Dutch Tractatus de sphaera

Marius Buning

Commentator: Thomas Horst

3:00 pm

Final Discussion



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