Vellum binding from Ptolemy's 'Almagest', 1496.
3 1 c m
actual image size: 32cm x 23cm

Vellum binding from Ptolemy's 'Almagest', 1496.

© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library


Back cover of 'The Almagest' by Ptolemy (2nd century AD), one of the most influential scientific works in history. It described the Ptolemaic system of astronomy and geography. Georg von Peurbach (1423-1461) started editing and translating the work but died after completing the first four books. The work was completed by his pupil Johannes Regiomontanus (1436-1476). This copy is bound in reused vellum, previously used as a score for church music earlier in the 15th century. The score is in Latin written with a four-line staff, decorated with coloured inks. A staff is a set of horizontal lines on and between which notes are written, so determining their relative pitch. The five-line staff became the standard in the 16th century.

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