Mercury symbolised, 1489.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Woodcut incorporating symbolic elements, each with a different mythical or astrological meaning that would have been easily understood by fifteenth century readers. Here, the planet Mercury is personified holding a caduceus (ancient Greek or Roman heraldic wand with two serpents entwined). Illustration from 'Compilatio...de astrorum scientia' (Compilation of knowledge of stars) by Leopoldus, Duke of Austria, published in Augsburg in 1489. Leopoldus was an Austrian astronomer who lived in the middle or second half of the thirteenth century. The 'Compilatio' was a collection of Latin translations from Arabic astronomical works and is one of the earliest astronomical treatises in a common language.