The constellation of Perseus, 1488.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Woodcut from 'Poetica astronomica' (Poetical astronomy) published in Venice in 1488. This work has been attributed to Hyginus who was born in Spain in about 60 BC. It was frequently copied and illustrated during the Medieval period. Hyginus' work recounts the legends of the constellations, the location of stars within them and the motion of the Sun, Moon and planets. This edition preserves a tradition of popular illustrated astronomy books that had lasted throughout the Middle Ages well into the age of printing. This tradition was rooted in poetry and mythology; it contained minimal scientific content. Many of the woodcuts were copied from an edition published three years earlier, some being reversed.