Alfonso X, King of Castile and Leon: Tabulae Astronomicae

Venice: 1492
Sp Coll Bl9-g.25 

This late 15th-century Latin edition of medieval astronomical tables was an important practical aid to astronomers. It is known that Copernicus, for example, owned a copy of the Tabulae.

The tables were overseen by the Christian King Alfonso X of Castile and Leon (1221-1284). However, they are widely believed to owe much to the tradition of Arabic astronomical scholarship which flourished in Spain in the 11th and 12th Centuries. The Alfonsine tables also owed a great debt to the Jewish culture of the Iberian peninsula. Jewish intellectuals, with an understanding of Arabic and astronomy, played a major part in their compilation.

The Tabulae enjoyed a high reputation until the mid 16th Century, when they began to be superseded by newer publications such as Erasmus Reinhold’s Prutenic tables (1551) and, later, Kepler’s Rudolfine tables (also featured in this exhibition). Such tables were also the source for ephemerides, which provided specific planetary positions for a given period of time and spared their readers the effort of calculating them for themselves.

Double Page of Astronomical Tables from 'Tabulae Astronomicae'

Image: medieval astronomical tables.


Go to the next book in the exhibition: Copernicus: De Revolutionibus