Cosmography in the Age of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution 3031298845, 9783031298844

This book tells the comprehensive history of cosmography from the 15th Century Age of Discovery onward. During this time

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Cosmography in the Age of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution
 3031298845, 9783031298844

Table of contents :
Notes About Translations and Names
List of Figures
Chapter 1: Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography
1 The Rich and Diverse Cultural Heritage from Antiquity
1.1 Cosmographic Knowledge in Antiquity and the Early Middle Age
1.1.1 A Geocentric and Geostationary Cosmos
1.2 The Islamic Civilization and Its Cosmographic Impact
1.2.1 The Middle East: The House of Wisdom
1.2.2 Al-Andalus: Muslim Portugal and Spain
1.3 Late Middle Age in Europe: The Role of Iberian Peninsula
1.3.1 The First School of Translators of Toledo
1.3.2 The Second School of Translators of Toledo
1.3.3 The European Universities
2 The Background of the Iberian Hatching
2.1 The “Discovery” of the Orient
2.2 The Possibility of the Trip to Asia Travelling Westwards
2.3 The Discovery of the Oceanic Islands
3 Portuguese Exploration
3.1 Atlantic and African Exploration: The Impulse of Henrique “The Navigator”
3.2 The Exploration of East Africa: After the Lands of Preste John
3.3 The Portuguese Crossing of the Equator: The Transition from the Middle Ages to the Late Modern Period
4 The Explorations of the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon
4.1 The Cartographic School of Mallorca
4.2 Columbus’ Mistake and a New Continent
4.3 Other Explorers: de la Cosa, Caboto, Ojeda, Pinzón and Vespucci
4.4 The Division of the World: The Conflicts Between Portugal and Spain
4.5 The Pacific Ocean: More than the “Spanish Lake”
4.5.1 The Exploration of the Pacific in the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries
4.5.2 The End of Iberian Unity: Dutch, French and English Competition
4.5.3 Spanish Expeditions in the Eighteenth Century
4.6 Exploration Versus Conquest: The Rationale for the Process
5 Ptolemy, Mercator and the New Cosmography
5.1 Maximo Planudes: The Quasi Anonymous Hero
5.2 Claudius Ptolemy, a Bridge Between the Science of Antiquity and the Renaissance
5.3 The Manuscript of Geographia and its Family Tree
5.4 The Resurrection of Geographia
5.5 Beyond Ptolemy and His Maps of the Inhabited World
5.6 Cartography in the Early Sixteenth Century: de la Cosa and Waldseemüller
5.7 The Name of America and the New Continent
5.8 The Geographic Importance of the Magellan-Elcano Expedition
5.9 The Basic Tool of Imperial Rule: Cartography
5.10 Celestial Cartography: Celestial and Terrestrial Planispheres and Globes
Chapter 2: Humanism as a Trigger for the Scientific Revolution
1 Humanism and Its Pan-European Impact
1.1 Reconnecting with the Greco-Roman World
1.2 Erasmus and Humanism Beyond the Italian and Iberian Peninsulas
1.3 Humanism in Spain: Nebrija as Its Greatest Exponent
1.4 The Emergence of the Printing Press and Its Impact
1.4.1 The Effect on the Spread of Humanist Ideas
1.4.2 Printing in Spain
1.5 The End of Humanism in Spain
2 Cosmography in the Age of Humanism
2.1 Dante Alighieri’s Cosmography: From Medieval Times to Humanism
2.2 Science in the Context of Humanism
2.3 Leonardo da Vinci: The Ignored Humanist
2.4 Astronomy in the Fifteenth Century
2.5 Astronomy in Sixteenth Century Up to the Publication of De Revolutionibus
2.6 Humanism and Science in the Kingdoms of Aragon and Castile
2.6.1 Cosmography in the University of Salamanca
2.6.2 Abraham Zacuto
2.6.3 Nebrija and Cosmography
2.6.4 Other Scholars
2.7 Calendar Reform as an Astronomical, Social and Religious Problem
2.8 Ptolemy, Pico della Mirandola and the End of Astrology
3 The Causes of the Scientific Revolution
3.1 Scientific Revolution: Definition and Background
3.2 The Republic of Letters
Chapter 3: The New Astronomy at the Dawn of the Scientific Revolution
1 The Heliocentric Revolution and Copernicus
1.1 The Publication of De revolutionibus
1.2 The Background of Heliocentrism
1.3 Heliocentrism up to the Beginning of the Scientific Revolution
1.4 Giordano Bruno and the Infinite Worlds
2 Tycho Brahe: New Stars and Accurate Stellar Catalogues
3 Kepler: The Last Pythagorean?
3.1 Kepler’s Pythagorean Heritage
3.2 Kepler and the Multiple Harmonies of the Cosmos
3.3 The Collaboration with Tycho Brahe: The Orbit of Mars and the Rudolfian Tables
4 “Eppur si muove”: Galileo and the Immobility of the Earth
4.1 The Telescope, Sidereus Nuncius and the New Kosmos
4.2 The Epistolary Relationship Between Galileo and Kepler
4.3 The Controversy with Simon Marius and the Discovery of Jupiter’s Satellites
4.4 First Denunciations, the Admonition of 1616 and the Condemnation of 1633
4.5 The Immediate Effect on Other Catholic Theologians and Scientists
4.5.1 Descartes’ Vortexes: Heliocentrism in Disguise
4.5.2 The Influence of Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo in Spain
4.6 The Proof Sought by Galileo: The Finite Speed of Light and the Motion of the Earth
4.7 The “Absolution” of Heliocentrism and the “Galileo Case” as Seen Today
5 Science and Literature: The Effect of the New Cosmography
5.1 Cosmography in the Works of Cervantes and Other Authors
5.2 Scientific Satire in the Eighteenth Century: Jonathan Swift and Gulliver’s Travels
Chapter 4: The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion
1 The Measurement of Position on the Terrestrial Globe
2 Determining Longitude: Methods
2.1 Background in Pre-scientific Navigation
2.1.1 The Fixed Point or Zero Meridian
2.2 Astronomical Methods
2.2.1 The Use of Lunar Eclipses
2.2.2 The Method of Lunar Distances
2.2.3 Galileo’s Method: Eclipses of Jovian Satellites
2.3 Relevant Innovations
2.3.1 Some Essential Technical Improvements
2.3.2 Mathematical Innovations
2.3.3 From Portulans to Modern Cartography
2.3.4 Navigation Manuals
2.3.5 The New Celestial Maps and Lunar Tables
2.4 Mechanical Methods
2.4.1 The Development of Instruments for Time Measurement
2.4.2 Calculation of Longitude Using Mechanical Clocks
2.5 After the Chimera: Other Proposals
2.6 Precise Determination of the Geographical Location
3 The Calculation of Longitude and the Implications for Different European Powers
3.1 Spanish Imperial Expansion: Navigation as a Science
3.1.1 The Sixteenth Century
3.1.2 Galileo and Spain
3.1.3 The Seventeenth Century: Last Proposals and the Arbitrists
3.1.4 Jorge Juan: The “Spanish Sage” at King Arthur’s Court
3.2 The Trading Power: The United Provinces
3.3 France and the Academic Impulse
3.4 The Foundations of the Pax Britannica: The Royal Astronomers
Chapter 5: The Shape of the Earth and Geographical Exploration
1 The Size and Shape of the Earth
1.1 The Measure of the Earth
1.2 The Pendulum and the Measurement of Time: A New Tool
1.3 Determining the Shape of the Earth and the Law of Gravity
1.4 Meridian Arcs: A Systematic Program for Determining the Shape
1.5 A Corollary: The Mapping of France
1.6 The New Determination of the Meridian and the Decimal Metric System
2 Symmetries: New Continents
2.1 The Antipodes and the Balance of the World
2.2 The Identification of Oceania
2.3 The White Continent: Antarctica
3 The Strait of Anian: The Mythical Northwest Passage
3.1 Northwest Course
3.2 The South Sea and the Route to the East Indies
3.3 The New Spanis Explorations
3.4 The British Admiralty and the Role of John Barrow
4 Cartographers, Explorers and Missionaries: The Exploration of Africa
4.1 The Nile in Antiquity
4.2 The Beginning of European Penetration in Africa
4.3 The Last Frontier: The Race of the Nineteenth Century
Colophon: Culture, Science Versus Humanities

Citation preview

Historical & Cultural Astronomy Series Editors: W. Orchiston · M. Rothenberg C. Cunningham

David Barrado Navascués

Cosmography in the Age of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution

Historical & Cultural Astronomy Series Editors Wayne Orchiston, University of Science and Technology of China, Hefei, China MARC ROTHENBERG, Smithsonian Institution (retired), Rockville, MD, USA CLIFFORD CUNNINGHAM, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, QLD, Australia Editorial Board JAMES EVANS, University of Puget Sound, Tacoma, WA, USA MILLER GOSS, National Radio Astronomy Observatory, Charlottesville, USA DUANE HAMACHER, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia JAMES LEQUEUX, Observatoire de Paris, Paris, France SIMON MITTON, St. Edmund’s College Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK CLIVE RUGGLES, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK VIRGINIA TRIMBLE, University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA, USA GUDRUN WOLFSCHMIDT, Institute for History of Science and Technology, University of Hamburg, Hamburg, Germany TRUDY BELL, Sky & Telescope, Lakewood, OH, USA DAVID DEVORKIN, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, USA

The Historical & Cultural Astronomy series includes high-level monographs and edited volumes covering a broad range of subjects in the history of astronomy, including interdisciplinary contributions from historians, sociologists, horologists, archaeologists, and other humanities fields. The authors are distinguished specialists in their fields of expertise. Each title is carefully supervised and aims to provide an in-depth understanding by offering detailed research. Rather than focusing on the scientific findings alone, these volumes explain the context of astronomical and space science progress from the pre-modern world to the future. The interdisciplinary Historical & Cultural Astronomy series offers a home for books addressing astronomical progress from a humanities perspective, encompassing the influence of religion, politics, social movements, and more on the growth of astronomical knowledge over the centuries. The Historical & Cultural Astronomy Series Editors are: Wayne Orchiston, Marc Rothenberg, and Cliff Cunningham.

David Barrado Navascués

Cosmography in the Age of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution

David Barrado Navascués Depto. de Astrofísica Centro de Astrobiología (INTA-CSIC) Villanueva de la Cañada, Madrid, Spain

ISSN 2509-310X     ISSN 2509-3118 (electronic) Historical & Cultural Astronomy ISBN 978-3-031-29884-4    ISBN 978-3-031-29885-1 (eBook) © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors, and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. This Springer imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

AH, MR, AC, CC, for all the laughs ELC, CU, MC, RA, SA, for our brunch, and Castalia Specially to JE. I hope they enjoy the maps and the stories behind them.


In 2022, the (second) doctoral thesis of David Barrado Navascués, Cosmography: The Science of the Two Orbs, was awarded that year’s PhD thesis prize by Division C (Education, Outreach and Heritage) of the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The citation provided to the IAU’s Executive Committee in support of his nomination read as follows: David Barrado Navascués’ PhD thesis is a very broad-ranging treatise of relevance to the history of cosmography, including astronomy and its societal, cultural and political implications. The thesis represents an enormous body of work, spanning the entire period from Antiquity and Mesopotamia to the nineteenth century. It uses a tremendous body of literature (spread across three continents) and goes well beyond a simple compilation in presenting a holistic analysis, clearly setting the standard in this field for some time to come.

Whereas the author’s doctoral thesis was a massive tome of some 850 pages, the book in front of you is a more concise distillation of his thesis’ main narrative. And although its volume has been reduced from the treatise that was so lauded by both the examiners enlisted by the University of Alicante and the IAU Division C Steering Committee, the current textbook version, Cosmography in the Age of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution, is no less impressive in its coverage or far-ranging in its remit. Therefore, when I was asked whether I would be interested in writing this foreword, I was honoured and gladly accepted. I had been made aware of David’s work on the perennial ‘longitude problem’ that seriously bothered mariners during the Age of Sail, roughly spanning the period from the mid-fifteenth to the mid-­ nineteenth century. Once their ships had left the familiar waters near their home shores, geographic position determination without the benefit of landmarks as anchor points became a difficult proposition. Whereas one’s latitude was straightforward to determine, longitude determination depended on knowing both one’s local time and that at a reference meridian. This problem became so acute in the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries, that a succession of kings of Castile were among the first to award a ‘longitude prize’ to anyone who could solve this thorny issue. This book discusses efforts at solving the longitude problem in detail, but it goes significantly beyond that important, although somewhat niche, application. The author presents a new, broad and comprehensive account of the history of cosmography, the vii



history of science and the Scientific Revolution, spanning more than 4000 years, from Antiquity and Mesopotamia to the nineteenth century. In essence, the author provides us with a global analysis of the problem of geographic position determination and its implications in fields as diverse as science (astronomy, navigation), politics and literature. His focus is on European and Islamic developments, although insights from India are also covered in a more cursory fashion. Chinese developments, many of which predate European insights and often surpass them, are not covered, but I realise that one can only cover so much within a set number of pages. The book’s narrative covers topics from Babylonia, the Greco–Roman world and al-Andalus in Iberia (Muslim Spain) between the eighth and fifteenth centuries, Ptolemy’s groundbreaking contributions (particularly those contained in his Almagest and Geographia), the epoch of the great Portuguese and Spanish voyages of exploration, the development of various schools of thought across the European continent, and many other interrelated developments and achievements. The author approaches his main thesis from a number of different perspectives, including literary, geographical, political, historical and astronomical. However, he goes beyond a simple compilation of facts or thoughts to arrive at a holistic, fully intertwined, critical and global re-examination of source texts that shows great continuity and coherence. By the author’s own admission, shaping the narrative such that it converged from a set of thoughts, ideas and facts lacking coherence to a well-structured narrative was perhaps the most critical challenge—a challenge that clearly worked out well, as evidenced by this comprehensive account. Even a cursory perusal of the text in front of you, and particularly of the bibliography, provides clear evidence that compiling this story must have taken a tremendous effort. The text goes well beyond the history of astronomy, even beyond the larger context of the histories of maritime navigation and cartography; the author has also had to familiarise himself with some of the great works in world literature. I specifically refer to his analysis of the contribution of Miguel de Cervantes, among other well-known historical authors such as Dante Alighieri, John Milton and Jonathan Swift. He has also had to deal with translations of source texts, particularly from Latin and Greek, and textual comparisons based on different premises, which must have caused more than a few minor headaches at times. Perhaps most impressive, one of the novel aspects of this work is the reconstruction of the transmission of astronomical knowledge among different schools, cultures and civilisations, across space and time, by means of synoptic tables. These, on their own, will be useful visual references for a significant time to come. Whereas the author’s doctoral thesis has been lauded as a landmark manuscript, with the examiners commending its originality, timeliness and scholarship, the distilled text in front of you certainly qualifies as similarly ground-breaking. I hope that you enjoy reading it; I certainly did, and I learnt a lot I had not previously appreciated. Richard de Grijs President, IAU Division C (Education, Outreach and Heritage) Professor of Astrophysics, Macquarie University Sydney, Australia

Notes About Translations and Names

Numerous characters from different cultural contexts are mentioned throughout this text. As a general rule, the spelling of the country of origin has been retained or, failing that, the most common name. Thus, João II of Portugal (John II) or Felipe II of Spain (Phillip II, Filipe I in Portugal) are cited. In some cases, several names are used indistinctly, due to the specific trajectory of the character. This is the case of Fernando de Magellanes (Fernão de Magalhães in Portuguese or Ferdinan Magellan in English) or John Caboto (Giovanni Caboto in Italian or John Cabot in English). This work has made use of an extensive bibliography in several languages, especially in Spanish and English. The initial notes and texts for its writing were in Spanish and in some cases quotations from the specialized literature have undergone a double translation. When possible, the original has been sought to replace the text, but in a few cases this has not been possible and therefore the text included does not correspond exactly to the original. The footnotes and the reference to the text make it clear when this has been the case.



This work would never have come to fruition without Dr. Marga Box Amorós, director of my doctoral thesis (my second) in philosophy and humanities, specializing in geography and history. Her extraordinary dedication and her direct contribution, after several years of intense work during multiple weekends, made it possible that in the end a set of heterogeneous material became a coherent text. To her I extend my complete gratitude. For the generous support provided for the translations, in order to make them reliable and thus elucidate certain meanings that are not always evident, my special thanks to: Miguel Mas Hesse, José Vizuete Medrano, and Hervé Bouy. The following libraries, organizations and initiatives have put on the net texts and images that have been consulted and used for the genesis of this book. Thus, they deserve to be cited. In Spain: Biblioteca Virtual del Patrimonio Bibliográfico del Ministerio de Cultura, Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada, Museo Naval, Biblioteca del Museo Naval, Sección de Fondo Antiguo of the library of the University of Seville, and Biblioteca Digital Hispánica of the Biblioteca Nacional de España. In Germany: Bayerische StaatsBibliothek, and Germanisches Nationalmuseum. In Switzerland: Elecktronische Bibliothek Schweiz, which includes the Bibliothèque de Genève, ETH-Bibliothek Zurich, Universitätsbibliothek Basel, Universitätsbibliothek Bern and Zentralbibliothek Zürich. In the United Kingdom: Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford, and the Institute of Astronomy of the University of Cambridge. In France: Gallica, Bibliothèque nationale de France, and Musee des Arts et Metiers. In Poland: Biblioteka Jagiellońska, Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego. In Austria: Digital Rare Book Collection of the Astronomy Library of the University of Vienna. In the United States of America:, Library of Congress, Getty Foundation, Digital Scriptorium, coordinated by University of Berkeley, Columbia University and Yale University, Wellesley College, and The New York Public Library. In Italy, Biblioteca Estense di Modena, and Biblioteca Reale di Torino. In Australia, National Library of Australia. Finally, Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.




 Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography����������������������    1 1 The Rich and Diverse Cultural Heritage from Antiquity������������������    2 1.1 Cosmographic Knowledge in Antiquity and the Early Middle Age���������������������������������������������������������������������������    2 1.2 The Islamic Civilization and Its Cosmographic Impact ������    6 1.3 Late Middle Age in Europe: The Role of Iberian Peninsula ������������������������������������������������������������������������������   12 2 The Background of the Iberian Hatching������������������������������������������   16 2.1 The “Discovery” of the Orient����������������������������������������������   16 2.2 The Possibility of the Trip to Asia Travelling Westwards ����������������������������������������������������������������������������   18 2.3 The Discovery of the Oceanic Islands����������������������������������   19 3 Portuguese Exploration��������������������������������������������������������������������   26 3.1 Atlantic and African Exploration: The Impulse of Henrique “The Navigator”������������������������������������������������   26 3.2 The Exploration of East Africa: After the Lands of Preste John ��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   33 3.3 The Portuguese Crossing of the Equator: The Transition from the Middle Ages to the Late Modern Period����������������   34 4 The Explorations of the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon ��������������   35 4.1 The Cartographic School of Mallorca����������������������������������   35 4.2 Columbus’ Mistake and a New Continent����������������������������   36 4.3 Other Explorers: de la Cosa, Caboto, Ojeda, Pinzón and Vespucci ������������������������������������������������������������������������   40 4.4 The Division of the World: The Conflicts Between Portugal and Spain����������������������������������������������������������������   42 4.5 The Pacific Ocean: More than the “Spanish Lake”��������������   46 4.6 Exploration Versus Conquest: The Rationale for the Process����������������������������������������������������������������������   57




5 Ptolemy, Mercator and the New Cosmography��������������������������������   61 5.1 Maximo Planudes: The Quasi Anonymous Hero������������������   61 5.2 Claudius Ptolemy, a Bridge Between the Science of Antiquity and the Renaissance������������������������������������������   63 5.3 The Manuscript of Geographia and its Family Tree������������   64 5.4 The Resurrection of Geographia������������������������������������������   70 5.5 Beyond Ptolemy and His Maps of the Inhabited World������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   72 5.6 Cartography in the Early Sixteenth Century: de la Cosa and Waldseemüller����������������������������������������������������������������   73 5.7 The Name of America and the New Continent ��������������������   79 5.8 The Geographic Importance of the Magellan-Elcano Expedition ����������������������������������������������������������������������������   81 5.9 The Basic Tool of Imperial Rule: Cartography��������������������   84 5.10 Celestial Cartography: Celestial and Terrestrial Planispheres and Globes ������������������������������������������������������   87 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������   90 2

 Humanism as a Trigger for the Scientific Revolution��������������������������   97 1 Humanism and Its Pan-European Impact�����������������������������������������   98 1.1 Reconnecting with the Greco-Roman World������������������������   98 1.2 Erasmus and Humanism Beyond the Italian and Iberian Peninsulas ����������������������������������������������������������������������������  105 1.3 Humanism in Spain: Nebrija as Its Greatest Exponent��������  106 1.4 The Emergence of the Printing Press and Its Impact������������  113 1.5 The End of Humanism in Spain��������������������������������������������  120 2 Cosmography in the Age of Humanism��������������������������������������������  123 2.1 Dante Alighieri’s Cosmography: From Medieval Times to Humanism��������������������������������������������������������������  123 2.2 Science in the Context of Humanism������������������������������������  128 2.3 Leonardo da Vinci: The Ignored Humanist��������������������������  131 2.4 Astronomy in the Fifteenth Century ������������������������������������  136 2.5 Astronomy in Sixteenth Century Up to the Publication of De Revolutionibus������������������������������������������������������������  140 2.6 Humanism and Science in the Kingdoms of Aragon and Castile����������������������������������������������������������������������������  144 2.7 Calendar Reform as an Astronomical, Social and Religious Problem����������������������������������������������������������  152 2.8 Ptolemy, Pico della Mirandola and the End of Astrology��������������������������������������������������������������������������  154 3 The Causes of the Scientific Revolution ������������������������������������������  157 3.1 Scientific Revolution: Definition and Background ��������������  157 3.2 The Republic of Letters��������������������������������������������������������  158 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  160




 The New Astronomy at the Dawn of the Scientific Revolution������������  167 1 The Heliocentric Revolution and Copernicus ����������������������������������  167 1.1 The Publication of De revolutionibus ����������������������������������  167 1.2 The Background of Heliocentrism����������������������������������������  171 1.3 Heliocentrism up to the Beginning of the Scientific Revolution����������������������������������������������������������������������������  176 1.4 Giordano Bruno and the Infinite Worlds������������������������������  179 2 Tycho Brahe: New Stars and Accurate Stellar Catalogues ��������������  182 3 Kepler: The Last Pythagorean?��������������������������������������������������������  188 3.1 Kepler’s Pythagorean Heritage ��������������������������������������������  189 3.2 Kepler and the Multiple Harmonies of the Cosmos��������������  191 3.3 The Collaboration with Tycho Brahe: The Orbit of Mars and the Rudolfian Tables ����������������������������������������  193 4 “Eppur si muove”: Galileo and the Immobility of the Earth������������  195 4.1 The Telescope, Sidereus Nuncius and the New Kosmos ������������������������������������������������������������������������  195 4.2 The Epistolary Relationship Between Galileo and Kepler������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  199 4.3 The Controversy with Simon Marius and the Discovery of Jupiter’s Satellites ������������������������������������������������������������  201 4.4 First Denunciations, the Admonition of 1616 and the Condemnation of 1633����������������������������������������������������������  203 4.5 The Immediate Effect on Other Catholic Theologians and Scientists������������������������������������������������������������������������  210 4.6 The Proof Sought by Galileo: The Finite Speed of Light and the Motion of the Earth������������������������������������  220 4.7 The “Absolution” of Heliocentrism and the “Galileo Case” as Seen Today ������������������������������������������������������������  223 5 Science and Literature: The Effect of the New Cosmography���������  226 5.1 Cosmography in the Works of Cervantes and Other Authors����������������������������������������������������������������������������������  226 5.2 Scientific Satire in the Eighteenth Century: Jonathan Swift and Gulliver’s Travels ������������������������������������������������  231 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  236


 The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion������������������������������  241 1 The Measurement of Position on the Terrestrial Globe��������������������  241 2 Determining Longitude: Methods����������������������������������������������������  244 2.1 Background in Pre-scientific Navigation������������������������������  244 2.2 Astronomical Methods����������������������������������������������������������  246 2.3 Relevant Innovations������������������������������������������������������������  254 2.4 Mechanical Methods������������������������������������������������������������  266 2.5 After the Chimera: Other Proposals��������������������������������������  272 2.6 Precise Determination of the Geographical Location����������  274



3 The Calculation of Longitude and the Implications for Different European Powers������������������������������������������������������������������������������  277 3.1 Spanish Imperial Expansion: Navigation as a Science ��������  277 3.2 The Trading Power: The United Provinces��������������������������  287 3.3 France and the Academic Impulse����������������������������������������  288 3.4 The Foundations of the Pax Britannica: The Royal Astronomers��������������������������������������������������������������������������  293 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  297 5

 The Shape of the Earth and Geographical Exploration����������������������  301 1 The Size and Shape of the Earth ������������������������������������������������������  302 1.1 The Measure of the Earth������������������������������������������������������  302 1.2 The Pendulum and the Measurement of Time: A New Tool ��������������������������������������������������������������������������  305 1.3 Determining the Shape of the Earth and the Law of Gravity������������������������������������������������������������������������������  306 1.4 Meridian Arcs: A Systematic Program for Determining the Shape������������������������������������������������������������������������������  307 1.5 A Corollary: The Mapping of France ����������������������������������  312 1.6 The New Determination of the Meridian and the Decimal Metric System��������������������������������������������������������  314 2 Symmetries: New Continents�����������������������������������������������������������  320 2.1 The Antipodes and the Balance of the World�����������������������  320 2.2 The Identification of Oceania�����������������������������������������������  321 2.3 The White Continent: Antarctica������������������������������������������  323 3 The Strait of Anian: The Mythical Northwest Passage��������������������  323 3.1 Northwest Course�����������������������������������������������������������������  323 3.2 The South Sea and the Route to the East Indies ������������������  326 3.3 The New Spanis Explorations����������������������������������������������  332 3.4 The British Admiralty and the Role of John Barrow������������  333 4 Cartographers, Explorers and Missionaries: The Exploration of Africa��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  334 4.1 The Nile in Antiquity������������������������������������������������������������  334 4.2 The Beginning of European Penetration in Africa����������������  336 4.3 The Last Frontier: The Race of the Nineteenth Century������  336 References��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  339

Conclusions������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  341 Colophon: Culture, Science Versus Humanities��������������������������������������������  347 Index������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������  349

List of Figures

Fig. 1.1 Fig. 1.2

Fig. 1.3

Fig. 1.4 Fig. 1.5

From ancient Greece to the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic civilization The diagram shows the knowledge transferacros time and civilizations���������������������������������������������������������������������������� 2 The geocentric and geostationary system of Claudius Ptolemy (a) Representation of the planets around Earth in the Traite de la sphere by Nicolas Oresme, early fifteen century, General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, MS 335. (b) Simplified representation of the system of circles symbolizing the orbit of a planet. The segment TS, which joins the position of the Earth and the Sun, would be parallel to PK (the planet with the center of its epicycle). The diagram also illustrates the effect of the equant (T = Earth, S = Sun, P = Planet, C = Center Deferent, E = Equant, ♈ = Aries Point, =perigee, A = apogee, K = center of the epicycle)������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 5 Ptolemy’s map and different cartographic projections described Geographia (a) The map was taken from Bunbury (1879). (b) Different projections by Ptolemy. The first one corresponds to the simplest, by Marinus of Tyre, while the central and lower ones were devised by the Alexandrian, and are called the first and second cartographic projections ���������������������� 6 Astronomy in al-Andalus, during the Middle Age, including several Christian kingdoms The scholars appear connected to the city where they worked part of their career������������������������������ 10 Sixteenth century Portulan by Giovanni Oliva Shows the west coast of Portugal, Spain, Africa and the adjacent islands, with the meridian of reference. Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (Plimpton MS 094, ff. 1v-2)������������������������ 20



Fig. 1.6

List of Figures

Different types of maps of the world They appear associated in families, along with their variation over time. The diagram includes several examples and several reconstructions of maps that have not survived the passage of time ���������������������������������������� 21 Fig. 1.7 Ballestilla, cross-staff or Jacob staff Museo Naval de Madrid (Signatura 00289) ������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 28 Fig. 1.8 Nautical astrolab and a quadrant (a) Astrolab from 1571. (b) Quadrant from late fifteen century. Museo Naval de Madrid (Signaturas 01853 and 01571) ���������������������������������������������� 31 Fig. 1.9 Reconstruction of Toscanelli’s map of 1474 and Behaim’s globe of 1492 (a) The first one was made by J.G. Bartholomew, in A literary and historical Atlas of America, 1911. (b) The representation corresponds to a Mercator projection using the Greenwich meridian as a reference. Source: L’homme et la terre (Reclus 1905, pp. 236–237). The outline of America and Asia has been included to show the great error in the measurement of longitudes in both cases���������������������������������������������������������������������� 37 Fig. 1.10 Cantino’s planisphere of 1502 and comparison with modern map This Portuguese map shows the meridian demarcated by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. The counter meridian, 180 degrees from that one, would be defined by the Treaty of Saragossa in 1529. Biblioteca Estense di Modena. This reference is shown in semitransparent gray color and has been scaled to match the West African coastline�������������������������������������������������������� 43 Fig. 1.11 Padrón Real o General de Diego Ribero, 1529, and comparison Also called Diogo Ribeiro in Portugal, before his Castilian naturalization. The world map, called Carta universal in que se contiene todo lo que del mundo se ha descubierto fasta agora, shows the profound ignorance of the west coast of the American continent and a great emptiness in the Pacific Ocean. This map, considered to be the first scientifically executed map, was kept in the Casa de Contratación in Seville and was a state secret. It was the official and obligatory reference for all Spanish pilots and cartographers. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican City (Carte Nautiche Borgiano III). The modern map reference is shown in semitransparent gray color and has been scaled to match the West African coastline�������������������������������������������������������� 44

List of Figures


Fig. 1.12 Boundaries according to the treaties of Tordesillas and Saragossa and the East Indies The territory assigned to Spain, on a map published in 1622. It appeared in Novus orbis sive descriptio Indiae Occidentalis, by Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas. On both maps, on the left, the demarcation line of the Antimeridian is represented, according to the 1529 Treaty of Saragossa between Portugal and Spain. The position is remarkably inaccurate and the Philippines appear erroneously within the Spanish area. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 05414) ���������������������������������������������������������������� 47 Fig. 1.13 The South Sea according to Johannes Janssonius, 1682 Published in Het vijfde Deel Deo Grooten Atlas verbatende De Water-Weereld. California still appears as an island and the mythical Strait of Anian, the Northwest Passage to the Atlantic. Many of the Pacific islands appear with Spanish names, many of uncertain or simply assumed position. Museo Naval de Madrid (Document Number: A-10192-V.5)���������������������������������������������������� 55 Fig. 1.14 Instructions on how to handle an astrolabe, in 1551 It allows to measure the height of a star above the horizon and therefore to estimate the latitude. The explanation comes from Breve compendio de la Sphera, by Martín Cortés de Albacar. Museo Naval de Madrid (Signatura CF 108, lxvii)���������������������������������������� 56 Fig. 1.15 Urbinas Graecus 82, the oldest preserved world map of Claudius Ptolemy A grid with the first projection of Ptolemy has been added. The original is located at the Vatican Library ������������������������ 62 Fig. 1.16 Stema with the genealogy of the Geographia manuscripts A possible genealogy of the different Greek manuscripts that have come down to us. From Claudius Ptolemy’s original of Geographia to the oldest preserved codices, a millennium and two distinct lines elapsed. A possible reconstruction is included here, based on the comparative analysis of the content and its maps, when they exist, including transcription errors, although other sequences, somewhat simpler, are possible ������������������������������ 66 Fig. 1.17 The first map of the new continent, by Juan de la Cosa in 1500 The demarcation line between Portugal and Spain appears clearly. The original map has been proceesed to highlight the coastline. For comparison, an outline of a model worldmap appears as a blue line, with approximately the same scale, using the African West coast as a reference (based on Davies 1976). Museo Naval de Madrid��������������������������������������������������������������������� 75 Fig. 1.18 Planisphere by Nicolo Caveri, c. 1506, and a comparison with a moderm map Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF, IFN-7759102). The reference is shown in semitransparent gray color and has been scaled to match the West African coastline���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 76


List of Figures

Fig. 1.19 World map by Martin Waldseemüller, 1507 The full title is Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii alioru[m]que lustrationes. Library of Congress (G3200 1507 .W3)������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 77 Fig. 1.20 Various maps showing the South American coastline in detail Coastal profile represented in the maps of Juan de la Cosa (1500), Nicolo Caveri (1506) and Martin Waldseemüller (1507, 1513 -in his edition of Ptolemy- and 1516)������������������������������������������������������ 79 Fig. 1.21 Planisphere of Apianus, Tipus Orbis Universalis, 1520 This printed map includes the name of America���������������������������������������� 80 Fig. 1.22 Turin Map of 1523 and Juan Vespucci’s Planisphere of 1526 The last one was possibly made at the Casa de Contratación in Seville after Magellan-Elcano’s voyage, where the immensity of the Pacific Ocean can be appreciated (credits: Biblioteca Reale di Torino and Hispanic Society). A modern worldmap is shown as a reference in semitransparent gray color and has been scaled to match the West African coastline���������������������������������������� 83 Fig. 1.23 Detail of Juan Vespuccio’s map of 1524 and comparison with a modern map It was drawn in a polar stereographic projection. The errors in the longitude measurements, which caused the oversizing of the Eurasian landmass and the consequent decrease in the size of the Pacific Ocean, can be clearly seen. Juan Vespucci, “Vespucci World Map”, HIST 1952, accessed December 31, 2022, items/show/149 ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 85 Fig. 1.24 Mapping of several early sixteen century world maps The maps have approximately the same scale and have been aligned with the West African coast������������������������������������������������������������������������ 86 Fig. 1.25 Martin Behaim’s Globe, 1492, and development in segments (gores) Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg (WI1826) and a facsimile (Ravenstein, Translations & commentary on Martin Behaim’s ‘Erdapfel’, George Phillip & Son, 1908, [online], id/1228/, [accessed: 27 december 2022].)������������������������������������������ 88 Fig. 2.1 Fig. 2.2 Fig. 2.3

Number of printed works on physical-mathematical subjects in Spain in the sixteenth century The graph shows the number grouped by decades and the detail according to cities���������������������� 118 Typology of physical-mathematical works printed in the sixteenth century, according to cities������������������������������������������������ 119 Geocentric cosmology: Dante and Medina (a) Reconstruction of the cosmography depicted in The Divine Comedy According to fig. 45 of M.A. Orr (1914). (b) From the manual by Pedro Medina Arte de nauegar, 1545. Biblioteca Nacional de España������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 125

List of Figures

Fig. 2.4

Fig. 2.5

Fig. 2.6 Fig. 3.1

Fig. 3.2

Fig. 3.3 Fig. 3.4

Fig. 3.5


Fragment of fol. 6r of the Madrid I Codex Leonardo justified here the geocentric theory. In the original the writing is inverted. Biblioteca Nacional de España (Leonardo Da Vinci, Codex Madrid I (Mss. 8937) Treatise on Statics and Mechanics, [online], , , [accessed: 19 June 2019].)���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 134 Cross-staff or ballestilla, an astronomical ring, equatorioum and mural quadrant (a) The ballestilla allows the measurement of angular distances, although in a very inaccurate way. They are taken from the Spanish version of Cosmographia (1548), by Peter Apianus. (b) Demonstration of the use of an astronomical ring, in Cosmographia. (c) The equatorium is an analogical system that allows to calculate with simplicity the ephemeris, in this case of Jupiter. Taken from Astronomicum Cesareum (1540), by Pianus. (d) Quadrans Apiani astronomicus et iam recens inventus et nunc primum editus (1532), by Apianus. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 02193-14r, 02193-66v, 15963-D, and 02688 Gr)������������������������������������������������ 141 Cover of the first issue of Journal des Sçavans, January 5, 1665�������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 159 De revolutionibus, by Nicolaus Copernicus, published in 1543 (a) Title page of editio prínceps of 1543. Universität Wien (Hw 47). (b) Copernicus’ heliocentric cosmology, in the original manuscript of De revolutionibus. The page corresponding to the first original of the text and includes a diagram of the solar system with the Earth and the rest of the planets revolving around the Sun. Biblioteka Jagiellonska (Ms. BJ 10000, f. 9v) ������ 168 The heliocentric cosmography in Rheticus’ Narratio Prima, according to Kepler The illustration comes from Mysterium Cosmographicum, 1596, where a version of the Narratio Prima edition of 1541, with a preface by Michael Maestlin, was enclosed. ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Rar 1367. (https://www.e-­ ���������������������� 172 Detail mentioning Philolaus and Aristarchus Biblioteka Jagiellonska (Ms. BJ 10000, f. 11v) ������������������������������������������������ 173 Handwritten page De revolutionibus It contains corrections by Copernicus and quotes Aristarchus of Samos at the beginning of the sixteenth line, a mention that disappeared in the printed version. Biblioteka Jagiellonska (Ms. BJ 10000, f. 11v)������������������ 174 Different traditions of thought in relation to the evolution of astronomy The connections between prominent astronomers within their cultural spheres, from Antiquity to the beginning of the seventeenth century, are shown���������������������������������������������� 176


Fig. 3.6

Fig. 3.7

Fig. 3.8

Fig. 3.9

Fig. 3.10

Fig. 3.11 Fig. 3.12 Fig. 3.13

List of Figures

Title page and two pages of the Index librorum prohibitorum, in its 1681 version It is the dreaded index of books banned by the Roman Inquisition, printed in 1704. The titles of Copernicus’s De revolutionibus and Galileo’s Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo can be seen. ETH-Bibliothek Zürich (Rar 2719)���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 179 Tycho Brahe’s Sextant and quadrant From De mundi aetherei recentioribus phaenomenis liber secundus, 1588, Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division (QB41.B735 1603) �������������������������������������������������������������������������� 183 Tycho Brahe’s drawing of the 1572 supernova It appeared in his book De nova stella, published the following year. The different stars are identified: A caput Caßiopeæ (ζ Cas), B pectus Schedir (α Cas), C Cingulum (η Cas), D flexura ad Ilia (γ Cas), E Genu (δ Cas), F Pes (ε Cas), G suprema Cathedræ (β Cas), H media Chatedræ (κ Cas), and I Noua stella, which is the supernova���������������������������������������������������������������������� 184 The comet of 1577 revolving around the Sun Also depicted are the orbits of Mercury and Venus, and the orbit of the Sun centered on the Earth. De mundi aetherei recentioribus phaenomenis liber secundus, 1588, Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division (QB41.B735 1603)������������ 186 Tycho Brahe’s mixed cosmology The planets would orbit the Sun, and the orbit of the Sun and the Moon would be centered on the Earth. De mundi aetherei recentioribus phaenomenis liber secundus, 1588, Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division (QB41.B735 1603)���������������������������� 187 Heliocentrism and geocentrism in Kepler’s Mysterium Cosmographicum, 1596 ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Rar 1367������������ 189 The cosmology of the Mysterium Cosmographicum, published in 1596 The text was republished, profusely annotated by Kepler, in 1621. ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Rar 1367 ������������������������ 192 Title page and several pages of the princeps edition of Sidereus Nuncius, 1610 The Sidereal Messenger is a small pamphlet in Latin published by Galileo. It broke the geocentric and Aristotelian vision of the universe, showing among other phenomena, the irregularities of the Moon, the new stars visible in the constellation of the Pleiades, and the new satellites of Jupiter. The title page corresponds to a copy conserved in the Crawford Library of the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh while the other three come from ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, (Rar 4342: 1)������������������������������������������������������������������������ 197

List of Figures


Fig. 3.14 Almagestum Novum (1651), by Riccioli In the balance are the cosmological systems of Copernicus (heliocentric) and Tycho Brahe (reformed geocentric). Bayerische StaatsBibliothek�������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 212 Fig. 3.15 Vortices in Descartes’ cosmology Representation of the structure and organization of the universe. In red are the axes of the eddies and in blue the delimitation of the first sky in the center of which is the Sun (S). Principia philosophiae, 1644, pp. 110 and 122. Library of Congress���������������������������������������������� 215 Fig. 3.16 The vortex of the first sky, with a heliocentric arrangement Descartes, Principia philosophiae, 1644, p. 83. Library of Congress ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 216 Fig. 3.17 The measurement of the speed of light by Rømer in December 1676 Diagram of the original article published in Journal Des Scavans �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 221 Fig. 3.18 1819 edition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum et Expurgatorum ������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 224 Fig. 3.19 Detail of the Index with mentions of Copernicus, Foscarini, Galileo and Kepler The 1819 edition still contained these heliocentric works. Each was accompanied by the date of the decree of prohibition������������������������������������������������������������������������ 225 Fig. 4.1

Fig. 4.2

Fig. 4.3

Fig. 4.4

Position determinations in the mid-seventeenth century Only a few localities were located with any precision on the globe. Parallela geographiae veteris et novae, 1648, Philippe Briet. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 06553–06555) ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 243 The Moon in a 1665 representation by Giovanni Battista Riccioli The different lunar features are named and the part of the opposite hemisphere of the Moon that is visible due to the phenomenon of libration is also shown. Astronomiae Reformatae. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 01862) ���������������������������������������������������������������������������� 248 How to find the star Polaris: Apianus (1532) and Gallucci (1617) (a) Illustration of Quadrans Apiani astronomicus et iam recens inventus et nunc primum editus ... Royal Institute and Observatory of the Navy (Signatura 02688, B 4r). (b) Theatro y descripción universal del mundo, published several years after the first use of the telescope for astronomical purposes. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura: 01873, 263v)������������������������������������������������������������������ 251 The routes to the New World in 1551 Map of the cosmographer Martín Cortés de Albacar, published in Breue compendio de la sphera y de la arte de nauegar con nueuos instrumentos y reglas. Museo Naval de Madrid (Signatura CF 108, lxxvii)������������ 255


Fig. 4.5

Fig. 4.6

Fig. 4.7

Fig. 4.8 Fig. 4.9 Fig. 4.10

Fig. 4.11 Fig. 4.12 Fig. 4.13 Fig. 4.14

Fig. 4.15 Fig. 5.1

List of Figures

Use of a quadrant to measure a height, according to Apian in 1532 Illustration published in Quadrans Apiani astronomicus et iam recens inventus et nunc primum editus. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 02688, D 2r) �������������������� 257 The constellations Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco and Ursa Minor, by Flamsteed, 1729 From Atlas Coelestis, published posthumously by his wife Margaret Flamsteed and James Hodgson. Wellesley College�������������������������������������������������� 263 Examples of nocturlabia (a) Description of the use of a nocturlab. It appears in the Spanish version of Apian’s Cosmographia, 1548. (b) English nocturlab from 1650. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatures 02193 and 01244)���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 267 Sundial, in 1555 De mundi sphaera, sive cosmographia de Orontius Finaeus. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 00150–2, 18) ������������������������������������������������������������������ 269 Pierre Le Roy’s marine chronometer, built in 1766 Musee des Arts et Metiers [01395–0000-] �������������������������������������������������������� 271 World map of magnetic declination, according to Halley in 1702 It was aimed at determining longitude and was published in Nova et totius terrarum orbis tabula nautica variationum magneticarum index juxta observationes Anno 1700. From The New York Public Library (b13909432) �������������������������� 274 Locations with coordinate determinations, 1682–1823 Data from Connaissance des temps, l’usage astronomes et des navegateurs �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 276 Percentages of location determinations, according to methods, 1179–1823 Data from Connaissance des temps, l’usage astronomes et des navegateurs���������������������������������������������������������� 276 King Louis XIV at the Académie Royale des sciences, 1671 Engraving included in Mesure de la terre, by Jean-Félix Picard. Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Rés. S-2) ���������������������������������� 290 Comparison of the Earth-Moon system, Jupiter and Saturn, by Huygens, 1698 Also included are the respective cohorts of satellites, in an illustration by Cosmostheodoros. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 02117)������������������������������ 291 Jacques Cassini’s 1696 planisphere Bibliotheque Nationale de France ���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 293 Reconstruction of the triangulation made by Snellius (a) In yellow, the first triangle containing the base of the triangulation (Haga-Leyda); in red the last of the 33 plotted triangles comprising the meridian arc Alcmaria-Berga ad Zomum. Own elaboration. The original diagram was published in Eratosthenes Batavus, de Terrae ambitus vera quantitate, 1617, Bayerische StaatsBiblithek (Hbks/R 30 df). (b) Snelius’ triangulation of the real map������������������������������������������������������������ 303

List of Figures

Fig. 5.2

Fig. 5.3

Fig. 5.4

Fig. 5.5

Fig. 5.6


Illustration from Mesure de la terre, published by Jean-Félix Picard in 1671 It shows how to use different instrumentation to measure latitude from the positions of stars and angles for the realization of a cartographic triangulation. Bibliothèque nationale de France (Rés. S-2) ������������������������������������������������������������������������ 304 Results of the Spanish-French expedition to Peru (a) The American coast of the Pacific, according to Jorge Juan y Ulloa, on a map contained in Relación histórica del viage a la América meridional, 1743. Getty Museum, Open Content Program, with identification 93-B9188. (b) Illustration from La Figure de la Terre, 1749, by Bouguer and La Condomine. It shows the measurements made in Peru to determine the degree of longitude. ETH-Bibliothek Zürich (Rar 4041) ���������������� 311 Meridian Arc at the Arctic Circle in 1738 Triangulation measurements were made in Lapland by Maupertuis and confirmed that the Earth was flattened at the poles. The map and the results appeared in Sur la figure de la terre. Universität Wien (Hw 794) �������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 313 The new maps of France after the triangulation of the country The first is the result of the efforts of Picard and Philippe de La Hire using the Jupiter satellite method of determining longitude and was engraved in 1693, on an earlier base made by Nicolas Sanson. The map itself was presumably executed by La Hire, who had been a painter and sculptor before he was an astronomer, in 1683 and appeared ten years later in Carte de France corrigée par ordre du Roy sur les observations de Mrs de l’Académie des Sciences. It presents the particularity of using, for the first time, the meridian of Paris as meridian of origin and shows a reduction of the kingdom of the order of 121,756 km2. Louis XIV would affirm that he lost more territory at the hands of the astronomers than in wars against his neighbours. Charles V encountered an analogous situation with the publication of the world map of Orentius Finaeus in 1531. The second is the product of the great mapping of the country carried out under the “dynasty” of the Cassini. It was the final responsibility of César-François Cassini de Thury (Cassini III) and Giovanni Domenico Maraldi and appeared in 1744 under the title Nouvelle carte qui comprend les principaux triangles qui servent de fondement à la Description géométrique de la France. Levée par ordre du Roy par Messrs. Maraldi et Cassini de Thury, de l’Académie royale des Sciences������������������ 315 Medieval cosmography, with “T in O” type world map Page from a medieval manuscript of the text De natura rerum by Isidore of Seville. Bayerische StaatsBibliothek (BSB Clm 396) �������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 321


Fig. 5.7

Fig. 5.8

Fig. 5.9

Fig. 5.10

Fig. 5.11 Fig. 5.12

Fig. 5.13

Fig. 5.14

List of Figures

Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, world map by Abraham Ortelius, published in 1579 It includes an immense Terra Australis Incognita. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 08897) ���������������������������������������������������������������������������� 322 Map of the southern hemisphere, in 1739 It was traced from that of Guillaume de L’Isle and updated by Covens and Mortier. It was published two years later, in 1741. The profile of Australia is not yet complete, and no details, real or imaginary, of the Antarctic continent appear. Geographicus Rare Antique Maps �������������������������������������������������������������������������� 324 1906 map centered on the South Pole It shows a sketch of the southern lands, and belongs to an atlas edited by Justus Perthes See. Part of the coast of the continent is already outlined. The complete exploration would be carried out in the following decades���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 325 The Septentrion according to Gerardus Mercator in the mid-sixteenth century The hypothetical depiction appeared in Septentrionalium Terrarum descriptio, which was edited by his son in 1595, although this map was printed in 1623. The well-known cosmographer based himself on the account of Jacobus Cnoyen’s Itinerarium, who in turn based himself on the Inventio Fortunata, written by an Oxford Franciscan in the second half of the fourteenth century. Both texts are lost. Other antecedents are found in Johannes Ruysch’s map of 1507, Martin Waldseemüller’s better known map of the same year, and Orentius Finaeus’ map of 1531�������������������������������������������������� 326 Detail of Martin Waldseemüller’s world map, 1507 It shows two passes into Asia in the northern hemisphere. Library of Congress (G3200 1507.W3) ������������������������������������������������������������ 328 Imaginary cartography. A map by Didier Robert de Vaugondy in 1772 Published in Carte Generale des Decouvertes de l’Amiral de Fonte et Autres Navigateurs Espagnols, Anglois et Russes pour la Recherche du Passage a la Mer du Sud, and taken in turn from Joseph-Nicholas de Delisle, 1762, it is based both on the results of actual expeditions and on the English fabrication about the supposed Spanish admiral Da Fonte�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 329 The Arctic Pole in 1562 Map from the collection Het vijfde Deel Deo Grooten Atlas verbatende De Water-Weereld, by Johannes Janssonius. Museum Naval de Madrid (Document number: A-10192-V.5) �������������������������������������������������� 330 The northeast coast of Asia in 1610, by Jodocus Hondius It corresponds to a fragment of a map of Asiae Novo Descriptio Auctore Jodoco Hondio, and it shows in a very approximate way the profile of the continent and the mythical strait of Anian that separated this continent from the American one������������������������ 331

List of Figures


Fig. 5.15 Map of the African continent according to van Schagen, 1689 Although the outline of the coasts is quite precise, the interior of Africa is almost completely unknown and the source of the Nile appears to be located in lakes south of the Equator�������� 337 Fig. 5.16 Africa in 1802 The many unknown regions, including the origins of the major African rivers, are clearly shown in Aaron Arrowsmith’s depiction, published in Philadelphia �������������� 338

Chapter 1

Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography Que da Ocidental praia Lusitana Por mares nunca de antes navegados Passaram ainda além da Taprobana, “That from the Western Lusitanian beach Through seas never before sailed Passed even beyond the Taprobana”. Luis Vaz de Camões, Os Lusiadas.

Abstract  The end of the Middle Ages and the beginning of European expansion beyond the confines of the continent were processes based on the vast knowledge accumulated since Antiquity. Part of the Mesopotamian and Greco-Roman knowledge was lost at the beginning of the Middle Ages, but cosmography was partially preserved both in the monasteries and by the Islamic civilization. In fact, it also united the East with the West and made its own contributions to geography and, above all, astronomy. The role of Al-Andalus and its heir states, both Muslim and Christian, was decisive. The translation activity in the different Christian Iberian kingdoms, in which the so-called Schools of Translators of Toledo in the Castile of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries stood out, was extraordinarily active. It was heir to a rich intellectual life and the result of both local and European administrative needs. The Alfonsine Tables, which provided ephemerides for different celestial events, were key in European astronomy and, despite the accumulation of errors over time, were not surpassed until the Contemporary Age. The European expansion towards new geographical horizons began in the fourteenth century, with the discoveries led by Portuguese sailors in the Atlantic islands, seconded by those of other Iberian kingdoms, the French and several city states of the Italian peninsula. Castile disputed with Portugal for supremacy until the signing of several treaties that resulted in the division of the world, including the unknown seas and lands. Ptolemy’s Geography, reintroduced in the West during this competition, was used as a model to incorporate the new discoveries. The southward expansion also propelled the incorporation of the new southern constellations to the celestial globes.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 D. Barrado Navascués, Cosmography in the Age of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution, Historical & Cultural Astronomy,



1  Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography

1 The Rich and Diverse Cultural Heritage from Antiquity 1.1 Cosmographic Knowledge in Antiquity and the Early Middle Age Mesopotamia was the cradle of some of the most ancient cultures and from there is the oldest map found to date. This is the Babylonian world map, created around the eleventh century BCE.  Astronomy, as a distinct intellectual discipline, initially developed there. The MUL.APIN, a treatise probably compiled around 1100 BCE but much older, summarizes their astronomical knowledge before the invention of the zodiac and the development of sophisticated mathematical models by the priest-astronomers of the Neo-Assyrian, Neo-­Babylonian and Persian empires (Fig. 1.1). The ancient Greeks developed, over several centuries from the end of the sixth century BCE, a rational way of interpreting the world. This process is characterized by the presence of several schools, the so-called hairesis, that lasted centuries, and a clear continuity over time, a systematic way of transmitting knowledge from

Fig. 1.1  From ancient Greece to the Byzantine Empire and the Islamic civilization The diagram shows the knowledge transferacros time and civilizations

1  The Rich and Diverse Cultural Heritage from Antiquity


teachers to students. During the Roman Empire this system was preserved and many works were summarized in large compendia. One of the most preeminent scholars was Claudius Ptolemy, who lived in Egypt in the second century CE (c. 100  – c. 170 CE). From the point of view of cosmography (Barrado Navascués 2014), several essential milestones were reached. On the one hand, sophisticated cosmological models were developed that placed the planet at the center of the Universe (therefore geocentric and geostationary) and allowed the prediction of the motion of the planets. These models had an unequal forecasting capacity, depending on the planet in question, but in any case they represented an essential leap in interpreting the motions of the celestial bodies. On the other hand, the size of the Earth was determined. Thus, Aristotle, in the fourth century BCE, provided a value of 400,000 stadia, without citing the author (perhaps Eudoxus of Cnidus), while Eratosthenes of Cyrene obtained 252,000 stadia in the second century BCE, and a century later Posidonius of Apamea derived 180,000 stadia, a value that was profusely used. Finally, the size of the Mediterranean Sea, despite the absence of precise methods for determining longitude, was estimated. Thus, Ptolemy provided a value of 62 degrees, significantly higher than the real one. In fact, Ptolemy compiled several of the most influential treaties. They dealt with very diverse subject, ranging from optics to music or, unfortunately, astrology. His treaties devoted to astronomy (Mathēmatikē Syntaxis, known as Almagest later on, Planetary Hypotheses or the Handy Tables) or cartography (Geographike Hyphegesis or Geographia) were the standard reference for more than one millennium. Geographia provided detailed instructions how to build a map and listed the location of about 8000 locations across the known world, the oikoumenē. Therefore, Ptolemy provided a synthesis of the cosmographic knowledge of his time. During the fourth century CE, the Roman Empire accepted Christianity as the official religion. At the end of the century, any pagan beliefs were banned and the Empire was divided. The western part collapsed during the following century, but Byzantium, the eastern counterpart, prospered for a long period and survived until 1453. From the cultural point of view, this period was characterized by the disappearance of schools of thought and the simplification of intellectual life. In the Hellenistic city of Alexandria, the famous library was dismantled and the Serapeum, a similar institution, was destroyed by fanatical Christians. In addition, many works of some monasteries were copied in the scriptoria of the monasteries. These institutions functioned as guardians of knowledge for many centuries, but they also introduced a selection bias in the works that they copied and, therefore, transmitted. In this process, most of the ancient scholarship was lost, specially in the West, and the principle of religious authority prevailed over rational thought. For additional details, see Barrado Navascués (2021, chapters I and II).


1  Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography

1.1.1 A Geocentric and Geostationary Cosmos Claudius Ptolemy’s masterpiece is the Almagest, a complete synthesis of the astronomical knowledge of Antiquity, including the Babylonian expertise (Jones 1991, pp. 440–453). Ptolemy produced in Syntaxis Maghiste (Mathematical Syntax), its real name, a complete theory of great predictive power on the motion of the planets. Possibly it was his first work, since he developed other questions in a more detailed way in other texts (Phases of the Fixed Stars, Analemma or The Hypotheses of the Planets). Syntax Maghiste presents a logical and sequential plan of work: he establishes, first, his theory of the Sun’s motion from observations of solstices and equinoxes. From this he deduces his lunar theory. After it the stellar catalogue and the theory of the precession of the equinoxes, based on the two previous ones, to finish with the theory of the movement of the planets. He proposes, in addition, a geocentric and geostationary vision. Thus, the planets would move around Earth following specific circles, called epicycles or eccentrics. In the latter case, he tries to explain the apparent different speed of the Sun in its orbit, or anomaly, which has as a consequence a different duration for each season. Thus, the Sun would follow a circular orbit, with uniform velocity, around a point C, located at a certain distance e, called eccentricity, from the Earth. The simple model of the epicycle includes two circular motions: the Sun would move around K in the smaller circle, called epicycle, and the center of it would move around the Earth, but in the opposite direction, in a circle called in the Middle Ages as deferent. If the velocity of both motions is the same, as well as the radius of the epicycle and the distance from the Earth to C (the eccentricity), this description would be mathematically equivalent to the eccentrics (Fig. 1.2). However, both for the lunar theory and for the planets this does not occur and Ptolemy had to resort only to the epicycles, although they produce retrograde motions of the planets of equal length and with a specific periodicity. Therefore, to solve this question, Ptolemy had to introduce modifications in this model. The most significant one was the equant, a point equidistant from the centre of rotation of the deferent, but in the opposite direction to the Earth. The centre C of the epicycle would describe equal angles at equal times as seen from this point. The most important characteristic about Ptolemy’s geocentric and geostatic model, which consists of 43 spheres, is that it allowed to calculate among other parameters: the eccentricity of each planet, the size of its epicycles, the variations in magnitude (one of the serious problems of the homocentric spheres of Eudoxus), the duration of the retrograde movements, and, from this, made possible the calculation of tables with the positions of each planet both in latitude and longitude for each moment. Thus, Ptolemy was able to explain the celestial movements and provide a predictive mechanism with an accuracy close to 5 degrees. Regarding his other main work, Geographia (the full name is Introduction to the elaboration of maps) it is also a comprehensive summary of the geographical knowledge of the lands around the Mediterranean and beyond. Ptolemy drank profusely of previous authors, and he recognized it explicitly, specially of Marinus of Tyre, who in turn gathered the knowledge of Hipparchus, Eratosthenes, and Posidonius of Apamea, together with itineraria and peripla, descriptions of

1  The Rich and Diverse Cultural Heritage from Antiquity


Fig. 1.2  The geocentric and geostationary system of Claudius Ptolemy (a) Representation of the planets around Earth in the Traite de la sphere by Nicolas Oresme, early fifteen century, General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, MS 335. (b) Simplified representation of the system of circles symbolizing the orbit of a planet. The segment TS, which joins the position of the Earth and the Sun, would be parallel to PK (the planet with the center of its epicycle). The diagram also illustrates the effect of the equant (T = Earth, S = Sun, P = Planet, C = Center Deferent, E = Equant, ♈ = Aries Point, 𝚷=perigee, A = apogee, K = center of the epicycle)

terrestrial trips and maritime routes. Thus, the measurement of the terrestrial perimeter published by Ptolemy is the smallest of those made by Posidonius, and in fact too small. Besides, his extension of the Mediterranean was excessively wide, 62 degrees, which meant that the end of Asia was relatively close to the coasts of Iberia. Ptolemy introduced the practice of listing coordinates and devised sophisticated methods to represent them by giving the impression of the Earth’s curvature, minimizing the deformations inherent in the translation from a spherical surface to a flat one. Thus, in Analemma he dealt with orthographic projections and the theory of the gnomon and in Planisphaerium with stereographic projections. O.A.W.  Dilke’s synthesis of the cartographic work clearly illustrates the four projections with which the Alexandrian worked. The initial one is essentially the same used by Marinus of Tyre: parallels and meridians represented as perpendicular lines, which cause great deformations far from the parallel used as reference. The second form, called Ptolemy’s first projection and of great technical simplicity, makes use of meridians as rectilinear segments that converge in a point and of curved parallels. It maintains the proportionality not only in the parallel of reference and the meridians, like the representation of Marinus of Tyre, but also in the rest of the parallels (Thule and the equator in the case of Ptolemy). However, the sphericity is lost and only the meridians and two parallels keep their true dimensions. The third way or second projection of Ptolemy uses curved parallels and meridians, and the latter converge, giving the impression of sphericity. The fourth represents the celestial sphere seen from an external point (Dilke 1987, ch. 11, p. 177). The first three projections are illustrated in Fig. 1.3. In addition, a reconstruction of his map, based


1  Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography

Fig. 1.3  Ptolemy’s map and different cartographic projections described Geographia (a) The map was taken from Bunbury (1879). (b) Different projections by Ptolemy. The first one corresponds to the simplest, by Marinus of Tyre, while the central and lower ones were devised by the Alexandrian, and are called the first and second cartographic projections

on the list of positions provided in Geographike Hyphegesis is also displayed in the same figure, using Ptolemy’s second projection.

1.2 The Islamic Civilization and Its Cosmographic Impact Islamic civilization began with a specific event, the flight of the prophet Muhammad from the city of Mecca to the city of Medina, the Hijra (622  CE). That episode marks the beginning of a rapid military expansion that absorbed different political units, heirs of very diverse traditions. The Persian Empire was conquered in 637 CE, which allowed contact with a civilization that possessed a sophisticated culture. A similar situation would occur with a large part of the Byzantine Empire and its heir kingdoms in the West. Expansion also spread, more slowly, to the east. This heterogeneous collection of cultures and traditions is called Dar al-Islam, the “House of Islam”, a geographic-political term that delimits all the territories that were ruled by Muslim sovereigns, regardless of the religion and culture of the underlying population. Initially the Islamic elites rejected much of the cultural heritage of the subjugated peoples, although eventually contact with the enlighted centers of the classical world, among which the cities of Alexandria, Damascus, Jerusalem, Edessa and Antioch stood out, provoked a hatching in which Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian elements all played a significant part. Cosmography was central to the intellectual life of Islam and the period of greatest splendor of this civilization took place between the tenth and thirteenth centuries. Important centers of knowledge appeared both in the Far and Middle East, as well as in the Iberian Peninsula, known as al-Andalus: Baghdad, Samarkand, Cairo, Cordoba, Toledo and Saragossa, in addition to the pre-existing Damascus. From alAndalus, the knowledge of Greco-Roman Antiquity and of the Byzantine and

1  The Rich and Diverse Cultural Heritage from Antiquity


Sassanid empires radiated towards Europe. This transfer of knowledge would be fundamental to eventually give way to a new historical stage, the Renaissance and its main current of thought, Humanism (see O’Leary 1949; Young et al. 1990, specially for the ‛abbāsíd period). In the east, Hindu astronomy, influenced by Hellenistic culture through the kingdom of Bactria, would be essential in the emergence of a genuinely Islamic tradition. The Sanskrit text Pauliśa Siddhānta, whose oldest copy is from the third or fourth century CE, was the first to include the concept of sines. The text possibly derives from the calculations of Hipparchus of Nicaea, since in both cases the tables are calculated in steps of the 15-degree argument. Somewhat later, Āryabhaṭa (Achra 2007, p. 63), a prominent astronomer born in 476 CE, played a similar role to Claudius Ptolemy in the Indian subcontinent (Forbes 1977). The great compiler was Varaja Mijira (Varāhamihira), who, around 575 CE, completed a work entitled Pancha siddhāntika, a compendium of five earlier works, called Siddhāntas, based, in turn, on Hellenistic astronomy (Dreyer 1953; Thurston 2002, pp. 58–69). Shortly thereafter, around 628 CE, Brahmagupta composed two works on mathematics and astronomy. The first introduces, for the first time, in operations, the number zero, and includes discussions of trigonometry, geometry, arithmetic, and algebra. The second, Brahmasphutasiddhanta, significantly influenced the development of Islamic astronomy. 1.2.1 The Middle East: The House of Wisdom The translation of Hellenic texts into other languages, especially into Syriac, a Mesopotamian Semitic language derived from Aramaic, began around 450 CE. The Syriac schools of Edessa, Nisibis, and Qinnesrin played a very prominent role in this process. The caliph al-Manşūr (754–775  CE), a member of the ‛abbāsí dynasty (750–1258 CE), with the foundation of a new capital in Baghdad in 762 CE, on the banks of the Tigris River, initiated a remarkable intellectual activity. The fifth monarch of the ‛abbāsí dynasty, Hārūn al-Rašīd (786–809 CE), established in this city the Bayt al-ḥikma or House of Wisdom, in which he housed the books that previous caliphs had accumulated by various means and those that throughout his reign he was able to obtain. Ja’far ibn Yahya Barmaki (Djafar ibn Yahya or Jafar al-Barmaki, 767–803 CE), vizier of Hārūn Al-Rašīd and member of the powerful Barmašīd family of Buddhist origin, was a driving force behind the introduction of Hellenistic science into Islamic culture by inviting numerous Nestorian translators from JundiShapur to reside in Baghdad (O’Leary 1949, p.  72, cited in Grant 2006, p.  63). Under al-Ma‛mūn (786–833 CE), son of Hārūn al-Rašīd and seventh caliph of the ‛abbāsí dynasty, the Bayt al-ḥikma reached, arguably, its period of greatest splendour, thanks to the caliph’s own efforts in the search for and translation of manuscripts. The House of Wisdom would eventually be destroyed: its end came possibly in 1258, during the capture of the city by the Mongol hordes of Hulagu Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan.


1  Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography

The Hindu Brahmasphutasiddhanta text had a direct impact on the development of ‛abbāsí astronomy. As related some 150  years later by the astronomer ibn alAdami, the caliph al-Manşūr called a Hindu scholar to his court to explain the Brahmagupta text. So impressed was the caliph that he ordered that the text be translated, a task that was carried out in about 773 CE by Yaqub ibn Tariq, Ibrahim al-Fazari and his son Muhammad al-Fazari (Plofker 2007a, b, pp.  362–363, 1250–1251), the result of which was the work entitled Sindhind, which also introduced Indian numeration, and a table with values of the trigonometric function of the sine. The work of these three astronomers was not limited to the task entrusted to them, but they were the architects of other works. Ya’qub ibn Tariq translated the Zij al-Shah tables, a reworking of Claudius Ptolemy’s results, which included data accumulated by Persian astronomers, and wrote a dissertation on the size of celestial objects, called Tarkīb al-aflāk. For his part, Ibrahim al-Fazari developed treatises on the calendar, the astrolabe, and the armillary sphere, while his son Muhammad al-Fazari definitely adopted, for trigonometric calculations, the value of sines, much more practical than the Hellenic chords. Other astronomer-translators also include the figure of ibn Qurra (826–901 CE, Palmeri 2007, pp. 1129–1130), a great friend of the caliph Hārūn al-Rašīd, although of Sabean religion, who worshiped celestial objects and was considered by the Muslims “of the Book”, in the expression in use, and therefore recognized as monotheistic in character and respected for this reason. Ibn Qurra dealt with the works of Euclid, Apollonius, Archimedes and Ptolemy (both the Geographia and the Almagest). Among his original contributions are both the precise determination of the sidereal year, with an error of only 2 s, as reported centuries later by Copernicus, and the elaboration of the theory of the trepidation or oscillation of the equinoxes, which is mentioned in the Little Commentary on the Tables of Ptolemy, written by Theon of Alexandria in the fourth century. Al-Jwarizmi (780  – c. 850  CE, Brentjes 2007, pp.  631–633) and al-Farghani (805–880 CE, DeYoung 2007, p. 357) represent a qualitative leap. The former, considered the father of algebra, was a reputed astronomer and geographer who worked in the House of Wisdom. He was the author of the astronomical tables called Zīj al-Sindhind, of a reworking of Ptolemy’s Geographia and supervised group of 70 geographers in order to draw up a map for the Abbasid caliph al-Ma‛mūn. He also made an estimate of the size of the Earth which was later used by Christopher Columbus to justify his westward navigation to reach India, and an equivalence between the degree and the distance at the equator of 56 2/3 Arabian miles per degree. As for al-Farghani (Alfraganus), he also had considerable influence in the West. In the tenth century a movement began to criticize the Ptolemaic, geocentric and geostationary cosmology, although maintaining geocentrism as a fundamental part. The door was opened with the recognition of the movement of the perihelion, the position of the closest point between the Sun and the Earth, which was discovered by Claudius Ptolemy. Its displacement was identified by al-Battani (Van Dalen 2007, pp. 101–103), known in the West as Albategnius (c. 858–929 CE).

1  The Rich and Diverse Cultural Heritage from Antiquity


Notable later astronomers working from Cairo to Samarkand in Central Asia include the figures of al-Sufi (903–968 CE), al-Ādamī (c. 925), Abú al-Wafá Buzjani (940–998 CE), al-Qūhī (tenth century), ibn Yunus (c. 950–1009), ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen, c. 965 – c. 1040), Al-Biruni (973–1048/1050) –a proponent of the rotation of the Earth–, Omar Khayyam or Khayyám (1048–1131), Abu Hatim Muzaffar Isfizari (between eleventh – twelfth centuries), al-Khāzini (fl. 1115–1130), al-Tusi, al-Urdi, al-Qazwiní (1203–1283), ibn Shatir (c. 1305–1375), Ulugh Beg (1393 or 1394–1449) and his disciple Ali Qushji (1403–1474, Fazlioğlu 2007, pp. 946–948), who can consider as the last relevant astronomer of this period in the eastern world. Islamic astronomy, and its science in general, is characterized by a certain fixation on Ptolemy, Euclid and a few other authors, which to some extent meant that other equally important works were not analyzed and, therefore, were not commented on and copied. In any case, its learned institutions lacked continuity, since despite their impact and prestige, they ended up, in the best of cases, ceasing their activity when royal funding stopped, if not with destruction due to political assassinations (the death of Ulugh Beg at the hands of his son), religious persecutions (the case of Omar Jayyam) or simply genocide and indiscriminate destruction (sacking of Baghdad at the end of the caliphate). Be that as it may, all this intellectual wealth, still partially unexplored today, served as a bridge between Antiquity and the West. The final melting pot was to the west, in al-Andalus: the Muslim and Christian courts of medieval Spain. 1.2.2 Al-Andalus: Muslim Portugal and Spain The Muslim conquest of the southern shore of the Mediterranean was very rapid. The Strait of Gibraltar was crossed in 711 CE and the Iberian Peninsula was almost completely conquered in 15 years, except for the northernmost lands. A few decades later a small Christian kingdom, Asturias, would appear there and would give rise to a slow process of conquest of the lands under Muslim rule. In any case, after the fall of the Umayyad dynasty in Damascus, an independent emirate (757–929 CE), with its capital in Cordoba, was created in al-­Andalus by a member of this family. The emergence of a caliphate (929–1031 CE) was the most brilliant intellectual period, interrupted by a series of civil wars and political fragmentation into small kingdoms, the Taifa (ṭā’ifah or factions), which were conquered by the push from the North (Asturias, Leon, the Carolingian Empire and its heirs, the Pyrenean counties, Castile, Navarre, and Aragon) or from the Maghreb (the Almoravid Empire in 1086 or the Almohad in 1145). A few years after the Muslim defeat in the battle of Navas de Tolosa in 1212, the Nasrid kingdom of Granada was established, which lasted until 1492, the last Muslim state in Europe, except the Otoman Empire. During this period a significant number of scholar worked in al-Andalus (Fig.  1.4). Among them: Maslama al-Majriti, al-Qattan and Lupito de Barcelona (Sunifredo), in the tenth century; ibn al-Samḥ, al-Jayyani, al-Zarqali (Azarquiel), Abu-l-Qaim ibn Said (Said al-­Andalusi), Ibn al-Ṣaffār and al-Kammad, in the eleventh century; Abu Salt of Denia, Petrus Alphonsi, Averroes, Aben Ezra (Avenara),


1  Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography

Fig. 1.4  Astronomy in al-Andalus, during the Middle Age, including several Christian kingdoms The scholars appear connected to the city where they worked part of their career

Moses Maimonides, ibn Bayyah (Avempace), Abu Muhammad Jabir ibn Aflah (Geber), Abraham Bar Hiyya (Abraham Iudaeus Savasorda) and ibn Tufail (Abentofail), in the twelfth centrury; Jacob Ibn Tibbon (Prophatius), Yehuda ben Moshe, Mosé ben Sem Tob of Leon (Moises of Leon), Isaac ben Sid (Rabiçag), Rabi Zag of Sujurmenza, al-Bitrūyī (Alpetragius o Alpetragio), Muhyi l’din alMaghribi, ibn Said al-Maghribi and al-Ishbili, in the thirteenth; Isaac Israeli ben Joseph, Jacob Corsino and ibn al-Shatir (mainly in Morocco), in the fourteenth century; and Al-Qalasadi in the fifteenth. Maslama al-Majriti (c. 950–1007  CE, known as Methilem), the “Andalusian Euclid”, created an influential school in Cordoba that included the astronomers, mathematicians, and scholars Ibn al-Jayyāṭ, al-Kirmānī al-Zahrāwī, Ibn Khaldūn, Ibn al-Ṣaffār, Ibn al-Samḥ, Abu al-Salt, ibn al-Samh, Said al-Andalusi, ibn Barguth, Abu Muslim ibn Khaldun, Abu Bakr ben Bashrun, and al-Turtusí (Barrado Navascués 2014). Al-Majrity summarized the Sindhind tables of al-Khwarismi, calculated in the Baghdad of the ‛abbāsí caliphate some 150  years earlier. He also estimated the dimensions of the Mediterranean with a result appreciably lower than the value provided by Claudius Ptolemy (17–18 degrees less, closer to reality). Following in the footsteps of al-Majriti, Ibn al-Samḥ (Abulcasim, 980–1035 CE) wrote a treatise on the construction and use of the astrolabe, Kitāb al-ʿAmal bi-ʾlasṭurlāb, and instructions for the use of the equatorium, an analogical device with a

1  The Rich and Diverse Cultural Heritage from Antiquity


geometric representation of the celestial bodies that was invented or improved in al-Andalus. Ibn al-Saffar (d. 1035) wrote a treatise on the astrolabe, which was repeatedly reprinted until the fifteenth century, and even influenced Kepler. Al-Khayyani (eleventh century) estimated the size of the Earth’s atmosphere at about 88  km. This value was accepted until the early seventeenth century, when Kepler improved it. The disappearance of the Cordovan caliphate led to the emergence of several Muslim kingdoms within the Iberian Peninsula. One of the most active from the intellectual point of view was the taifa of Saraqusta (Saragossa), ruled by the Banu Hud dynasty. Close to it were the Pyrenean counties, heirs of the Carolingian Hispanic March. Thus, between the Ebro River and the Pyrenees mountain range, several personalities emerged that were also essential: Sunifredo or Lupito of Barcelona (tenth century) transferred Arabic techniques to the West, including IndoArabic numeration and the astrolabe. Josephus Hispanus or Sapiens, who is only known to have written the treatise De multiplicatione et divisione numerorum, was possibly the true introducer of Indo-Arabic numerals in Europe. Abraham Bar Hiyya (Savasorda, 1070–1136) was a translator and wrote several treatises on geography and astronomy (mainly astronomical tables). Abraham Ibn Ezra (Avenezra, 1089–1167) bridged the gap from Arabic scientific literature to Hebrew and Latin. Petrus Alphonsi or Pedro Alfonso (c. 1061 – c. 1121), born Moshe Sephardi, was a Jewish convert. His works were essential to the transmission of the use of the astrolabe into French and English. In addition, it is likely that Petrus Alphonsi had as his pupil the well-known translator Adelard of Bath and possibly Walcher of Malvern. In the center of the Iberian Peninsula appeared the kingdom of Toledo, another important intellectual center. Abū-l-Ḥasan Yaḥyà b. Ḏī-n-Nūn al-Ma’mūn, of the ḍunnūnid dynasty, reigned between 1032 and 1075, and turned the city into an emulation of the House of Wisdom in Baghdad. He pushed for the calculation of new astronomical tables, the so-called Toledo tables of the eleventh century. The real culprits were Ṣāʿid Al-Andalusī (1029–1070), perhaps initiating the process with his patronage due to his relevant position in the kingdom, and Al-Zarqali (Azarquiel, d. 1100), who also made lunar and solar observations for 37 and 25 years, respectively, and estimated the movement of the solar apogee and the displacement of the equinoxes. He also wrote treatises on instrumentation: the armillary sphere, the equatorium, quadrants or versions of the astrolabe (mong them the azafea, an improved astrolabe). Also working in Toledo were Alī ibn Khalaf (eleventh century), author of a treatise on an instrument called al-asturlab al-mamuni that would serve for any latitude, and Abu al-Salt (c. 1068–1134), who described instruments such as the equatorium, the astrolabe or the planisphere. The polimath Ibn Bāŷŷa (Avempace, d. 1139) was the most important HispanoMuslim philosopher and the first to accept in the West the Aristotelian doctrine in its entirety. He was born in the Taifa of Saraqusta, but after the Almoravid conquest he lived a nomadic life in the Iberian Peninsula and the Maghreb. He accepted the possibility of motion in a vacuum and supposed that the Milky Way After would be formed by the superposition of many star.


1  Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography

After Ibn Bāŷŷa, a succession of scholars began to question several key assumptions of Ptolemy, described in the Almagest. Thus, ibn al-Kammad (early twelfth century) published three sets of Zijs and studied trepidation or the alternative to the precession of the equinox. Jabir ibn Aflah (Geber, 1100–1150) was the inventor of a new instrument, the torquetum, another analogical computer, and wrote Iṣlāḥ al-Maŷisṭī (Revision of the Almagest). Regiomontanus, several centuries later, practically plagiarized the part dealing with spherical trigonometry when he published De triangulis and it is possible, too, that the trigonometric part of Copernicus’s De revolutionibus, printed in 1543, was inspired by that text. Ibn Tufail (Abentofail, d. 1185 or 1186) elaborated a system about the planets, in which eccentrics and epicycles were not necessary, so as not to violate the Aristotelian principle of uniform and circular motion. Al-Bitruji (Alpetragius, d. c. 1204) continued the objections to Ptolemy’s system and recovered the theory of homocentric spheres proposed by Anaxagoras and developed by Aristotle and, especially in its mathematical aspect, by Eudoxus. Al-Ishbili (c. thirteenth century) wrote the manual al-Zīj al-kāmil fī al-talim, based on the Toledo Tables and the work of Azarquiel, in which he included trepidation according to the latter’s third model. In addition, he modified Ptolemy’s theory to calculate more correctly the position of the Moon, separating the motion into longitude and latitude. The last two centuries of Muslim presence in Spain, until the conquest of the kingdom of Granada by Castile, also included several outstanding astronomers. IbnBanna (1256–1321) wrote Talkhis amal al-hisab, a summary of arithmetical operations, where he introduced a new algebraic notation, which may predate him. Isaac Israel ben Joseph (Isaac Israel of Toledo or “the Younger”, first half of the fourteenth century) was responsible for Yesod Olam, the best astronomical work written in Hebrew. Ibn al-Raqqam (c. 1250–1315) produced a treatise on sundials. Al-Umawi (fifteenth) was known for his works Marasim al-intisab fi’ilm al-hisab (On arithmetical rules and procedures) and Raf’al-ishkal fi ma’rifat al-ashkal (On determining the size of surfaces). Finally, Al-Qalasadi (1412–1486) disseminated the symbolism of arithmetical operations, which acquired their own entity from short Arabic terms or their abbreviations.

1.3 Late Middle Age in Europe: The Role of Iberian Peninsula 1.3.1 The First School of Translators of Toledo The city of Toledo, located in the center of the Iberian Peninsula, was conquered in 1085 by the kingdom of Leon. Raimundo de Sauvetat or Toledo, a Benedictine monk of the Cluny order, was the second archbishop and founded the cathedral school. In similar schools north of the Pyrenees, liberal arts, scholastic philosophy, law and medicine predominated, while in Toledo, scientific and philosophical disciplines were a central part of the teaching. In addition, a very large number of translations were made from Arabic, Greek or Hebrew into Latin, using Castilian as an

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intermediate language. Among the most active translators were Juan Hispalense (a Jewish convert), Miguel Soto, Herman of Carinthia (Hermann von Carinthia), Hermannus Alemannus, Rudolph of Bruges, Dominic Gundisalvo, Alfred of Sarashel or Anglicus, Robert of Ketton or Robert of Chester, Abraham ibn Daud, Mark of Toledo, Alexander Neckham and Daniel of Morley. In particular, Gerard of Cremona, who travelled to Spain in search of Claudius Ptolemy’s Almagest, translated 81 works from Arabic. Thus, the Arabic names of the bright stars were translated into the different vernacular languages of the West. Among the astronomical texts, works by al-Farghani, al-Hiyal, al-Falaki, alKindi, al-Farrahan, ibn Yusuf, al-Battani, ibn Qurra, al-­Qabisi, Jabir ibn Aflah and Maslama al-Majriti, among others, were translated into Spanish and/or Latin. Euclid’s Elements, al-­Khwarismi’s Algebra or Archimedes’ Elements of Geometry, Ptolemy’s Planisphaerium together with his Canon of Kings, or the Liber de compositione astrolabii were translated in Toledo. Finally, part of the Aristotelian opus, including the numerous commentaries of renowned philosophers such as Avicenna, were rewritten in Latin, moved north and taken up in the new European universities. 1.3.2 The Second School of Translators of Toledo In the thirteenth century, the kingdoms of Leon and Castile merged when they were inherited by Ferdinand III of Castile. His son, Alfonso X of Castile (king from 1252 to 1284), received the nickname of “the Wise” for his promotion of cultural life and in particular of his capital, Toledo. Under his direction a new school of translators was articulated, a heterogeneous group of scholars of diverse origins who worked under the royal patronage. Among the translators known are the figures of: Bernardo “the Arab” (Muslim converted to Christianity), Fernando of Toledo, Garci Perez, Guillen Arremon d’Aspa, Juan d’Aspa, Juan Cremona, Juan of Mesina, Petrus of Regio, Egidio of Tebadis (of Parma), Bonavenura of Siena, Yehudah ben Mosheh ha-Kohen (Jehuda ben Mose Cohen, his personal physician), Isaac ben Sid, Abraham Alphachin, Samuel ha-Levi Abulafia, Mosheh, or Rabbi Zag of Sukhurmenza. Alfonso X was also an adept in astronomy and was the ultimate impeller of the calculation of new tables, the so-called Alfonsine Tables, valid for the Christian calendar, solar, or the Muslim calendar, lunar. Isaac ben Said (Rabiçag) and Jehuda ben Mose Cohen made the actual computations. At the end of the thirteenth century were used in the Italian peninsula, but the real international leap took place in France, where they arrived before 1320. Among the astronomical text translated or written in Toledo it is possible to mention the Books of the Knowledge of Astronomy (partially based on al-Sufi), Cosmography by ibn al-Haytham, The Canons by al-Battani, the Tratado dobre el uso del cuadrante sennero, Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos (Quadripartitum in its Latin version), including commentaries by Ali ibn Ridwan, the Book of the stars (Kitab al-­ Bari fi ahkam al-nujum) by Ali ibn Abi al-Rijal, or the Libro de las cruzes (Book of the Crosses), an anonymous Andalusian book from the ninth century.


1  Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography

Yehuda ben Moshe carried out his own translations and compilations of earlier works, such as: IIII books of the stars of the ochaua espera, Libro de las cruzes and Libros del Saber de Astronomía. On the other  hand, Rabiçag wrote Astrolabio redondo and Astrolabio llano, Libro del ataçir, Libro del cuadrante para rectificar, Libro del fazer de las armellas, Libro del reloj de la piedra de la sombra, Libro del reloj de agua and Libro del reloj del argent vivo. On of the most prominent astronomical text of the period is The Libro de las cruzes. This text experience several phases: (i) the original material came from the late eighth or early eleventh (an archuza or narrative poem by al-Dabbī) or a text that would come from the Hispanic Visigoth period, prior to the Muslim conquest of 711 CE; (ii) a revision of this material made in the eleventh century by ‘Ubayd Allāh (Oveidala “the wise”, possibly Abū Marwān ‘Ubayd Allāh b. Khalaf al-Istijī or, alternatively, ‘Ubayd Allāh b. al-Ḥasan Abū al-Qāsim), which would have been made in the second half of the eleventh or first half of the twelfth century; (iii) the definitive text of the Toledo school by Alfonso X in 1259. The books written or translated in Toledo during the thirteen century made an extraordinary impact on northern European scholars. In fact, Albertus Magnus used primarily the material of the School of Translators of Toledo, which he in turn would transfer to his pupil Thomas Aquinas. Eventually, all these opera would also have an influence on Roger Bacon. 1.3.3 The European Universities In Christian Europe, in the twelfth century, and perhaps even earlier, there was a substantial change in the way the world was interpreted, as a result of the rise of commerce, the overcoming of the feudal structure, the development of urban life, the appearance of schools linked to cities, a rediscovery of classical knowledge through numerous translations, the revitalization of classical Latin, and the increase in literary production (Haskins 1928; Soto Rábanos 2000). All this was accompanied by other cultural products (as is the case of the Gregorian religious reform or the appearance of the Gothic style) and military processes from the eleventh century on (“Reconquista” in the Iberian peninsula, the Norman expansion in Sicily and southern Italy, and the Crusades). There are reasons to affirm that the two schools of translators of Toledo acted as triggers of the new European intellectual life. In Toledo, a new interpretation of Aristotelian theories was developed in the twelfth century (Dreyer 1953), which would later be transmitted northward through a newly emerging institution destined to change education and knowledge: the university. The curriculum inherited from the Roman Empire consisted of the seven arts, which distinguished between the trivium (grammar, dialectic, rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, music, geometry, astronomy). Medicine and law were studied separately, as was theology (sacra eruditio) and, later, canon law. Although in different ecclesiastical councils of the High Middle Ages there were recurrent calls for the maintenance of schools, generally linked to the cathedrals, if

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they existed, these had as their primary mission the formation of the priesthood. They were present in Visigoth Hispania and in some cases it is possible that they continued their work until the twelfth century. In any case, at least since the eleventh century, the episcopal school of Santiago de Compostela, led by Bishop Cresconio (1037–1066), was in operation. Also from the same century are the schools of Coimbra, Leon and Lisbon, which were in charge of the order of canons regular of St. Augustine, who introduced new teaching methods of French influence. Later, already in the twelfth century, the episcopal school of Palencia made its appearance, which became a General Study with Alfonso VIII of Castile (reign 1158–1214), as well as those of Braga, Burgo de Osma, Burgos, Gerona, Lerida, Oviedo, Porto, Salamanca and, probably, they would also exist in most of the cathedral churches of the peninsula. There were also palatine schools, such as that of Ferdinand II of Leon (reign 1157–1188), or that of Alfonso X of Castile (reign 1252–1284). North of the Pyrenees and during the beginning of the late Middle Ages, different types of schools appeared, which in a certain way presented a specialization: philosophy-theology (Paris, Oxford, Canterbury), law (Bologna, Pavia, Ravenna), medicine (Salerno and Montpelier) and translation (Toledo). The chapter school of Tounai was very active with the scholasticus Odon (1087–1092), as was Monte Casino. At the change from the eleventh to the twelfth century, Anselm of Laon (1050–1117), his brother Raoul (Radulph or Rudolph, who died between 1131 and 1133), William of Champeaux (c. 1070–1122) and Ivon of Chartres (c. 1040–1116) taught the trivium and theological teachings in the episcopal schools of Laon and Chartres. In any case, in the north of the Italian peninsula, where urban development was much more advanced, communal schools appeared, financed by the councils (Bologna, Pavia, among others). They excelled in law, medicine and translation. However, schools of grammar, which also included rhetoric and singing as the beginning of theology, were probably much more widespread. These activities began to be formalized with the regulation by Pope Alexander III (1159–1181), with the granting of the licentia docendi. The foundation of the first general studies and universities had been laid. Thus, the law school of Bologna appeared in 1088, acquiring a university charter in 1119; Paris, Oxford and Modena were also founded in the twelfth century; Palencia, Cambridge, Salamanca, Montpellier, Padua, Naples and Toulouse began their activities at the beginning of the thirteenth century. The European universities appeared as unique institutions in their structure, standing out also for their continuity over time. A factor in their formation was the mobility of students and professors, who, being foreigners, were subject to the university. The constitution of a corporation, following Roman law, provided the universities with the ability to self-regulate their affairs and with it a great independence from political and religious power (Grant 2006, p. 144).


1  Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography

2 The Background of the Iberian Hatching 2.1 The “Discovery” of the Orient Alexander “the Great”, son of Philip II of Macedon and conqueror of one of the largest and most diverse empires that ever existed and the most influential for the cultural heritage left and the interconnection of different parts of the world then known, remains in the imagination of the West (and not only there, since he is known as Iskander in the Islamic sphere and the mark of Hellenism extended to the Ganges River) as an archetype of rebellious and overwhelming youth, typical of a chosen one of the gods destined to change reality, in a fleeting and resplendent step, to return to them very soon, as it was in his case. Among his many unfulfilled dreams were to emulate Herakles in his Indian nóstos (a two-ways trip) and to get to bathe in the waters of the Ōkeanós, at the eastern end of the oikouménē, the habitable land, in order to reach the limits of the world, a dream that was thwarted by his own soldiers refusing to move further up the Hyphasis River. Alexander was forced to return by the Indus River and later by the Persian coast, following the route that the Greek Scylax of Carianda had opened in the sixth century BCE for the Persian king Darius I.  This limit would be surpassed by two Greco-­Bactrian kings: Menander and Demetrius, perhaps in the middle of the second century BCE (Bunbury 1879; O’Leary 1949, chapter 8, section 1). Certainly the Alexandrian adventure contributed significantly to cosmographic knowledge, both by geographical explorations (the campaigns of the Macedonian troops themselves, the exploration of his admiral Nearchus in the Persian Gulf and the coasts between the Indus and Euphrates rivers) and by the transmission of information that was previously compartmentalized in different cultures. As for other frontiers of the oikouménē, several exploratory voyages were made during Antiquity, descriptions of which have survived. Among other examples already cited, Hannon “the Navigator”, of Carthaginian origin, travelled along the west coast of Africa in the fifth century BCE. His expedition is part of the voyages described by the Hellenes or the navigatio, their Roman counterparts. In any case, the conflicts of the Roman Empire with the Sassanid Empire would create a de facto barrier located at the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Beyond that only the legends about Alexander “the Great” and possibly the verbal accounts of traders, transported with the goods from caravanserai to caravanserai, remained, although the Romans would maintain maritime trade with India until the end of the empire, as would Byzantium1 until the beginning of the Muslim expansion. During the Islamic rule of the southern shores of the Mediterranean, the Middle East and South Asia, the channels of communication were reopened, at least for like-minded travelers. Arabic, as a common cultural vehicle, also made the exchange of information extraordinarily easy. In addition, the obligation to travel to the holy  Cosmas Indicopleustes, meaning “Indian traveller”, was a Greek seafarer who would have reached India and Ceylon in the sixth century CE. 1

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city of Mecca (Hach or Hajj), for those who could afford it, was another lever that promoted exchanges, since pilgrims from all over the Islamic world met during the Hajj in that city of Arabia, in the centre of their domains. In a certain way, the position of Mecca recalls that of the Delphic Omphalos, because of its consideration as a central place and point of reference, as numerous Islamic maps show. Although the list of travelers is very extensive, the most relevant are Ahmad ibn Fadlan, Muḥammad ibn Ḥawqal and Ahmad ibn Rustah, in the tenth century; Abu Hamid al-Gharnati in the eleventh century; Muhammed al-Idrisi, Benjamin of Tudela and ibn Jubayr in the twelfth century and ibn Battuta, in the fourteenth century. Towards the end of the Middle Ages several Judeo-Christian voyagers who travelled through the lands of the East left written accounts of their adventures, nóstos or itineraries that include geographical, ethnographic and political descriptions, and can also be considered mental maps of perplexity in the face of various customs. Petaquias of Ratisbona reached Baghdad in the twelfth century. Benjamin of Tudela traveled through Syria, Palestine, Baghdad, Persia and the Arabian Peninsula in his journey from 1160 to 1173. Pope Innocent IV, after the Council of Lyon in 1245, sent three embassies to Asia led by Franciscan and Dominican monks. John of Plano Carpini, a companion of Francis of Assisi, was sent to the Great Khan in Central Asia. He attended the enthronement ceremony of one of Genghis Khan’s grandsons, Güyük, which took place in the summer of 1246. John returned to Lyon in 1247 and his journey was described by a Dominican friar named Vincent de Beauvais, who wrote in one of the most popular encyclopedias of the late Middle Ages, the Speculum Majus. These can be seen as the beginning of medieval exploration of the continent by European sources. The first mission of evangelization directed expressly towards the Mongols was undertaken by the Franciscan monk William of Rubruck in 1253 (Lester 2009, pp. 55–59, 61). The case of Marco Polo (1254–1324) is better known. His story, which could well be sprinkled with a good dose of imagination, had a great diffusion. Rusticello of Pisa wrote the stories of Marco Polo, whom he met during his stay in prison in Genoa in 1298. The text suggests the possibility of the habitability of the southern hemisphere, given that it states that “In this realm there does not appear the polar star which is called in romance ‘tramontana’, nor are the stars of the Ursa Major which the vulgar call ‘The Chariot’ to be seen.” (Lester 2009, pp. 67, 75) In any case, it contains the first mention of Cipango or Japan. Odorico de Pordenone (O’Doherty 2006) also made an Asian voyage around the same time (1318–1330), as did Giovanni de’ Marignolli, and they left written accounts of their adventures. The Dominican friar Jordanus Catalani or de Sévérac (fl. 1280 – c. 1330), the first Catholic rite bishop of India, described his travels in Asia in Mirabilia Descripta of 1324 and called Ethiopia the third India, locating Prester John there for the first time (Lester 2009, p. 181). However, due to the plague of the fourteenth century, contacts between Europe and Asia disappeared for several decades. In the first decade of the fifteenth century, Ruy González de Clavijo, commissioned by the King of Castile Henry III, made a trip to the court of Tamerlane, also


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known as the conqueror Timur. However, the aim of such a trip, more than geographical, was political: the forging of an alliance against the Ottomans, something that Portuguese, Aragonese and Castilians would also try, during that same century, with the Negus of Abyssinia. Of great cosmographic interest is the 24-year voyage of Niccolo Conti (c. 1416–1440), in which he gives the same reasons as Marco Polo about the habitability of the stars south of the Equator: “The natives of India guide their ships mainly by the stars of the southern hemisphere, since they rarely see those of the North. They do not use the compass, but they know their course and the distances to be covered by the elevation of the pole”. The story was told by the wellknown humanist and papal secretary Poggio Bracciolini. Conti visited Mecca, where he was forced to convert. After returning to the West, he went to ask forgiveness from the Pope, who was at the Council of Florence, and his stories had a great impact, especially because of the geographical information.2

2.2 The Possibility of the Trip to Asia Travelling Westwards Oceanic navigation westward, in order to reach the coasts of Asia, was suggested in Antiquity by Aristotle, Eratosthenes and Seneca. Its feasibility is based on the various calculations of the size of the Earth and the Eurasian continent. As regards size, Posidonius of Apamea and Eratosthenes of Cyrene derived values of 180,000 and 252,000 stadia, respectively. In Geographike hyphegesis (Geographia or Guide to the Drawing of a World Map) Ptolemy, without including any explanation, did not accept Eratosthenes’ value of size and assumed that of Posidonius, which is almost a third smaller. On the other hand, the fraction of the globe covered by the oikouménē differed greatly according to the various authors: Ptolemy proposed a factor of 1–6, while for Aristotle it was 1–4. Much later, in the twelfth century, Roger Bacon, following Aristotle and Seneca, postulated in Opus Maius that at least half in an east-west direction, which would make the crossing between Spain and India extremely short. Roger Bacon made a simplified diagram of a world map (c. 1267, fig. 27 in Lester 2009) showing the accessibility of India by a westward traverse from principium Hispanic to principium Indie and detailed in Opus Maius the need to mark positions with longitude and latitude with coordinates. It should be noted that these estimates, along with the simplified representations, were made before the discovery in the West of Ptolemy’s Geographia, with all its apparatus for mathematical cartographic descriptions (Lester 2009, pp. 103–107, 133, 139). Pierre d’Ailly declared that: “It seems necessary to affirm that no part of the Earth is uninhabited” and promoted the idea of the proximity between India and  “The natives of India steer their vessels for the most part by the stars of the southern hemisphere, as they rarely see those of the north. They are not acquainted with the use of the compass, but measure their courses and the distances of places by the elevation and depression of the pole.” (Winter Jones et al. (eds.) 1963, p. 31; Lester 2009, pp. 198–201). 2

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Spain, following Bacon. Moreover, a map in the manuscript version of d’Ailly’s Imago Mundi places the north at the top, breaking with medieval tradition or Islamic references, and the accompanying text suggests the habitability of the southern hemisphere.3 The size of the degree, and therefore of the Earth, had been more accurately estimated by the Portuguese from their African explorations and determinations of latitudes. For centuries it was assumed that the degree equaled 56 and 2/3 miles, which is the conversion used by Columbus, following Pierre d’Ailly. The new Portuguese determination was 66 and 2/3 miles, closer to the actual 69 miles (Lester 2009, p. 253). The rejection of the expedition by experts from different countries was, therefore, well-founded.

2.3 The Discovery of the Oceanic Islands Some ancient and early medieval authors speculated on the possibility of the existence of unknown lands beyond the ocean. Examples of this can be found in Plato, Virgil or Isidore of Seville: Also I believe that the earth is very vast, and that we who dwell in the region extending from the river Phasis to the Pillars of Heracles inhabit a small portion only about the sea, like ants or frogs about a marsh,... Plato, Phaedon, 109a […] lies beyond the stars, beyond the paths / that in the course of the year the sun travels.4 Virgil, Aeneid, book VI, verses 795–796 Besides these three parts [Asia, Europe, and Africa] of the globe there is a fourth, situated on the other side of the Ocean, in the south, which is unknown to us on account of the ardors of the sun. It is said that in its confines dwell the legendary Antipodes. Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, XIV 5.17

It is possible that prior to the voyage of Christopher Columbus other expeditions to the West had been made, or that the different Atlantic archipelagos5 were visited, on more than one occasion, during the late Middle Ages, and even before (Jorge Godoy 1996), since the lack of historical records leaves many gaps in our historical knowledge. Well known is the case of the Norse colonization of Iceland and Greenland, and the subsequent attempt in the American northwest by Leif Eriksson in the eleventh century, with a settlement in Vinland, what is now Newfoundland and Labrador (Clements 2005).

 Ailly, Ymago Mundi, Edmond Buron (ed.), Maisonneuve Fréres, Paris,1930, I.196, quoted in Lester (2009, pp. 174–176). 4  The first part of verse 795 and the second part of verse 796 are missing. The text refers to the invisible stars from the boreal hemisphere and the band of the tropics (Lester 2009, p. 113). 5  An interesting analysis of the knowledge of the oceanic islands, in particular the Canary Islands, can be found in García García (2007, pp. 19–41), in particular note 14. 3


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Fig. 1.5  Sixteenth century Portulan by Giovanni Oliva Shows the west coast of Portugal, Spain, Africa and the adjacent islands, with the meridian of reference. Columbia University, Rare Book and Manuscript Library (Plimpton MS 094, ff. 1v-2)

In the beginnings of the exploration of the Atlantic Ocean (Fig. 1.5), during this final stage of the Middle Ages, the Genoese navigators were the real protagonists, due to their wide mastery of instrumental techniques such as the circular astrolabe, the compass,6 the alidade, and the handling of nautical charts or portulan charts, which would have appeared in the thirteenth century. These navigational tools are “graphic documents that are based on two indispensable bases: the scale or proportionality, materialized in a ‘trunk’ or graphic ruler graduated in miles, and the magnetic

 The compass may have been invented independently in Europe and China (Lester 2009, p. 92).


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Fig. 1.6  Different types of maps of the world They appear associated in families, along with their variation over time. The diagram includes several examples and several reconstructions of maps that have not survived the passage of time

orientation indicated with symbols or letters and used in the characteristic network or web of courses, more utilitarian than decorative” (Rosselló and Vergel 2001, p. 58). Since the creation of the first circular world maps in the Greco-Roman world (although some Mesopotamian representations have been preserved, see Barrado Navascues 2021), in the fifth century BCE, there has been an evolution in them. Figure 1.6 shows the different families: from the Roman itineraries to the mathematical constructions derived from Ptolemy’s Geographia. Maps were essential tools for understanding the environment and contextualizing new geographic discoveries. Ptolemy’s Geography was the conceptual framework in which they were integrated (Sect. 5). The portulans can be considered a natural evolution of those, although they are limited to a local reality. Among the various expeditions undertaken by these Genoese sailors, the one carried out by the brothers Vadino and Ugolino Vivaldi, financed by Tedesio d’Oria, stands out. Its aim was to reach the ends of the world and, with it, to be able to trade directly with India. The date of the start of the voyage, 1291, must not have been accidental, as it coincided with the fall of the city of St. John of Acre, the last Christian enclave in the Holy Land, in the hands of the Mamluk sultanate of Egypt and, until then, an essential point for trade with the East. Thus, the galleys Allegranza and Sant’Antonio left the port of Genoa and, after calling at the island of Majorca,


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crossed the strait, called the city of Ceuta, and reached Cape Juby, on the northwest coast of Africa, the last point at which, with certainty, it is known that they arrived. Then, the trail of the two galleys disappeared, as reported in his chronicles, Jacobo d’Oria, uncle of the shipowner: “…Tedisio d'Dria [a nephew of Jacopo), Ugolino Vivaldi, and a brother of the later, together with a few Other citizens of Genoa, initiated an expedition which no one up to that time had ever attempted. They fitted out two galleys in splendid fashion. Having stocked them with provisions, water, and other necessities, they sent them on their way, in the month of May toward the Strait of Ceuta [Strait of Gibraltar] in order that the galleys might sail through the ocean sea to India and return with useful merchandise. The two above-mentioned brother went on the vessels in person, and also two Franciscan friars; all of which truly astonished those who witnessed them as well as those who heard of them. After the travelers passed a place called Gozora there was no further news of them. May God watch over them and bring them back safely.”7

As far as the expedition of the Vivaldi brothers is concerned, historical research has not yet been able to determine the route that these Genoese sailors actually intended to follow to reach India.8 The route could have been the classic one known to circumnavigate Africa, as attempted by Hannon and Sataspes in Antiquity, or a much more ambitious one, crossing the ocean from east to west, which, in a certain way, would justify Petrarch’s assertion, indicated above (note 7). For those who consider this second itinerary as the true one, evidently, the Vivaldi brothers would be the authentic predecessors of the Columbian expedition. That same year (1291) saw the signing of the Treaty of Monteagudo between Sancho IV of Castile and Jaime II of Aragon, which delimited the areas of influence of both Iberian kingdoms in North Africa, marking the Moulouya River, whose mouth is near the Chafarinas Islands, as the boundary between their areas of expansion. This treaty was probably influenced by the loss of the common border between the kingdom of Aragon and the Muslim kingdom of Granada, which prevented the former from continuing its territorial expansion within the peninsula. In spite of this, it can be considered that apart from the Portuguese and Genoese, in the fourteenth century, navigation in the Atlantic was dominated by the Crown of Aragon, while in the fifteenth century it would be the Crown of Castile that would hold the pre-eminence (Morales Padrón 1955, pp. 429–465). In fact, perhaps the Peace of Monteagudo initiated a series of treaties9 in which the different Iberian powers established their respective spheres of influence inside and outside the peninsula, inaugurating de jure the transoceanic expansion. In the process of exploration of the Atlantic, the oceanic islands were the first enclaves in which the expeditions landed, known since Antiquity, as already 7  Rogers (1955, pp. 31–45). In clear contradiction with this account is the statement made by the poet Francesco Petrarca, in his work De vita solitaria, when he states that his parents had a memory of the arrival in the Fortunate Islands of an armada of Genoese, which could well be that of the Vivaldi (book II, trat. 6, chap. 3). 8  According to Mederos Martín and Escribano Cobo (2002, p. 59), to the south of Cape Juby, the lack of SW winds that allowed the ships to return northwards would justify the fact that the Vivaldi brothers’ expedition, once they had passed this cape, could not return. 9  The treaties of Ayllón in 1411, Alcáçovas in 1479, Tordesillas in 1494 and Saragossa in 1529.

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indicated, with the appellative of Fortunatae Insulae, Fortunate Islands. In general, they are usually identified with the Canary Islands, as stated in the plan drawn up by Quintus Sertorius to retreat to them during the civil wars of the Republic of Rome in the first century BCE (Plutarch, Parallel Lives. Sertorius, VIII). Pliny “the Elder” makes a description of the Fortunate Islands, although very criticized since he based it on information from other authors and he never visited the islands (Álvarez Delgado 1945, pp.  26–61). Ptolemy (Geographia, Book IV, ch. VI) calls them Fortunatae insula. Isidore of Seville, already in the seventh century, affirmed: The Fortunate Isles indicate, by their name, that they produce all kinds of goods; it is as if they were considered happy and blissful because of the abundance of their fruits. The most precious trees bear fruit spontaneously; the tops of the hills are covered with vines without the need to plant them; instead of grasses, crops and legumes are born everywhere. Hence the error of the Gentians and pagan poets, according to whom, because of the fecundity of the soil, those islands were paradise. They are situated in the ocean, in front and to the left of Mauritania, close to the west of the same, and separated both by the sea. Isidore of Seville, Etymologies, V.2

The medieval rediscovery of the Canary Islands took place in the first third of the fourteenth century10 with the arrival of the Genoese Lancelloto Malocello, who governed the island, now known as Lanzarote, for two decades. The veracity of the character is attested in the first known representation of the Canary Islands, the portulano made by  Angelino Dulcert,11 cartographer of the “School of Majorca” possibly of Genoese origin, in 1339, in which it appears, in addition to the islands of Fuerteventura, La Graciosa and the islet of Alegranza, the island of Lanzarote with the denomination of Lanzarotus Marocelus, in clear allusion to the Genoese navigator, on which Dulceti drew the cross of gules, the coat of arms of the Republic of Genoa (Tejera Gaspar 2012, p. 8). The well-known papal bull Gaudeamus et exultamos,12 formulated by Benedict XII in 1341, addressed to Afonso IV of Portugal, authorized the capture and enslavement of Muslims. Soon after it, an official expedition was constituted composed of three ships, two of them commanded by the Florentine Angiolino del Teggia dei Corbizzi, and by Niccoloso da Recco, of Genoese origin, who landed in the Canary Islands archipelago where they stayed for more than four months. The chronicle of this trip is known thanks to the work of Giovanni Boccaccio entitled De Canaria et insulis reliquis ultra Ispanian in Occeano noviter repertis, written from the information related by Niccoloso da Recco (Martínez 2001, pp. 95–118). Decades later, in the second half of the century, a Majorcan mission would be located there, and the Biscayan Martín Ruiz de Avendaño would settle on the islands in 1377. The conquest begun with the landing of the Normans Jean de Bethencourt and Gadifer de la Salle at the beginning of the fifteenth century. The latter desisted,  The exact date of the arrival of Malocello to the easternmost of the Canary Islands is unknown (Tejera Gaspar 2012, pp. 7–8). 11  According to Rosselló i Verger (2001, pp. 61–62), not Dulcert or Dalorto. 12  This bull authorized the capture of Muslims and pagans for sale as slaves, as well as the destruction of paganism, which would later be used as justification in subsequent conquests. 10


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after the former made vassalage to Enrique III of Castile. This exploratory and conquest impulse was fuelled by the search for dyes for the textile industry and, unfortunately, the slave trade (Russell 2000, p. 83). Be that as it may, the conquest of the Canaries was only one more step in the process of exploration. The Mallorcan Jaume Ferrer also sailed in 1346 to Cape Bojador (in the region called Rio de Oro, which could even correspond to Senegal), as recorded in the Catalan Atlas of circa 1375. This atlas, considered one of the most relevant of the Middle Ages, was made by the Majorcan Jew Cresques Abraham (Rosselló i Verger 2001, p. 66) and is a product of the cartographic school of the island, part of the Crown of Aragon, and of enormous influence in the whole Mediterranean basin. However, there is some confusion about the real location of Bojador and its identification with the current cape, which may actually be Cape Juny, located somewhat further north. Also from the end of the fourteenth century is the Libro del conosçimiento de todos los reynos et tierras et señoríos que son por el mundo (Book of the knowledge of all the kingdoms and lands and dominions that are in the world), a pseudobiography written by an anonymous author, whose only personal information, indicated in the first lines, is that he was born in the kingdom of Castile in 1305. Given that most of the historical references in the work date from the first half of the fourteenth century, its first editor, Jiménez de la Espada, dated its writing to around 1350. However, a study published in 1999 has established that the work was written at the end of the fourteenth century, since it mentions some events after 1385, such as the conquest of the island of Lanzarote.13 Nor does the author state the motives that lead him to write this account of travel itineraries through the three known continents, in which, in a very brief way, he mentions cities, mountains, rivers, including, occasionally, all the fantasies that the medieval imagination had placed at the ends of the earth (monsters, prodigious islands and so on). Although written in the first person, what seems most likely is that its author is a representative of the genre of imaginary travel books constructed from readings, the study of maps and oral legends, all these elements as substitutes for real journeys. The autobiographical nature of the work led its readers to believe that it was the account of a real voyage, which is why it was widely distributed and even had a notable influence on the conquest of the Canary Islands, on the voyages of Henrique “the Navigator” or on the beginnings of the Lusitanian expeditions a century later.

 Libro del conosçimiento de todos los reynos et tierras et señoríos que son por el mundo et de las señales et armas que han cada tierra et señorío por sí y de os reyes et señores que los proueen, written by a Spanish Franciscan in the middle of the fourteenth century. Facsimile edition of manuscript Z (Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Cod. hisp.150), under the care of María Jesús Lacarra, Lacarra Ducay and Montaner, 1999. Spanish translated version in Jiménez de la Espada (ed.), 1877.


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The islands of the archipelago of Madeira appear in the Book of Knowledge and were therefore known long before the rediscovery by sailors under the aegis of the Lusitanian prince Henrique “the Navigator”. In 1419 the island of Porto Santo was rediscovered by João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira and, a year later, Bartolomeu Perestrello landed on the island of Madeira. However, the actual Portuguese colonization would begin a decade later and, given that, contrary to what happened in the Canary Islands, there was no native population that could be exploited, the economic viability of the occupation was based on its forest resources (very important both for the construction of buildings on the mainland and ships for later explorations) and, eventually, on the sugar plantations that were installed there. At least the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo appear correctly located on maps from 1451 onwards.14 To the west of the archipelago of Madeira, and already deep in the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores islands were located in 1427 by Gonçalo Velho Cabral and Diogo de Silves, although the settlements would only begin in 1439, the year in which is dated the letter of the Majorcan Gabriel de Vallseca in which the Azores appear, for the first time, pointed out in a scientific way, and whose cartouche alludes to the year 1427 as the date of their discovery (Porro Gutiérrez 2003, p. 17). Curiously, the two westernmost islands of this archipelago, Flores and Corvo, discovered by Diogo de Teive in 1451, are halfway to the American continent and could have been an excellent intermediate point for the supply of provisions in the voyages that allowed the discovery of the New World, a role that, however, would be played by the Canary Islands, possibly because of their favourable winds and ocean currents for navigation towards the West. Probably the most surprising of all these explorations are the elementary navigational tools (compass, compasses or sestes, sea charts, hourglasses or hourglasses, see Rosselló and Vergel 2001, p. 57) that these explorers had, which only allowed them to locate the latitude imprecisely and estimate the longitude very inaccurately. Thus, reaching an island in the middle of the ocean was an almost fortuitous task, although, as the navigators recognized, birds in flight were an inescapable sign that some kind of land was nearby, thus guiding the ships to their destination (Russell 2000, p. 101).

 Bartolomeu Perestrelo, Christopher Columbus’ father-in-law, received a donation in Porto Santo in 1446. It was therefore one of the admiral’s many Atlantic connections (Russell 2000, pp. 85, 88, 89 and 96). Incidentally, the colonizing process caused some ecological disaster (neither the first nor the last), due to the release of rabbits in Porto Santo, which, not having natural predators on the island, devastated it. A classic on the interaction between expansion policies and ecology is the text by J. Diamond (1999). 14


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3 Portuguese Exploration 3.1 Atlantic and African Exploration: The Impulse of Henrique “The Navigator” The exploration of the Atlantic, initiated by Genoese, Portuguese, Majorcans and Castilians, knew an authentic impulse from 1415, when the Portuguese navigators begun, after the conquest of the North African city of Ceuta, a feverish travel activity (Russell-Wodd 1998). A leading role in this Portuguese expansion across the Atlantic was played by the prince Henry, known as “the Navigator” (Major 1877; Russell 2000), although he only sailed in Portuguese waters or in the Strait of Gibraltar during his participation in the North African campaigns.15 The third son of Juan I of Avis, his figure, to some extent controversial, juxtaposes a distinctly medieval side, in which the spirit of the Crusades played a prominent part, another, which links with Antiquity and, already in his time, identified him as an emulator of Alexander “the Great”, and a third facet, much modern, for his role as a businessman, the owner of commercial monopolies (in Guinea or soap production in Portugal), as a shipowner of privateer ships and as a beneficiary of the slave trade. Even before the incorporation of Ceuta16 to the crown of Portugal, the policy of commercial and territorial expansion led the prince Henrique, in 1412, to try, although unsuccessfully, to settle in the Canary Islands in order to have access to their natural resources and, above all, to be able to trade on the continent with the captured natives. Also, different papal bulls17 granted Portugal the right to conquer and enslave all the peoples located south of Cape Bojador. In any case, all this Lusitanian exploration activity was financed by trade: textiles, horses, gold, pepper and, unfortunately, the nefarious human traffic (between 800 and 2000 slaves arrived each year in Portugal in the 1450s, Russell 2000,

 Henrique in Portuguese, which is the spelling that will be followed. In any case, the oceanic navigation of the Polynesians, who expanded over a large part of the Pacific Ocean, can be catalogued as even more extraordinary, since both vessels and techniques were much simpler, and the crossings between islands much longer. 16  The North African city of Ceuta, in the hands of the Sultanate of Fez, under the dynasty of the Benimerines or Marinids (1244–1465), successors of the Almohad Empire, was an important port of departure of African gold produced in the mines of equatorial Africa, whose true location was unknown. Gold was necessary to pay the imports of products brought by the Genoese from the East. In fact, approximately two thirds of the gold imported each year by Europe came from Africa and arrived via the trans-Saharan caravans (Russell 2000, pp. 37 and 118). 17  “Gaudeamus et exultamos”, formulated by Benedict XII in 1341; “Dudum cum ad nos” and “Rex Regnum”, both published by Eugene IV in 1436; “Dum diversas” and “Romanus Pontifex”, of 1452 and 1455, sanctioned by Nicholas V. Opposed to them are “Creator Omnium” and “Sicut Dudum”, of 1434 and 1435, by Eugene IV. 15

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pp. 198–199, 203, 211, 239–241, 258, 34918). As Plautus stated during the Roman Republic, and centuries later popularized by Thomas Hobbs, Homo homini lupus est.19 The main objective of the Portuguese crown was to reach India by circumnavigating the African continent and thus open a new trade route to the East. The difficulties of such an undertaking were many, both because of the lack of knowledge of the new coasts to be explored, and because of the precariousness of the technical means available to them. To overcome these obstacles, astronomical studies applied to navigation were promoted throughout the fifteenth century by the monarchical institution itself. Aware of these problems, the prince Henrique carried out the creation of an authentic nautical school in Sagres,20 a town near Cape St. Vincent, for which he had the collaboration of Jaume de Mallorca (Jácome de Maholca), mestre de cartas de marear (master of sea charts), who “[…] taught the art of navigation, cartography and the manufacture of nautical instruments to the Lusitanian sailors […]”, and who has been erroneously identified with Jaume Ribes, the name adopted by Jafudá Cresques, son of Cresques Abraham when, after the great massacre of Jews carried out in the Crown of Aragon in 1391, he was forced to be baptised. Given that Jaume Ribes‘death took place in 1410, it is impossible to identify him with the cartographer Jaume de Mallorca, since the latter’s presence in Portugal is dated around 1415 or even later (Samsó 1994, pp. 553–593; Rosselló i Verger 2001, p. 67. See additional doubts about the veracity of the “School of Sabres”). According to Antonio Cialváo, a sixteenth century Portuguese historian, Poggio Bracciolini helped organize a visit to Venice and Florence in the 1420s by Pedro, brother of Henrique “the Navigator”, where he received a copy of Marco Polo’s book and a map, which could have helped propel the beginning of the Lusitanian exploration, and exchanged correspondence with Henrique (Lester 2009, p. 215). If so, to some extent the Portuguese exploration would have been supported by the humanists represented by Poggio. All in all, it is possible to affirm that in this first stage, which would last until 1460, the year in which the prince Henrique died, the foundations of a nautical astronomy are established that, to a great extent, has Catalan-Aragonese and Castilian roots. However, the instruments used were very simple: compasses, portulanos, plumb bobs to measure depths, navigation by estimating the distance travelled and hourglasses. The latitude was derived visually by means of the simple Jacob’s staff (cross-staff, balestilha or ballestilla, Fig. 1.7), less expensive and easier to use than the astrolabe, consisting of a graduated ruler with a sliding piece that could be aligned with the horizon and with the Sun to measure the angle of the star’s  In fact, Lester (2009, p. 194) concludes that the Portuguese push southwards was animated by the need to find lands in which to enslave new victims, as different populations became more suspicious. 19  In the works Asinaria and Leviathan, respectively. 20  However, Luis de Albuquerque (1983, cited in Garnier Morga 2018, p. 73, note 196) and even Russell (2000, p. 7) define it as fiction. 18


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Fig. 1.7 Ballestilla, cross-staff or Jacob staff Museo Naval de Madrid (Signatura 00289)

elevation (Boorstin 1986, p. 164). However, the result of the work of improvement and creation of the instruments for navigation carried out in the school of Sagres, was the invention of the marine quadrant, whose first reference is due to Diogo Gomes in 1460.21 In a conversation between Gomes and the cosmographer Martin Behaim, the former commented that: “I had a quadrant when I was in those parts. I understood that it was better than a portulan. It is true that the course can be seen on the portulano, but when you deviate from the route it is not possible to return to the correct course.”22 One element that had a decisive positive influence on sailing conditions was the progress made in the ship building. The vessels that were to cross the ocean on these exploratory voyages could not be the traditional cargo ships that usually crossed the waters of the Mediterranean, large, heavy and suitable for sailing downwind. A lighter type of boats was required which, above all, would allow them to return to port, which necessarily meant being able to sail against the wind. With these premises in mind, a type of vessel was perfected in Sagres, the caravel,23 which, although initially used for ocean fishing off the Portuguese coast, eventually turned out to be a ship with extraordinary sailing skills, the vessel par excellence of the discoverers. Its reduced draught made it easier for navigators to explore close to the coast, the lightness of its hull made it a fast ship, capable of reaching six knots per hour (Russell 2000, p.  234). It was also capable of displacing fifty tons and its  Diogo Gomes visited Guinea and used a marine quadrant, described for the first time in Reportório dos Tempos, translated and published by the printer Valentim Fernandes de Moravia, in Lisbon in 1518, although the oldest printed navigational work is the Regimiento do astrolabio o do quadrante, anonymous (Garnier Morga 2018, p. 80; Selles 1994, p. 75). 22  Crone (ed. and trans., 1937, p.  101); quoted in Lester (2009, pp.  243–247, 253). Christopher Columbus would later write that Dias had used an astrolabe to determine that the Cape of Good Hope was at a latitude of 45 degrees south (the same value used by Henricus Martellus in his maps). 23  They appeared in Portugal and were characterized by a single deck and by their lateen sails. At the end of the century they began to build round caravels, with square sails, to optimize the constant winds. These are Castilian, with a forecastle (Russell 2000, pp. 61, 227, 229). 21

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maneuverability allowed it to set a course to windward and, therefore, in the opposite direction to the prevailing winds. A good number of expeditions were thus formed which, progressively, allowed, on the one hand, the rediscovery of the Atlantic archipelagos of Madeira, in 1419 and 1420, by João Gonçalves Zarco, Tristão Vaz Teixeira and Bartolomeu Perestrello, and the Azores, in 1427, 1431 and 1451, by Diogo Silves and Gonçalo Velho Cabral and Diogo de Teive, respectively, at the same time as the explored stretches of the African coast were extended. Thus, Cape Bojador, also known as Cape Fear, was passed in 1434 by Gil Eannes, after at least fifteen previous unsuccessful expeditions due to the sailors’ fear of entering the “Dark Sea”, as Gomes Eannes de Azurara recounted in a chronicle written some decades later: […] the seafarers say that after this cape there are no people and no providence; the land is no less windy than the deserts of Libya, where neither tree nor green grass is to be expected; and the sea is so low that the waves are rough. The currents are so great, that no one who passes through it will ever be able to return.24

Gil Eannes, in 1435, also crossed the Tropic of Cancer, thus reaching the African tropical zone. The expeditions continued southwards, so that Antao Gonçalves and Nuño Tristão reached Cape Blanco in 1441, and three years later, the latter reached the mouth of the Senegal River. In 1445, Dinis Dias landed at the westernmost point of the continent, Cape Verde, and around 1455, Alvise Cadamosto and Antoniotto de Usodimare discovered the Cape Verde Islands, also reaching the mouth of the Gambia River. It was precisely Cadamosto who was the first to point out the presence of a new constellation, the Southern Cross, whose diagram he included in his work Navegazioni.25 After the arrival of the Portuguese in Cape Verde, a new return route began, skirting the north and east winds of the Atlantic, thus facilitating the return to Portugal. Following this route, the sailors bypassed this archipelago to the south and returned north through the middle of the Atlantic, passing to the west of Madeira and the Canary Islands, and turning eastwards around the Azores. This new route, known as “volta da Guiné” or “volta da Mina”, was usually called “volta da pelo largo” by Gago Coutinho,26 Portuguese admiral and scholar of the experiences of the Portuguese navigators during the Age of Discoveries, and whose thesis, today commonly accepted, is that this route was the fundamental factor for which coastal navigation was abandoned in the return of the explorers to Portugal, with the consequent need to practice astronomical navigation, since by measuring the height of the stars, the sailors could determine the latitude at which they were and therefore know when they should turn their ships eastwards, towards Lisbon. This “volta pelo largo”

 Gomes Eannes de Azurara (1841, p. 51). However, there is evidence that already in 1402 there were routine raids on those coasts (Lester 2009, pp. 186–188). 25  Cadamosto, Navegazioni, 1937, 61, n. I.  Quoted in Russell (2000, pp.  110, 125, 127, 201, 235, 295). 26  Reis, “Gago Coutinho (1869–1959)”, Centro Virtual, , [accessed: 26 June 2021]. 24


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would begin to be practiced in the middle of the fifteenth century, and from the beginning of the following century it would be a routine navigation. The Portuguese monarch, Afonso V requested Fra Mauro, a renowned Italian cosmographer, to draw up a map of the world, which he completed in 1458 or 1459 (Falchetta 2006). The aim was to represent the advances derived from the explorations that Portuguese navigators had made of its coasts. Fra Mauro included in his map, forged within a medieval vision, elements derived from the writings of Herodotus, Strabo and Ptolemy, the accounts of Marco Polo and Niccolò Conti, Italian portolanos and Portuguese explorations (i.e. the cartography of the fourteenth century and first half of the fifteenth century), but he was not provided with any kind of graphic information. However, his map of the world shows a remarkable progress in the delineation of the African continent (Porro Gutiérrez 2003, p. 21), and at the same time allows to glimpse the possibility of its circumnavigation (Porro Gutiérrez 2004a, p. 71). Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli, a well-known Florentine cosmographer, who would later be a reference for Columbus, provided recommendations to the Portuguese during their explorations. Specifically, the ambassador in Florence in 1459. Fernáo Martins, received Toscanelli’s advice to sail westward in a letter written in 1474, although the original document, like his alleged map, has not come down to us (Lester 2009, pp. 215–219). After the death of the prince Henrique in 1460, the exploration of the African coast continued until the end of the seventies, although at a slower pace, being directed directly by the Crown from Lisbon, which replaced Sagres as the center of reference. Thus, “[…] for almost two decades, the Portuguese were content to consolidate their presence –benefiting from the lucrative trade– in the stretch between the Pepper coast (Liberia) and the eastern coast of the Gulf of Guinea (CameroonGabon) […]-” (Porro Gutiérrez 2003, p. 22). The most important milestone of this period was the expedition led by João de Santarem who, in 1470, reached the mouth of the Niger River, discovered the islands of Príncipe and São Tomé and, guided by the Southern Cross, sighted the small island of Anno Bon (1° 35′ LS). Thus, he initiated the crossing of the Equator and navigation in the waters of the southern hemisphere. However, the first confirmed crossing of the equatorial line was attributed to Lopo Gonçalves who, two years later, landed at Cape Lopez (0° 47′ LS) on the coast of Gabon. Likewise, during these years, Fernando Poo reached the island of Formosa, which later was renamed with his name, and Rui de Sequeira traveled a little further south, to Cape Santa Catalina, also in Gabonese territory. On the death of Afonso V, in 1481, the crown of Portugal passed to his son João II with whom the African enterprise acquired a renewed impulse, reaching the full development of nautical astronomy. After acceding to the throne he gathered a group of three cosmographers and asked them to design an astronomical navigation strategy. It is possible that Martin Behaim, author of a terrestrial globe in 1492, was one of them (Lester 2009, p. 24). The African coast reached by the Portuguese navigators was located in the southern hemisphere and this, evidently, implied technical difficulties derived from the change of hemisphere as well as from the variations in the direction of winds and ocean currents. The calculation of latitude based on the star Polaris was impossible once the equatorial line was crossed, so the monarch, to

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Fig. 1.8  Nautical astrolab and a quadrant (a) Astrolab from 1571. (b) Quadrant from late fifteen century. Museo Naval de Madrid (Signaturas 01853 and 01571)

solve this problem, set up a commission of experts from different places, headed by Abraham Zacuto, a Jewish astronomer and mathematician, and his disciple in Salamanca, Josep Vizinho. Zacuto contributed in an essential way to the formation of Portuguese navigators and was linked to the preparation of Vasco de Gama’s voyage that accomplished, in 1498, the Portuguese voyage of the circumnavigation of Africa to reach India, thus achieving the objective set at the beginning of the century.27 Consequently, at the end of the fifteenth century, Portuguese navigators already possessed a solid culture in nautical astronomy, both instrumentally, as they were perfectly familiar with the nautical astrolabe (Fig.  1.8a), the quadrant (Fig. 1.8b), and the crossbow or Jacob’s staff (Fig. 1.7, and in the handling of the solar declination tables which, together with the aforementioned instruments, made it possible to calculate latitude (Samsó 1994). Among the most outstanding voyages of this period, magnificently described by Luis Vaz de Camões in his epic poem Os Lusiadas, it is possible to mention the one made by Diogo Cão, between 1482 and 1484. He discovered the mouth of the river Zaire (≈ 6° LS), crossed Cape Lobito (12° 18′ LS) and, possibly, reached Cape Frio (18° LS). Between December 1487 and January 1488, Bartolomeu Dias managed to round the southern tip of the African continent, to the height of the Infante River, from where he began his return voyage, rounding Cape Agulhas and Cape Storms, which the monarch João II would later call Good Hope. With this voyage, therefore, the last stretch of the route to India was opened. It was completed by Vasco de Gama in 1498, under the reign of Manuel I “the Fortunate”. Thus, after the interruption  On July 8, 1497 Vasco da Gama set sail for India, circumnavigating Africa. He arrived in Calcutta, the port where Pero da Covilhá had been a decade earlier (Lester 2009, p. 296; Carabias Torres 2012, p. 101). 27


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caused by the appearance of the Sassanid Empire and the subsequent development of Islam, the direct connection between East and West was re-established after eight centuries, and a long period of more than 450 years marked by the European presence in that subcontinent was opened. The importance of Dias’ deed was not acknowledged on his return to Portugal, although he drew a map that was shown to the king. The map of Henricus Martellus, of 1489 or 1490, could be a copy of the one drawn by Dias, and that in any case, based on the structure of Ptolemy, includes the discoveries made in the fifteenth century.28 Portuguese explorations continued not only towards India. Their ships sailed the waters of the Indian Ocean, where they competed for supremacy with the Arab fleets, they entered Oceania, perhaps even reaching the Australian coasts, although from the Treaty of Saragossa in 1529 the areas of influence in the Pacific were delimited, just as the Treaty of Tordesillas had done in 1494 regarding the Atlantic and previously, in 1479, the Treaty of Alcáçovas in the Canary Islands and the African coast.29 The Portuguese also explored the South Atlantic and discovered (during Pedro Álvares Cabral’s voyage to India in 150030), penetrated and settled in Brazil, and the northernmost part of this ocean, seeking the Northwest Passage to Cathay and Cipango: João Vaz Corte Real and Álvaro Martins Homem in 1472–1474, Gaspar Corte Real reached Newfoundland in 1500–1501, and his brother Miguel Corte Real the following year. However, the opening of the route through the Indian Ocean caused the impulses towards the north to cease. This was a Portuguese wisdom, given the enormous amount of resources that would later be invested by the British government. However, it is likely that Afonso V was wrong not to follow the recommendation of the Florentine cosmographer Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli, who proposed navigation to the west, information that may have been in the hands of Christopher Columbus.31 Be that as it may, the Portuguese explorations throughout the fifteenth century contributed in an essential way to break the geographical vision established since Antiquity. 28  Martellus also drew a wall map (ca. 1491–1492), now at Yale University, with information updated to that time and covering 270 degrees. In it, Eurasia occupies 230 degrees, instead of the actual 130 degrees (Lester 2009, pp. 222, 229). 29  With this agreement, the expansion of Andalusian fishing boats towards the Guinean fishing grounds came to an end, but the way to other waters remained open (Gil Fernández 2013, pp. 37–53). 30  The first sighting was made during the second Portuguese expedition to India. Cabral named the newly discovered land as Ilha de Vera Cruz. The news of the discovery and the taking of possession in the name of the king of Portugal, being convinced of being on the east side of the demarcation line, was carried by Gaspar de Lemos or André Gonçalves in a provisioning ship (Bueno 1998). 31  According to Bartolomé de la Casas, there was an exchange of correspondence between Columbus and Toscanelli, but possibly it was not real and Columbus himself would forge the missives to give credibility to his trip, although it is likely that Columbus saw the original letter from Toscanelli to Martins, which would include the famous map made by the former, since a copy of it with Columbus’ handwriting has survived (Vignaud 1902).

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3.2 The Exploration of East Africa: After the Lands of Preste John A mythical figure that has played an essential role in the late medieval European explorations of Asia and Africa has been that of Prester John and his remote Christian kingdom. His first mention appears in a text of 1143 written by Hugo, a Syrian prelate who travelled through Europe preaching a new crusade. Bishop Otto of Freising recorded his interview with Pope Eugenius III (Lester 2009, p. 50). Also closely linked to the exploration of the African coasts and the journey to India is the search, by land routes, for the lands south of Egypt and also the Indian Ocean (Porro Gutiérrez 2003, p. 26). In 1487 Pêro da Covilhã, posing as a Muslim, and Afonso Paiva travelled to India and Abyssinia, looking for Prester John, on behalf of the Portuguese King João II (Herrero Massari 2002, p. 304). This was certainly not the first attempt. One hundred and fifty years earlier, for example, Zar’a Yâqob, negus of Abyssinia (the real historical figure of that time) sent an embassy to the king of Aragon, Alfonso V (Russell 2000, p. 121). On his return, in 1428, he was accompanied by an Aragonese representative, Pedro de Bonia. This was not the only mission of this kind between the Christian empire of Africa and the courts of Western Europe. In fact, an Abyssinian representation took part in the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438–1445) for the union of the churches, which closed the agreement of the fusion of the eastern and western churches, too late to save Constantinople. This embassy also traveled to Castile. In 1452, another embassy appeared in Portugal and at the court of the Duke of Burgundy. Pêro da Covilhã and Afonso Paiva, commissioned by João II to gather as much information as possible about the area, in particular the conditions of navigation in the Indian Ocean, arrived first in Egypt and then in Arabia, reaching Mecca disguised as Muslim merchants. They separated in Aden in 1488, with Paiva going in search of Preste João’s kingdom and Covilhã to India, with the agreement to meet in Cairo a year later. Covilhã reached Calicut (Calcutta) and visited other cities in western India, and learned of the existence of Ceylon and the origin of the spice trade. On the return journey he visited the coasts of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, dotted with Arab trading stations. Possibly he received from them the information that Africa had a limit to the south,32 a key fact for the completion years later of the naval route from Portugal to India. Once in Cairo, some Portuguese Jews (Rabbi Abraham and José de Lamego) informed Covilhã that Paiva had died a few weeks before without leaving news of the result of his exploration, so he decided to complete the mission entrusted by the king, not before sending him a report, which Lamela took with him, with news  Both the Kangnido map, a fifteenth century copy of a Chinese original from 1402, and that of Albertino de Virga (ca. 1411–1415) make it clear that part of the African profile was known before the Portuguese explorations, possibly incorporating information provided by Chinese and Muslim traders (Lester 2009, pp. 207, 226–227). 32


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about the Arab trade with India (Boorstin 1986, p. 164). He reached Abyssinia in 1493, where he rose to a position of power, although the various monarchs did not allow him to return to Portugal. Therefore, the voyage of Covilhã, described as the Portuguese Marco Polo (Boorstin 1986), was essential for the subsequent exploration. His report of the voyage in the Indian Ocean was essential for Vasco da Gama to embark on the voyage to India after rounding the Cape of Good Hope, describing the possibility of calling at the Island of the Moon (Madagascar) and Sofala (in Mozambique), as well as providing an updated nautical chart (Porro Gutierrez 2003, p. 26). Another later journey was made following the visit of the ambassador Mateus, sent by the Ethiopian negus to Lisbon (1512–1514). Tthe Franciscan Francisco Álvares travelled in 1520 with Mateus on the latter’s return journey, and stayed for about six years in Abyssinia. Álvares published in 1540 the account in his Verdadeira Informação das Terras do Preste João das Indias (Ley 2000, pp. 61–76).

3.3 The Portuguese Crossing of the Equator: The Transition from the Middle Ages to the Late Modern Period The limits of historical periods, although convenient for coherent descriptions and for understanding certain processes, are to some extent artificial conventions.33 Specifically, the Middle Ages have been defined as a period that lasted about ten centuries and began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire, traditionally after the last emperor was deposed in 476 CE. Its end is usually fixed with the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, the capital of Byzantium, heir to the Eastern Roman Empire, in 1453, or by the arrival of Christopher Columbus in America in 1492. During the last decades, a certain number of specialists have remarked that the real roots of the beginning of the Scientific Revolution, the true Renaissance, arose not in the Italian peninsula but in the Iberian kingdoms. This process would have taken place in the twelfth century with the transmission of Greco-Roman culture, filtered and enriched by Islamic culture.34 However, at least in the context of cosmography and even from a much broader perspective, although always from the expansion of knowledge in the West, the end of the Middle Ages could also be placed in the first crossing of the equator in 1473 or 1474, because of the implications that this fact had on the existence of the antipodes, the break with Ptolemaic classicism and, above all, with the cosmological implications on the world system. Thus, the discovery of the lands in the southern hemisphere implied a revaluation of geographical knowledge, which were  In the specific case of the evolution of thought, see the classic text of Duhem (1913–1959). Also Artz (1980, p. 269); Bala (2006); Fletcher (1992, p. 153); Haskins (1957, p. 302); Cloud (2007, pp. 337–342). 34  Pasnau (1997); Arnold and Guillaume (eds.) (1931); Dawson (1937); Cobb (1963); Cloud (2007, p. 301). 33

4  The Explorations of the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon


incorporated into Ptolemy’s Geographia, gave rise to a new cartography and was one of the driving forces of the later Scientific Revolution. Therefore, the end of the Middle Ages, especially regarding the idea of the world, can be said to be based on Portuguese evidence and on the “resurrection” of the Geographia in Florence, within the humanist circle initiated by Coluccio Salutati.

4 The Explorations of the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon 4.1 The Cartographic School of Mallorca The maritime charts or portulan charts experienced a great boom in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, after their appearance in the thirteenth century. Two traditions can be defined, the Italian and the Catalan. Beyond the needs of navigation and detailed routes, charts appear that showed great detail. One of the maximum exponents is the Atlas Catalá of Cresques Abraham and Jafudá Cresques, now in the Biblioteque Nationale of Paris,35 that can be framed inside the Cartographic School of Majorca, heir, according to Rosselló and Verger, of the Genoese one (Rosselló i Verger 2001, p. 58). In it, in turn, two variants can be distinguished: the purely nautical and the nautical-­geographical, with details of the interior. However, there are opponents (Llompart and Riera 1984, pp. 341–350) to the idea of the Majorcan school, who claim that they were simply illuminators of luxury products for the nobility and not true cartographers. In any case, other notable names include Guillem Soler, Angelí Dulcert, Gabriel de Vallseca and Pere Rossell, cartographers who worked between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and in the mid-sixteenth century. Although most of these nautical charts were made by Jews, one of the clearest evidences about the real existence of a cartographic activity comes from a notarial document concerning Guillem SoleMateu Prunerr, a fourteenth century Christian who appears in the documentation of the period either as Guillermo Solerii, magistro instrumentorum navigandi, civi Maiorice (“master of navigational instruments, citizen of Mallorca”, Baig i Aleu 2001, pp. 587–603) or as buixoler36 . In one of the two nautical charts of his manufacture that have survived, there are details such as data on the depth of the coasts, which must have been obtained by direct sounding. Therefore, it is possible to consider that, in truth, Majorca was one of the true cradles of modern cartography.

35 36

 Biblioteque Nationale, Département de Chartes et plans, manuscript B 1131.  Also Mestres de mapamundis (Rosselló and Vergel 2011, p. 57).


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4.2 Columbus’ Mistake and a New Continent Many facts surrounding Christopher Columbus are controversial and have generated controversy since before his departure from Palos de la Frontera, in August 1492, with a small fleet composed of two caravels (La Pinta and La Niña) and a nao (Santa Maria). His origins and career are mysterious, as is his behavior before and after the discovery of the American continent. Regardless of the biographical details, what is most relevant from the point of view of this work is the calculation he made of the distance between Europe and India which, in principle, would allow oceanic navigation to the west, as had been suggested by Aristotle, Eratosthenes (Roller 2010) a nd Seneca and perhaps attempted by the Vivaldi brothers in the fourteenth century. Columbus was certainly familiar with some of these authors, since Strabo’s work, cited by him on numerous occasions, went through the printing press four times between 1469 and 1480, and the geography of Eratosthenes also found its place summarized in the text Historia rerum ubique gestarum locorumque descriptio, known as Cosmographia (1458), by Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini.37 Perhaps, the initial error in this calculation could have been based on the supposed letter that the cosmographer Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli sent to a Portuguese canon in 1474, with the purpose of promoting the project of the voyage towards the West, and that contained significant errors. Letter that according to H. Vignaud38 is a manipulation executed later by Bartolomé de las Casas in order to justify the admiral. Later studies, however, describe Toscanelli as “the first Renaissance scholar who dared to graphically configure that real space” and describe the epistolary exchange with the cosmographers of the Portuguese monarch Afonso V, including his famous map (Fig. 1.9a. See Porro Gutiérrez 2004a, b, pp. 71, 93–94). True or false, Afonso V of Portugal rejected Columbus’ proposal in 1484 and sent Diogo Cão to continue the African exploration, and his ships continued to persevere on the eastern route. Toscanelli’s map, in the nineteenth century reconstruction, can be compared with the vision provided by Martin Behaim in his 1492 globe (Fig. 1.9b), which does not yet include the new discoveries and shows an ocean with navigable distances between Asia and Europe, where, in addition, numerous islands and archipelagos, real or imaginary, appear.   A consecrated humanist and active participant in the Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence (1431–1445) for the union of the Catholic and Orthodox churches, Aeneas Silvio Piccolomini was elected Pope under the name of Pius II and his pontificate lasted from 1458 to 1464. He wrote his own biography during his reign and copious erotic poetry before being elevated to the papal dignity. He also wrote a novel on the same theme, Historia de duobus amantibus (A Tale of Two Lovers), which is still widely read today. Before the papacy he was prince-bishop of Emerland/ Warmia (1457–1458), in the Baltic. As a curiosity, Lucas Watzenrode, uncle and protector of Nicolaus Copernicus and who financed his studies in Italian universities, held the same position between 1489 and 1512. 38  Vignaud (1902); Lester (2009, p. 241). 37

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Fig. 1.9  Reconstruction of Toscanelli’s map of 1474 and Behaim’s globe of 1492 (a) The first one was made by J.G. Bartholomew, in A literary and historical Atlas of America, 1911. (b) The representation corresponds to a Mercator projection using the Greenwich meridian as a reference. Source: L’homme et la terre (Reclus 1905, pp. 236–237). The outline of America and Asia has been included to show the great error in the measurement of longitudes in both cases

It is true that Columbus had a great seafaring background. He himself related that he had visited Iceland in 1477 and Ireland around the same time. In 1478 he was in Madeira, where he lived with his Portuguese wife. He also sailed to the Gulf of Guinea on Portuguese ships in the 1480s. Among the books he owned was a printed


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copy of Pierre d’Ailly’s Imago Mundi, published between 1480 and 1483, with its description of the proximity between Asia and Iberian Peninsula, with 898 handwritten notes (Lester 2009, pp. 238, 251), a clear indication of the detailed preparation of his voyage. The feasibility of the Colombian project of the voyage to India sailing westward was based on two premises: a certain value of the size of the Earth and an estimate of the fraction occupied by the oikouménē. That is, the size of the Eurasian continent. In fact, Martin Behaim’s globe, based on Claudius Ptolemy’s cartography and executed in 1492, shows a distance of about 4000 km between the Azores archipelago and Cipango. Presumably, since it has not been preserved, the globe made by Nicolaus Germanus in 1477 was also based on the Greco-Roman Geographia, as was the Cosmographia of 1482 published in Ulm. The calculations of Christopher Columbus could be based on these cartographic visions,39 although the Islamic geographers assumed that between Cathay and North Africa there should be a distance of about 16,000  km, a value much closer to reality (Fossier 1986a, b, pp. 486–491). Regarding the size of the planet, Columbus gave as valid the 180,000 stadia derived by Posidonius of Apamea in the second/first century BCE, an estimate publicized by Marinus of Tyre and by the last great cartographer of Antiquity, Claudius Ptolemy. It is possible that Columbus, in his use of this data, confused the Roman miles, shorter and about 1500 m, with the Arabic miles, almost 2 km, and used the equivalence between degree and distance derived by the cosmographers of the caliph ‛abbāsí al-Ma’mun, a value established in the ninth century in the “House of Wisdom” that would be validated by al-Farghani (the Latinized Alfraganus), who would have estimated the degree at 56 + 2/3 Arab miles. Perhaps this idea was reinforced during a trip he made under the Lusitanian flag to the Gulf of Guinea between 1482 and 1483 (Vignaud 1902). In any case, Columbus met with several professors of the University of Salamanca in 1486, in order to determine the feasibility of his project (Rico 1996, pp. 157–186, quoted in Carabias Torres 2012, p. 106). On the other hand, the portion occupied by dry land was exaggerated in an extraordinary way. First, the apocryphal biblical text Ezra II, which enjoyed great prestige during the Middle Ages, states that the ratio between the area covered by water and land is one to six. Marinus of Tyre estimated that the angular distance between Iberia and China was 225 degrees, to which Marco Polo would have added, ad hoc, another 28 degrees. In addition, from Cathay to Cipango (from the coasts of the continent to the Japanese archipelago) there would be a space of another 30 degrees, plus 9 degrees from the Iberian coasts to the island of Hierro, the westernmost of the Canaries. Thus, from Hierro to the first lands of the East there would only be 68 degrees. In a navigation along the 28th parallel would be equivalent to about 4400 km (Fisher 1975, vol. 16, p. 152, note 6), perfectly acceptable, despite  However, despite both residing in Portugal, according to Porro Gutiérrez (2004b, p. 97), neither Columbus nor Behaim would have been aware of the other’s plans. Although this ignorance is possible, it seems implausible, given that Columbus resided for a good number of years in Portugal and his project was discussed in several European courts.


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large errors that are included in this estimate. On the other hand, certain texts of diverse nature, but that had enough diffusion and influence, favored this vision and the possibility of the trip. This is the case of Commentaria in Psalmos by the Bishop of Chrysopolis Jaime Perez (1484), quoted twenty-one years later by the Portuguese cosmographer Duarte Pacheco Pereira in his post-discovery treatise entitled Esmeraldo, a treatise on cosmography and seamanship: The ocean does not encircle the whole earth, as the vulgar think, but is surrounded on all sides by mountains. Indeed, its coast is known to us to the east and south, though it remains to be known to us to the west and north; but navigators have discovered many great islands to the west, for its western coast is not far distant, according to Aristotle at the end of the second book On the Heavens.40

It was, therefore, an extraordinary mistake, which nevertheless led to an even more incredible epic. In total, Columbus made four voyages: August 3, 1492 – February/ March41 1493; September 25, 1493 – June 11, 1496; May 30, 1498 – November 25, 1500; May 9, 1502 – November 7, 1504. In the third, in August 1498, he set foot on continental land in the Orinoco, in the Gulf of Paria. In any case, he insisted on his arrival to Asian lands: to Cipango (Japan), Cathay (China) or even to the mythical lands of Ophir, Sheba or Tarshish. According to a letter he wrote to the Catholic Monarchs on October 18, 1498, the world would be pear-shaped, an interpretation of the effects observed in his compass, the result of magnetic declination (Lester 2009, pp. 264, 289, 299). In any case, Columbus, despite his error, must have been fully aware of the importance of the discoveries made during his first voyage, since in addition to formally communicating them to the Catholic Monarchs during their stay in Barcelona, he wrote letters to important members of the Spanish court, Luis de Santangel and another to Rafael Sanchez, very similar in form and content (Levinas and Vida 2016, pp. 281–331). The account was printed in Rome in 1493 under the title De insulis inventis. Epistola Christofori Colombi (The invention of the islands. Letters of Christopher Columbus). A version in verse, by Giuliano Dati, appeared in Italian, on June 15th, under the title La Historia del Descubrimiento de las Nuevas Islas de Las Canarias Indias (The History of the Discovery of the New Islands of the Indian Canaries). Thus, Columbus’ discoveries were not received as a new continent (Lester 2009, pp. 270–272). Finally, what is certain is the Colombian error, based on Claudius Ptolemy, in his influential book Geographia, a mistake that would lead to the discovery of a new world. This trip, like the rest of the explorations carried out by the Iberians, especially the circumnavigation of Africa by the Portuguese, were essential to break the geographical canon established since Greco-Roman times and, therefore, the principle of authority established since Antiquity in any field of knowledge (Molina  Quoted in Gil Fernández (2013, pp. 37–53).  Martín Alonso Pinzón returned with the Pinta without Columbus’ permission to Europe and arrived at the end of February in Bayona, Galicia. Columbus suffered several storms, was detained in the Azores, arrived in Lisbon in March, where he reported his discoveries to King João II, and finally reached the court of the Spanish queen and king in Barcelona in April 1493. 40 41


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Marín 2010a, b). The other factor was the wave of texts that would come from Byzantium and their interpretation under the light of Humanism: a look at the past in which reverence gave way to the critical spirit. Thus, the corset that for so long had held back the development of thought was finally untied. The foundations for the beginning of the Scientific Revolution were thus laid.

4.3 Other Explorers: de la Cosa, Caboto, Ojeda, Pinzón and Vespucci The four voyages of Christopher Columbus were not the only ones that took place during the first stage of discovery, nor was he the only protagonist.42 Among other figures, the names of Juan de la Cosa, Juan Caboto, Alonso de Ojeda, Vicente Yáñez Pinzó n and, due to his later repercussions, Amerigo Vespucci stand out. The pilot Juan de la Cosa travelled with Columbus on his first two voyages and may also have taken part in the third. In total, he may have taken part in seven transatlantic voyages, before dying in what is now Colombia in a clash with the Indians in 1510. Together with Alonso de Ojeda, commander of the 1499–1500 expedition, he explored the northern coast of South America from the Gulf of Paria, at the mouth of the Orinoco River, to Cape Vela and the northernmost point, the Coquibacoa Peninsula. This information was crucial for the preparation of his map of 1500, the oldest preserved map of the American mainland, now in the Museo Naval of Madrid. During the late fifteenth century there is evidence of a series of English voyages to the waters of the North Atlantic, led by seafarers from the city of Bristol, known collectively as the “Bristol men”. On some of these voyages it is possible that Greenland was revisited and in any case they sailed in the waters near the Labrador peninsula. John Lloy, in 1480, searched unsuccessfully for Atlantic islands and Thomas Croft of Bristol made another voyage the following year. The ships of the port of Bristol also maintained commercial relations with Spain and it is possible that this information attracted the attention of Giovanni Caboto (Juan  Caboto or John Cabot). In May 1497 Caboto sailed in the ship Matthew and reached Newfounland or Labrador, an area whose description fits the one made by the Bristol men. These discoveries appear on Johannes Ruysch’s map (1508). Caboto disappeared on his second voyage, after leaving in May 1498 with five ships (Williamson 1962, pp. 188–189; Lester 2009, pp. 239, 292–294). Amerigo Vespucci or Américo Vespucio, a Florentine merchant, possibly had a secondary role in his two confirmed voyages to the New World, which were made under the direction of Alonso de Ojeda (1499–1500) and Gonçalo Coelho (1501–1502). It is true that in the first one he might have discovered, after

 In fact, by the end of 1494 there were already official journeys commissioned by the Catholic Monarchs to investigate the situation in the new colony of Hispaniola (Lester 2009, p. 290). 42

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separating from Ojeda, the mouth of the Amazon River, but there is no record that he affirmed that the new lands did not correspond to the coasts of Cipango, but to a new continent. He was known to Columbus, who mentions him in a letter he sent to his son Diego dated February 5, 1505. Vespucci bequeathed his name to the new continent through the impact of a set of letters, supposedly written by him, which were widely circulated. The three letters of Vespucci, whose authorship is no longer disputed, are called Family Letters, were addressed to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’Medici in Florence and are dated 1500, 1501 and 1503 (or 1502).43 Only two trips are described: the first epistle describes a trip under Spanish flag and the other two referred to an expedition with Portugal. The commander of each mission is not mentioned, nor are the participants in the missions mentioned. The letters only speak of the discovery of parts of Asia, not of a new continent. In them he assigns to himself a notable role, without there being any external evidence of the veracity of these statements. In fact, he never mentioned Captain Alonso de Ojeda in the first expedition. Ojeda, who sailed with Columbus on the second voyage in 1493–1496, returned in 1499–1500 with Juan de la Cosa and “Morigo Vespucci”. According to Lester, it is possible that Ojeda divided the commands and Vespucci went south, having reached the mouth of the Amazon. He would have reached 5 or 6 degrees south latitude and the measurement of the position would have been made with a conjunction of Mars and the Moon, determining that he was 5466 miles from the meridian of Cadiz. For some specialists this would be the first determination of the longitude by the method of the lunar distances, while others emphasize that the paragraph only tries to demonstrate a posteriori his skills as a cosmographer (Lester 2009, pp. 236–327, 313, 319, 331, 333). The second letter would have been written as a result of the meeting with Cabral in Cape Verde, when the later returned from his trip to India. The third familiar communication, written the following year from Lisbon, picks up where he left off in the letter of a year earlier. His other alleged two voyages, supposedly occurred in 1497–1498 and 1503–1504, could be fictitious, although the responsibility for the writing of the letters describing them would not correspond to Vespucci. The hypothetical first route was described in the so-called Letter to Soderini,44 printed in 1504 or 1505, although it is probably a forgery or an exaggerated reconstruction based on true texts by Vespucci and other authors such as Pedro Mártir de Anglería. It includes  In 1937 Roberto Ridolfi discovered a fragment of a letter of Vespucci, written in Tuscan dialect and perhaps addressed to his uncle Giorgio Antonio or to the geographer Zenobio Acciaiuli. It states that he was 150 degrees east of Alexandria and that he made three voyages: two to the west (in the Caribbean?) and one to the South Atlantic. In this fragment Vespucci makes a defense of the discoveries made on his first three voyages. Although it is not dated, it would be therefore later than 1502. It contains some contradictions with the letter of 1500. 44  Lettera di Amerigo Vespucci delle isole nuovamente trovate in quattro suoi viaggi. Published in English in 1916 as Letter to Piero Soderini, gonfaloniere. The year 1504. Piero Soderini reached the highest dignity in Florence until the return from exile of the Medici family, expelled from the city during the revolution of Girolamo Savonarola, which would have such disastrous consequences for the cultural heritage of the city and therefore of humanity. 43


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incorrect measures of longitude, among other errors. Somewhat more reliable is Mundus Novus, which appeared at the end of 1502 or beginning of 1503, a letter addressed to Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de’ Medici and which would be printed with multiple editions: at the beginning of 1503 in Venice, Paris and Antwerp; in the following two years in Augsburg, Basel, Cologne, Munich, Nuremberg, Rome, Strasbourg, etc., until reaching 23 editions before 1506, while the letter of Columbus was only printed once in 1493 (Markham 1894; Lester 2009, pp.  310, 313, 324, 341). In Mundus Novus, which in any case is apocryphal or at least a manipulation of the Family Letters, it is stated in the first person that Vespucci had discovered a continent (“Novum Mundum”) with more people and animals than Europe. It is also stated that the navigation was done with a quadrant and astrolabe and that they reached 50 degrees south latitude. The affirmations, including those of communication with the aborigines and their cannibalism, are exaggerated to say the least and various myths, some coming from Virgil, are mixed with half-truths (Lester 2009, pp. 311–312). Be that as it may, because of his experience as a cosmographer, real or exaggerated, Amerigo Vespucci would become a major pilot of the Indies in Spain in 1508, with an extraordinary salary for the time.45

4.4 The Division of the World: The Conflicts Between Portugal and Spain The discovery of America and its subsequent colonization reopened a struggle between Spain and Portugal, which were already in conflict over navigation and the domination of the islands of the Atlantic Ocean: the delimitation of the areas of exploration and conquest. According to Bunbury, this competition was similar to that between the Greek cities of Megara and Miletus in the Archaic period (Bunbury 1879). The Treaty of Tordesillas, a continuation of the Treaty of Alcáçovas (AlcazovasToledo) of 1479 and the Intercoetera Bull of Pope Alexander VI of 1493 with the demarcation between the territories of the Iberian crowns,46 was signed in 1494 between, on one hand Isabella I of Castile and her spouse, Ferdinand II of Aragon,

 Despite this, Vespucci sold cartographic secrets until he was discovered in 1510, although he was not punished for it (Lester 2009, p. 349). 46  The papal bulls defined a limit of 100 leagues, a value that could have been proposed by Christopher Columbus, when he understood that the conditions beyond were very different: milder climate, the algae of the Sargasso Sea, the differences in the magnetic declination (Lester 2009, p. 281). During the negotiation between Portugal and Castille in 1493, the importance of the nautical charts became clear, since the Spanish kings asked for a map showing the location of their discoveries on the first voyage. Although it has not come down to us, the description of it is found in a chart of 1494. It specifies the equivalence between the degree and the distance, 56 miles and 2/3 (Griffin (ed. and translation) 1999; cited in Lester 2009, pp. 282–283). 45

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Fig. 1.10  Cantino’s planisphere of 1502 and comparison with modern map This Portuguese map shows the meridian demarcated by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494. The counter meridian, 180 degrees from that one, would be defined by the Treaty of Saragossa in 1529. Biblioteca Estense di Modena. This reference is shown in semitransparent gray color and has been scaled to match the West African coastline

and, on the other João II of Portugal. This agreement required the intervention of a committee of experts, and a demarcation line was stipulated, a straight line from pole to pole following the meridian, located 370 leagues west of Cape Verde (as shown in the Cantino’s planisphere, 1502,47 Fig. 1.10). Thus, the new lands of the western hemisphere would be the responsibility of Spain, and the eastern lands of Portugal. In fact, it was only one more chapter, a momentary armistice in Atlantic waters, because eventually the confrontations would take place in a very different theatre: the other end of the world.48 The tracing of this meridian required the implementation of astronomical knowledge, as Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa would later point out: “[…] this could only be obtained by means of Observations, using the help of Astronomy, to determine the position of each place with respect to the other, and in this way, without wandering in uncertain and fragile courses, the attempt would be achieved” (Juan and de Ulloa 1972, pp. 65 y 66). In 1505, after the Junta de Toro, the Casa de Contratación of Seville (where the Padrón Real was deposited, Fig. 1.11) began the search for a passage that would allow maritime communication towards Asia, the initial objective of Christopher Columbus’ adventure and of the Portuguese before him. In order to organize the voyages of discovery and determine the area of Spanish influence, Ferdinand II of Aragon, at that time regent of Castile, gathered in 1508 a group of cosmographers and administrators of the Casa de la Contratación in Seville (Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, Amerigo Vespucci, Juan de la Cosa, Juan Díaz de Solís, Sancho Matienzo de la  After more than 500 years, the demarcation line between Portugal and Spain is still valid. It is the separation between the Australian states of Western and South Australia (Collingridge 1906). 47 48


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Fig. 1.11  Padrón Real o General de Diego Ribero, 1529, and comparison Also called Diogo Ribeiro in Portugal, before his Castilian naturalization. The world map, called Carta universal in que se contiene todo lo que del mundo se ha descubierto fasta agora, shows the profound ignorance of the west coast of the American continent and a great emptiness in the Pacific Ocean. This map, considered to be the first scientifically executed map, was kept in the Casa de Contratación in Seville and was a state secret. It was the official and obligatory reference for all Spanish pilots and cartographers. Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Vatican City (Carte Nautiche Borgiano III). The modern map reference is shown in semitransparent gray color and has been scaled to match the West African coastline

Casa and Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca) in the Junta de Burgos (Comellas 2012, p.  224; Garnier Morga 2018, p.  78). However, the land expedition, led by Vasco Núñez de Balboa, discovered the South Sea, the immense Pacific Ocean, after crossing the Isthmus of Panama, in 1513. The following year, Juan Díaz de Solís was commissioned to search for a passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but he died in the attempt in the Sea of La Plata, far from his destination. Ferdinand Magellan (Fernão de Magalhães in Portuguese or Fernando de Magallanes in Spanish), after a long career in India, where the Lusitanians arrived in 1498, and in the Malay peninsula, a stay that lasted seven years, returned to Portugal in 1512. He learned about the Moluccas or Spice Islands from the correspondence exchanged with his friend Francisco Serrão, the first European to reach this archipelago and who became a military adviser to the Sultan of Ternate. Magellan moved to Spain in 1517 after having problems with the Portuguese court and he was able to convince the Emperor Carlos (Charles I of Spain and V of the Holy Roman Empire) that the Moluccas should remain under Spanish sovereignty and the latter decided to approve the voyage, which the crown partially financed. Portugal’s King Manuel I would try to stop the expedition and the Spanish authorities also looked with suspicion to it, to the point of forcing the change of much of the crew so that there were more Spaniards and less Lusitanians. The fleet of five ships finally left in 1519, to be back three years later, in a single ship. Antonio Pigafetta, the official chronicler, who would later become one of the few survivors, recounted the voyage. In addition to the extremely harsh conditions of the Pacific crossing, the longest that could be made and also following an unknown

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route both for the destination and the time required, there was also the appearance of scurvy. Pigaffeta himself narrates it: Our greatest misfortune came when we were attacked by a kind of disease that swelled our jaws until our teeth were hidden.49

Ironically, Magellan lost his life during the voyage, due to an armed encounter in the Philippines, after a very complicated crossing of the Pacific in which the islands of the Sharks (perhaps Puka Puka), San Pablo (Vostok or Flint) and the Mariana archipelago were discovered. If Magellan really thought that the Moluccas were to the east of the Antimeridian line, opposite to the one agreed upon in the Treaty of Tordesillas, he was mistaken, as was Columbus. His ocean crossing was much longer than he expected and he had to travel many more leagues. This was consequence of the impossibility of precisely determining the longitude. He would not be the first or the last to suffer from this problem. In any case, the crossing of the Pacific allowed, for the first time, to have a reliable picture of its true extension: its surface area amounts to 165 million square kilometres, which represents slightly less than half of all the seas and it covers approximately one third of the entire surface of the planet. The maximum width is provided by the 5 degrees north parallel, from Colombia to Malaysia, a distance of 20,000 km. In fact, the Pacific has been classified as a world of islands, since for every square kilometre of terra firma (including the huge New Guinea and the two islands of New Zealand) there are 130 square kilometres of water (Bernabéu Albert 2013, pp. 23–33). After Magalhães’ demise, Juan Sebastián Elcano, already captain of the ship Victoria, decided to continue west, while Gonzalo Gómez de Espinosa, in command of the captain ship Trinidad, opted to stay to repair the vessel. Later Gómez de Espinosa tried to return retracing the steps of the fleet, attempting for the first time the “tornaviaje”, although he gave up and ended up captured by the Portuguese (Verde Casanova 2002). On the way they discovered the Palau Islands, and several of the Carolinas and the Moluccas. On the part of Elcano, after great hardships and abandoning thirteen members of the crew, he arrived in Spain in the ship Victoria in 1522 with seventeen men, of the more than 200 that departed, with one day in advance of their accounts, because having sailed westward they inadvertently gained twenty-four hours. Sixteen crew members would return later. Charles I’s secretary, Maximilianus Transylvanus, interviewed several survivors and published that same year De Moluccis Insulis, the first description of the first circumnavigation of the globe: the absolute empirical proof of its sphericity. In spite of the emperor’s homage, giving him a globe with the personal motto “Primus circumdedisti me”, Elcano still had problems with the Spanish bureaucracy, always attentive to the smallest details. After disembarking and verifying that the weight of his cargo was notoriously lower than the weight declared in the freight  Pigafetta, Primo viaggio intorno al Globo, 1524. Quoted in Alfonso Mola and Martínez Shaw, (2013, pp. 125–187). The voyage of Magellan-Elcano is very well documented through original sources, since there are six chronicles written by crew members, as well as notarial texts and Iberian treatises of the time. 49


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manifest, the port bureaucracy concluded that part of the valuable cargo had been sold without paying the corresponding taxes. The problem, however, was that the shipped spices had lost some of their weight as they dried out during the long months in the ship’s hold. After the trip, the second part of the conflict with Portugal was served: what was the antimeridian according to the treaty of Tordesillas and to which country would correspond the fabulous islands of the spice? In 1524 a Spanish-Portuguese committee was convened to delimit the areas of influence and define to whom the archipelago belonged. This group would include three astronomers and several pilots and sailors. The parties met in the cities of Badajoz and Elva but no agreement was reached. The fact is that the need to measure the longitude was decisive to solve the problem and for technical reasons it was impossible to solve it in practice. Finally, according to the treaty of Saragossa of 1529 (Fig.  1.12 shows the antimeridian), Portugal bought the archipelago, although the Spanish crown reserved the right of repurchase. Simultaneously to the expansion of the Hispanic and Lusitanian territories overseas, Portugal and Spain “decreased” in size. Orontius Finaeus, in his 1531 map of the world, reproduced the Mediterranean at a smaller scale than had been accepted since Claudius Ptolemy: from 62 to 56 degrees longitude, in order to make room for the newly discovered lands. The consequence was a contraction of the size of the Iberian Peninsula by almost half compared to Berdardus Sylvanus‘map of 1511. Thus, a cosmographer reduced the possessions of a monarch at the stroke of a pen. It would not be the last time.

4.5 The Pacific Ocean: More than the “Spanish Lake”50 The Pacific Ocean, from the European point of view, was invented twice. The first in a theoretical way, by several cartographers after the discovery of the American continent. And it had to exist given the large expanse of water between it and Asia. The second by the physical discovery by Vasco Núñez de Balboa, when he reached its waters in 1513 after having crossed the Central American isthmus, giving it the name of South Sea. A few years later, in 1520, after entering its waters by crossing the strait that bears his name, at the southern tip of America, Magellan would baptize it as Pacific, because of the calmness of its waters (Verde Casanova 2002). After the first voyages to the various regions of America, a number of notable cartographers such as Orontius Fine51 and Mocachus believed that the new lands were joined to the Asian continent. However, Martin Waldseemüller, Peter Apian (Petrus Apianus) and Sebastian Munster assumed that it was a distinct entity, a vast

 The expression was coined by the historian Pierre Chaunu (1960, 301 pp).  O’Connor and Robertson, “Oronce Fine”, [online], , [accessed: 3 September 2015].

50 51

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Fig. 1.12  Boundaries according to the treaties of Tordesillas and Saragossa and the East Indies The territory assigned to Spain, on a map published in 1622. It appeared in Novus orbis sive descriptio Indiae Occidentalis, by Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas. On both maps, on the left, the demarcation line of the Antimeridian is represented, according to the 1529 Treaty of Saragossa between Portugal and Spain. The position is remarkably inaccurate and the Philippines appear erroneously within the Spanish area. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 05414)


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and new sea. Waldseemüller, by leaving written on his 1507 map the name of Amerigo Vespucci, also baptized the new continent. In any case, parallel to the academic process, a diplomatic struggle took place between the maritime powers of the time. During the process of exploration a new technical genre was born, the nautical manual, of Lusitanian origin and widely developed in Spain throughout the sixteenth century. The manuals generally began with the fundamentals of astronomy and geography of Sacrobosco and Ptolemy, continued with the nautical experience of the author himself and ended with a generic description (Garnier Morga 2018, pp. 83–85). The best known were El arte de nauegar by Pedro de Medina and Breve compendio de la sphera y el arte de navegar by Martín Cortés. They were, therefore, essential tools for the exploration of the new seas. 4.5.1 The Exploration of the Pacific in the Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries The transatlantic adventures of the ships of the Iberian crowns opened up new horizons, but also demanded specialization and technological renewal. In particular, the senior pilots or royal cosmographers played an essential role in the systematization of knowledge and its transmission. In Portugal, the figure of Pedro Nunes52 stands out above all, who would train successive generations in the universities of Lisbon, Coimbra and Salamanca, and of whom it would come to be said that he was one of the best mathematicians of his time. On the Castilian side are the Pinzón brothers, Juan de la Cosa, Amerigo Vespucci and Juan Caboto. In any case, there was a remarkable fluidity between Seville, where the Casa de la Contratación was located, and Lisbon: Lusitanians, Spaniards and Italians changed posts with remarkable ease, even before the Iberian union in 1580, which lasted until 1640.53 The voyage around the planet of Magellan-Elcano initiated the exploration of the  Pacific by Spanish ships (Bernabéu Albert 2003a, pp. 9–38).54 The discoveries and settlements were made in two phases; 1521–1622 and during the reigns of Charles III and his son Charles IV, from 1759. They were marked by the need to trade with the East effectively (exotic products such as woods, ivory, sandalwood, precious stones, silks, lacquer, gum Arabic, cochineal for dyes; and spices such as cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, pepper and ginger) and safely, and there will always be a geostrategic factor at play: the exclusion of actors from other countries as far as possible. In the process, there was the discovery for European cartography of the Philippines, all the archipelagos of Micronesia (Marianas, Carolinas, Palau, Gilbert  Whose latinized name was Petrus Nonius. In Spain and in numerous editions of his books he appears as Pedro Núñez. 53  Formal recognition of Portugal’s independence only came in 1668, with the Peace of Lisbon. 54  However, it must be borne in mind that it is more than likely that numerous voyages were made prior to 1530 that were not approved by the crown and that have left no records, since before this date it seems that the east and west coasts had already been mapped. See Collingridge (1906). 52

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and Marshall), several groups of Melanesia (St. Croix, Solomon, Admiralty and New Hebrides) and part of Polynesia (Tuamotou, Line, Cook, Marquesas and Ellice). Also the sighting of New Guinea and perhaps Australia and Hawaii (in the latter case, perhaps made by Alvaro de Saavedra in 1527, Verde Casanova 2002). During the first phase a large number of islands were discovered. However, in several cases of difficult identification with current geographical features, since at that time there was no effective method to determine the longitude, and the measurement of latitude was of mediocre accuracy, since only ballestillas, astrolabes and quadrants were available, or less known developments such as astronomical rings, the equatorium or the torquetum. The problem was accentuated on the high seas, especially in that unknown and colossal ocean. There would also be a mythical aspect to these almost desperate explorations, with numerous sailors embarking on successive expeditions. Among the objectives was the discovery of King Solomon’s mines and the fabulous island of Ophir. Another myth of unlimited riches like “El Dorado”, this time in the middle of the immensity of the sea. In fact, the conquest of the very rich empires of the Aztecs and Incas by Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro in 1520 and 1532, respectively, might have played a significant psychological role. There were many expeditions and secondary voyages.55 Among others, the trip commanded by García Jofre de Loaysa or Loaísa, from 1525 to 1526, with six ships and a patache that departed from Spain. Elcano took part on it as captain of one of the ships. Roldán de Argote and Hernando de Bustamante, survivors together with Elcano of the first circumnavigation, Rodrigo de Triana, the first European to sight American lands, and Andrés de Urdaneta, who would eventually find the return route to America (“tornaviaje”),56 also traveled with Loaysa. It was organized by indication of Charles I due to the failure of the conversations with the Portuguese, before the agreement of Saragossa, and its objective was the conquest of the Moluccas, to put an end to the Lusitaniand and Italian monopoly in the traffic of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper. Four ships managed to enter the Pacific but, dispersed by a storm, they followed different routes. The Santiago, under the command of Santiago de Guevara, travelled 10,000 km northwards and was the first to

 A summary can be found in Alfonso Mola and Martínez Shaw (2013, pp. 125–187).  The difficulties of navigation in the Pacific were quickly revealed. It was not only the extraordinary distances to be covered or the problem of longitude (the inability to know the position in the east-west direction). The wind regime in the vicinity of the equator in a band between 500 and 1000 kilometres gives rise to prolonged calms and light winds due to minimum atmospheric pressures. These are the areas called doldrums. A similar area is found in the middle latitudes, under the cover of subtropical anticyclones, such as the Azores, where an area of these characteristics is known as “horse latitudes” because the sailing ships, at the time of the discoveries, were practically stopped in these areas and the sailors had to lighten the load of the ship to continue sailing, and therefore threw the horses they were carrying overboard. However, the seasonality of the trade winds, once their regularity was recognized, helped the Manila Galleon’s transit on its voyage from Acapulco. The voyage only became possible after the discovery of the northeasterly Kuro-Shivo current, much further north, which also takes advantage of the prevailing westerly winds (Bernabéu Albert 2013, pp. 23–33; de Grijs 2017). 55 56


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reach the west coast of Mexico. The San Lesmes, under the command of Francisco de las Hoces, was lost for good, but may have explored Tierra del Fuego and some islands of the Tuamotu archipelago. In fact, in 1772 the frigate Magdalena found a large cross in Tahiti and in 1929 Spanish cannons were found in the Tuamoru, so it is speculated that they could have arrived there and even as far as New Zealand. The third one, the Santa María del Parral reached Celebes Island, where the crew mutinied, killing Captain Jorge Manrique de Nájera, his brother and the treasurer. After being massacred by the natives and taken prisoner, they were picked up in 1528 by the expedition of Álvaro de Saavedra, who executed the ringleaders. The captain’s ship, the Santa María de la Victoria, reached the island of Guam, in the Marianas, after losing 30 crew members to scurvy, among them Loaysa, Elcano, the pilot Rodrigo Bermejo and the accountant Alonso de Tejada. Finally, after exploring the island of Mindanao in the Philippines, they reached the Moluccas, only to enter into war with the Portuguese and end up being taken captive. They then learned of the signing of the Treaty of Saragossa and the futility of the whole expedition. The few survivors, including Urdaneta, returned to the mainland in 1536 (see note 62). A few years earlier, between 1527 and 1529, the three ships of Álvaro Saavedra Cerón sailed the waters of the Pacific on a voyage initiated in New Spain (Mexico) by order of Hernán Cortés, his cousin. Their double objective was to explore the South Seas and to find Loaysa’s fleet.57 After the disintegration of the small convoy, only the captain ship La Florida remained, which reached the Moluccas, the Philippines and New Guinea,58 and in the attempt to return they touched the Carolinas and discovered the Admiralty Islands, in the Bismarck Archipelago, and the Marshall Islands. It is possible that they even discovered the Hawaiian Islands, if their visit corresponds to a Hawaiian legend that narrates how white foreigners were received by the Wakalana chief. On the fourth attempt to sail back to New Spain, the ship was wrecked and Saavedra lost his life. Among the survivors was Iñigo Ortiz de Retes,59 who later travelled with Ruy López de Villalobos. The rest returned in 1536 to the peninsula via the Cape of Good Hope (Collingridge 1906), after several years as prisoners of the Portuguese. Hernán Cortés again sent an expedition in 1537, this time under the command of Hernando de Grijalva, bound for Peru, but also to explore the equatorial Pacific. Grijalva was killed by his crew, who sought refuge to the west, and ended up losing the ship in New Guinea, where the few survivors were taken in by the Portuguese. Another expedition with six ships departed in 1542 from New Spain, this time under the command of Ruy Lopez de Villalobos (Varela 2003, pp. 69–98). He died two years later in the Moluccas, prisoner of the Portuguese, but before that he  The rescue mission sent from New Spain was triggered by the arrival of a small ship from Loaysa’s fleet, which, having lost its way, sailed along the west coast of the continent until it reached the eastern coasts of Mexico for the first time. The vessel, a small patache, was under the command of Santiago de Guevara, and was the first to pass the Peruvian coast, a few years before Francisco de Pizarro’s conquest (Collingridge 1906). 58  Discovered by the Portuguese Jorge de Meneses in 1526 (Alfonso Mola and Martínez Shaw 2013). 59  Also written as Yñigo Ortiz de Retez. 57

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discovered several islands in the archipelagos of Revillagigedo, the Marshall Islands and the Carolinas, and landed in the Philippines, which he named in honor of Philip II, then Spanish crown prince. It is possible that they also sighted the Hawaiian Islands, since John Gaetan or Gaytan described some islands as being of no interest, and there are sea charts with the latitude of this archipelago, which lies in the middle of the North Pacific, but about ten degrees east of the actual position, although this value can necessarily only be very approximate, lacking adequate methods of determining the position. If so, the “Islas de la Mesa” (“Table Islands”), as Gaetano called them after the name he gave to the largest, would include Maui as “La Desgraciada” (“The Wretched”) and the group of “Los Monjes” (“The Monks”) would correspond to Kahoolawe, Lanai, and Molokai. Part of the crew was repatriated by the Lusitanians, but after two attempts of return voyages: by Bernardo de la Torre in 1543, who would have discovered the islands that he called “Parece Vela” (Okinotorishima), “Marcus” (Minamitorishima), “del Arzobispo” (Ogasawara), “Los Volcanes” (Vulcano) and perhaps Iwo Jima; and that of Íñigo Ortiz de Retes, who explored the north coast of New Guinea, to which he named after himself. The expedition of Miguel López de Legazpi marked the beginning of the true conquest of the Philippines. Felipe II ordered to continue the exploration of the archipelago and to gather the survivors of Villalobos’ trip, with precise instructions so that the penetration should be peaceful (Kamen 2002, p. 201) and the excesses committed during the conquest of America should not be repeated. Five ships left in 1564 and passed through the Revillagigedo, the Marshall Islands, the Carolinas and the Palau Islands, and the first settlements were made in the Philippines, including the foundation of Manila in 1571, especially as a result of the reinforcements that arrived from New Spain: a first ship in 1565 and more than two thousand people the following year, when it was already known that the return was possible by sea voyage. In 1565, both Andrés de Urdaneta and Alonso de Orellana in two ships, the latter without permission and independently, had been able to find the currents and winds that led them back to the Mexican coasts. Thus began the route of the Manila Galleon or “tornaviaje”, which would operate, connecting both sides of the huge Pacific Ocean, for 250 years, until 1815, on a voyage that lasted between 120 and 150 days without touching intermediate ports, a commercial voyage with no equivalent anywhere else, covering 16,000 kilometres between the Philippine capital and Acapulco. The port of Manila provided access to China and Japan, countries to which several embassies were sent at different times.60 The Solomon Islands, the Gilberts, Wake and Ellice (Tuvalu) were discovered during the first voyage of Álvaro de Mendaña, which took place between 1567 and 1569. Captain of one of the two ships was the cosmographer Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, who later wrote the History of the Kingdom of the Incas, intended to justify the Spanish conquest of Peru. The expedition, ordered by the president of the  The presence of Japanese and Chinese traders in the Philippine archipelago became so important that it created law and order problems. In any case, cultural exchange was facilitated and the first Chinese book was translated into a Western language. It is Beng Sim Po Cam, a collection of sentences from Chinese classics (Folch Fornesa 2013, pp. 191–241). 60


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audience of Peru, was aimed at emulating the feat of the Inca Tupac Yupanqui, who could have sailed westward and discovered two large islands (Nina-Chumpi and Hahua-Chumpi, fire island and outer island, respectively) where gold would abound. The continuous disagreements between Mendaña and Sarmiento prevented the latter from taking the desired course, which would have led to New Zealand and Australia (Collingridge 1906).61 Much later, on his voyage of 1595, Mendaña met his death on the island of Santa Cruz, south of the Solomons, but after having discovered the Marquesas Islands. His wife, Isabel Barreto, took command and sailed to the Philippines, while Pedro Fernández de Quirón or Fernandes de Queirós, in command of the other remaining ship, ended up in New Spain. On this voyage the admiral of the ship Santa Isabel got lost and, according to Australian researchers, ended up arriving in Australia (Fernandez-Shaw 2000; Verde Casanova 2002). New Zealand may have been discovered by Juan Jufré, first mayor of Santiago de Chile, and Juan Fernández, during a mission to Polynesia from 1576 to 1577 or 1578, departing from El Callao, in Peru, and it is even possible that they reached the east coast of Australia. Juan Fernandez later discovered, in 1583, a fast way between the viceroyalties of New Spain and Peru, with only 30 days of navigation, sailing away from the coast and avoiding the Humboldt current, which parallels the coast from south to north. After the personal union of the Portuguese and Spanish crowns in Philip I of Portugal and II of Spain in 1580, the mythical Strait of Anian, the passage between Asia and America that would allow access to the Atlantic from the north, in which the British would squander countless resources and lives in the nineteenth century, was sought by Francisco Gali, between 1582 and 1585. He reached Japan and explored the Polynesian islands and California Bay. He returned to Manila to retry the search, but died the following year in that city. Pedro de Unamuno, in 1587, continued Gali’s explorations. The Pacific horizon opened up even more with the voyage of Gabriel de Castilla, who in 1603 reached 64 degrees south latitude and may have sighted the shores of Antarctica, either the Melchior Islands or the South Shetland Islands, which he called the “Islas de la Buena Nueva” (“Islands of Good News”). If Castilla’s sighting is controversial, that of Dirck Gerritszoon Pomp, four years earlier, has hardly a trace of verisimilitude. The expeditions in the southern hemisphere ended with the one led by Pedro Fernández de Quirós, who set sail from El Callao and navigated in search of the southern lands from December 1605 to November 1606. In addition to making discoveries, such as the New Hebrides, or rediscovering multiple islands, he believed  After this voyage he was ordered to hunt down the English sailor Francis Drake, who was on the western coasts of South America (depending on the point of view, committing outrages as a pirate or on a heroic mission). He was ennobled by Queen Elizabeth I after sailing around the world between 1577 and 1580, a voyage in which he captured a huge amount of gold and silver. Sarmiento became cosmographer of Peru and explored the region of the Strait of Magellan, whose longitude he determined with an instrument of his invention. 61

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he had found the great southern continent, which he christened “Austrialia del Espíritu Santo” (Pimentel 2003, pp. 99–126), in a play on words that flattered the reigning dynasty in Portugal and Spain (the Habsburg, known in Spain as “Austria”). The fleet separated, Quirós returning to Acapulco. His second, Luis Váez de Torres, after searching unsuccessfully for Quirós, realized that Espiritu Santo was actually an island. On the return voyage, he skirted New Guinea along its southern coast, proving that it was not part of the supposed southern continent and naming the strait that still bears his name. However, it is possible that he did sight the Australian coast: depending on the specific route he followed, he should have sighted Cape York. Quirós, on his return to Europe, sent numerous memorials to Philip III. The most famous is number 8, which, translated into several languages and widely distributed throughout the continent, contributed significantly to reaffirm the existence of this supposed immense continent that should balance the land mass present in the northern hemisphere. Once again, myth and reality would overlap, and act as incentives for new searches. The actual continent and its main mass, Australia, may have been sighted on several occasions: in 1521 by Cristobal de Mendoça and four years later, in 1525, by Gomes de Sequeira, both in command of Portuguese expeditions. The voyage of Godinho de Heredia, who may have touched Cape Van Diemen in 1601, seems much more likely. The first cycle of Hispanic discoveries was completed in 1622, with the voyage of Sebastián Vizcaíno from Acapulco to Japan, with the mission of negotiating with the imperial court after the expulsion of the Christians from that country in 1614. On his return he sought Rica de Oro and Rica de Plata (Kamen 2002), mythical islands in the middle of the ocean, which if they had existed would have been an excellent intermediate port in the long and demanding voyage of several months. But unfortunately, although these did exist, there is no certain record of Spanish ships sighting and refueling in the Hawaiian archipelago. It is possible that, when the 12-year truce with the Netherlands was broken in 1621 and Spain entered the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648, although the Spanish-French conflict would not end until 1659 with the unbalanced Peace of the Pyrenees), there were no human or financial resources left for new adventures. In any case, at the beginning of the seventeenth century Spain was at a real crossroads, with numerous open fronts. After the death of Felipe II in 1598, his son Felipe III (Filipe II of Portugal) inherited numerous conflicts along with a debt of 100 million ducats (compared to the 20 million in red that his father received from Charles I), when the flow contributed by the rights of the crown (the fifth royal) was about two million ducats a year (which never exceeded a third of the income of the Crown of Castile, Kennedy 1987, p.  47). Thus, peace treaties were signed with France in 1598, with England in 1603 and the 12-year truce with the Netherlands in 1609: a Pax Hispanica as a state policy of Philip III and his favourite, the Duke of Lerma, whose ultimate goal was perhaps economic recovery in order to continue the continental conflicts with renewed strength, as it happened between 1621 and 1659, as part of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), already mentioned above. Ultimately, a failed strategy since the conflict ended with a defeat against France, who would


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take the continental pre-eminence, after the entry of Cronwell’s England in favour of the French and, what is more important, by pure economic and human exhaustion of the contenders (Allen 2000). During the seventeenth century and until the middle of the eighteenth century there was a hiatus in Hispanic exploration. It is more than likely that during that time there were numerous sightings of various islands and that several landings were made, sometimes driven by contrary winds. But to date no Spanish remains have been found, for example, in the Hawaiian archipelago, in the middle of the ocean, but moderately close to the route that linked the Philippines with Mexico, the famous Manila Galleon. It is true that the expeditions of the sixteenth century also paid a very high price. Many were the chiefs who perished in them, of the sailors there are almost no censuses: Magellan and most of his crew; Loaysa and Elcano by scurvy; Hernando de Grijalva and most of his sailors; Álvaro de Saavedra Cerón near Hawaii; Mendaña on the island of Santa Cruz, among many others. They sailed an unknown ocean, a vast space, with voyages of many weeks without touching land, without knowing exactly where they were, and always exposed to mutinies and desertions. The navigational instruments were really so primitive that they could not know the longitude except by crude estimates (as shown in the map of the Pacific and the multitude of islands with no real location, Fig. 1.13) and with an imprecise measure of latitude (by the use of astrolabes, Figs. 1.14 and 1.8). 4.5.2 The End of Iberian Unity: Dutch, French and English Competition Access to the Pacific Ocean by other powers, and in particular the Netherlands, is linked to the figure of Jan Huygens van Linschoten, a Dutchman who worked in the service of the Portuguese archbishop of Goa, in India. After his return to Europe, he published in 1595 and 1596 the Lusitanian routes to the East Indies, including Francisco Gali’s original manuscript recounting his travels to Japan, Polynesia and California. His treaty of Reys-Gheschrift van de navigatien der Portugaloysers in Orienten, printed in 1595, was translated before 1610 into English, German, Latin, and French. Thus, van Linschoten’s publications provided the key to Dutch and English access to the Indian and Pacific oceans. The Iberian union was broken in 1640 and this separation led to a decrease in the capacity for geostrategic projection of the Portuguese and Spanish maritime fleets and the means for the protection of its overseas territories. In the end, both countries would lose out, although in the Lusitanian case the balance would be much worse: Portuguese trade, very active even before the union, would disappear completely from the Spanish Indies as early as 1670. They would cede Bombay to the English in 1662, thus facilitating the future penetration and the creation of their vast empire, and in the end it would become a commercial appendix of the United Kingdom, following their commercial and political interests (the latter clearly marked by the former). In Spain, immersed in the Thirty Years’ War, the rupture provoked a very

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Fig. 1.13  The South Sea according to Johannes Janssonius, 1682 Published in Het vijfde Deel Deo Grooten Atlas verbatende De Water-Weereld. California still appears as an island and the mythical Strait of Anian, the Northwest Passage to the Atlantic. Many of the Pacific islands appear with Spanish names, many of uncertain or simply assumed position. Museo Naval de Madrid (Document Number: A-10192-V.5)

important naval crisis and a tragedy for the numerous mixed marriages that had to opt for one side or the other (Serrano Mangas 2001, pp. 26, 35, 111). In any case, various Dutch explorers, including Willem Janszoon or Jansz, Hendrick Brouwer, Dirk Hartoog, Frederick de Houtman, Francois Thijssen, Willen de Vlaming, Pieter Nuyts and Abel Tasman, explored the coasts of Australia and opened new maritime routes in the first decades of the seventeenth century. In addition to the Dutch, other agents, not entirely new, ended up entering the scene. In the case of the United Kingdom, it would become the hegemonic power in the nineteenth century and the great winner of the colonization process. A first example of this penetration in the Pacific corresponds to the English privateer Francis Drake, who circumnavigated the globe between 1567 and 1573, harassing Spanish trade and obtaining a large booty. A clear exponent of the fact that this immense ocean was not the exclusive property of the Spaniards, who not only had to face local powers and the elements. Much later, the British would return to the Pacific with James Cook and his three voyages: 1768–1771, 1772–1775 and 1776–1779, when he met his death in a


1  Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography

Fig. 1.14  Instructions on how to handle an astrolabe, in 1551 It allows to measure the height of a star above the horizon and therefore to estimate the latitude. The explanation comes from Breve compendio de la Sphera, by Martín Cortés de Albacar. Museo Naval de Madrid (Signatura CF 108, lxvii)

confrontation with the natives of Hawaii, an archipelago finally identified beyond doubt. The first trip had as its mission to make observations of a transit of Venus in order to determine the distance between our planet and the Sun, and to deduce the size of the solar system. His encounter with Australia occurred on his return from New Zealand, searching for Terra Australis Incognita. They would not be the only Europeans.62 The French had their own circumterrestrial epic with Jean François Galaup, Count of La Pérous, on a voyage that began in 1785 and ended tragically in 1788, with the two ships and the entire crew lost.

 In chronological order: Magellan-Elcano (1519–1522), Garcia Jofre de Loaysa  –the return by  Andrés de Urdaneta– (1525–1536), Francis Drake (1577–1580), Thomas Cavendish (1586–1588), Simon de Cordes (1598–1601), Oliver Van Noort (1598–1601), George Spilberg (1614–1617), James LeMaire and William Cornelius Schouten (1615–1617), Jacob L’Hermite and John Hugo Schapenham (1623–1626), Henry Brouwer (1641–1643), Cowley (1683–1686), William Dampier (1679–1691), Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Carreri (1693–1698), Beauchesne Gouin (1699?), William Dampier (1703–1707), Woodes Rogers (1708–1711), Gentil de la Barbinais (1714 –??), Clipperton and Shelvocke (1719–1721), Roggewein (1721–1723), George Anson (1740–1744), John Byron (1764–1766), Samuel Wallis and Philip Carteret (1766–1768), Louis de Bougainville (1766–1769). Clearly, Cook had many antecedents. Although numerous sailors from the Spanish expeditions described above, in many cases anonymous, completed the circumnavigation of the world, aboard different ships, before Drake. 62

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4.5.3 Spanish Expeditions in the Eighteenth Century From 1770, under the reign of Charles III, a new Spanish exploratory activity was unleashed (Bernabéu 2003b, pp. 127–166), with a specific focus: the mapping of the coast of North America, in conflict with the Russians and British, and the search for the coveted Northwest Passage. The first use by a Spanish sailor of the very new method of lunar distances, which finally provided very precise longitudes, was made on the frigate Venus, commanded by Juan de Lángara, in 1773. By then, ambiguities in navigation had disappeared. The best known of the expeditions of the reigns of Charles III and his son Charles IV is that of Alejandro Malaspina (Pimentel 1998), who together with José de Bustamante travelled through America and the Pacific for five years from 1789, reaching from Alaska to Australia and New Zealand. Malaspina, an enlightened reformer, ended up in a Spanish jail when he became involved in a conspiracy against Manuel Godoy, prime minister of Charles IV. The vast majority of the scientific treasure that the expedition accumulated was either lost, as was the case with the astronomical data, or published much later. As an epilogue, as already mentioned, only a small number of geographical features retain Spanish toponomy (Verde Casanova 2002): the archipelagos of the Philippines, Marianas, Carolinas, Marquesas, Solomon, Juan Fernandez and Galapagos; the islands of New Guinea, Guadalcanal, Santa Cruz, Isabel, Easter and, of course, Australia. In addition, the Torres Strait and Bahía Dudosa, better known by its English name of Doubful Sound and the Malaspina Glacier. A meagre result for an exploits that led to the exploration of the vast majority of the immense Pacific.

4.6 Exploration Versus Conquest: The Rationale for the Process The Iberian expansion was not only a process of exploration of unknown lands in the West. To a large extent it initiated an activity of conquest that entailed the disappearance of various societies that were unable to oppose European technology and military thrust. Although the two activities were dissociated (and proof of this are the Portuguese trading stations along the African coast, although not entirely free of bloody aspects), in reality, at least in America, exploration brought the domination and settlement of foreign populations, including a very substantial number of African slaves. Although the more cultivated minds of the Enlightenment, as early as the seventeenth century, would conclude that the Spanish, French and British empires could only lead to the destruction of their metropolises (it only partially happened in the first case), by then it was too late for both the colonial power and the societies that were subjugated (Pagden 1995, p. 6). The mistake was repeated during the second wave of European conquest, beginning in the nineteenth century.


1  Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography

Be that as it may, the Portuguese explorers found justification for many of their actions in a long intellectual tradition within the Catholic Church. This process began with the submission of the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I “the Great” to Bishop Ambrose in the fourth century and the definition of the “Doctrine of the two swords” (“utrumque gladium”) by Pope Gelasius I at the end of the fifth century, with his admonitory letter to the Byzantine Emperor Athanasius I63 . This struggle for temporal pre-eminence reached its culmination between the eleventh and thirteenth centuries, especially during the Gregorian reform in the middle of the eleventh century and the eventful life of Emperor Frederick II and his conflict with the papacy (Russell 2000, pp. 250, 318. Cantor 1994; Abulafia 1992). Luis de La Cerda, sovereign prince of the Fortunate Isles, in a letter written in 1344 to Pope Clement VI, shows how the old geography was promoting new ideas for European expansionism (Lester 2009, p. 125). Already in the fifteenth century, Henrique “the Navigator” received in 1443 from his brother Pedro, Duke of Coimbra and regent of Portugal due to the minority of age of Afonso V, letters with privileges for the explorations carried out south of Cape Bojador. They provided royal privileges but do not contain any reference to evangelizing activity. However, the justification for the conquest and trade is found in a series of papal bulls. Since 1412 Henrique had tried to establish himself in the Canaries, without ever succeeding, in order to gain access to their natural resources and, above all, to kidnap natives for sale on the mainland. Pope Eugene IV banned in 1434 the slave trade with the bull Creator Omnium, which opposed Gaudeamus et exultamos of 1341, but to little effect. The interdiction was reiterated in Sicut Dudum, formulated the following year. However, under pressure from the Lusitanian court, the same pontiff dictated in 1436 Dudum cum ad nos, in which he became more flexible by allowing the capture of non-Christians  It represents a very clear exposition against Caesaropapism. The missive reads as follows: “There are, indeed, most august emperor, two powers by which this world is particularly governed: the sacred authority of the popes and the royal power. Of these, the priestly power is all the more important because it has to give an account of the very kings of men before the divine tribunal. For you must know, most gracious son, that, although you have the first place in dignity over the human race, yet you must faithfully submit yourself to those who have charge of divine things, and look to them for the means of your salvation. You know that it is your duty, in what pertains to the reception and reverent administration of the sacraments, to obey ecclesiastical authority rather than to dominate it. In such matters, therefore, you must depend on ecclesiastical judgment rather than try to bend it to your own will. For if in matters touching the administration of public discipline, the bishops of the church, knowing that the empire has been given to you by divine disposition, obey your laws so that there may not appear to be contrary opinions in purely material matters, with what diligence, I ask, should you obey those who have received the office of administering the divine mysteries? Just as there is great danger to popes when they do not say what is necessary in that which touches divine honor, so there is no small danger to those who obstinately resist (God forbid) when they have to obey. And if the hearts of the faithful ought generally to submit to all priests, who administer holy things, in an upright manner, how much more ought they to give assent to him who presides over that see, whom the Supreme Divinity himself wished to have supremacy over all priests, and whom the pious judgment of the whole Church has since honored?” Letter of Pope Gelasius I to the Emperor Anastasius I, written in 494 CE. The text comes from Lo Grasso (1952, p. 50). 63

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and granted Duarte I the right to conquer the Canary Islands that were not in the hands of Christians (i.e., Castilian), a bull strongly contested by Castile. Thus, after the intervention of Alonso de Cartagena in the Council of Basel (followed later by the Council of Ferrara-Florence) the Pope rectified with the bull Rex Regnum of September 1436, establishing the absolute rights of the Castilian crown. However, it was used to justify the conquest of Guinea. Rex Regnum, on the other hand, recognized the Lusitanian rights south of Cape Bojador (Russell 2000, pp. 272–276, 161, 197). The retraction continued in 1452 with Dum diversas, by Nicholas V, authorizing Afonso V of Portugal to enslave the infidels of West Africa, and with Romanus Pontifex, by the same pontiff and dated 1455, which completed the former by authorizing the conquest and enslavement of all the peoples located south of Cape Bojador. A year later, the new Pope Calixtus III promulgated Inter caetera, in which he assigned new rights to the Order of Christ, of which Henry was master, south of Bojador and, notably, as far as India (“usque ad Indos”).64 In any case, the Portuguese slave trade was based on the Siete Partidas of Alfonso X “the Wise”, a legal text of the thirteenth century on which was based not only the corpus of Lusitanian laws, but also covered moral and other aspects. In addition to Portuguese, Castilians, Aragonese and, above all, Genoese, were very active in the slave trade. In the latter case, with a very important presence not only in the Black Sea and the Mediterranean but also on the North Atlantic coast of Africa (Russell 2000, p. 249). In fact, this set of papal edicts represents the continuation of the long series of disputes of the fourth and fifth century, referred to above. Romanus Pontifex had an extraordinary importance in other areas, since it establishes the universality of both temporal and ecclesiastical power of the papacy, and its right to grant dominions. Alexander VI, with his bulls of demarcation of 1493 between Castile and Portugal,65 followed the same line. In any case, despite the militaristic and exploitative dynamics of the encomienda system in America, according to which the monarch “ceded” the work of the new subjects to a colonizer in exchange for a reduced salary and the requirement to evangelize the new peoples, there was a concern, sometimes only formal, to justify the process of conquest from a legal point of view. The legitimacy of the four bulls of Pope Alexander VI and the validity of the donation of the new lands to Spain and Portugal was questioned from the beginning by the French and the English. In fact, the French King Francis I stated that “I would like to see the clause of Adam’s will that excludes me from the distribution of the world”. In any case, as already

 The text reads: “a capitibus de Bojador et de Nam usque per totam Guineam et ultra versus illam meridionalem plagam usque ad Indos” (“From Cape Bojador and Cape Nam to all of Guinea and beyond along the entire southern coast as far as India”). Although it probably refers to the supposed access to Ethiopia that the Portuguese navigators were possibly seeking to gain access to the kingdom of Preste John. 65  “Breve Inter caetera”, “Eximiae devotionis”, “Inter caetera II” and “Dudum siquidem”, the first two dated 3rd May, the third the following day and the last on 26 September 1493. Thus, they conceded to Castile “the islands and discovered and undiscovered firm lands to the west and south, which were not constitutionally under the present temporal dominion of Christian lords”. 64


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described, several bulls were issued in this regard in the fourteenth century, and the doctrine of the universal temporal power of the papacy appeared soon after the adoption of the role of the sole religion of the Roman Empire, with the decree of 380 CE, its submission to Bishop Ambrose, and the development of the “Doctrine of the Two Swords” a century later by Pope Gelasius I. Be that as it may, in the sixteenth century different members of the Salamanca school, among others Francisco de Vitoria, strove to establish whether Spanish rule was legitimate and under what terms. There were some absurd interpretations, such as that of Gonzalo Fernández de Oviedo, who justified the dominion by claiming that the Indians were descendants of the Visigoths who had fled during the Muslim conquest and therefore subjects of the Spanish king. However, most scholars raised strong objections to the conquest per se and numerous letters of protest were submitted to the king. A century before, the Portuguese, on the occasion of the attempted conquest of Tangier in 1437, had initiated a discussion on what circumstances a conflict was lawful and King Duarte I made a consultation (consultum) to the pontifical court. To everyone’s surprise, the answer was negative, but despite not getting the desired bull, the invasion of that northern African city proceeded, although it would end in disaster. In fact, in 1438 Pope Eugene IV transferred the consultum to two renowned jurists of the University of Bologna, Antonio Minucia Pratovecchio and Antonio di Rosellis. In the fourteenth century two visions of the universal role of the papacy coexisted. The traditionalist one, as already mentioned, can be framed in the conflict between the papacy and the Empire at the beginning of the Middle Ages and was formalized with Henricus of Segusia or Hostiensis (died 1271), who declared that the spiritual and temporal jurisdiction of the papacy was unlimited. The less orthodox one circumscribed the power to the communitas fidelium or community of believers and not with absolute character. In any case, both Pratovecchio and Rosellis ruled that in those lands under the Law of Nations or ius gentium there could be no right of conquest, even if the ruler was an infidel. A “just war” should be waged for the expulsion of a conqueror, as in the case of a Muslim power in lands that had previously belonged to Christians. Thus, the African region of Tingitania, which was a Visigothic possession, could be conquered, but only with the permission of the Holy Roman Emperor. Another justification would occur if the ruler offended the natural law, as was the case with human sacrifices in Spanish America, or those states that denied access to preach Christianity. Finally, the ultimate justification for waging a just war would be preventive when there was real danger of aggression. Successive popes systematically ignored the result of the consultum during the exploration and conquest of lands in Africa, America and Asia. Thus, Iberian expansion was, from the canonical point of view, unjust and illegal (Russell 2000, pp. 43, 136–138, 153, 162–163). Back in the sixteenth century, the consequences of the consultum and the right of conquest created considerable discussion in Spain in academic circles, a fact that did not occur in Portugal. Thus, the Spanish colonizing process was legally based on these definitions of “just war”, by denial of the right of passage (ius peregrinandi) or on voluntary cessions of sovereignty (which did not occur) according to

5  Ptolemy, Mercator and the New Cosmography


the Roman law principle “Quod omnes tangit ab omnibus approbari debet” (“what affects everyone, everyone must approve”, Pagden 1995, pp. 39–56). In fact, perhaps one of the most interesting debates of that time was the one developed, mainly, between Bartolomé de las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda in Valladolid in 1551 about the right to conquer (De las Casas et al. 1551). In the end, despite the royal legislation, which extended the rights of the peninsular subjects to the native Americans, the remoteness and the colonial reality would impose itself, which would cause extraordinary pain to many generations on both sides of the Atlantic. Even today, or especially today, the so-called “just war” continues to be an ethical problem of the first magnitude.

5 Ptolemy, Mercator and the New Cosmography 5.1 Maximo Planudes: The Quasi Anonymous Hero Maximo Planudes was an unknown scholar, not infrequent in the history of culture, who almost casually started a revolution whose effect truly transcended his own life. In the case of Planudes the process took hold decades after his death. It was, figuratively, a wind that drove the sails of the ships of the discoverers of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and whose effect continued to be felt during the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Maximos Planoudes, his original name before being Latinized, was a renowned Byzantine theologian, grammarian and translator, who lived between 1260 and 1330, although it is possible that he died much earlier or later (1305 or even 1353). He was therefore a contemporary of Petrarch, the initiator of Humanism, at least during the latter’s formative years. Planudes was also an editor, and thus facilitated the survival of numerous key works such as Aesop’s Fables in prose, Aratus’ Phainomena, pseudo-Jamblichus’ Theologoumena Arithmeticae, Theodosius of Bithynia’s Sphairica, Euclid’s Elements, or Diophantus of Alexandria’s Arithmetic, by copying them. In his role as translator, he rendered several Latin classics into Greek, in an inverted cultural nostos, since in general the process was almost always the opposite, the translation from Greek into Latin. However, his most relevant activity was the recovery of a Greek manuscript of Claudius Ptolemy’s66 Geographia, Geographike Hyphegesis in the original, which could be translated as Manual for the Construction of a World Map or Introduction to Map Making. Ptolemy’s text was described by Cassiodorus in the sixth century CE: Then, if you are kindled with the noble restlessness to know, you have the codex of Ptolemy, which expresses with such evidence all the places that you will think he had been an inhabitant of all the regions, and as a result, you, who find yourselves in a single place –as is fit-

 O’Connors and Robertson, “Claudius Ptolemy”, [online], , [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 66


1  Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography ting for monks– you will traverse with the spirit what the journey of others gathered with much effort.67 Cassiodorus, Institutiones Saecularium Litterarum

After this reference, the text disappeared in the West and never reached relevance in the East, despite the fame of the Almagest by the same author. After finding it, probably around 1295, Planudes made several duplicates. So impressed was the Emperor Androniko II that he ordered one for himself, beautifully adorned, a copy that may correspond to the so-called Codex Urbinas graecus 8268 (codex with maps, Fig. 1.15), although it is far from clear, as will be described below. It is also unclear whether the manuscript that Planudes bought, called Δ and which has not survived, contained maps and whether these were the originals of Claudius Ptolemy.69 In fact, it is not even obvious that the original Alexandrian Geographia contained maps. A manuscript, called Vat.Gr.177, which may have belonged to this Byzantine scholar and is now in the Vatican Library, has no maps, although it is dated to the thirteenth or fourteenth century. To a large extent, the trajectory of Ptolemy’s manuscripts is that of the knowledge of the Greco-Roman world that has survived the vicissitudes of history and that has reached us by chance or by the intervention of a few personalities who acted at the right moment.

Fig. 1.15  Urbinas Graecus 82, the oldest preserved world map of Claudius Ptolemy A grid with the first projection of Ptolemy has been added. The original is located at the Vatican Library

 Casiodoro, Institutiones Saecularium Litterarum. Las Siete Artes Liberales, 2009, p. 97.  The record in the Vatican Library indicates that the manuscript is from the eleventh century: 69  Copyists used to omit figures and maps from manuscripts, not understanding their content (Grant 2006, p. 288). 67 68

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Geographia, written in the second century CE, would be called to play a stellar role in the development of cosmography and the age of discovery, despite its complex history. Especially since Geographia, or Cosmographia as it has sometimes been erroneously titled, is the only work of cartography from classical antiquity that has come down to us. It is a window to the knowledge of the world that they had in that period, but which has been enriched over time. Together with the Almagest, Ptolemy bequeathed us a complete interpretation of the universe and its contents, a vision that has reverberated through the ages.

5.2 Claudius Ptolemy, a Bridge Between the Science of Antiquity and the Renaissance One can speculate what role Claudius Ptolemy’s geography played in the process of the exploration of the Atlantic coast of Africa and the discovery of America. Certainly, Portuguese explorers in the Atlantic, Africa and the Indian Ocean were better informed than Christopher Columbus. During the fourteenth-fifteenth centuries in the Italian peninsula a commendable work had been done recovering writings of Antiquity, including other manuals of cosmography in addition to Ptolemy’s Geographia. Pomponius Mela, Strabo and Pliny became familiar names again, and their new editions were cleaned of the successive errors typical of copying processes, carried out by scribes who were not very attentive or lacked the necessary knowledge to interpret the contents correctly. The symptomatic case, as already mentioned, is the Geographia of Claudius Ptolemy and the systematic intervention of the Byzantine school. From then on it would be an essential work, with a recurrent influence in the West. On the other hand, the calculations of the size of the Earth, based on Posidonius of Apamea, propagated by Marinus of Tyre and by Ptolemy, were considerably inferior to those of Eratosthenes of Cyrene, whose result was much closer to reality (in fact, surprisingly close if one assumes a certain equivalence between the stadium, the measurement used by Eratosthenes, and our decimal system). Columbus sailed westward thinking that in a few weeks he would reach the Indies and Cipango. Luckily for his crew, he reached the West Indies before dying of thirst and hunger. The Ptolemaic maps could or could not have served as starting point to the Iberian explorations that contributed to close the Middle Ages and opened a new chapter in the universal history, but what is certain is that the representation of the new lands could hardly be adapted to Ptolemy’s map, but to his system. In any case, they continued to be developed during the following century. The edition of 1513, based on the translation of Jacobo d’Angelo as it will be seen later, included the first set of modern maps. The 1535 edition of Ptolemy of Lyon would be corrected by Michael Servetus from a Greek manuscript. Decades later, in 1578, Gerardus Mercator (1512–1594) would make a printing that reflects in a more truthful way the original intentions of Ptolemy (Crane 2003, pp. 207, 240 and 266).


1  Plus Ultra: The Iberian Explorations and Cartography

Throughout the sixteenth century there were several advances in the representation of both the continents and the night sky and its constellations, largely driven by geographical discoveries, but also by mathematical advances in cartography and spherical trigonometry. Ptolemy thus began to lose his almost complete intellectual dominance, but his laurels still remain today.

5.3 The Manuscript of Geographia and its Family Tree Among the numerous studies on Ptolemy’s Geographia there are several controversies still unresolved. Daniel Mintz70 has recently attempted to clarify some of the key issues in a concise manner. Also in recent years the work of Lennart Berggren and Alexander Jones (2000) provides an in-depth discussion. Among the most relevant enigmas are the genesis and genealogy of the manuscripts in Greek that are conserved (and in Latin, derived from those), that ascend to several dozens (50  in total in Greek, with and without maps, Huxley 2001, pp. 95–97), the authorship of the maps and the moment of their accomplishment, and if Ptolemy intervened in their creation. In fact, the manuscripts with maps can be grouped in two big families: those that contain 26 regional maps plus a world map, called “A”, and those that include, in addition to the global map, 64 partial maps, generally at a smaller scale, which are included in the “B” family. In both cases, the maps are drawn according to the recipe described in the text, which is a simple network of meridians and parallels perpendicular to each other, and in fact it is the projection of Marinus of Tyre that Ptolemy criticized. Some authors conclude that this last family comes from the “A”, nevertheless in Dilke’s summary (Dilke 1987, p. 258) it is affirmed that in fact they are very different families, separated already in the fourteenth century, and that even the split in the genealogy of the maps could have been made before the fourth century or even by the same Ptolemy in the second century. Therefore, this problem is still unresolved, and it is likely that only the fortuitous discovery of an earlier manuscript or an explicit reference would help to solve it. The original maps of Ptolemy could have been drawn by Agatodemon, of whom nothing else is known except that he tells in an attached note to some map that he is a technician (mechanikos) of Alexandria. He could have been a contemporary of Ptolemy and even have worked under his direction. Several examples are preserved in different manuscripts, both of typology “A” and “B”. They bear the sentence “Agathodemon of Alexandria delineated the entire inhabited world according to the eight books on Geographia by Claudius Ptolemy”.71 However, the true implications behind this statement are not clear.  Mintz, “Manuscript Tradition in Ptolemy’s Geography”, 2007, [online], , [accessed: 31 August 2017]. 71  A facsimile edition of one of the manuscripts of Geographia was published in 1874 by K. F. August. Another facsimile edition, also facsimile, relatively more recent, corresponds to the 70

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Among the oldest surviving map copies of Geographia or Geographike Hyphegesis is the Codex Seragliensis Gr. 57, dating from about 1300. It was found in Constantinople, in the palace of Tokapi, and consists of a world map and 26 regional maps on folios 73v-120r. It therefore belongs to the “A” family and can be considered one of its prototypes. Nowadays it is in the Biblioteca Augustana. Similar, as they also have maps, and contemporary to the Codex Seragliensis are the codices Fabricianus graecus 23, now in Copenhagen, and Urbinas graecus 82, in the Vatican, which has already been mentioned. The latter has been dated by different authors between the eleventh and thirteenth century. Moreover, it is more elaborate and more ornamented with archaic script, and therefore may predate the other two. In fact, Fischer’s dating places it between the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth century, although Berggren and Jones (2000) state that no manuscript exists before the end of the thirteenth century. Thus, the eleventh century execution seems to be totally ruled out. It should be remembered that the sack of Constantinople by the Crusaders took place in 1204, and that the Latin Empire of Constantinople lasted until 1261, when the city was conquered by the Empire of Nicaea, the Byzantine remnant of the Crusader plunder. Urbinas graecus 82 could have been made in either state or in the reunified Byzantine Empire after the Nicene conquest of 1261. However, it has been argued that such a lavishly detailed manuscript could hardly have been produced during the Latin period, which was not characterized by intellectual richness. In any case, this group of three texts is considered to correspond to the oldest surviving manuscripts (Schnabel 1938, p. 79, quoted in Diller 1940, pp. 62–67). As mentioned, they have Agatodemon’s annotation on the maps. In addition, there is a fourth manuscript that could be associated with these three, Bodleian 3376 (Cod. Seld. no. 46),72 also from about 1300, but which does not include maps although it is possible that it contains an annotation by Planudes himself.73 It is notoriously different from the previous ones, since it does not include maps and consists of a voluminous compendium of different works, assembled approximately in 1296, produced apparently by four amanuenses, since it contains different styles of the spellings. It includes, besides Geographia, the Little Astronomy and the Commentaries on the Phenomena of Eudoxus and Aratus, by Hipparchus (Dilke 1987, p. 258), the only work by this renowned astronomer of the Hellenistic period that has survived. Despite the many errors it contains, this codex is of enormous importance because it does not include any revisions made by Byzantine scholars in the thirteenth – fourteenth century. The comparison of the styles, errors, numbering, arrangement of the text and organization of the maps, when present, manuscript Urbinas graecus 82, has been published by J. Fischer and includes 83 maps from different manuscripts. See Fisher (1932), quoted in Heawood (1933). A generic perspective, from which the Agathodemus quotation comes, appears in Nordensjiöld, 1889 [1970], pp.  12–16, quoted in Lisi (1994, pp. 371–377). 72  Bodleian Library, MSS. Arch. Selden. B., [online], , [accessed: 31 August 2017]. 73


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Fig. 1.16  Stema with the genealogy of the Geographia manuscripts A possible genealogy of the different Greek manuscripts that have come down to us. From Claudius Ptolemy’s original of Geographia to the oldest preserved codices, a millennium and two distinct lines elapsed. A possible reconstruction is included here, based on the comparative analysis of the content and its maps, when they exist, including transcription errors, although other sequences, somewhat simpler, are possible

offers a very rich interpretation of the origin and relationship between them. That is, it is possible to reconstruct their genealogy (see Fig. 1.16 with the possible interrelations between the different Greek manuscripts). Due to some of the mistakes present in these five manuscripts, it can be considered that they come from one made before the tenth century, since everything indicates that the common source was written in capital letters, and the Greek minuscule appeared in this century or perhaps in the previous one. The Carolingian minuscule appeared during the Carolingian Renaissance in the eighth – tenth centuries and it is not unreasonable to accept that given the connections between the courts of Byzantium and Charlemagne and his heirs, it was related to the Frankish type. Be that as it may, the archetype of the 50 extant Greek manuscripts, which we will call Ω, could have been written at any time between the end of Antiquity and the tenth century, and may even be a copy of Ptolemy’s original. Or perhaps several “generations” of manuscripts could have come between the two. It is even possible that Ω, as such, did not exist and it is actually Ptolemy’s original text that is the common ancestor of the five manuscripts described. But in that case one would have to

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assume that Ptolemy made multiple mistakes, which does not seem very plausible. So it is likely that Ω existed at some point. Analogous to Ω would be a manuscript, proto Ξ (Csi), which would give rise to its own independent family to be discussed later. The postulated Ω archetype would give rise, already in the early Middle Ages and probably in Byzantium, to two distinct families: Π and Δ, which neither have come down to us and are therefore hypothetical manuscripts, whose existence is assumed by the interrelations between the existing texts. The second would give rise to Urbinas graecus 82, Seragliensis graecus 57, Fabricianus graecus 23 and Bodleian 3376. The comparison of the indices of this last generation of manuscripts, which make references to pages or columns of the source manuscript, Δ, where these subjects are treated, according to a former Vatican librarian, G. Mercati, is a sign that it was written in Egypt, since a similar system of column numbering is found in papyrus rolls of the first century. It is therefore possible that Δ, hence Ω, were copied not long after the production of Ptolemy’s original text (Fisher 1932, quoted in Heawood 1933, pp. 65–71). There is a next generation of manuscripts, transcribed in the fourteenth century: Codex Vatopedinus 655, in the Vatopedi monastery of Mount Athos, Marc. gr. 516, found in Venice, Par. suppl. gr. 119, in Paris, Vat. gr. 178, in the Vatican, and Vat. gr. 177. The first two include maps, contrary to the other three. According to Diller, it seems that Vatop. 655 descends from Urbinas gr. 82, but not directly, but through another text now lost (Diller 1937), which can be called U′. Vatop. 655 also has its curious history, because it was plundered by the researchers who were supposed to classify it in the nineteenth century, after its discovery in 1838 by Karl Eduard Zachariä. Minoides Mynas was commissioned by the Bibliothèque Nationale to catalogue the monastery’s manuscripts. Years later, after his death, folios belonging to the original manuscript were found among his papers, remains of which are now in Paris. This was not the only theft, for years later, in 1853, the British Museum acquired another 21 leaves from Constantine Simonides, which are still deposited there. The similarities between Marc. gr. 516, Par. suppl. gr. 119, Vat. gr. 178 and Vat. gr. 177, on the one hand, and the four direct descendants of Ω (Urbinas gr. 82, Seragliensis gr. 57, Fabricianus gr. 23 and Bodleian 3376) indicate that the former are descended from manuscript Π, in the parallel line to codex Δ, though not directly. Therefore, the descendants of Ω must have had a first cousin, which can be called Π’, now lost, from which the fourteenth century texts were copied. Regarding the authorship, Aubrey Diller has speculated that Urbinas gr. 82, Seragliensis gr. 57, Fabricianus gr. 23, which include maps, are products of Maximus Planudes from the text found by him (Diller 1940, pp. 62–67) and that their manufacture would correspond to the end of the thirteenth century or the first decade of the fourteenth century, before the death of the Byzantine scholar. As mentioned above, Bodl. 3376 and Vat. gr. 177, without maps, could contain annotations by the hand of the Byzantine, and they would also be his work or that of his school of scribes.


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In any case, it is not clear whether Maximus Planudes, after discovering the Δ manuscript of Geographia, copied it to Urbinas gr. 82 and also to Seragliensis gr. 57, Fabricianus gr. 23 and Bodl. 3376, or if he found the manuscript Urbinas gr. 82 (which would correspond to the postulate Δ) and used it to create those three. It would even be possible to identify Δ with Π and assume that the Planudes school was responsible for Vat. gr. 177 and its cohort, either directly using Urbinas gr. 82 as a reference (or perhaps Δ) or the intermediary Π’. It could be said, therefore, that this is a complex family history. As mentioned, the Byzantine line, originating with Ω, had an independent alternative, which would generate the manuscript Vaticanus graecus 191, which is uncontaminated by the corrections of the other ancient texts. This one has no maps, and is thought to have come from a pre-tenth century volume called Ξ, which in turn could have been copied from the hypothetical proto Ξ codex, transcribed at the Antiquity. However, the confusion remains and Ξ could come from Ω. In any case, Vaticanus graecus 191 is of great importance since it corresponds to an evolution independent of the rest of the older manuscripts, and is therefore essential for reconstructing the original work of Ptolemy. It is also essential to tray to solve the enigma of the maps, as it will be seen later. The manuscript Pal. gr. 314, also in the Vatican Library, is from 1470. It is written on paper, not on parchment, and would have come from Vat. gr. 191, and this in turn from Ξ, and would not, therefore, have passed through the hands of Planudes. In any case, Pal. gr. 314 would have been profusely corrected by the use of Π’. That is, it would be descended from both the line coming from Ξ and from Ω. The rest of the manuscripts, as discussed above, would be descendants of these. Two other manuscripts are found in the family of Ξ: Flor. Laur. 28.49, which resides in Florence, and Burney 111, in the British Library, both made in the fourteenth century. The former could come directly from the predecessor of Ξ, but unfortunately it would be contaminated by content coming from the Byzantine school. The case of Burney 111 is worse, as it would be the result of a collation not only from this line, but apparently from Flor. Laur. 28.49 and the manuscript Π’ or in any case a text from the Planudes school. So far as genealogy is concerned, what do we know about the authorship of the maps and their chronology? Do they correspond to the vision of the world that the Greco-Romans had in the second century, at the end of Antiquity or the High Middle Ages, or are they a late thirteenth century understanding from the mind of Planudes, reinterpreting the knowledge of his time in the light of the techniques described by Ptolemy and rescued by the Byzantine? The problem is whether the maps included in the three late thirteenth century manuscripts (Urbinas Gr. 82, Seragliensis 57 and Frag. Frabic. Gr. 23, although the latter only includes three maps) represent the original maps of Ptolemy, or were reworked, either from maps that were indeed made by the Alexandrian or under his direction, and that were in the initial manuscript, or were constructed from the tables with the positions of approximately 8000 localities (tabulated in longitude and latitude) that are detailed in Geographia. A peculiarity of this set is that the world map of the first is drawn using Ptolemy’s first projection (simpler, with

5  Ptolemy, Mercator and the New Cosmography


meridians drawn as straight lines diverging from a common point, while the parallels are segments of circles), while the other uses Ptolemy’s second projection (curved meridians, more precise in its representation but more complex in execution). Since Ptolemy explicitly stated that the purpose of his work was to provide a cartographic picture of the world, one could in principle conclude that his original manuscript did indeed contain maps. He also stated in Book I.17 that the best way to detect inconsistencies is to draw a map. So he could hardly have failed to follow his own advice. There would be no doubt but for Agathodemon’s notes in several of the surviving manuscripts. Thus, some scholars assign the authorship of all the maps to this unknown scribe or technician; others claim that they were made under the direction of Ptolemy. It is true that, as Fischer shows, all the regional maps are in accordance with the information included in Geographia. However, the world map includes information that is not in the text and also the projection used is different from those. Thus, this author concludes that Agatodemon made a reworking and substituted his map for Ptolemy’s original. In any case, given that from the sixth century onwards there were no Greek technicians in Alexandria (the city was conquered by the Sassanid Empire in 619, recovered by the Byzantines in 629 and definitively lost to the Muslims in 641), the oldest date for thedelineation of at least the world map would be 619 CE. On the other hand, the manuscript Vat. Gr. 191, belonging to the Ξ family, does mention maps and includes a note at the end of the description of one of them that states “There are 27 maps instead of 26 in this copy, since the tenth map of Europe has been divided into two parts representing (1) Macedonia, (2) Epirus, Achaea, the Peloponnese, Crete and Euboea”, so Dilke concludes that the Ξ archetype, which is not the one used by Planudes, did contain maps (Dilke 1987, p. 258). Therefore, other hands than those of this Byzantine scholar made maps from Ptolemy’s information, probably before the tenth century. In any case, it is legitimate to ask whether the coordinates compiled in Geographia trace the known coasts, thus outlining Ptolemy’s maps. The exercise has been carried out, for example, by Hans van Deukeren. His reconstruction of the world map74 roughly resembles the general profile of the three continents known in Antiquity (Europe, Asia and Libya, our present-day Africa), especially around the Mediterranean and in those points with the highest density of census localities (the Anatolian, Balkan and Italic peninsulas). However, it seems evident that a detailed description of the coasts required the use of a very large set of regional maps covering the whole Greco-­Roman world, something that was available to Ptolemy, but which was hardly attainable for Planudes or any other scholar of Constantinople and its already reduced area of influence in the thirteenth century or even earlier, at the height of Byzantine supremacy with the expansion under the aegis of the basileus Justinian I,75 in the sixth century.  Van Deukeren, “Ptolemy’s World: index map”, [online], , [accessed: 31 August 2017]. 75  Justinian I and his generals Flavius Belisarius and Narses carried out a policy of expansion and reoccupation of part of the Western Empire, conquering parts of the Italic peninsula, southwest Iberia and North Africa. However, this conflict, which raged on the Italic peninsula for decades, 74


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Therefore, what seems certain is that the maps could not have been drawn from information tabulated only in lists of coordinates. Although both Diller and Berggren and Jones are of the opposite opinion and postulate that the maps that have come down to us came from the hand of Planudes or his amanuenses. As Mintz concludes, only new manuscripts, previous to the known ones, could provide an answer, which could well be hidden in some palimpsest unknown until now or hidden in some library without cataloguing, exposed to the definitive loss.

5.4 The Resurrection of Geographia One hundred years after its discovery by Planudes, a manuscript in Greek was carried by the Byzantine Emmanuel Chrysoloras (Manuel Chrysoloras) in 1397 when he settled in Florence as a professor of Greek, where he remained until 1400. There is no consensus about if this codex contained maps or not. Crisoloras gave it to Palla Strozzi, statesman and humanist of the Tuscan city, in the year of his arrival. Its translation into Latin was begun by the Byzantine and finished approximately in 1409/1410 by Jacobus Angelus of Scarparia (Jacopo d’Angelo), a pupil of Colluccio Salutati, or perhaps a few years earlier, in 1406. According to Fischer, Angelus was in charge only of the text, while Francesco di Lampaccino and Domenico di Bininsegni, both from Florence, were in charge of the maps and produced a certain amount of copies. What seems clear is that at the beginning of the fifteenth century there were in the Italian peninsula several manuscripts in Greek, although only after the translation into Latin the value of Geographia would be fully recognized in the West. Angelus dedicated it to Pope Alexander V and changed the title to Cosmographia, as it combines terrestrial and celestial sciences. In the preface he made clear its importance as an imperial tool:  A kind of divine presentiment of your soon- to-be- realized empire impelled you to desire the work, so that you could learn clearly from it how ample would be the power you would soon hold over the entire world.76

According to Fischer, the text transferred to the Italian peninsula from Constantinople by Chrysoloras would be Urbinas gr. 82, and would have passed through the hands of Strozzi, Angelus and Vespasiano da Bisticati, who mentions a Ptolemaic

may have been the real source of the economic ruin and the process of return to a more rural ecconomy. Thus, the war between Byzantines and Ostrogoths destroyed the economy of the peninsula and plunged it into the true Middle Ages. In Byzantium it forced a disastrous increase in taxes. The Lombard invasion of the north of the peninsula ended what the Byzantine-Ostrogoth conflict began: effective de-Romanization by eliminating the Roman administrative and legal system (Cantor 1994, pp. 128–130). 76  “[…] quemuc ad hoc nostrum desiderandum opus supernum quoddam presagium futuri iam iam imperij tui impulit, ut plane hinc cognosceres quam amplissimam potestatem totius orbis mox esses adeptunis, ueniam dabis, pontifex máxime, […]” (Hankins 2003, p. 459). See also Hankins (1992, p. 459); quoted in Lester (2009, p. 156).

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manuscript belonging to the library of Duke Federico of Urbino, before ending up in the Vatican Library in 1657. Several Latin translations were made during the fifteenth century before the advent of the printing press. One of the first was commissioned by Cardinal Guillaume Fillastre between 1411 and 1427, with the translation of Angelus and maps by Claudius Clavus (Claudius Claussøn Swart or Nicholas Niger), now in Nancy.77 Sometime later, probably made in Venice between 1436 and 1459 from a Latin text, is Ms. 3686, which also includes maps and is now in the British Library. Nicolaus Germanus, Pietro Massaio, Francisco Berlinghieri and Henricus Martellus Germanus would intervene in the creation of these series of manuscripts in Latin, illustrated with maps. Thus, other Latin manuscripts of the period are the Wilton Codex, which is in the Huntington Library, and the Codex Ebneriensis, in New York. The first printing was made in 1475 by Hermanus Levilapis. It did not include maps and had a reduced impact. A later edition, the first one with maps and titled Cosmographia, was made in Bologna in 1477. It includes an error in the colophon, which affirms to be of 1462, predating therefore to the true princeps edition (Lisi 1994, pp. 371–377). The Bologna printing would be from a Latin manuscript by Nicolaus Germanus. The third one would appear in Rome in 1478 based on the codex Ebneriensis, edited by Arnodus Buckinck. A fourth one would see the light in Bologna in 1482, edited by Ph. Beroaldus or in Florence that same year. Also in 1482 it appeared in Germanic lands, in Ulm, based on Nicolaus Germanus and printed by Leonardus Hol. In that city the edition would be repeated a few years later, as well as in Rome in 1490, and in Nuremberg.78 In some cases, these editions incorporated the new geographical knowledge, as it is the case of that of Ulm of 1482, which included the arctic regions, by means of a pictorial artifice, a separate image. The same resource was used by Henricus Martellus to add the information contributed by Bartolomeu Dias in his African voyage. In any case, Ptolemy foreshadowed the importance of astronomy in geography and this knowledge permeated the fifteenth century. The first printing in Greek was edited by Erasmus of Rotterdam in 1533, from a text copied from the fourteenth century manuscript Burney 111, now in London. In any case, such was the influence of Geographia, that even in 1555 Alonso de Santa Cruz, senior cosmographer to Philip II of Spain, explained its contents, along with the techniques for determining position, in the Book of Longitude. In fact, from an even more general perspective, the humanists of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, when they understood Ptolemy’s Geographia from its Latin editions, realized that it also offered a way to interpret the new geographical information accumulated by Spanish and Portuguese voyages (Lester 2009, p. 203). In conclusion, the importance of Ptolemy’s Geographia and his world map lies in the fact that they provided a mechanism to incorporate this new geographical

  [accessed: 11 November 2018].  Nordensjiöld (1889 [1970], pp. 12–16), quoted in Lisi (1994, pp. 371–377). Also in Lester (2009, pp. 343–348). A detailed list can be found in the catalogue started by Henry N. Stevens (1908). 77 78


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knowledge with clearly defined mathematical rules, allowing a continuous updating, according to the express wish of the Alexandrian.

5.5 Beyond Ptolemy and His Maps of the Inhabited World The Portuguese explorations to the south from the fourteenth century onwards, bordering the African coasts and, prior to that, the overland journeys of various Europeans, had allowed the Ptolemaic horizons of the inhabited world to be expanded. In fact, the expansion of Islam from the seventh century onwards had long before created a certain cultural and economic continuity from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Indus and beyond, although this knowledge did not filter into Europe in a systematic way until much later. But the paradigmatic change would come with the discovery of America and the subsequent exploration of the Indian Ocean and the Pacific, first by the Portuguese and the Spanish, later joined by the French and the English in the North Atlantic and, at the turn of the sixteenth to the seventeenth century, by the Dutch, de facto independent from the Iberian monarchy, to the East. However, it did not mean a rejection of the Ptolemy’s Geographia. On the contrary, his treatise would become the frame of reference on which the new lands would be incorporated and the point of reference of the new projections, whose ultimate aim was the representation of a more faithful map of the world. Claudius Clavus’s map of 1424, constructed using the methodology described in Geographia, is the first map to reach 75 degrees north, extending Ptolemy’s world. It shows the Scandinavian peninsula, northwest Iceland and Greenland in their true position, so in a way it can be considered the first map of America, without actually being so. Cardinal Guillaume Fillastre, humanist and geographer, perceived the new conceptual change and in 1427 added a copy of Clavus’ map to his own manuscript of Ptolemy’s text (Lester 2009, pp. 177, 209). The news of the arrival of Christopher Columbus to lands to the west was known even before the landing of the admiral in Barcelona to give an account of his epic to the Catholic Monarchs in April 1493, as he first landed in Lisbon and then in other Atlantic and Mediterranean ports before reaching Barcelona. One of the first references in literature to this voyage, if not the first, is by Sebastian Brant, in 1494, editor of Columbus’ letter in which he gives an account of his discoveries. The quotation appears in the satirical book The Ship of Fools: To lands by Portugal discovered to Golden isles which Spain uncovered with brownish natives in the nude we never knew such vastitude79


 Das Narrenschiff, by Sebastian Brant, taken from Crane (2003, p. 10).

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But simultaneously to the Iberian exploration, the humanist spirit and its effect on geography would spread from the Italian peninsula from the fifteenth century onwards. First in manuscript form and later in an explosion of printed versions. Elio Antonio de Nebrija, together with other Spanish humanists of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries linked to the University of Salamanca, was key in the introduction of Ptolemy’s cartographic methods in Spain, along with other similar classics such as Pliny, Pomponius Mela or Strabo. Certainly, the Cosmographiae Libros introductorium (Introduction to Cosmography), published between 1498 and 1502, and where he emphasizes the need to study Claudius Ptolemy, would represent a before and after in the Hispanic cosmography. Thus, with the exploration of the Caribbean by Columbus in his various voyages (1492–1493, 1493–1994, 1498, 1502–1504), the passage by Bartolomeu Dias of the southern tip of Africa, the rediscovery of Newfoundland by Juan Caboto in 1497, the arrival of Vasco Da Gama in India in 1499, the successive voyages of Amerigo Vespucci (1499–1500 and 1501–1502, under the Castilian and Portuguese flags, respectively), Rodrigo de Bastida to Venezuela in 1501, the discovery of the South Sea by Vasco Núñez de Balboa in 1513, the arrival of Juan Ponce de León to Florida in that year, the conquest of the Aztec Empire by Hernán Cortés in 1521 and of the Inca Empire by Francisco Pizarro 12 years later, or the sighting of land by Francisco de Hoces in the parallel 52 degrees south, among others, laid a solid foundation for drawing a new map of the world. But above all it was the great epic voyage of circumnavigation of the globe, begun by Ferdinand Magellan and completed in 1522 by Juan Sebastian Elcano, the most captivating and groundbreaking: the empirical proof that the Earth was indeed spherical. Although the voyage was recounted by Antonio Pigafetta,80 the official chronicler, the real impact was caused by the book published by Maximilianus Transylvanus, secretary to the Holy Roman Emperor, King of Spain and the West Indies, who was responsible for interviewing three of the survivors (Juan Sebastián Elcano, Francisco Albo, and Hernando de Bustamante, among the 18 who arrived in Spain with the ship Victoria). The text appeared in Cologne the year after the return and a few months later it would be printed in Paris and Rome.

5.6 Cartography in the Early Sixteenth Century: de la Cosa and Waldseemüller It is possible that the cradle of modern cartography can be located in Saint-Dié (Crane 2003, p.  206). There, Vautrin Lud, canon of the church of Saint-Dié and secretary of the duke of Lorraine, René II, gathered a series of specialists among

 Pigafetta would partially publish his relation in 1525, in Paris. However, the complete printing of Relazione del primo viaggio intorno al mondo would not take place until 1800. 80


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which Matthias Ringsmann (1482–1511) and Martin Waldseemüller (c. 1470–1520, also known as Hylacomylus or Ilacomilus). The confessed objective was to publish a renewed version of the Geographia of Ptolemy, with an original set of maps and an updated version (Lester 2009, pp. 351–352). Soon they accumulateed an extraordinary collection of maps and they had at their disposal a printing press for their massive reproduction. Ringsmann took care of the text and Waldseemüller drew the maps. Since Antiquity there had been discussions about the dimensions of the section of the w orld that was habitable and whether in the southern hemisphere there would be other peoples, the Antichthons or Antipodeans. These inhabitants of the antipodes would be separated by the equatorial climatic strip, supposedly too torrid to allow the existence of human beings. Fundamentally, they were based on aprioristic criteria that revolved around the symmetry of the continents. In fact, the same reasoning was used to assume that there might be two other continents beyond the ocean, balancing the known lands and the supposed southern continent. This kind of speculations spread with the first printing of the De Situ Orbis by the classical author Pomponius Mela, which appeared four years before Ptolemy’s Geographia, in 1471. Thus, the editions on geography began to contain not only the maps developed during the Late Middle Ages, but also modern maps with the knowledge incorporated from the representations of Maximus Planudes. With the change of century also came a different vision of the world. Juan de la Cosa, a Spanish cosmographer, made the first map with the American coasts in 1500, an impressive work currently preserved in the Museo Naval of Madrid (Fig. 1.17). It contains updated information on the voyages of the Bristol men, Giovanni Caboto and the Corte-Real brothers, to the north; of the Caribbean and South America by Columbus and Cabral (if the map was executed after the summer), and of Africa by Vasco de Gama. It is possible that it includes the voyages of Vicente Yáñez Pinzón, who would have reached what is now Fortaleza, and Diego de Lepe, who would have reached the mouth of the Oyapock River, and who would have travelled along the Brazilian coast in the early 1500s and thus would have been the true discoverers of Brazil.81 About two years later, in 1502, a spy sent to Portugal by Ercole I d’Este, Duke of Ferrara, named Alberto Cantino, would possibly be able to copy an extraordinary world map (Fig.  1.10) that included not only the Portuguese explorations in the Indian Ocean up to India, describing for the first time its true shape by including the information provided by Vasco da Gama, but also the description of the coast of Brazil and a very detailed and accurate profile of the entire African continent. In 1506, or perhaps a couple of years earlier, Nicolo Caveri made in Genoa the map that bears his name,82 probably copied from Cantino’s or from a Portuguese original. The first known to have provided a scale of latitudes in its left margin (Fig. 1.18. See also Lester 2009, p. 360). In any case, the Iberian charts were a state secret and

81 82

 Lester (2009, pp. 307–308). A first description of the map can be found in Vascano (1892).

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Fig. 1.17  The first map of the new continent, by Juan de la Cosa in 1500 The demarcation line between Portugal and Spain appears clearly. The original map has been proceesed to highlight the coastline. For comparison, an outline of a model worldmap appears as a blue line, with approximately the same scale, using the African West coast as a reference (based on Davies 1976). Museo Naval de Madrid

the information was subject to strict controls.83 Although not enough, since Cantino’s map or probably Cavery’s could have reached the hands of Waldseemüller, in Saint Dié, who would have used them for his well-known representation of 1507,84 together with a version of the Letter to Soderini, supposedly written by Amerigo Vespucci in which he would have described his alleged four voyages to the western lands (two of them doubtful). In any case, true or not, Vespucci’s account, originally written in Italian, reached Saint Dié in a French version by Jean Basin, where it was translated into Latin, and would be published in 1507 under the title Quattuor Americi Vespucij navigationes or The Four Voyages of Amerigo Vespucius.85 As a prelude Martin Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringsmann wrote Cosmographiae Introductio, which accompanied a printed globe and Universalis Cosmographia, the former’s wall map, famous for  Giovanni Matteo Contarini published another world map in 1506, in Venice, the first one that went through the printing press with the new discoveries. It was engraved by Francesco Rosselli. The first map of the coasts of the new continent, by Juan de la Cosa, was only kept in its manuscript version and was never made public. In any case, the dissemination of Portuguese cartography was punishable by death, according to the Venetian ambassador in Lisbon in 1501 (Lester 2009, p. 330). 84 85  The text could have been written by a Florentine to glorify the supposed deeds of Vespucci and minimize the role of Columbus, possibly of Genoese origin. It describes four hypothetical voyages, of which only two would be real. Although Vespucci was not the author of it, he did not deny it either, despite its public content (Lester 2009, pp. 254–257). 83


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Fig. 1.18  Planisphere by Nicolo Caveri, c. 1506, and a comparison with a moderm map Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF, IFN-7759102). The reference is shown in semitransparent gray color and has been scaled to match the West African coastline

designating new lands with Vespucci’s first name.86 The only surviving copy was found in 1901  in a German castle and is now in the Library of Congress in the United States of America.87 Made in Ptolemy’s second projection (Fig. 1.19), it shows a complete representation of the 360 degrees of the planet in twelve panels and includes a dedication to the Emperor Maximilian I.  It uses a pseudocodiform projection, with curved  Cosmographiae introductio: cum quibusdam geometriae ac astronomiae principiis ad eam rem necessariis: insuper quattuor Americi Vespucij nauigationes: vniuersalis cosmographiae descriptio tam in solido q[uam] plano, eis etiam insertis quae Ptholom[a]eo ignota a nuperis reperta sunt (Introduction to cosmography with some necessary principles of geometry and astronomy. To which are added the four navigations of Amerigo Vespucci. A representation of the whole world, both in solid and in plan, including the lands which were unknown to Ptolemy and have been recently discovered), [online], , [accessed: 12 October 2018]. The map, whose full title is Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii alioru[m]que lustrationes (A map of the whole world according to the traditional method of Ptolemy, and corrected with other lands by Americius Vespucius), can be found at: or , [accessed: 12 October 2018]. 87  The mathematician and geographer Johannes Schöner bound together the maps of Waldseemüller and Ptolemy in 1515, with an inscription: “Posterity, Schöner gives you this”. This is the only copy of Waldseemüller’s 1507 map to have survived of the 1000 printed, found in 1901 by Joseph Fischer. Purchased by the US Library of Congress for ten million dollars, in 2007 it was transferred to the USA in an official ceremony attended by Angela Merkel (Lester 2009, pp. 13, 18–19). It is therefore a contemporary example of how cosmography and its representation continue to have a geopolitical component. A more recent example can be found in the visit of Korean President Moon Jae-in to Spain in June 2021, when he was shown an eighteenth century map (by Bourguignon d’Anville) clearly showing sovereignty over the Dokdo islets. The map can be found at: https:// 86

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Fig. 1.19  World map by Martin Waldseemüller, 1507 The full title is Universalis cosmographia secundum Ptholomaei traditionem et Americi Vespucii alioru[m]que lustrationes. Library of Congress (G3200 1507 .W3)

meridians, and concentric parallels. According to Van Duzer, it was based on the version made by Henricus Martellus in 1489 (or 1491). Lester affirms that among the sources are the version printed in Ulm of the Geographia of Ptolemy of 1482 for Europe, Caverio in the west and Martellus in the east.88 For its realization, they estimated a terrestrial size substantially larger than that Ptolemy’s value and close to that of Eratosthenes of Cyrene, 180,000 against 252,000 stadia.89 The map contains some errors known even by the authors, as was the location of the equator above the Gulf of Guinea, since it appears in the same position that Ptolemy had placed it. Both the map and the text of Cosmographiae Introductio describe the new lands as completely surrounded by the ocean. That is, a new continent (Lester 2009, pp. 374–376). The comparison between the profiles of America and Asia, remarkably inaccurate despite the variety of sources accumulated over time, clearly indicates that there is a strong hypothetical component. Waldseemüller’s map clearly distinguishes several regions: the islands discovered by Columbus, a region to the northwest of these, and a separate region to the

 Lester (2009, pp. 367–368); Van Duzer (2012, pp. 8–20). On the other hand, regarding Ptolemy’s Geographia, there is a letter from Waldseemüller to Johann Amerbach, dated 1507, informing him that he knew of the existence of a Greek manuscript of Ptolemy in Basel, in the library of the Dominicans. Waldseemüller would end up obtaining a copy of it, and published his edition in 1513 (Crane 2003, p. 207; Lester 2009, p. 380). 89  Engel (1985, pp. 298–311) criticizes all the determinations of the equivalence and establishes that it is necessary to use the Attic stadium, equivalent to 184.98 m, compared to other estimates, which implies a diameter 16% higher than the real one, but in any case, much more adjusted than other estimates made before the Modern Age. 88


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south, which lies roughly in what is now South America. Waldseemüller assigns the toponym “America” to this last region. The map clearly reflects the coasts explored by Castilians (labelled “Tota ista provincia inventa est per mandatum regis Castelle”, “All this region has been found by mandate of the king of Castile”) and the Portuguese, close to the Tropic of Capricorn. The profile of the coast of South America and the toponymy are based on the results of the expeditions of the coast of Brazil financed by Fernão de Loronha (Fernando de Noronha) between 1501 and 1504, possibly commanded by Gonçalo Coelho, and in which Vespuccio would have participated. Explicitly, the Cosmographiae Introductio states that: Now these parts [Europe, Asia and Africa] have been more extensively explored and another quarter has been discovered by Amerigo Vespucci. And I do not see that there is anyone who would reasonably object to designating it Amerige, land of Amerigo or America, deriving its name from Amerigo its discoverer (…). The customs of its inhabitants will be better known by means of [the accounts] of the four navigations of Amerigo, which are included below. Thus it appears that the earth is divided into four parts. The first three are continents; the fourth is an island, since it is known to be entirely surrounded by the sea. And though the sea be one, and the earth one, yet, being separated into numerous parts, and abounding in islands without number, it receives various names.90

However, the continental profile delineated by Waldseemüller and Ringmann in 1507 is totally hypothetical, just as the profile of the Antarctic continent would be for centuries. This fact is clearly shown both in the map published in 1516, with much more reliable data, where several of the most enigmatic features disappear: the insularity of this fourth continent91 (South America), its western profile and the direct passage to the Pacific (ocean discovered by Núñez de Balboa in 1513). The evolution and heritage of Waldseemüller’s cartography can be seen in the attached illustration (Fig. 1.20), which shows the comparison of the first map of the American coast by Juan de la Cosa in 1500, the one made in 1502 by Nicolo Caveri in 1506, together with Waldseemüller’s editions of 1507, 1513 and 1516.92 Possibly the widest impact is literary, as it is the case of Thomas More’s Utopia, published in 1516. Clear influences appear in Apianus’ maps of 1520,93 first printed map with the name

90  Cited in Levinas and Vida 2016, or Varela, Amerigo Mateo Vespucci, [online], . [accessed: 7 October 2018]. 91  The hiatus in the new lands shows that Waldseemüller was not aware of the explorations that Juan de la Cosa would have carried out in 1504 in the gulfs of Darién and Uraba (Sarcina 2017). 92  Claudii Ptolemei viri Alexandrini mathematice discipline philosophi doctissimi Geographie opus nouissima traductione e Grecorum archetypis castigatissime pressum, ceteris ante lucubratorum multo prestantius, 1513, [online], , [accessed: 12 October 2018]. Waldseemüller, Carta marina navigatoria Portvgallen navigationes, atqve tocius cogniti orbis terre marisqve formam natvram sitvs et terminos nostris temporibvs recognitos et ab antiqvorum traditione differentes, eciam qvor vetvsti non meminervnt avtores, hec generaliter indicat. 1516, [online], , [accessed: 7 October 2018]. 93  Apianus’ planisphere was included in a version of Polyhistor (De mirabilibus mundi) of the classic by Gaius Julius Solinus, fourth century CE scholar), published in 1520 in Vienna. In 1523 he published Isagoge in Typum Cosmographicum seu Mappam Mundi.

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Fig. 1.20  Various maps showing the South American coastline in detail Coastal profile represented in the maps of Juan de la Cosa (1500), Nicolo Caveri (1506) and Martin Waldseemüller (1507, 1513 -in his edition of Ptolemy- and 1516)

of America and a plagiarism of Waldsseemüller’s map (Fig. 1.2194) or the one attributed to Sebastian Münster, of 1532. However, Lorenz Fries‘Marine Chart of 1525 derives from Waldseemüller’s of 1516. Abraham Ortelius did not cite Waldseemüller’s map of 1507 when he published in 1570 his list of the most relevant cartographic works (Lester 2009, pp. 284–385, 393). Therefore, it can be concluded that the real particularity of the 1507 map consists in being the “birth certificate” of America, as far as the name is concerned, but that it does not represent any landmark from the cartographic point of view.

5.7 The Name of America and the New Continent The first explicit, unambiguous mention of the existence of a new continent possibly belongs to Bartolomeo Marchioni, a merchant who partially financed Cabral’s voyage to India. In a letter of 1501 sent to Florence, his hometown, he claimed that “The King of Portugal had discovered a new world” (Lester 2009, p. 226). However, it was Alexander von Humboldt, in the nineteenth century, who first identified Martin Wallseemüller as the origin of the name of the new continent (Humboldt 94


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Fig. 1.21  Planisphere of Apianus, Tipus Orbis Universalis, 1520 This printed map includes the name of America

1836–39; Lester 2009, p. 7). In any case, the insularity of the new lands discovered in the West was an invention or hypothesis on the part of Waldseemüller, since he did not have enough elements to make the layout that appears in the map of 1507 nor the affirmation of Cosmographiae Introductio, possibly responsibility of Matthias Ringmann: “This new part of the world is surrounded on all sides by the ocean”.95 The name America already appeared in a book printed in Spain in 1520, although in the peninsula it would be officially called the West Indies until the eighteenth century. Bartolomé de las Casas was one of the scholars who rejected the name with great vigor. However, the greatest impulse for its diffusion corresponds to the Germanic humanists and geographers: Henricus Glareanus, Apianus and Sebastian Münster. The Cosmographia of Münster, published in 1544, had an extraordinary diffusion in the sixteenth century. Gerardus Mercator, in his map of 1538, extended the name from the south to the whole continent, thus establishing the names of South and North America (Lester 2009, pp. 386–387). Waldseemüller stopped using the name, perhaps realizing his mistake in assigning the priority of the discovery to Vespucci. He also ceased representing the 360

 “This new part of the world is found to be surrounded on all sides by the ocean” (Fischer and Ritter von Wieser 1907). Original in Latin on p. xxx; English version on p. 70; quoted in Lester (2009, p. 9). 95

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degrees of the globe on his maps, thus eliminating the insularity of the continent. In fact, he called North America “the Land of Cuba, part of Asia” and South America “New land” in his great map of 1516. Waldseemüller, in his 1513 reprint of Ptolemy’s map and probably with better information on the role of Christopher Columbus, labeled the new lands as terra incognita, and the word “America” does not appear, but by then the name of the new continent had settled. In any case, Vespucio played a relevant role in the standardization of navigation techniques in Spain and in the invention of a simple method for the determination of longitude, although his most important legacy was to give name to the new continent, thanks to Waldseemüller.

5.8 The Geographic Importance of the Magellan-Elcano Expedition On September 6th, 1522, the ship Victoria, with 17 crew members and captained by Juan Sebastián Elcano (18 in total including him), docked at the port of Sanlucar de Barrameda after sailing for just over three years and after traveling almost 70,000 kilometers, circumnavigating the globe for the first time, opening the geographical horizon to previously unprecedented limits. The voyage had been initiated by the sailor Ferdinand Magellan (Fernão de Magalhães in his native Portuguese) and was part of the competition between the crowns of Portugal and Castile, taking part during the Age of Discoveries of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, led by the Iberian countries. The declared objective was to determine the exact location of the Moluccan archipelago, in present-day Indonesia, the source of the exotic species that were brought to Europe at extraordinary cost. Magellan, who had sailed Indian waters and traded in India, went into the service of Emperor Charles V and offered him an empirical demonstration that these islands were under his sphere of influence, according to the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494. The underlying problem was the determination of the longitude or position along a parallel, in the east-west direction. This challenge, which was the real driving force of the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, was only solved by astronomical methods and precise clocks 250  years later. Thus, Magellan, who died in April 1521  in the Philippines, was wrong in his initial hypothesis, although in the end the jurisdiction (without taking into account the inhabitants of the country) was settled between Portugal and Spain by the 1529 Treaty of Saragossa, which ceded any rights to the Lusitanians. In any case, regardless of other geopolitical considerations, the first circumnavigation around the world changed the perception of the world forever, not to mention the knowledge of its physiognomy. The history of mathematical geography dates back to Greco-Roman times. The scholar Eratosthenes of Cyrene(circa 276 – circa 195/194 before common era), who coined the term geography, proposed the use of meridians and parallels to locate a


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point on a map, as well as making the first accurate determination of the size of the planet. But it was the polymath Claudius Ptolemy(circa 100 – circa 170 common era), who really shaped the image of the western world and the Islamic civilization for 1300 years, until the discovery of America By the Spaniards and the circumnavigation of Africa, arriving in India, by the Portuguese. Ptolemy edited a geographical compendium, called Geographike Hyphegesis or, simply Geographia, which may have had maps, including a world map. Lost in Western Europe, it was preserved in Byzantium and widely spread in the Muslim sphere. In any case, the recovery of this manuscript, which was to have such an influence on the Age of Discoveries, is worthy of a thriller novel and deserves its own story. Sometime around 1295, an obscure Byzantine scholar made several copies of Geographia, thereby aiding in its survival. One hundred years later, Emmanuel Chrysoloras, of the same origin, settled in Florence as a professor of Greek and brought a copy of Geographia, perhaps the product of his own hand (which could be the Codex Urbinas graecus 82, Fig. 1.15). In this city, one of the birthplaces of the Renaissance, it was translated into Latin and copied on several occasions, always by hand. The first printing with maps, entitled Cosmographia, appeared in Bologna in 1477. Portuguese and Castilian explorations of the Atlantic Ocean, often with sailors born in other countries, began in the thirteenth century, although they experienced a significant boost with the successive discoveries of the islands of the archipelagos of the Azores, Madeira and Cape Verde by the Portuguese. The Equator, an unsurpassable frontier in ancient times, was crossed in the 1470s, while Bartolomeu Dias, in his voyage of 1487–1488, crossed the Cape of Good Hope. All this new cartographic information was reflected on the terrestrial globe created by the renowned cosmographer Martin Behaim in 1492 (Fig. 1.9), just before the arrival of Christopher Columbus was announced to the lands that would later be mistakenly called America. The cartography was based on the specifications developed by Ptolemy, assuming a smaller size of the world than that proposed by Eratosthenes, a planet on which navigation westward to Asia was feasible. The first European navigation of the Indian Ocean was conducted by Vasco da Gama, who reached India on his voyage of 1497–1499. These cartographic additions are reflected in the first map of America Made by Juan de la Cosa in 1500 (Fig. 1.17), where all of Africa can be seen, although its east coast is greatly distorted. The letter lacks information on the space between the new continent and Asia. The Cosmographer Martin Waldseemüller possibly using charts describing the voyages – some possibly fictitious – of Amerigo Vespucci, a sailor who had traveled under Portuguese and Spanish flags, published a map in 1507 (Fig. 1.19) that would leave an everlasting mark on universal history: he named the new continent, attributing much of the success of the discoveries to Vespucci. Prior to this was the Cantino Planisphere 1502, which includes the demarcation of the treaty of Tordesillas, that of Caverio (1504–1505), or Contarini, (1506), which were copies of the former. In 1517 Vasco Nuñez de Balboa crossed the isthmus of Central America and bathed in the waters of a new ocean, the South Sea, which he called the Pacific. Now with the knowledge that sailing to Asia was possible, under the command of Fernão

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de Magalhães, two years later the five-ship fleet set sail with 239 men. A total of 35 of them survived, as some of them would later return by other means. The trip, reported by Antonio Pigafettawho participated in it, and by Maximilianus Transylvanus, secretary to Emperor Charles V, who interviewed some of the survivors, can be classified as a true epic in which the capacity for suffering and the determination of the individual commanders and sailors could often be seen. Despite this information, the new discoveries were not reflected in the maps of those years, such as the one made by Laurent Fries in 1522, which was republished several times without being updated. The so-called Turin Map96 (Fig. 1.22, top), an example of the Padrón Real kept as a state secret by Spanish navigators, is a reliable sample of the cartography of that time. It is possibly the first one executed after the voyage of Magellan-Elcano, in 1523, and has been attributed to Juan Vespucio, Amerigo’s nephew, and to Nuño

Fig. 1.22  Turin Map of 1523 and Juan Vespucci’s Planisphere of 1526 The last one was possibly made at the Casa de Contratación in Seville after Magellan-Elcano’s voyage, where the immensity of the Pacific Ocean can be appreciated (credits: Biblioteca Reale di Torino and Hispanic Society). A modern worldmap is shown as a reference in semitransparent gray color and has been scaled to match the West African coastline



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García Toreno (he might be the Salviati Planisphre, c. 152597). Similar, and of confirmed authorship of Juan Vespucci, is the 1526 world map98 (Fig. 1.22, bottom). In both cases, the immensity of the new ocean and the great precision of the coasts bordering the Atlantic and the Indian profile of Africa, the result of Portuguese explorations, can be observed. The terrestrial globes made by Johannes Schöner in 1515, 1520, 1523 and 1533 are excellent examples of the partial incorporation of the Iberian discoveries. The one made in 1523 already includes the Magellan-Elcano course, although it minimizes the route along the Pacific. The polar representation of Vespucci’s 1526 map, in which the Eurasian mass occupies practically half of the globe, while the Pacific is spread over less than a quarter of it (Fig. 1.23). In any case, the Spanish secret maps derived from the Padrón Real show much more realistic dimensions. The 1529 version by Diogo Ribeiro (Fig. 1.11), who was born in Portugal and later naturalized as a Castilian, lacks complete information on the west coast of the American continent or the islands of the Pacific Ocean, explored by Spanish navigators throughout the sixteenth century. This map, considered to be the first scientifically executed map of the new discoveries, was held in the Casa de Contratación in Seville and was the official, compulsory reference for all Spanish pilots and cartographers. A comparison between several world maps executed between 1502 and 1529 is shown in Fig. 1.24. The maps appear at approximately the same scale and have been aligned with the West African coast. This comparison, as well as several of the figures discussed above, shows, beyond any doubt, the voyage of Magellan’s ships, completed by Elcano and his small crew, changed the face of the Earth. This scientific feat has not always been fully appreciated, although Magellan has received an astronomical tribute, as two of our own satellite galaxies have been named after him. However, a fairer recognition would be to name each of them after each other (not forgetting the Persian astronomer Al-Sufi). Be that as it may, this is the first circumnavigation that changed cartography and with it our position in the world.

5.9 The Basic Tool of Imperial Rule: Cartography In 1507 a new generation of maps would appear. That same year the world map of Johannes Ruysch was published, in Rome, made in the first projection of Ptolemy, with straight meridians converging towards a point and meridians in parallel circular segments. Of great diffusion, it had enough influence. If only one original copy of Waldseemüller’s cosmographic vision has survived, there are many surviving copies of Ruysch’s map.

97 98

 Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Med.Palat.249. See

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Fig. 1.23  Detail of Juan Vespuccio’s map of 1524 and comparison with a modern map It was drawn in a polar stereographic projection. The errors in the longitude measurements, which caused the oversizing of the Eurasian landmass and the consequent decrease in the size of the Pacific Ocean, can be clearly seen. Juan Vespucci, “Vespucci World Map”, HIST 1952, accessed December 31, 2022,

From that moment on, many cartographic interpretations of the discoveries and new representations followed: Waldseemüller’s edition of Ptolemy in 1513, the first printed maps of stars by Albert Dürer, Johannes Stabius and Conrad Heinfogel in 1515,  Orontius Finaeus with his maps in the shape of hearts in 1519 and 1532, Franciscus Monachus in 1527 with America united to Asia but with a channel that would give direct passage to the Pacific and that separates it from South America, Gemma Frisius in 1529 also showing two American continents, or the world navigation chart of Leven Algoet of 1530 for the Polish humanist Dantiscus. Therefore, it can be established that the current measurement of the world and its description began in the sixteenth century. Including America in the world map implied adjusting the longitude of the Mediterranean, which meant reducing, among other regions, the Iberian Peninsula, especially Spain. Oronce Finé did this in his Nova Universi Orbis Descriptio, executed in 1531, reducing Spain by half compared to Bernard Sylvanus‘map (made according to Ptolemy’s second projection) of 20 years earlier (Crane 2003, p. 81). However, Gemma could not contradict Ptolemy and kept the traditional proportions. But the changes would not end there. A initial step was the first map of Gerardus Mercator,99 his Orbis Ima100go of 1538, of which only two copies remain. He followed the double heart technique and in the term America appears in both the southern and northern subcontinent.

 O’Connor and Robertson, “Gerardus Mercator”, [online], , [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 100 99


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Fig. 1.24  Mapping of several early sixteen century world maps The maps have approximately the same scale and have been aligned with the West African coast

Mercator, the great cartographic innovator, however, hardly travelled in his long life, which covered the period 1512–1594. In spite of it, he was one of the most reputable cosmographers of his time and so much his terrestrial or celestial globes as his maps marked milestones. Orbis Imago was succeeded in 1541 by a globe in which he restricted the size of the Mediterranean from a Ptolemaic value of 62 degrees to 58.5 degrees, reducing the domains of his natural lord, the Emperor

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Charles V, with a very substantial reduction of the Iberian Peninsula.101 Not satisfied, it would return to shorten the longitude of the Mare Nostrum in other five degrees in his map of Europe of 1554, down to 53 degrees. In 1569 Mercator proposed a new projection in which meridians and parallels were perpendicular to each other, but the latter distanced so that a curve of constant bearing according to the compass reading (a loxodromic curve, discovered by Pedro Nunes in 1546) is represented as a straight line, with a constant angle with respect to a meridian. Its projection is cylindrical and was very useful for navigation, although it has great disadvantages because it deforms the relative areas. Even so, Mercator’s projection has shaped the continents and has developed a certain perception of the planet in the imagination of many generations until the end of the twentieth century. In 1570, Abraham Ortelius would publish the first complete collection of maps of the world in his Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, made at Mercator’s request. Eleven years later, in 1584 Mercator would publish two editions of Claudius Ptolemy’s Geographia, to continue with a series of modern regional maps that he would not finish and that would be published, under the epigraph of “Atlas”,102 by his son in 1595, a year after Mercator’s death. Ironically he did not manage to print maps of Spain and Portugal, and it would be Jodocus Hondius who would finish Mercator’s objective of covering the whole planet, after buying the printing plates to the heirs in 1604 and adding to this collection 39 new maps. Finally, the two countries that impelled the great discoveries, breaking the Ptolemaic image, would be represented in a modern map.

5.10 Celestial Cartography: Celestial and Terrestrial Planispheres and Globes Certainly, the Age of Discovery unleashed a passion not only for terrestrial maps, but for the representation of the constellations,103 including the new ones that appeared as ships visited lands further south. However, just as the representation of the continents on a map implies a serious problem, since it is not possible to directly

 Orontius Finaeus, in 1531, had made a reduction from 62 to 56 degrees on his globe. Mercator may not have dared to go that far. In any case, Maslama al-Majriti (in Cordoba, ninth century CE) carried out a first reduction of the longitude of the Mediterranean, an estimate that did not find an echo in Christian Europe, but did in Islamic cartography. 102  Atlas, king of Iberia and later tutor of Janus, son of his brother Hesperus, in Etruria. Hesperia is one of the mythological names used for both the Iberian and Italic peninsula. 103  On the web there are numerous collections of representations of maps and celestial globes. Among others, you can visit: Atlas Coelestis, compiled by Felice Stoppa, [online], , and the large collection of maps and celestial globes of the Warburg Institute Library, [online], 101


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transfer a spherical surface to a flat one, the iconography of the celestial vault posed an analogous complication.104 The Greco-Roman historian Strabo was the first to identify the globe as the most appropriate way to represent the world. Great traveler, since he visited a great part of the Empire, his work Geography did not go through the vicissitudes of Claudius Ptolemy’s homologue and a great number of manuscripts from the Byzantine Empire have survived.105 However, contrary to the Alexandrian, Strabo was in favour of a descriptive geography and not an astronomical one. Perhaps for that reason his fame during the Renaissance was much less than that of Ptolemy: extraordinary source from the historical point of view on the uses at the dawn of the change of era, the cartographic information was limited and its usefulness scarce at the time of contextualizing the new discoveries. The first two collections of globes were made by  Nicolaus Germanus and by Martin Behaim. In the first case they are twin spheres representing both the Earth and the heavens, made in 1477, although unfortunately no specimen has survived. In the second case, the so-­called “earth apple” or “Erdapfel” in its original German, from 1492, consists of a globe of our planet with a plan superimposed on it painted by Georg Glockendon (Fig.  1.25. See also Fig.  1.9). The distances between the Atlantic islands and the eastern tip of Asia is about a quarter of the real one. Since Christopher Columbus returned from his first voyage the following year, it does not

Fig. 1.25  Martin Behaim’s Globe, 1492, and development in segments (gores) Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg (WI1826) and a facsimile (Ravenstein, Translations & commentary on Martin Behaim’s ‘Erdapfel’, George Phillip & Son, 1908, [online],, [accessed: 27 december 2022].)

 There are many manuscripts, many of them coming from Arabic culture, which include some kind of cartographic representation of the celestial sphere, mainly based on the stellar catalogue of Claudius Ptolemy. In any case, they suffer from great inaccuracy regarding the positions. On the other hand, there was an independent tradition in the heir kingdoms of the Western Roman Empire. One of the most outstanding examples for its quality and aesthetic beauty is the manuscript called Voss. lat. Q 79 or Aratea of Leiden, now at the University of Leiden, based on Germanicus’ Latin translation of the Phainomena of Aratus of Solos. The Leiden Aratea was created about 816 CE in Lotaringia during the Carolingian Empire, perhaps under the patronage of Louis “the Pious” and was copied around 1000 in northern France, perhaps at the abbey of St. Bertin, belonging to the Benedictines, founded in the seventh century CE. 105  There are translations from Latin made in 1469 and the first printing in Greek was made in Venice in 1516. 104

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include the new lands that would eventually be called America. In any case, it is possible that Martin Behaim was the first to suggest the use of the marine astrolabe (Cotter 1968), at least in the West. On the other hand, Castilian humanism would provide its own representations of the celestial sphere, and an extraordinary case is the so-called “Sky of Salamanca”, a mural painting attributed to Fernando Gallego, executed in the 1480s, which has been partially preserved in the Escuelas Menores of that famous university. The iconographic representation could well be based on the edition of the Poeticon Astronomicon by Higino, published in 1482. In 1507 Martin Waldseemüller published, as already described, the sections to cover a globe with his map of that year. Almost immediately his work would be continued by his pupil Johannes Schöner (1515 and 1523, the latter with the information of the voyage of Magellan-Elcano) who would also create a celestial globe in 1517.106 In 1515 Dürer and Stabius would design the first map projected on a solid sphere, although only in one hemisphere, as already mentioned. The first Monachus globes, from 1527, were built by Gaspard Van der Heyden, a technologist from whose workshop came the astronomical ring,107 a new instrument of Gemma Frisius whose purpose was to obtain more accurate measurements, and which was described in Usus annuli astronomici, published in 1540, although Gemma admitted that the development was not entirely his. The true invention probably belongs to Pedro Nunes. Gemma republished in 1529, with minimal changes except for a radical change in the typeface from Gothic to more legible Roman characters, and included an updated world map, Apianus’ Cosmographicum Liber, which had been printed five years earlier. The following year, in 1530, his terrestrial/celestial globe would appear. The engraver would be the same expert, Gaspard Van der Heyden. Seven years later, in 1537, Gemma would copy Dürer, Stabius and  Conrad Heinfogel’s 1515 maps on globes, with minor alterations. The collaboration with Van der Heyden would continue, but this time it would include a young promise, Gerardus Mercator. Copies of earlier authors without giving due credit were commonplace. Apianus himself had published in 1520 a smaller version of Waldseemüller’s map, without citing the original author. It would be the origin of a brilliant career that would lead him to publish in 1533 the Horoscopion Apiani Generale and in 1540 the celebrated and financially very productive Astronomicum Caesareum. On the other hand, Mercator’s first celestial globe appeared in 1551. It included the 48 constellations of Ptolemy plus Cincinnis and Antinous, which he probably took from a printed globe

 Incidentally he was to play a certain role in the publication of Nicolaus Copernicus’s De revolutionibus by providing him with new measurements of the positions of Mercury and by insisting that Georg Joachim Rheticus visit him. Rheticus eventually persuaded him to lend him a manuscript copy and arranged for its publication in 1543. 107  An astronomical ring is a measuring instrument consisting of three hollow sphere-shaped circles, which mark degrees, hours, months and weeks, tangents and zodiac signs. 106


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of Caspar Von Vopel of 15 years before. The positions were referred to 1550 (to the equinox of that year, starting point to measure), a real novelty. Much later, in 1603, Johann Bayer’s Uranometria would be published. Among the works published during this period, perhaps the Theatrum mundi et temporis, by Giovanni Paolo Gallucci in 1588, and Astronomía instauratae mechanica, by Tycho Brahe108 in 1602, who years before had started his own revolution by observing the supernova of 1572, deserve to be highlighted. Within a few years of the publication of Bayer’s extraordinary images, the telescope would begin to be used in astronomy. Thus, 1609 would be a red line that would mark the beginning of a completely different cosmology: the skies would no longer be the same.

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Jiménez de la Espada, M. (ed.), Imprenta de T. Fortanet, Madrid, 1877, , [29 octubre 2018]. Jones, A., “The Adaptation of Babylonian Methods in Greek Numerical Astronomy”, Isis, vol. 82, núm. 3, 1991, pp. 440–453. Jorge Godoy, S. Las navegaciones por la costa atlántica africana y las islas Canarias in la Antigüedad, Dirección General del Patrimonio Histórico, Gobierno de Canarias, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, 1996. Juan, J., de Ulloa, A., Dissertacion historica, y geographica sobre el Meridiano de Demarcación entre los Dominios de España, y Portugal, y los parages por donde passa in la America Meridional, conforme à los Tratados, y derechos de cada Estado, y las mas seguras, y modernas observaciones, Madrid, Instituto Histórico de Marina, 1972 (1749). Kamen, H., Empire. How Spain became a world power 1492–1763, Penguin Books Ltd., 2002. Kennedy, P., The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Random House inc, 1987. Lester, T., The forth part of the world. The race to the ends of the Earth, and the epic story of the map that gave America its name, Free Press, New York/London, 2009. Levinas, M.  L., and Vida, S.  P., “La cosmografía de Waldseemüller, la conceptualización de ‘América’ y su relación con el copernicanismo”, Scientiæ studia, vol. 14, núm. 2, 2016, p. 281–331. Ley, C.D. (ed.), Phoenix: Portuguese Voyages 1498–1663: Tales from the Great Age of Discovery, Phoenix Press, 2000. Lisi, F.  L., “La cosmografía de Nebrija in la historia de la geografía”, in González Iglesias J. and Codoñer Merino C., (eds.), Actas del Coloquio Humanista Antonio de Nebrija, 1994, pp. 371–377. Llompart, G. and Riera, J., “Jafudà Cresques i Samuel Corcós. Més documents sobre els jueus pintors de cartes de navegar (Mallorca, s. XIV)”, Boletin de la Sociedad Arqueológica Luliana, 40, 1984, pp. 341–350. Lo Grasso, J. E., Ecclesia et Status, Roma, 1952. Major, R. H., The discoveries of Prince Henry the navigator, Sampson Low, Maeston, Seaele, & Rivington, 1877. Markham, C. R. (ed.), Amerigo Vespucci and other documents illustrative of his career, Hakluyt society, Londres, 1894. Martínez, M., “Boccaccio y su entorno in relación con las Islas Canarias”, in Cuadernos de Filologia italiana, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, 2001, pp. 95–118. Mederos Martín, A., Escribano Cobo, G., Fenicians, Punics and Romans. Descubrimiento y poblamiento de las Islas Canarias, Gobierno de Canarias, Dirección General de Patrimonio Histórico, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, 2002. Molina Marín, A. I., “Geographica: ciencia del espacio y tradición narrativa de Homero a Cosmas Indicopleustes”, Antig. crist., XXVII, 2010a. Molina Marín, A. I., “La Geografía in la Época Heroica: La primera tradición”, in Geographica: ciencia del espacio y tradición narrativa de Homero a Cosmas Indicopleustes, Antig. crist. XXVII, Murcia, 2010b. Morales Padrón, F., “Los descubrimientos in los siglos XIV y XV y los archipiélagos atlánticos”, Anuario de Estudios Atlánticos, 1955, pp. 429–465. Nordensjiöld, A. E., Facsimile-Atlas to the early history of cartography with reproductions of the most important maps printed in the XV and XV centuries, Stockholm [Nedeln Lichtenstein], 1889 [1970], pp. 12–16 O’Doherty, M., Eyewitness Accounts of ‘the Indies’ in the Later Medieval West: Reading, Reception, and Re-use (c. 1300–1500), PhD dissertaction, The University of Leeds Institute for Medieval Studies, 2006. O’Leary, D. L., How Greek Science Passed to the Arabs, Routledge & Kegan Paul, Londres, 1949. Pagden, A., Lords of all the World. Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France c.1500– c.1800, Yale University Press, 1995.


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Chapter 2

Humanism as a Trigger for the Scientific Revolution Just as words and languages serve the society of today and consolidate common life, so writing unites the ancestors with future generations and makes the various ages one. Writers speak to those who have not yet been born, and these to writers who have ceased to live. “Quemadmodum lingua et voces praesenti societati serviunt, et glutinum sunt communis vitae, ita scriptura priores cum posterioribus iungit, et multas aetates unam faciunt: colloquuntur scriptores cum posteris nondum natis, et hi cum scriptoribus iam olim vita functis”, Luis Vives, De concordia, 1, 1, p. 197, initially published in 1529. The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves, that we are underlings. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, act 1, scene 2.

Abstract  Humanism appeared in Europe at the beginning of the fourteenth century and had an extraordinary impact on all disciplines of knowledge. The recovery of Greco-Latin culture and its diffusion through the printing press changed the vision of Renaissance man and laid the foundations for the interpretation of the universe from a strictly rationalist perspective. This movement, sometimes classified as a purely literary activity, radiated from the Italian peninsula to the rest of the continent. In any case, astronomy was at the center of this movement, and some of its main exponents, such as Dante Alighieri, Leonardo da Vinci or Antonio de Nebrija had a remarkable activity in the field of cosmography, recovering the wisdom of Antiquity, condensing the knowledge of the time, or through their original contributions. Humanism in the kingdom of Castile had its epicenter, above all, in the university of Salamanca, a meeting point of peninsular knowledge and which served as a training center for some of the best cosmographers of the Age of Discovery. Be that as it may, part of the foundations of the Scientific revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries are to be found in Humanism, a truly Pan-European process.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 D. Barrado Navascués, Cosmography in the Age of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution, Historical & Cultural Astronomy,



2  Humanism as a Trigger for the Scientific Revolution

1 Humanism and Its Pan-European Impact 1.1 Reconnecting with the Greco-Roman World Humanism was an essential movement within the European Renaissance, but it is not only circumscribed to it. Although a group of authors identify both processes, Soto Rábanos establishes a clear differentiation: while humanism affects certain individuals, the Renaissance involved a territory at a certain time, and its inhabitants, whether they were humanists or not (Soto Rábanos 1999, pp. 207–242). In any case, it is worth asking what were the reasons behind it, how it was affected by the Iberian geographical discoveries and the new astronomical vision, and to what extent it favoured the emergence of the subsequent Scientific Revolution. The first humanists, successors of Francesco Petrarca (or Petrarch, 1304–1374), called studia humanitatis to the studies on Antiquity that he had undertaken, which included grammar, rhetoric, history, poetry and moral philosophy (Escolar Sobrino 2000, p. 294). This expression is analogous to the Greek philanthrôpía, and served to label the movement opposed to the scholastic current of the European universities of the time, which subordinated reason to faith. Thus, studia humanitatis denoted the new intellectual and ethical vision also shared by these precursors, among whom were the figures of Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Boccaccio and the poet Coluccio Salutati, all of them in the Italian peninsula. The term studia humanitatis was already used by Cicero in the first century BCE to refer to a liberal or literary education, and with this meaning it was used by Italian scholars at the end of the fourteenth century. In the first half of the fifteenth century, studia humanitatis was understood as a set of disciplines already detailed, the study of which included the reading and interpretation of Latin and, to a lesser extent, Greek writers. It is with this orientation that the concept studia humanitatis “was in general use in the sixteenth century and later, and echoes of it are found in our use of the term ‘humanities’” (Kristaller 1982, pp. 39–40). The term “humanist”1 was coined at the height of the Renaissance, perhaps by the distinguished humanist Pico della Mirandola in the second half of the fifteenth century, derived precisely from studia humanitatis.2 This current of thought or school sought a return to the Greco-Latin canons, both stylistic and literary, the preponderance of reason and argumentation against the principle of authority, the idealization of reality and a positivism that rejected the pessimistic vision of the Middle Ages, with a clearly anthropocentric perception: a return to the principles set out in the famous phrase attributed to Protagoras, “man is the measure of all things”, including a nóstos to the ethical models of classical

 Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, [online], [accessed: 13 June 2017]. 2  On the use of the term “humanist” in Spain, since the mid-sixteenth century (Fontán 2008, pp. 18–21). 1

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culture. Values that are still perfectly current, although given the evolution of the world, they seem increasingly unattainable. Humanism implied self-improvement through education, and it took up the ideals of the paideia of the Hellenes and the humanitas of Cicero in Rome: the search for truth, knowledge, justice and virtue through the study of the liberal arts.3 It presupposes, therefore, a return to the original sources: manuscripts recovered from monastic libraries or coming from Byzantium (especially after the two sackings of Constantinople by Crusaders and Ottomans, separated by almost 250 years), and translations of Arabic versions made in the Middle East, or by the two schools of Translators in Toledo or in Sicily. This required a mastery of both Latin, in its classical version, following the elegant prose of Cicero, and not the variant used as lingua franca during the Middle Ages (Fontán Pérez 1972), specially in academia, and Greek, a language relegated until then. As a cultural movement, humanism was never monolithic and, in fact, three phases can be distinguished: the new prominence given to the intellectual production of the Greco-Roman period in the fourteenth century,4 with Petrarch as the most important figure; the formation, in the first half of the fifteenth century, of the nuclei of Rome and Florence, where extensive work was carried out in the compilation and cataloguing of classical works; and thirdly, a phase in which systematic criticism predominated, and in which humanism spread beyond the Alps, becoming a pan-­ European phenomenon, in which Erasmus of Rotterdam clearly stood out, coming to dominate the cultural panorama of the continent. The Spaniard Antonio de Nebrija also shone brightly during this phase. Although, of course, they would not be the only ones. Francesco Petrarch (1304–1374) is considered the father of humanism and, without a doubt, the most brilliant intellectual and writer of his generation. Much of his work was carried out in the city of Avignon, seat of the papal curia, which can be considered the diplomatic and cultural capital of the West during the first three quarters of the fourteenth century. The patronage carried out by the ecclesiastical authorities attracted a good number of scholars, while the papal library was progressively enriched with an important collection of classical works to which Petrarch had access and with whose manuscripts he carried out the reconstruction and restoration of various classical works (Mann 1998, pp. 28–30), including the History of Rome by Titus Livy. His interest, manifested from an early age, in the authors of Antiquity, particularly Cicero and Ovid, led him to a continuous search for manuscripts of classical

 Education in the Greek poleis or paideia formed citizens in a comprehensive way to provide them with the tools to be politically active. It was organized along several axes: physical, including wrestling; liberal arts, with the Rome, Cicero’s concept of humanitas has very similar ideals, and the humanitas concept of Cicero has very similar ideals (Lester 2009, p. 150). 4  Already in the last quarter of the thirteenth century and until his death in 1309, Lovato Lovati, judge, mayor and influential member of the city of Padua, developed an extensive work as a copyist and collector of classical texts, both poetic and historical, which he used in his own compositions (Kohl 2006, pp. 215–220). 3


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works in cathedrals and monasteries in France, Italy and Belgium, a task which, later on, constituted one of the fundamental activities of the humanists who succeeded him.5 In his own words: Every author of Antiquity whom I recover bears a new offense and another cause of dishonor to previous generations who, not satisfied with their wretched infertility, have allowed the fruit of other minds, and the writings of their ancestors produced by toil and devotion, to perish by their insufferable neglect. Though they have provided nothing of their own creation to those who came after them, they have robbed posterity of their ancestral heritage.6 Petrarch, Rerum Mem

The most immediate result was the rapid increase of Petrarch’s personal library, which became the most important of his time (Galende Díaz 1996, p. 96), and which contained the largest collection of Latin literature in the hands of a private individual (Mann 1998, p. 31). He himself, in 1340, composed a list of his favourite works, in which no medieval title is included, with the exception of a treatise on astronomy and two reference works (Milde 1979; Kraye 2003), from which it is known that his library, at that date, already contained a very significant amount of classical texts. In the words of Antelo Iglesias: “So valuable was this library that the Venetian Senate lodged him in a palazzo (1362–1368) in exchange –in the future– for his library, formally destined by the poet, after his death, to the republic of San Marco; a noble purpose that did not materialize, because when he left the city for Arquà, near Padua, and died there in 1374, his books were dispersed.” (Antelo Iglesias 1991, p.  295). However, many of his volumes have survived and are now preserved in centres such as the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan and the British Library. Petrarch excelled as a poet, as a scholar and as a human being. In him faith and love were mixed with a critical and rational method. He can be considered the first modern “scholar”. He experienced a communion with the most prominent figures of the Greco-Roman world, to whom he wrote personal letters as a form of reflection. Among his innovations was the first autobiography, his Letters to Posterity. In his intellectual zeal, he initiated the critical study of ancient texts, including stylistic analysis, and his work triggered the emergence of a veritable school. He received clear recognition during his lifetime, both as an intellectual leader and as a poet and moralist, and acted as an advisor to various rulers. He became anti-Aristotelian, considering that some of his postulates and conclusions lacked common sense. He was also skeptical of miracles and clearly opposed to astrology, stating: “Can celestial objects deviate from their trajectories, break their laws, travel irregular orbits, warn men? Ridiculous!” (Bishop 1961, pp.  1–17) Among his cosmographic

 To a large extent, this process was facilitated by the encyclopaedic treatises of the late Roman Empire and the early Middle Ages, in particular the Institutiones divinarum et saecularium litterarum of Cassiodorus, which became an essential reference for the location of manuscripts by humanists, although only a small part of the entire cultural heritage of Antiquity reached him. Among the “manuscript hunters”, Conrad Celtis stands out (Lester 2009, pp. 130 and 337). 6  Petrarch, Rerum Mem., i., 2, translation of the English version in Robinson (1898, pp. 25–26), [online], [accessed: 21 October 2018]; Nolhac (1907, p. 268). 5

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contributions is to have promoted the knowledge of the geographical work of Pomponius Mela by making his own copy of the text. Moreover, as a scholar of geography, he provided the earliest simile of the Italic peninsula as a boot, a metaphor he could not have developed without the use of portulans (Lester 2009, pp. 121, 123). Truly, a man whose intellectual activity can already be classified as modern. Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375) shared Petrarch’s interest in the recovery of codices and manuscripts, as well as in writing according to classical literary canons. His library, in which he accumulated a hundred titles, was bequeathed to the hermits of St. Augustine of Santo Spiritu in Florence (Galende Díaz 1996, p. 96), for, as Antelo Iglesias points out, “he entrusted his very select library to a religious, Martino de Signa, with the task of allowing copies of the books to anyone who wished them; but, as in the case of Petrarch, this great collection also disappeared on the death of the Augustinian friar” (Antelo Iglesias 1991, p. 295). Moreover, he possibly made the most important contribution to geography in Italian humanism: a dictionary entitled De montibus, silvis, fontibus et de nominibus maris liber (Book of the mountains, forests, springs, lakes, rivers, ponds or marshes and names of the sea), an essential guide that made it possible to connect the nomenclature of Antiquity with his own time. On the other hand, with his diary he helped to reshape the way of interpreting geography (Lester 2009, pp. 126, 314). Precisely the same year of Boccaccio’s death, Coluccio Salutati (1331–1406), who is considered one of the key figures in the establishment of humanism in Italy, became chancellor of Florence. An avid reader, he managed to assemble a library of almost a thousand volumes, including around a hundred codices from the ninth to twelfth centuries, which Salutati himself copied (Galende Díaz 1996, pp. 96–97). His work, both poetic and prose, is not very extensive, but his abundant epistolary production, both private and political, is remarkable (Witt 1976, p. xii). But, of course, if humanism owes anything to Salutati, it is his role in the introduction of Greek studies in Italy, something that was essential to access the original works of classical authors. In fact, the fifteenth century saw the unfolding of the humanist revolution begun by Petrarch in the previous century, including the teaching of Greek,7 largely promoted by the Byzantine Emmanuel Chrysoloras (c. 1355–1415) in Florence, who was invited by the Signoria of that city to teach the language.8 Petrarch’s work had focused mainly on Latin texts, but he was also aware of the importance of other  Barlaam of Calabria was the Greek teacher of Petrarch and Bocaccio. Erudite and polemic, in spite of being a friend of the Emperor Andronicus III he ended up being condemned in Constantinople and fortunately he fled to the papal court of Avignon, where he coincided with Petrarch. There he contributed to the beginning of the humanist movement (Báez 2004, p. 108; Bishop 1961), However, there is a different version of Barlaam’s arrival in Avignon. Thus, it would have been King Robert I of Naples who, in 1342, sent Barlaam on a diplomatic mission to the papal curia in Avignon, where he taught Greek, among others, to Petrarch, for a few months until this monk left for a bishopric in Calabria (Mann 1998, p. 37). 8  Jacopo Angelo da Scarperi, a student of Greek, was sent to Constantinople to look for Crisoloras. The trip was financed by Palla Strozzi, a rich man of the humanist circle of Salutati (Lester 2009, pp. 154–159. See also Signes Codoñer (2003, pp. 213–223). 7


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writings in Greek, and in fact he paid for the literal translation of the Iliad and the Odyssey (Nolhac 1907, p. 21) at his own expense. However, although he took lessons in this language, he never mastered it. Thanks to his teachings, authors such as Plato, Demosthenes, Thucydides, Plutarch, Lucian and Ptolemy, whose manuscripts arrived in Italy from Constantinople, either brought by Chrysoloras himself or purchased from various intermediaries by personalities such as Salutati and Palla Strozzi, began to be read, studied and known (Signes Codoñer 2003, p. 215; Diller 1961, pp. 313–321). Among the disciples of Chrysoloras, the figure of Guarini of Verona stands out. Although he had already begun his studies, he perfected his knowledge of Greek when, in 1403, he accompanied him to Constantinople, still under Christian rule. In addition to his work as a translator of classical Greek authors, Guarini also worked extensively as a teacher (Sabbadini 1896). A contemporary of Guarini is Leonardo Bruni, a key figure. In the development of the humanistic movement in Italy at the beginning of the fifteenth century. Also a disciple of  Chrysoloras, he carried out one of the great cultural tasks of the Renaissance: the translation of Greek literature into Latin (Aristotle, Plato, Demosthenes, Plutarch, among others), as well as a prolific original work that reached a great diffusion, a production of which about three thousand manuscripts and around two hundred incunabula are preserved (Jiménez San Cristóbal 2011, p. 181). Bruni replaced the medieval method of translation “word for word”9with the Renaissance method ad sententiam (“according to the sense”) that would be perfected by later tradition. Bruni carried out numerous translations from Greek into Latin, and wrote a treatise entitled De interpretatione recta in which he indicates that any correct translation implies a great mastery of the source language and the target language. But he adds that the translator must pay attention to the literary style of the source language, so as not to alter what is said in it and to be able to express it elegantly and rhythmically (Pérez González 1995, pp. 193–233). Thus, the mastery of different classical languages became an essential tool. Although both Petrarch and Boccaccio were avid collectors of manuscripts, and the former, as already described, managed to assemble an impressive library, probably more systematic was the work done by Gian Francesco Poggio Bracciolini (1380–1459), possibly the best tracker of ancient manuscripts, work that he carried out in various Swiss, German, English and French libraries, using his status as papal secretary, although his personal library barely had a hundred works. In his visit to the monastery of Saint Gall, in 1416, and before the terrible state of conservation of his manuscripts, he proposed his copy and initiated a search in monasteries and cathedrals of several countries (Cluny, Saint Gall, Cologne, etc), in which, even, he managed to subtract them in collusion with some monk (Symonds 1888, p. 138; Reynolds and Wilson 1968, pp. 274–275). An admissible theft, since in the end the works in question have been preserved and can be freely enjoyed. Again, it is inevitable to make parallels with the present day: the destruction of part of the cultural  It was a strictly literalrendition, due to an erroneous concept of translation, and to the respect that the copyists had for the written texts, and that even though they were aware of their errors, they did not dare to correct them (Escolar Sobrino 2000, p. 272). 9

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heritage of humanity in recent years has been massive in different countries in Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. It is possible that the remains that finally survive of the distant cultures that developed their activity in those lands are those preserved essentially in the museums of the West and by the studies carried out by scholars from the universities of the countries that colonized those lands. Certainly, it is regrettable how little value we assign to our own cultural roots. Very relevant was also the activity of collection of materials carried out by Giovanni Aurispa (1376–1459), who, besides finding manuscripts in Basel and Mainz, after his return to Italy from Constantinople in 1423, brought with him 238 Greek codices, which included texts by Homer, Pindar, Aristophanes, Demosthenes, and the complete works of Plato and Lucian (Leonardo De Argensola 2011, p. XL). Another great collector was Antonio Corbinelli, whose personal library, which included 105 manuscripts in Latin and 65 in Greek, he donated to the convent of Santa Maria dei Benedettini (the Badia Fiorentina) when he died in 1425, and which after being confiscated in 1808 passed to the Laurentian Library. Similarly, Niccolò Niccoli (1364–1437), to whom Aurispa sent manuscripts of Sophocles, Aeschylus and the Argonautica of Apollonius of Rhodes, also ended up bequeathing his collection to a religious institution, that of San Marco in Florence. They probably followed Boccaccio’s example. Other notable collections were those of Palla Strozzi, Cosimo de’Medici (with 30 manuscripts), Visconti-Pavia (125) and Este-Ferrara (with 64). At the same time there were those belonging to scholars such as Poggio Bracciolini, already mentioned, Leonardo Bruni, Pier Paolo Vergerio, among others, many of them coming from the circle of Coluccio Salutati (Brown 1988). Basil Bessarion (1403–1472), belonging to the period dominated by intellectuals based in the different states of the Italian peninsula, was undoubtedly one of the most prominent figures, both for his own intellectual activity and for his work of patronage and recovery of texts. Bishop of Nicaea and fervent defender of the union of the churches, he escaped in time from the debacle of Constantinople in 1453. Six years later he bought the library of Aurispa and ended up donating his collection of 746 manuscripts, 482  in Greek (Lerner 2001, p.  97), to the Biblioteca Marciana in Venice. Another of the great collectors of books was Tommaso Parentucelli (1397–1455), who would attain the papal dignity in 1447 under the name of Nicholas V (Coluccia 1998). It is not only said that he introduced the Renaissance spirit in Rome, but also that he was a patron of intellectual life and a promoter of humanism, a facet that, however, came into conflict with the two bulls he promulgated justifying the slave trade during the Portuguese explorations: Dum diversas and Romanus Pontifex. A man of vast knowledge, he called to his side Byzantine scholars after the fall of Constantinople who contributed to the impregnation of the Hellenic culture of the Latin world with systematic translations of the recovered manuscripts. Probably his most significant legacy was the foundation of the Vatican Library, together with Enoch of Ascoli and Giovanni Tortelli, initially with 350 manuscripts, many of them rescued from the sacking of the ancient capital of the Eastern Empire (a very small collection compared to the tens or hundreds of thousands of scrolls of the Library of Alexandria). Parentucelli’s worthy successor was the reputed humanist Aeneas


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Sylvius Piccolomini, later elevated to the papal throne as Pius II, wrote one of the first geographical guides to be printed (Historia rerum ubique gestarum, History of the facts done everywhere). Piccolomini’s avowed intention was to “fit the new geography into the old”.10 By the end of the fifteenth century few manuscripts remained hidden from the avid eyes of humanists, and one of the last systematic searches was carried out in Italy by Angelo Poliziano (1454–1494). In the following century, the search would extend to other countries, where the protonationalist movements had promoted the writing of various historical narratives, supposedly “national”, while they were immersed in the religious struggles unleashed by Luther’s reformation. They were aware of the power of language and its most effective tool, writing. This titanic task of recovering texts was complemented by systematic works both of collation or critical edition of the different versions, contaminated or mutilated, over time, by successive copies, and of textual criticism. One of the most active scholars in these aspects was Lorenzo Valla (1406/1407–1457), who has been considered one of the fathers of humanism. In addition to the papal court, he worked for the Aragonese king Alfonso V, who saved him from the Neapolitan Inquisition. Among his most relevant studies stands out his Elegantiae linguae latinae, written around 1444, in which he states the superiority of ancient Latin, mainly that of Cicero and Quintiliano, against the medieval one, which allowed him to see anachronisms and distortions in the translations made until then and to demonstrate their falseness (Monsalvo Antón 2011, p. 19). Possibly the most outstanding case was the exposure of the misrepresentation of the Donation of Constantine (Fossier 1986a, b, pp. 499–500), one of the pillars of the universal doctrine of the papacy as temporal power, according to which this Roman Emperor of the fourth century would have ceded his dominions to the church. Finally, two ecclesiastical processes played in the development of humanism (with important geographical consequences) and therefore of the Renaissance should be highlighted. These are the Councils of Constance (1414–1418) and the Councils of Basel-Ferrara-Florence (1431–1449), both of which brought together a huge number of intellectuals, generally linked to cardinals and bishops (Lester 2009, pp.  113, 167–169). The first one had very important cultural implications, because it facilitated an exchange of ideas and manuscripts, especially geographical ones. Poggio and other scholars explored the surroundings of this Helvetic enclave, especially the monasteries, looking for manuscripts. Their brilliant results produced a veritable explosion in the search for them throughout Europe. During the Council of Florence, which was also attended by a Byzantine delegation led by Emperor John VIII Palaeologus and which included delegates from churches in various corners of the known world, after the Council’s sessions, a group of humanists (the learned men of Poggio) met to exchange ideas and manuscripts, such as the physician and mathematician Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli, who was to influence Columbus

 Columbus possessed a copy profusely annotated by himse (Clough 1994, p.  297; quoted in Lester 2009, p. 250). 10

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so much, or the Byzantine scholar George Gemistos Plethon (who introduced Strabo to the West), together with Abyssinian monks. Thus, they began to make a synthesis of the image of the world coming from Antiquity with the new information that began to flow (Winter Jones et al. 1963, pp. 201–202). In fact, Ptolemy‘s Geographia enjoyed a wide diffusion throughout the fifteenth century and some authors, such as Francesco Berlinghicri, placed it as the epitome of the humanist approach, as a metaphor of the studia humanitas (Cosgrove 2001, p.  109; Lester 2009, p.  162). Therefore, it can be concluded that humanism played an essential role in the renewal of geography, by recovering treatises and integrating the information coming from travelers in a systematic framework.

1.2 Erasmus and Humanism Beyond the Italian and Iberian Peninsulas Erasmus of Rotterdam (1467–1536) is one of the greatest exponents of humanism. He played a major role in European culture at the beginning of the sixteenth century and his influence has extended far beyond that in time. He was, above all, a generalist who sought to boost the role of knowledge of classical culture, advocating a return to stronger moral values and an improvement in the system of learning. Like so many other intellectuals of the time, his life was a continuous wandering in search of knowledge: in some of the best European universities (Paris, Oxford, Cambridge, Bologna), in the aristocratic courts (both royal and cardinal), or in libraries and printers that would allow him to deepen his scrutiny as a scholar and facilitate the dissemination of his results. Eager for knowledge, he even rejected the possibility of obtaining a cardinal’s capelet, an opportunity that was offered to him by Pope Paul III. The honors he asked for were not material, but intellectual recognition, ethereal but more permanent (Jebb 1897). His works are articulated in several axes: moral, with collections of adages extracted from classics; educational, where the manual Institutio principis christiani (Education of the Christian prince), dedicated to the Emperor Charles V (Carlos I of Spain and V of the Holy Roman Empire) when he was still heir of multiple crowns, and De ratione studii (On the method of study) stand out; and religious, emphasizing the first printing in Greek of the New Testament, that appeared before the Polyglot Bible published in Spain,11 in spite of having been finished this

 Erasmus would maintain a bitter dialectical dispute with the members of the Complutensian work, especially with Diego López de Zúñiga. The Polyglot Bible, which would appear in Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin and Greek, was a project of Cardinal Cisneros and work began in 1502. The New Testament would come off the press in 1514, but would not be distributed until 1522, after the completion of the Old Testament. Most of the approximately 600 copies edited were lost, because the ship that was taking them to Rome for their visa was shipwrecked (Perez 2014). Erasmus, for his part, had begun the collation of his Greek versions in 1512 and published the text in 1516 with exclusive rights provided by Pope Leo X.  The latter would have an ambivalent position, as he 11


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one years before. But above all, his clever use of satire made him well known in Europe. His Enchomion moriae seu laus stultitiae (In Praise of Folly), with its criticism of the excesses of the Catholic hierarchy, became a publishing success. Together with his New Testament, it would be key to the development of the process of religious reform: first with Protestantism, then with the Catholic reaction of the Counter-Reformation. Unfortunately, the process developed in the opposite direction to what has been called Erasmianism: tolerance from rationality, the achievement of a better world through the humanizing influences of literary activity and the elimination of ignorance. The intellectual and military conflict would be practically constant for more than a century. So well known did he become that in 1530 the distribution of his books was so widespread that it has been estimated that between 10% and 20% of all sales in Europe, taking into account any type of work, corresponded to titles by Erasmus (Galli and Olsen 2000, p. 343). Moreover, he was famous for his shrewdness and his reflective and peaceful character, not without an ironic, sometimes sarcastic humor, as has already been remarked. However, he possessed a great pride, related to his intellectual capacity. He would become one of the best Latinists of his time and the center of a dense network of correspondence and cultural activity. The list of his correspondents is impressive and he was one of the essential nodes of the Republic of Letters, the extraordinary network of intellectuals that favored the development of the humanities and sciences in the Modern Age. Among them were renowned humanists of various origins (Thomas More, Juan Luis Vives, Publio Fausto Andrelini, Damiao de Góis, Georgius Agricola), popes and cardinals (Leo X, Adrian VI, Thomas Wolsey, John Fisher), religious reformers (Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon), or kings and aristocrats (Henry VIII, Frederick III Elector of Saxony, George Duke of Saxony). A reference of humanism, then and nowadays.

1.3 Humanism in Spain: Nebrija as Its Greatest Exponent Erasmus was certainly not the first nor the only relevant humanist. In Spain there were several figures who stood out as such, especially from the end of the fifteenth century and the beginning of the sixteenth century. To mention a few, we can emphasize: Alfonso Fernández de Palencia, Alonso de Cartagena, Joan Margarit i Pau, Hernán Núñez de Toledo y Guzmán, Juan de Valdés, Juan Luis Vives, Fray Luis de León, Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda, Luis de Lucena, Antonio Agustín Albanell, Juan Lorenzo Palmireno, Domingo Andrés and Francisco Sánchez de las Brozas, known as “el Brocense” (Biomartí Sánchez 2006, p.  192). Domingo de Soto, who would have provided the best manuscripts to the Spanish version (through the mediation of Cisneros) and yet would delay its publication with the granting of the privilege granted to Erasmus. Zuñiga would end up accusing him of being a Lutheran (Martin Luther exposed his well-known 95 theses at the doors of the church of Wittenberg in 1517, thus triggering the Protestant Reformation). See Lisi, (2012, pp. 89–93).

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participated in the famous “Controversy of Valladolid” on the right of conquest, also made a notable scientific contribution by proposing, decades before Galileo Galilei, that bodies accelerate as they fall (Pérez Camacho and Sols Lucis 1994), in opposition to the scholastic view based on Aristotle. The first approaches in Castile with humanism have as a key figure Alonso de Cartagena, who in 1421 was part of the Royal Council in the court of Juan II of Castile, being ambassador in Portugal between 1421 and 1427. His stay in the Portuguese court allowed him to come into contact with its intellectuals, initiating from then on an extensive work of translation of classical texts into Castilian. In the opinion of Fernández Gallardo, “Alonso de Cartagena‘s diplomatic mission in Portugal was to represent a decisive milestone in the introduction of humanism in Castile” (Fernández Gallardo 1999, p. 214). After his appointment as ambassador in Basel (1434–1439) he kept a personal contact with the scholars of that time (Monsalvo Antón 2011, pp. 54–65). But in reality the process of cultural permeation was much more complex. Indeed, the question of the irruption of humanism in the Iberian Peninsula continues to be much debated among scholars. Traditionally, it has been argued that humanist ideas were incorporated late into Hispanic culture, adducing in this sense reasons of a social and economic order that have their roots in the previous centuries. Thus, according to Luis Gil, to the isolation derived from the Arab invasion, fundamentally in Castile, we should add the lack of incentives for study that affected the clergy, due to the expansion, in Castilian lands and since the twelfth century, of the reformed Benedictine order of Cluny, which led to “[…] the ecclesiastical colonization of the kingdom by high French dignitaries in the thirteenth, fourteenth and first half of the fifteenth centuries […]” (Gil Fernández 2003, p. 14). Likewise, the economic development and the process of urbanization in Castile in the fifteenth century was far removed from that of Italy, so that the foundations for the spread of the humanist movement were, in reality, very weak. It was not until the end of the fifteenth century or the beginning of the sixteenth century when, according to the academic Francisco Rico, the necessary conditions were created to be able to speak of the beginning of the Renaissance in Spain (Rico 1978). His work has led him to affirm that this movement in the Iberian Peninsula began its development with Elio Antonio de Nebrija, with whom, after the publication of his Introductiones latinae in 1481, the Renaissance reached the Iberian Peninsula (Rico 1996, p. 9). However, the studies carried out in the last three decades have allowed us to offer a different vision. In this sense González Rolán points out that, in the first half of the fifteenth century there are a series of formal signs, indicative of a certain diffusion of the Renaissance in Spain, such as epistolary correspondence with Italian humanists (Fernández Gallardo 1999, pp. 213–246; Saquero Suárez-Somonte and González Rolán 1991, pp. 195–232), personal contacts between them and certain personalities of the educated elite in the Iberian Peninsula, and the importation of books from Italy, both manuscripts of Latin authors, Latin translations of Greek texts and original works by Italian humanists (González Rolán 2003, p.  26). This leads him to conclude that, without categorically denying that the figure of Nebrija was decisive in the flourishing of humanism in Spain, it is certain that he cannot be considered as


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“the first restorer and introducer of classical texts in the Peninsula”, since authors such as Cicero, Seneca, or Homer, among others, had already been read, commented on and translated long before, which would prove that philological-literary humanism spread in the crowns of Castile and Aragon throughout the first half of the fifteenth century (González Rolán 2003, p. 28). As in other European countries, humanism in the Iberian kingdoms at the beginning of the fifteenth century did not have its center of irradiation in the universities or General Studies, which were strongly anchored in traditional knowledge. A significant example of this was the University of Salamanca, with a primacy of law studies “oriented more towards Parisian neo-scholasticism than towards Italian humanism” (Schlelein 2012, p. 96). Humanism began to develop in cultural circles under the patronage of the Crown, the nobility or the high clergy, and in this aspect, and as far as Castile is concerned, the Trastámara dynasty was decisive, with the figure of the monarch Juan II (1406–1454) standing out in particular, who wanted to develop a cultural project with similar characteristics to the Italian one. However, this systematic search for codices, which, as has been pointed out, was one of the bases that sustained the humanism of the Italian Quattrocento, did not have its counterpart in Spain, since the Muslim invasion of the peninsula from the eigth century onwards resulted in the destruction of a large part of the existing libraries. However, it is also the result of this occupation that in the Crowns of Castile and Aragon there was, in relation to the classical tradition, a solution of continuity that is not found in the rest of European countries (Gil Fernandez 2005, p. 45). The cultural policy of Juan II, consisted of, besides promoting trips of Castilian intellectuals to Italy, establishing relations, fundamentally epistolary, with the request that they were sent translations, to Latin or Italian, of classical Greek texts, and the importation of great quantity of manuscripts and original works of the Italian humanists, especially of Leonardo Bruni and P.  Candido Decembrio, that were copied and translated into Spanish (Jiménez San Cristóbal 2011, pp. 180–181). Thus, in Castile before the Catholic Monarchs there were litterati or, if we prefer, prehumanists or humanists, competent connoisseurs of the litterae, that is to say, of Latin, who besides being jurists or theologians, were creators, litterateurs. Juan de Mena, Alonso de Cartagena, Juan Rodríguez del Padrón, Pedro Díaz de Toledo, among others, were litterati in the triple sense mentioned above. Thus, during the reign of Juan II of Castile, most of the translators of classical texts were men of letters who had their own original work, either in Latin or in Spanish, or even in both languages at the same time (González Rolán 2003, p. 28). Regarding the reception of Petrarch’s work in the peninsula, the studies carried out seem to indicate that it did not take place particularly late, since during the first half of the fifteenth century some of his works were already used by the most important writers of Hispanic literature. However, as Ruiz Arzálluz points out, these first readers of Petrarch “were totally alien to the intellectual presuppositions of humanism”, and so it was difficult for them to understand the essential aspects of his work. Moreover, as this author indicates, the men of letters in the Hispanic kingdoms, during most of the fifteenth century, had a low level of Latinity which prevented them from understanding Petrarch’s innovative ideas, which is also the reason why

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the Hispanic diffusion of Latin poetry and the epistolary works of this author took place with much less intensity than in other European areas, restricted only to a small elite who were aware of the works developed in Italy and who had access to them (Ruíz Arzálluz 2010, pp. 292–300). Perhaps, greater influence than Petrarch’s work had, in the Hispanic scholars of the fifteenth century, the one developed by Leonardo Bruni, both his original productions and his translations, among other reasons because of the great diffusion that his works had, both in Italy and in Spain, being, “Undoubtedly […]….] the best known and most demanded humanist in the Iberian Peninsula during the fifteenth and early sixteenth century […]“and, therefore, in the opinion of Jiménez San Cristóbal, “his influence could have been decisive in the shaping of humanist studies in the Peninsula” (Jiménez San Cristóbal 2011, p. 182). However, for the studia humanitatis to take root in peninsular culture, it was not enough that “[…] they seduced a few select Hispanic readers or that a handful of classical works […] were translated into Catalan or Castilian […]”, it was necessary its extension to other social classes, and for this, it was essential its introduction in the university, which, as it has already been pointed out, took place, in the last quarter of the fifteenth century, with Antonio de Nebrija  (1441–1522, Jiménez San Cristóbal 2011, p. 185) and his outstanding role in the flourishing of humanism, due to his teaching and literary work in the University of Salamanca. In fact, due to his notable influence on the evolution of Castilian and the breadth of his works, Nebrija, whose Latinized name, then in vogue, is Aelius Antonius Nebrissensis, can be considered the most outstanding Hispanic humanist and the one with whom the assumptions of humanism are established in the Hispanic Renaissance culture. He was born in the first half of the 1440s (Perona 2010, p. 14). The first stage of his life takes place in his city of origin, Nebrija, from where he moved as a student of Arts to the University of Salamanca. There he recognized the value of the knowledge transmitted by his professors but he reproached them for the language with which they expressed themselves, and so he expressed it in the Prologue that he dedicated to D.  Juan de Zúñiga, Master of the Order of Alcántara, in his Latin-­ Spanish Vocabulary: “that those men, although not in knowledge, knew little in speaking”.12 This would be the reason why, with 19  years old, he went to Italy, cradle of the humanist movement and in full intellectual effervescence, “so that by the law of the return after a long time he would restore in the possession of his lost land the authors of latin: that they were already many centuries exiled from Spain”. His stay in Italy was financed by the scholarship that the diocese of Cordoba granted him to study theology at the College of San Clemente or of the Spaniards (Perona 2010, p. 15), which was founded in 1364 in Bologna by Cardinal Gil de Albornoz and was closely linked to its university, the oldest institution of higher education in Europe. During his time in Italy, until 1470, Nebrija became acquainted with the work of the Italian humanists, who were clear advocates of the need to recover the  Nebrija, Vocabulario español-latino, Salamanca, ¿1495?, Facsimile edition in Madrid, Real Academia Española, 1989, Prologue, fol. IIv, 12


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Latin language of the classical authors, especially Lorenzo Valla’s Elegantiarum linguae latinae. He returned to Spain after being asked by Cardinal Alfonso de Fonseca to take charge of the education of his nephew, Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca. After the Cardinal’s death, three years later, Nebrija decided to return to Salamanca. There he obtained in 1476 a chair of Grammar and published in 1481 Introductiones latinae, his first work and also the first manual of Latin grammar in Spain, written for students with the aim of enabling them to understand classical writers. After two reprints, in 1482 and 1483, Nebrija wrote in 1485 a second version whose contents are similar, although distributed and developed in a different way (Sánchez Salor 2003, p. 636). He left Salamanca in 1487, thus losing his professorship, to enter the service of D. Juan de Zúñiga y Pimentel, the last Master of the Order of Alcántara, with whom he remained until the death of his patron in 1504. It is worth highlighting the figure of Zúñiga in the context of Hispanic humanism at the end of the fifteenth century, since he managed to gather around him some important scholars who, under his protection, elaborated works that are nowadays considered key in the literary production of this century. Indeed, as Fray Alonso Torres y Tapia writes in his work Crónica de la Orden de Alcantara: “The Master was fond of all good literature, and apart from the Religious he had with him there, he took some distinguished men in them […]”,13 among whom he refers to the presence of Master Antonio de Lebrija who “taught him Latin”, and of “Abasurto, a native Jew, Astrologer”, who has been identified with Abraham Zacut. This model of patronage carried out by Juan de Zuñiga has led later historiography to speak of his “renaissance academy”, his “literary court” or the existence of an “academy half abbey half athenaeum” (Villaseñor Sebastián 2013, p. 583). Everything seems to indicate that in this circle of erudition, its members devoted themselves to study and teaching, and although, as Marcel Bataillon points out, “We lack elements to reconstruct the atmosphere of the Alcántara mastership in the last decade of the fifteenth century”. During those seventeen years, Nebrija was able to carry out the project that he had forged in Italy, to carry out in Spain a work similar to that of Lorenzo Valla. The result of this is the publication of an extensive literary production in which, above all, his works on Latin and Romance grammar stand out, and, among them, his Introducciones latinas contrapuesto el romance al latín (Latin Introductions, contrasting Romance with Latin), in 1488, a bilingual edition of his Introductiones latinae, his Arte de la lengua castellana, by mandate of Queen Isabella “la Católica”, published in 1492, as well as his two works on Latin grammar, published in 1492,14 as well as two dictionaries (Alvar Ezquerra 1992, pp.  199–209), Latin-Spanish (Lexicon hoc est Dictionarium ex sermone latino in hispaniensem) in 1492, and Spanish-Latin (Dictionarium ex hispaniensi in latinum sermonen), possibly  Chronicle of the Order of Alcantara. Its author the lic. Frey D. Alonso de Torres y Tapia, Prior de Su Sacro Convento, Capellan de Honor del Señor Rey D. Felipe Quarto, 1763, p. 569. 14  “[…] de la gramatica que me mandó me hacer vuestra alteza contraponiendo linea por linea el romance al latin.” (BNE, incunable 2142, prologue, a.iiii., 13

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published in 1495,15 year in which also took place a new edition of his Latin grammar, revised and enlarged.16 It is also at the end of this period when, by invitation of Cardinal Cisneros, he joined the group of scholars in charge of the elaboration of a great project, the Polyglot Bible, although he would end up withdrawing because of his disagreement with Cisneros.17 Although in 1503 he obtained again a chair in the University of Salamanca, this time of Rhetoric, he delayed his incorporation until a year after the death of D. Juan de Zuniga (1504). Nebrija himself introduces himself as Lettori Salutem in one of his writings on medicine, which has led José Perona to affirm that, in 1509, he would explain the chair of Natural History.18 In the last stage of his life, Nebrija held the chair of Rhetoric that Cardinal Cisneros offered him in 1514  in the then recently created Complutense University, in Alcalá de Henares, where he died in 1522. Each of the stages through which Antonio de Nebrija’s life passed enriched his cultural heritage and allowed him to carry out an intellectual production that left an indelible mark in different fields, from philology to history, through pedagogy, although he would stand out as a grammarian and latinist. It is said that he is the author of the motto of the Catholic kings “Tanto monta”, in an allusion to the legend of the Gordian knot that Alexander “the Great” cut.19 He was also a printer in Salamanca and the first to claim copyright. In any case, in spite of this intellectual activity and his relative proximity to the circles of power, he had problems with the Spanish Inquisition, since he saw his papers confiscated by the general inquisitor Diego de Deza in 1504. Outraged, he proclaimed:  At the beginning of the sixteenth century, Nebrija elaborated two technical lexicons in Latin on the legal language, one in 1506, entitled Iuris Civilis Lexicon, later translated into Spanish and published bilingually (Latina vocabula ex iure ciuile in uoces hispanienses interpretata), and another, possibly, after 1508 which, lacking a title, has been called Novae Iuris ciuilis Dictiones or Novum iuris Ciuilis Lexicon by José Perona. These lexicons are nothing more than an expanded treatment of those juridical terms that appear in dictionaries (Perona 1994, pp. 65–89). 16  In a process initiated by Nebrija himself, and throughout the sixteenth century, multiple editions were made, in which new contents and commentaries were incorporated that ended up making the Latin grammar “a rambling and prolix work”, harshly criticized by the grammarians of the University of Salamanca, in whose statutes, of 1549 and 1567, it appears as the textbook of grammar. In order to stop the many discussions about the convenience of continuing to use Nebrija’s work, a provision of King Felipe II, dated 1 October 2th, 1598, urged its reform so that, once corrected, it would be used as the only text in the whole kingdom. Finally, it was the revision of Nebrija’s work carried out by the Jesuit priest Juan Luis de la Cerda which, by Royal Decree, would be taught in universities and teaching centres (Sánchez Salor 2003, pp. 11–32, 637). 17  “Vuestra Señoría me dijo que hiciese aquello mismo que a los otros había mandado, que no hiciese mudanza alguna de lo que comúnmente se encuentra in los libros antiguos”, letter from Nebrija to Cisneros, quoted in Perez (2014). 18  Perona Sánchez (1991, p. 201); Perona (2008, p. 261). Quite improbable, however, is the Chair of Botany at the University of Alcalá, which is assigned to him in a publication of 1851: “At the end of the fifteenth century, Cardinal Gimenez de Cisneros established the University of Alcalá, which soon became a hotbed of enlightened doctors, and the first in which we see a Chair of Botany, which was held by the famous Antonio de Nebrija” (Ruiz Giménez 1851, p. 372). 19  Anecdote related by Quintus Curtius Rufus, written in the first century CE. In any case, Nebrija’s authorship is problematic (González Iglesias 1997, pp. 59–75; López Poza 2012, pp. 1–38). 15


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Am I also to be compelled to disown what I know in those points which to me are clear, evident, notorious, manifest, brighter than light, and truer than truth itself? Must it be so in that which I assure, not proceeding like a hallucinated person, not giving opinions or hypotheses, but convincing with invincible reasons, irrefrutable arguments, and mathematical demonstrations? Or what a misfortune! What slavery is this! What iniquitous domination is that which by force of violence forbids one to say what one feels, even if religion is spared? And what is it to say? Not even writing alone within four walls is permitted; not even to inquire into the true meaning, if one utters words between one's teeth; not even to discourse with intent.20 Antonio de Nebrija

Nebrija is, on the other hand, not only the first grammarian but also one of the first modern Spanish scientists (Esteban Piñeiro 1994, p. 575). His legacy is still relevant today and in his own words is reflected the need for lifelong learning. Therefore, the role of Nebrija’s work was essential both for the promotion in Spain of the “new” Latin of Ciceronian character, as opposed to the traditional medieval one, much less elegant, based on the late imperial period and the doctors of the church, and for the improvement of Castilian as a scientific language. And the fact is that “Nebrija’s work is framed in a period that on the one hand vindicates classical Antiquity and at the same time turns its gaze towards Romance languages” (Perona 2010, p. 29). Indeed, since the thirteenth century, when Ferdinand III established Castillian as the official language of the Chancellery and his son Alfonso X confirmed its use in political matters and in literary prose, Castilian became progressively more widespread in a broader range of subjects (Ruíz Pérez 1987, p.  16), while Latin had become a foreign language for the vast majority of the population. However, although throughout the fifteenth century there were many scholars who translated Latin works into Romance, there was also a clear awareness of the difficulties involve. To try to solve these serious obstacles is what led Nebrija to elaborate his Arte de la lengua castellana and his bilingual dictionaries. In this way, Nebrija’s work was fundamental in the establishment of Castilian, and as he himself expresses in the prologue that, in his Arte, he dedicates to Queen Isabella, “language was always the companion of empire”, with which he explicitly recognizes the fundamental role of a language as a cultural vehicle. Along the same lines, another great humanist, the Valencian Juan Luis Vives, would affirm: But let scholars bear in mind that if they do not add other knowledge to languages, they have only arrived at the gates of those arts and that they are only hovering around them and peeping into the vestibule, and that it is no more valuable to know Latin or Greek than French or Spanish, without the advantages that their use can bring to scholars, and that all the languages of the world are not worth the trouble of learning them for their own sake, if through them one does not seek a utilitarian purpose.21

However, in contrast to the enormous diffusion achieved by the Introductiones latinae, with multiple reprints, his Arte de la lengua castellana had hardly any resonance, and no other edition is known after its princeps edition of 1492 until the

 In Llorente (1822, p. 230).  Juan Luis Vives, Las disciplinas, part II, book IV, chap. 1. In Obras completas, volume II, p. 612. Quoted in Mínguez Pérez (2008, pp. 59–68). 20 21

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eighteenth century. It is a publication made under the patronage of D.  Francisco Miguel de Goyeneche, Count of Saceda, and although it lacks a date, it seems probable, according to Galindo Romeo and Ortíz Muñoz, that it was made between 1744 and 1747, and they adduce as justification for this “inexplicable oblivion”, both the numerous criticisms that the work received and the grammars of other authors that were appearing throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (Galindo Romeo and Ortíz Muñoz 1946, p. XXI). Thus, in the 47 years that the reign of Isabella I and Ferdinand V lasted, from 1469 to 1516,22 the political, social and cultural change in Spain was immense, and humanism had not only firmly established itself in the country, but had developed its typically Spanish traits and had already borne its best fruits (Gil Fernandez 2005, p. 45).

1.4 The Emergence of the Printing Press and Its Impact 1.4.1 The Effect on the Spread of Humanist Ideas Alongside this enormous task of collecting and translating classical texts, a decisive element in the dissemination of culture and humanist thought was the invention of the printing press, developed in the 1440s by Johannes Gutenberg. This technological innovation played an essential role in the mass distribution of texts, both new and old. Different circumstances allowed the appearance and subsequent expansion of the printing press in Europe, among them the increase in the demand for books, due both to the role played by universities and teaching centres, and the growing level of literacy of the population, so that “knowledge ceased to be something exclusively linked to the texts of the curriculum of the universities” (Dear 2007, p. 51). Likewise, the development of the paper industry, which by the middle of the fourteenth century had already managed to surpass parchment as a physical medium, and technical advances in metals and their alloys for the manufacture of punches and dies, as well as inks, were fundamental for printing. The transition from the workshops of the amanuensis, which were not only linked to the monasteries, from “hand books” to “moulded books” was not abrupt. The former were mainly produced in the scriptoria of the most important monasteries, but also, from the twelfth century onwards, by some lay booksellers, whose production was intended for teachers and students of the emerging university institutions and for the mendicant orders. This duality in the production of texts, fully established in the thirteenth century, experienced a certain decline from the middle of the fourteenth century, so that between 1350 and 1450 there was a perceptible  Isabella I of Castile died in 1504 and Ferdinand became governor of Castile in 1504–1506 and 1507–1516, first in the absence of his daughter Joanna I and her husband Philip “the Fair”, and the second time after Phillip’s death. 22


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strengthening of monastic production that will coexist with printing in its initial phase (Eisenstein 1994. p. 21). Therefore, it is possible to conclude that, since its invention, the printing press did not immediately replace the manuscript book, but that even in the same establishment it was possible to transcribe texts and print, finishing manually some details, such as illustrations or capitular letters. One of the last businesses of this nature was that of Vespasiano da Bisticci, an outstanding character not only for his workshop, which had 45 copyists of Greek and Latin texts (Fontán 2008, p. 41), but also for his role in the formation of several very important libraries. As an example, he advised Cosimo de Medici in the gestation of the Laurentian Library in Florence, as well as Federico da Montefeltro in his humanist court in the duchy of Urbino. In any case, although in the sixteenth century there were still numerous texts circulating in manuscript form, as in the case of Nicolaus Copernicus’ Commentariolus, the printing press would end up winning the day. In fact, before the end of the fifteenth century and in the first third of the following century, printing spread from its original nucleus in Germany to most of the European countries, starting with the principalities and republics of Italy (Venice, Florence, Naples, Rome…. See Armillas Vicente 2012, p. 14). An important figure in the introduction of printing in Italy was the Dominican friar Juan de Torquemada, named cardinal in 1439 and linked by family ties to Tomás de Torquemada, Inquisitor General of Castile and Aragon. In 1465, while he was the abbot of the abbey of Santa Scholastica in Subiaco, in Lazio, two clerics, Conrad Sweymhein and Arnold Pannartz, skilled printers from the German city of Mainz, settled there, Juan de Torquemada took advantage of this circumstance to create what was to be the first Italian printing press, in whose workshops Cicero’s treatise De Oratore, three works by Lactantius and Saint Augustine’s De civitate Dei were printed (Espadas Burgos 2006, p. 62). The importance of their work lies not only in the fact that they reproduced classical works, but also in the fact that they were instrumental in the typeface used for the printing, a type evolved between Gothic and Carolingian, more fluid and easier to read. A second workshop, located in Rome, was also opened on the initiative of this cardinal, its printer being Ulrich Han, also of German origin, and from its presses came out in 1467 the work entitled Meditationes seu Contemplationes devotissimae, whose author was the cardinal himself, the first illustrated work printed in Italy, and possibly also the first published during the lifetime of its author, who died in 1468 (Fontán 2008, p. 35). The expansion of the printing press was spectacular from the 1470s onwards, not so much in terms of the number of printing centres, of which some 1700 have been counted in around 300 European cities, but also in terms of the number of texts printed. Thus, it is estimated that the overall production in the whole continent could have been 35,000 or 40,000 works or editions thereof, so that the total volume of “printed books” circulating in Europe at the end of that century could have amounted to 15 or 20 million copies. The largest production of incunabula books was Italian, followed by that of the Germanic printers and, in third place, that of the Castilian and Aragonese kingdoms (Fontán 2008, pp. 36–37). In the sixteenth century, the

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general expansion of this industry raised the number of titles to 150,000 or 200,000 and the volume of copies to around 150 million (Bennassar et al. 2005, p. 73). As far as the contents of the printed books are concerned, about 50% were religious in character or intended for worship, 30% were literary in subject matter, both classical and medieval or by contemporary humanists, while books of law or of a scientific nature made up the rest of the production, in equal parts. The first astronomical book in print, if calendars are not taken into account, was Sacrobosco’s Tractatus de Sphæra, the first printing of which appeared in 1472. Throughout the sixteenth century, more than 100 editions were produced, including those specially prepared for use by students of astronomy (Gingerich 1988, p. 269), since, de facto, for several centuries it was the standard text for initiation into this discipline, being translated into German, English, Italian and Spanish. The first printing of Ptolemy‘s Geographia, without maps, was made in 1475. Latin was the language in which more than three quarters of the “mould books” were printed, the remaining ones were in vernacular languages (Italian, French and Flemish) (Armillas Vicente 2012, p. 15). The first printing of a classical Greek text had to wait a few more years. It happened in 1488 in Florence, and it corresponded, of course, to Homer’s Odyssey. As humanist thought was imposed on society, and as the private libraries of the wealthy classes grew, both in number and in volumes stored, throughout the sixteenth century there was a qualitative change in terms of printed content, so that along with those of a religious nature, the publication of classical texts, Latin and Greek, experienced a major boom (Armillas Vicente 2012, p. 18). If in the early years of the introduction of printing it was a lucrative business, as there was no competition between the different printers, with the passage of time problems began to arise from fraudulent editions, which sold at lower prices, had their sale assured (Febvre and Martin 2005 [1st ed. 1962], p. 280). This would lead publishers to ask the public authorities for exclusivity on their works for a certain number of years. However, the concession of this prerogative had “serious consequences for the development and trade of books, as it produced an excessive centralization of printing” (García Cuadrado 1996, p. 129). This type of monopoly was applied in all countries and, probably the first one was granted to the printer Andrés de Bosiis in 1481, in the city of Milan, and in the following decade it would appear in Spain. With regard to censorship, it should be noted that, from an early date, the reprobation of texts was exercised by the Church when it considered that some printed works could spread ideas that disagreed with the Catholic faith, so it was necessary to control the publications. As early as 1487, Pope Innocent VIII issued a bull23prohibiting the printing of any book that might contain impious or scandalous  In the bibliography consulted, this bull receives two different names: Inter multiplices and Contra impressores librorum reprobatorum. The latter, which is mentioned by Professor Armillas Vicente (2012, p. 17), although without including any citation in this regard, possibly has its origin in the work that, in 1906, George Haven Putnam published entitled The censorship of the Church of Rome and its influence upon the production and distribution of literature, because as Joseph Hilgers refers, in the critical review that, in 1908, he made of this work, Haven Putnam wrote that: 23


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doctrines, but its application must have been of little success since, shortly afterwards, in 1501, Pope Alexander VI issued a new bull, with the same name as the one promulgated by Innocent VIII, Inter multiplices (Iglesias Feijoo 2016, p. 64), but with much stricter premises, imposing the prohibition of printing any kind of writing without the prior authorization of the ecclesiastical authority, as well as the censorship, both a priori and a posteriori, of the printing. The publication or possession of books whose content was “contrary to the Catholic faith, or impious, or scandalous, or offensive”, which were to be burned, could lead to automatic excommunication and a pecuniary penalty for the offender. Since the publication of this bull there have been many documents issued by the Church concerning the printing, control and censorship of books, and also the drawing up of indexes of forbidden works which, in disobedience to ecclesiastical authority, had nevertheless been published. Although already at the beginning of the fifteenth century, during the celebration of the Fifth Lateran Council (1512–1517) some lists of forbidden books were compiled, which would later be confirmed at the Council of Trent in 1546, the elaboration of the first pontifical index would take place in 1557, by order of Pope Paul IV and published in Rome in 1559 under the title Index auctorum, et librorum prohibitorum. The Council of Trent, which began in 1545 and had to be suspended on two occasions, would be convoked for the third time in 1562, and it addressed the question of the Pauline Index, which many considered excessively restrictive, and a commission was set up to complete it. Although the Council ended before the commission completed its task, the new Trentine Index was taken up by Pope Pius IV and published, also in Rome, in 1564, under the title Index Librorum Prohibitorum. In it the complete writings of 679 authors are censored, as well as 297 anonymous titles, without providing any arguments to justify the proscription. 1.4.2 Printing in Spain The arrival of the printing press in the kingdoms of Spain took place almost a decade after its introduction in the Italian peninsula. Previously, historical documentation seems to indicate the existence of a book import trade from Germany, but with the Catholic Monarchs the Crown maintained relations with various professionals and took measures to implement the new technology in their kingdoms, among them, the exemption of taxes to typographers (Ruíz García 2005, pp. 309–311), although the arrival of books printed outside its borders was also encouraged, exempting them from any kind of taxation.24 The first printers, although from Italy, were of German origin, and they were later joined by Flemish and Central European countries. There has been much “It is entitled: Bulla S.  D. N.  Innocentii contra Impressores Librorum Reprobatorum, and was addressed by Pope Innocent VIII to seven ‛governments’ […]” (Hilgers 1908, p. 25). 24  Novisima Recopilación de las Leyes de España, Madrid, 1805, Tomo IV, Libro VIII, tit. 15, Law I, pp. 120–121.

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speculation in academic literature regarding the location of the first printing press in Spain, but it is now accepted that it was in Segovia where it was established (De Los Reyes Gómez 2005, pp. 123–148), a circumstance that is not strange considering that this city was, along with Madrid, one of the enclaves where the itinerant Castilian court of Enrique IV usually stopped, and where there was a “Estudio”25 that, at first, had the chairs of Grammar, Logic and Moral Philosophy, created by direct initiative of the bishop Juan Arias Dávila, between 1465 and 1466 (Juárez Valero 2015, p. 222). Belonging to an influential Segovian family in the court of Enrique IV, he studied law in Salamanca and his fondness for books, as well as his relations with Rome, led him to undertake the task of introducing the printing press in his native city. The result of this is what is considered the first book printed in Spain, the Synodal of Aguilafuente, which collects the minutes of the synod, convened by Bishop Juan Arias Dávila, held in the parish church of Santa María, in the town of Aguilafuente, between 1 and 10 June 1472, printed by Juan Párix de Heidelberg who, although of German origin, had a printing press in Rome, from where he moved to the Castilian capital at the behest of Bishop Arias. According to Juárez Valero, the presence of Párix must have been closely related to the printing of manuals for the “Estudio”, and, therefore, his presence in the city, “is only justified by the teaching activity of the Segovian institution” (De los Reyes Gómez 2005, pp. 251–252, 207, 127). In the sixteenth century, a total of 528 works related to the physical-­mathematical sciences were published in Spanish printing presses, i.e. containing subjects relevant to physics, astronomy or mathematics, including also texts in which these subjects can be considered applicable, such as civil and military engineering, architecture, the art of navigation or non-descriptive geography. Astrology is also included because of the importance of this subject in the conception of the world and in the repertoire of knowledge and skills of astronomers (Fig. 2.1).26 At the end of the fifteenth century the Spanish cities that had printing presses were already numerous, among them Segovia, Salamanca,27 Seville, Gerona, Barcelona, Valencia, Saragossa, Valladolid, Burgos, Granada, among others, although their production was quite small in comparison with those of other European cities, since the total number of books that came out of the Spanish presses did not reach a thousand titles, which together with those produced in Portugal, did  Diego de Colmenares, in his Historia de la insigne ciudad de Segovia y compendio de las historias de Castilla, published in 1637, refers that Enrique IV granted a privilege, of thirty-eight thousand maravedíes, for the installation, under the supervision of the bishop, of a Study in Segovia that would contain the chairs of grammar, logic and philosophy (Juárez Valero 2015, p. 203). 26  Data from Navarro Brotons et al. (1999). 27  In her already classic book on printing in Salamanca, Luisa Cuesta Gutiérrez, points out that, according to D. Francisco Vindel, bookseller and expert bibliographer, Elio Antonio de Nebrija “[…] was the great director of the various printing presses that worked in Salamanca from 1480 to 1500 […]” although “[…] as a professor at the University, he could not put his name on this manual work, incompatible with his position” (Cuesta Gutierrez 1960, p. 11). Supposedly, many of Nebrija’s works would have come out of these printing presses, although, for the moment, there is no evidence to support his role as a printer. 25


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Fig. 2.1  Number of printed works on physical-mathematical subjects in Spain in the sixteenth century The graph shows the number grouped by decades and the detail according to cities

not represent more than 3% of the incunabula printed in Europe (Armillas Vicente 2012, p. 20). On the other hand, the books published in the first two decades of the sixteenth century,28 which do not differ from those of the previous century neither in the forms nor in the contents, reached the figure of more than 1400. According to the data compiled by Navarro Brotons and collaborators (Navarro Brotons et  al. 1999) and shown in Fig. 2.1 –inset–, the city of Salamanca led the production of works in the physical-mathematical field, followed by Seville. Possibly, the reasons are to be found in the university, in the first case, and in the presence of the Casa de Contratación, in the second. A breakdown according to subjects appears in Fig. 2.2. Subjects related to physics or astronomy clearly dominate, although navigation techniques and cosmography, again, are very present in Seville and Salamanca. The scarce development of printing, in these first decades of its introduction in Spain, is largely justified by a financial and technical weakness, to which must be added the scant volume of paper produced in the peninsula and, consequently, the need to import it, mainly from Italy and France. All this resulted in a high-cost end product that was therefore not very competitive. This is, perhaps, the reason that justifies the fact that a very substantial part, specifically 54.3% of the incunabula, was printed in the vernacular language and oriented towards the domestic market. Although in the last third of the fifteenth century, most of the printed books were

 The incunabulum period which, in the rest of Europe, ends in 1500, is extended, in the case of Spain, until 1520, given the particularity of printed production, with hardly any variations between 1472 and 1520 (Ruíz García 2005, p. 306). 28

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Fig. 2.2  Typology of physical-mathematical works printed in the sixteenth century, according to cities

bibles, bulls, breviaries, missals, books of confessions, divine offices, lives of saints and works of ecclesiastical patristics (Armillas Vicente 2012, p. 24), and only in certain areas was there a greater production of books in Latin intended for study (Pérez García 2013, pp. 67–68), before the end of the century, and in view of the difficulties faced by the workshops, the production would be oriented towards books for entertainment, which would surpass 50% of the editions. However, production was very limited, and the demand for them was met by importing them from European printers, who exercised practically absolute control, under the protection, as has already been pointed out, of the fiscal benefits emanating from the Crown. In any case, with the printing press, Europe was flooded with texts, which reactivated a true cultural revolution in an enterprise that could be described as pan-­ European, which did not distinguish specializations, and in which a complete type of intellectual stood out, the polymath, who wrote in a living, if not trepidating language, Latin. A language of culture and teaching, of international communication and diplomacy; a language with its own structures that influenced numerous generations of humanists, that shaped Western European languages beyond Romance languages, and that produced an extraordinary intellectual legacy.


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1.5 The End of Humanism in Spain On November 22nd, 1559 King Felipe  II promulgated a Pragmatica Real whose purpose was to prevent his Castilian subjects from being contaminated by the pernicious ideas that had spread beyond the Pyrenees and had led to religious reform. The penalty was the confiscation of all property and the loss of their rights as subjects. The ideological closure of Felipe II was incited by the general inquisitor Fernando de Valdés, also related to the process of the archbishop of Toledo Bartolomé Carranza, who was condemned to abjure several Protestant propositions. The interdiction would not disappear until 1718. It is worth including the text, because of the consequences it brought, since it is, for some authors, the end of humanism in Spain, by cutting off intellectual communication, or at least making it difficult, with the rest of Europe. For we are informed that, since in these our Kingdoms there are distinguished Universities and Studies and Colleges where all arts and faculties and sciences are taught and learned and studied, in which there are persons very learned and sufficient in all the sciences who read and teach the said faculties, yet many of our subjects and natives, friars, clerics and laymen, leave and go to study and learn in other Universities outside these Kingdoms, from which it has resulted that in the Universities and Studies there are not the number and frequency of students that there would be, and that the said Universities are daily decreasing and going bankrupt; And furthermore, the said our subjects who go out of these kingdoms, beyond the work, costs and dangers, with the communication of foreigners and other nations, are distracted and amused, and come to other inconveniences; and that the amount of money that is taken out of these kingdoms for this reason is great, from which the public good of this kingdom suffers considerable harm and damage. And our Council having discussed the aforesaid inconveniences and others that result and recur from the aforesaid, and the remedy and order that should and ought to be given, and having consulted with me, it was agreed: That we should and do command and do command all the Justices of our Kingdoms and all persons of whatever quality they may be to whom what is contained in this law touches and concerns, that henceforth none of our subjects and natives, ecclesiastics and laymen, friars and clerics or any others, may go or leave these Kingdoms to study or teach or learn, or be or reside, in Universities, Studies or Colleges outside these Kingdoms; And that those who until now and at present have been and reside in the said Universities, Studies and Colleges, shall leave and shall no longer be in them within four months after the date and publication of this law of ours. And that the said persons who, contrary to what is contained and commanded in this Our charter, shall go and leave to study and learn, and to teach, read and reside or reside in the said Universities, Studies and Colleges outside these Our Kingdoms, or those who, being already in them, shall not leave and depart outside these Kingdoms, who, being ecclesiastics, friars or clerics of any state, dignity or condition, shall be considered strangers and foreigners to these kingdoms, and shall lose and have the temporalities they have in them taken from them. And the laymen shall lose or incur the loss of all their goods and perpetual banishment from these kingdoms; and that the degrees and courses that they have in the said Universities, studying and residing in them against what We have ordered in this letter, shall not be valid nor can they be valid to one or the other for any thing or effect whatsoever. All of which we wish to be observed and fulfilled and carried out in all Universities and Studies and Colleges outside these Kingdoms, except in the Universities and Studies that are in our Kingdoms of Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia, to which the contents of this law do not extend nor are understood; nor with the collegians of the College of the Spaniards of Cardinal Don Gil de Albornoz in Bologna who are or will be and will be from now on in the

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said College; Nor with the natives of these Kingdoms who are and reside in Rome on other business, if in the University of Rome they wish to learn, hear and study; nor with our subjects and natives of these Kingdoms who reside and resided in our service in the city of Naples, and their children and heirs and other relatives who have and maintain in their house, who may hear and learn in the University of the said city of Coimbra in the Kingdom of Portugal, if they have and have chairs, or read or read for public salary. And we beg and charge the abbots, ministers, reformers and provincials to provide how the religious of their orders who are presently in the said Universities and Studies outside these Kingdoms, who are not of the above excepted, to come to these Kingdoms and comply with the above within the said term; and henceforth not to give license to any religious to go out to study at a University outside these Kingdoms against what is contained in this law.29 Novísima Recopilación, VIII, 4, 1

This law was neither the only nor the first step in that direction. If at first there was a certain freedom in the printing of texts, by the end of the fifteenth century the Spanish government began to intervene in the production of printed books, with a clear objective: the control of ideas. In effect, the Councils of Castile and Aragon established a series of instruments through which they exercised both prior civil censorship and the commercialization of printed works. Two were the tools implemented for this purpose, the license and the privilege (Gonzalo Sánchez-Molero 2009, p. 120). The first had an administrative character and consisted of the authorization to print that was granted, after review and censorship, by the monarch or delegated persons, or, failing that, by the religious authority in the case of works with this subject matter. The privilege, on the other hand, was, in fact, a commercial exclusivity that the Crown granted to a person or institution, for the edition of one or several works, for a number of years and for a specific territory. As it has been indicated, the first privilege of printing and commercialization of a work, granted by the Crown, took place in the last decade of the fifteenth century,30 but the procedure would be fully established at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The licenses and privileges, together with the aforementioned ecclesiastical bulls, led to the promulgation of the Pragmatica Real of July 8th, 1502, given in Toledo by the Catholic Monarchs, which established the “Diligences that must precede the printing and sale of books in the Kingdom, and for the course of foreigners”,31 by which the printing of printed books was forbidden without prior license from the Crown, and on their behalf the presidents of the Audiences of  The text appears in the compilation of the laws of Castile and Spain made by Juan de la Reguera Valdelomar by order of Charles IV, in Novísima recopilación de las leyes de España, printed in 1805, volume IV, book VIII, title IV, Law I, p. 21. 30  According to Gonzalo Sánchez-Molero (2009, p. 137), the British Hispanist Frederick J. Norton, in his work on printing in Spain, indicates that the first printing privilege in Spain was granted in 1498 to the physician Julián Gutiérrez; however, the fact that the printing of Nebrija’s Dictionary of 1492 includes the fee that had to be paid when applying for a privilege to print and market a certain work, seems to indicate that already at the beginning of the last decade of the fifteenth century, Nebrija obtained this royal concession. 31  Novisima Recopilación de las Leyes de España, Madrid, 1805, Tomo IV, Libro VIII, tit. 16, Law I, pp. 122–123. 29


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Valladolid and Granada, the archbishops of Toledo, Seville and Granada, and the bishops of Burgos and Salamanca. It was also forbidden to sell imported books without them having been “seen and examined by the aforementioned persons”. With these measures, censorship was exercised prior to printing and control over the trade of works already printed and brought from outside the borders of the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon, so that for those that were considered “apocryphal and superstitious, and reprobate, and things vain and unprofitable”, their printing or sale would be prevented. In the event that this rule was contravened, the books would be burned in the square of the place where they had been printed or sold, and the offender condemned to pay an amount equal to the value that the books would had reached. This unprecedented measure spread throughout Europe after the Lateran Council of 1512–1517 and the Council of Trent in 1564. The granting of printing licenses by the civil and ecclesiastical authorities was not very effective, so that, after the publication of the Pragmatica of 1502, and with the aim of ensuring the quality and suitability of the printed books, the Crown opted to replace the administrative control of the licenses with a strengthening of the privileges, which would be consolidated in 1510, so that a significant portion of the production passed into the hands of a few printers. At that time, printing was already fully established in Castile, and in contrast to the initial dispersion of the workshops, there was a concentration of them in Toledo, Seville, Salamanca, Burgos and Alcalá de Henares, near Madrid (Gonzalo Sánchez-Molero 2009, pp. 136–137). The mechanisms of control and censorship were intensified in the decades of the forties and fifties of the sixteenth century, with the elaboration of the index of forbidden books published in 1551 and the promulgation of a new Pragmatica in 1558,32 which established capital punishment and loss of goods, for those who introduced in the kingdom of Castile works written in Romance or for those who had printed or ordered to print texts in Romance, Latin or another language, without the necessary license, signed by the representative of the Council in charge of carrying out the examination and revision of the works. In the other possessions it was necessary the cooperation with the respective courts and only in Catalonia in 1573, Valencia in the 80s and in Aragon in 1592 a control by licenses would be implanted. In any case, according to Kamen (1997), the action of the Inquisitorial censorship in Spain was not as systematic and dominant of all aspects of everyday life as it is sometimes claimed (as it happened in the rest of the European countries where it acted), despite the halo of perverse efficiency, especially compared to the supposed laxity in other aspects of Spanish society. On the one hand, the Spanish Inquisition was established later than in other countries (such as France). In addition to political and religious control by the state structure,33 it was also used as an educational tool to eliminate poor quality literature (which could be considered a positive aspect to a certain extent) and also by private individuals in their feuds with others by

 Novisima Recopilación de las Leyes de España, Madrid, 1805, Tomo IV, Libro VIII, tit. 16, Law III, pp. 123–125. 33  An excellent novel description can be found in El Hereje, by Miguel Delibes (1998). 32

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denouncing them, especially in the academic world, as the case of Fray Luis de Leon shows. Finally, its influence on literary development was scarce (however, a few works such as El Lazarillo de Tormes would be banned) and null in the scientific one. Moreover, the lists of the infamous index of banned books and authors (and expurgated in Spain) were not the same in Spain and in Rome. Thus, although Tycho and Kepler were classified as auctores damnati, their books were allowed with minor expurgations and Galileo was not banned in Spain. Felipe II’s restrictive regulations may have been ineffective, as Goodman, among others, believes. Among the clear examples is the Spanish hegemony in cosmography in the sixteenth century or the role of El Escorial monastery in the development of alchemy and therefore of chemistry, especially due to the interest of King Felipe II. Be that as it may, the decline in the second half of the century of the number of Spanish scholars compared to other European countries is evident, as the tables of John Gascoigne compiled by J. M. Sánchez Ron clearly show (Picatoste y Rodríguez 1891; Sánchez Ron 1993, pp. 39–721; Carabias Torres 2012, pp. 37, 71). Although Spain was certainly not completely disconnected (not in vain astronomical observations were made at the end of that century, the nautical manuals of reference in Europe were Spanish and Cervantes echoes some of the most important discoveries and problems of the time), it was certainly one more barrier for a society linked to other interests, focused on the exploitation of the Empire, already in perpetual financial crisis and with a notable religious component, where a repressive apparatus, the Inquisition, nevertheless showed remarkable efficiency.

2 Cosmography in the Age of Humanism 2.1 Dante Alighieri’s Cosmography: From Medieval Times to Humanism Dante Alighieri (1265–1321) was the son of a nobleman in the thriving but politically turbulent Florence, where he enjoyed a fine education as a pupil of Brunetto Latini, secretary of the Republic. He was greatly influenced by the poet Virgil, whom he regarded as his guide on his journey through hell and purgatory (in Divine Comedy). Politically very active, he was exiled by a faction of his own party and therefore lived in many places, such as Ferrara, Perugia, Naples and Paris. In the latter, in his maturity, he may have completed his education. It is possible that he spent two years at the University of Bologna, between 1304 and 1306, when he arrived in Padua. His tutor was Brunetto Latini (ca. 1220–1294), a Florentine politician and scholar who wrote a compilation of the knowledge of the time, the Tresor, which also included astronomical content, and which was widely distributed. His work Il Tesoretto, which may have inspired Divine Comedy, is an allegorical poem that includes an episode with Ptolemy, although it was never finished. On the other hand,


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Latini was in contact with the Second School of Translators of Toledo because he was ambassador in the Castilian court. Among his other influences is the philosopher and alchemist Michael Scotus (Inf. XX, 115–117), who was also connected to the translating activity of Toledo and who worked for the Emperor Frederick II after living in that city. Dante shows in his work a superficial knowledge of Ptolemy, since in the three occasions that he mentions him the quotation is wrong (Convivio II. iii. 36–52, Vita Nova. xxx). Therefore, it seems that it was by reading Alfraganus (al-Farghani, 805–880) and his Elementa Astronomica that he learned about geocentric astronomy. Among his other classical references are Aristotle‘s De Caelo (through Latin translations), Albertus Magnus’ Meteora, The Dream of S cipio among other texts by Cicero, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, Lucan and Virgil, about whom he shows a deep knowledge. Paradoxically, there are no references neither to Roger Bacon nor to Sacrobosco, almost contemporaries, although there are references to Isidore of Seville and Beda, much earlier. Besides, he shows a great familiarity with the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas (Orr 1914, pp.  216, 232–233, 236–238, 241–242, 249–250). Among his astronomical sources could be the Muslim andalusian Sufi mystic Ibn al Arabi.34 The first exegesis of Dante’s work from the astronomical point of view was made by Alexander von Humboldt, in Cosmos.35 Antonelli wrote a first monograph (Antonelli 1865), although the most detailed study, including the historical context and with detailed explanations, corresponds to Orr (1914). All the writings attributed to Dante include astronomical notions and contain about 200 citations to the Sun, about 50 to the Moon, seven to eclipses, but only two to comets and another two to shooting stars. In Convivio there is mention both of Hipparchus’ stellar catalogue, assuming it was compiled by the “wise men of Egypt” (a reference to Alexandria, Conv. II, XV, 18–22), the value of the precession of the equinoxes, coming from Alfraganus (Conv. II, XV),36 the epicycles of Ptolemy‘s geocentric and geostationary theory (Conv. II, IV, 78–104), and earlier speculations involving the motion of the Earth (Philolaus, Conv, III, V, 29–52). But it is in The Divine Comedy, a cosmic journey to the center of the universe and from there to the outermost sphere, that Dante’s full vision of geocentrism unfolds and was essential to popularize his cosmographic vision. Dante wrote The Divine Comedy between 1307 and 1319, after his possible stay in Paris. More than 600 codices of the original text are preserved, a clear indication of its great popularity. The first printed edition dates from 1472. It is one of the greatest works of universal literature and the first to be written in Italian. This diffusion was essential in shaping the popular imagination of the late Middle Ages and  Especially in what refers to the description of hell (Asín Palacios 1919, p. 20; Garnier Morga 2018, p. 23). 35  Humboldt (1874). In vol. I, p. 307, Canto III of Purgatorio is analyzed, while in vol. II, p. 57, Humboldt states: “[…] the poet takes occasion from here to expound what was known of the recently discovered countries […]”, in reference to Canto X. 36  Orr (1914, pp. 2–5, 96–104, 253–257, 262, 288, 430–439). 34

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the Contemporary Age, in fields as diverse as the representation of Christian theology or the diffusion of Ptolemy‘s cosmological interpretation, with a spherical and immobile Earth located at the centre of the universe formed by several spheres. Despite the simplicity of the central idea of the text, it is a complex work and at certain moments of obscure meanings, with multiple allegorical images, and that had a great impact on many later works and authors. The Divine Comedy can be interpreted as a settling of scores with his political enemies as well as an exposition of his ethical principles, based on Christian tradition but strongly influenced by Greco-Roman classicism in the manner expressed by the poet Virgil. It is therefore a transition from Thomist orthodoxy to humanism and the Renaissance. The most complete cosmological description is found in Canto I of Paradise, where a geocentric cosmos is described according to Ptolemy‘s model (the order of which is thus: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, the fixed stars, and the movable Ninth heaven, and finally the Empyrean, which remains motionless in infinite space, Fig.  2.3). Additional references appear in Cantos I and VIII of Purgatorio, Cantos II, VI, XIV or XXV of Paradise, but especially in Canto XIII37: Let him imagine, who would well conceive What now I saw, and let him while I speak Retain the image as a steadfast rock, The fifteen stars, that in their divers regions The sky enliven with a light so great That it transcends all clusters of the air; Let him the Wain imagine unto which Our vault of heaven sufficeth night and day,

Fig. 2.3  Geocentric cosmology: Dante and Medina (a) Reconstruction of the cosmography depicted in The Divine Comedy According to fig. 45 of M.A.  Orr (1914). (b) From the manual by Pedro Medina Arte de nauegar, 1545. Biblioteca Nacional de España  Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy, Paradiso, Canto XIII.  Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.



2  Humanism as a Trigger for the Scientific Revolution So that in turning of its pole it fails not; Let him the mouth imagine of the horn That in the point beginneth of the axis Round about which the primal wheel revolves,-To have fashioned of themselves two signs in heaven, Like unto that which Minos’ daughter made, The moment when she felt the frost of death; And one to have its rays within the other, And both to whirl themselves in such a manner That one should forward go, the other backward; And he will have some shadowing forth of that True constellation and the double dance That circled round the point at which I was; Because it is as much beyond our wont, As swifter than the motion of the Chiana Moveth the heaven that all the rest outspeeds.

As far as Dante’s geographical vision is concerned, it must be borne in mind that his work predates the arrival of Ptolemy‘s Geographia in the West by many decades, although it is possible that he had a broad world view due to his interaction with merchants and navigators who had in turn been in contact with their Muslim counterparts, which would have allowed him to extend his geographical horizons. Obviously, he does not follow the Geographia, since he describes a Mediterranean Sea of 90 degrees, when Ptolemy calculated 62 degrees, the Alfonsine Tables give a value of 52 degrees and the true longitude is only 42 degrees.38 Its main geographical source is Paulus Orosius, a fifth century Hispanic author who in turn would have relied on Strabo. The oikouménē would occupy a quarter of the terrestrial sphere and a longitude of 180 degrees from the Iberian Peninsula to the Far East, when the true distance is slightly more than half, with Jerusalem in the center. It can therefore be concluded that, in opposition to his quite acceptable astronomical knowledge, his very orthodox and conservative geographical view contains significant deficiencies. The Convivio includes numerous references, while in the opuscule Questio de aqua et terra some geographical references appear, and he tries to explain the presence of emerged continents.39 The idea of an uninhabited Antipodes appears clearly in the description of Ulysses’ last voyage, present in The Divine Comedy40: Thereafterward, the summit to and fro Moving as if it were the tongue that spake, It uttered forth a voice, and said: ‘When I From Circe had departed, who concealed me More than a year there near unto Gaëta,

 His texts imply 180 degrees of separation between Spain and the Indus, with the episode of the eclipse during the crucifixion (Purg. XXVII. 1–5; Par. XXIX. 97–102) or the 90 degrees with Morocco (Purg. IV. 136–139). This world view is explained in more detail in Quaestio de Aqua et Terra (Qu. XIX, 38–52), see Orr (1914, pp. 239–240). 39  Garnier Morga (2018); Barrado Navascués (2020, pp. 7–10). 40  Dante, The Divine Comedy, Inf. Canto XXVI, Translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. 38

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Or ever yet Æneas named it so, Nor fondness for my son, nor reverence For my old father, nor the due affection Which joyous should have made Penelope, Could overcome within me the desire I had to be experienced of the world, And of the vice and virtue of mankind; But I put forth on the high open sea 100 With one sole ship, and that small company By which I never had deserted been. Both of the shores I saw as far as Spain, Far as Morocco, and the isle of Sardes, And the others which that sea bathes round about. I and my company were old and slow When at that narrow passage we arrived Where Hercules his landmarks set as signals, That man no farther onward should adventure. On the right hand behind me left I Seville, And on the other already had left Ceuta. ‘O brothers, who amid a hundred thousand Perils,’ I said, ‘have come unto the West, To this so inconsiderable vigil Which is remaining of your senses still, Be ye unwilling to deny the knowledge, Following the sun, of the unpeopled world. Consider ye the seed from which ye sprang; Ye were not made to live like unto brutes, But for pursuit of virtue and of knowledge.’ So eager did I render my companions, With this brief exhortation, for the voyage, That then I hardly could have held them back. And having turned our stern unto the morning, We of the oars made wings for our mad flight, Evermore gaining on the larboard side. Already all the stars of the other pole The night beheld, and ours so very low It did not rise above the ocean floor. Five times rekindled and as many quenched Had been the splendor underneath the moon, Since we had entered into the deep pass, When there appeared to us a mountain, dim From distance, and it seemed to me so high As I had never any one beheld. 135 Joyful were we, and soon it turned to weeping; For out of the new land a whirlwind rose, And smote upon the fore part of the ship. Three times it made it whirl with all the waters, At the fourth time it made the stern uplift, And the prow downward go, as pleased Another, Until the sea above us closed again’.

This text, together with Canto XXXIV of the Inferno, provides the most detailed description of Dantesque geography.


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In conclusion, his work does not stand out for its original cosmographic contributions, which are totally absent, but because it represents, like Ptolemy in the second century CE, a complete synthesis of the knowledge acquired or recovered at the beginning of the fourteenth century. It provides an integrated and visually powerful image, which was disseminated very effectively with a new literary vehicle, the vernacular novel, which greatly facilitated its propagation. Thus, Dante’s work became the most effective tool for the ultimate penetration of Ptolemy‘s geocentric model in the West.

2.2 Science in the Context of Humanism Some authors postulate that the recovery of the manuscripts of classical authors during the fifteenth century, unlike what happened in the twelfth century, did not lead to a revival of ancient knowledge from a scientific point of view, since the vast majority of the rediscovered works were linked to literature or art. During the Renaissance, the main current of thought, humanism, was manifestly opposed to Aristotelian postulates, to those of the scholastics and to the traditional teachings of the universities, and its followers, who focused their work on newly discovered works of classical literature, were opposed to the scientific enterprise. As Kuhn (1985) states: “If humanism had been the only intellectual movement of the Renaissance, the Copernican Revolution might have been long postponed. The work of Copernicus and his astronomical contemporaries belongs squarely in that university tradition which the humanists most ridiculed”. In the same line of thought, Fr. Oskar Kristeller, one of the most important researchers of the Renaissance in the twentieth century, affirms: Renaissance humanism was therefore not, as such, a trend or a philosophical system, but rather a cultural and educational program, in which an important but limited field of study was focused and developed. This field had at its center a group of subjects whose primary interest was neither classics nor philosophy, but something we might roughly describe as literature. This singular literary concern gave its peculiar character to the very intense and extensive study that humanists devoted to the Greek and, especially, the Latin classics, distinguishing it from that of scholars devoted to the classical world since the second half of the eighteenth century. More abundantly, the studia humanitatis included a philosophical discipline - that is, morality - and excluded by definition fields such as logic, natural philosophy and metaphysics, as well as mathematics, astronomy, medicine, law and theology, to mention only those areas of study firmly established in the university activities and classification schemes of that period. In my opinion, such an insistent fact provides irrefutable evidence against repeated attempts to identify Renaissance humanism with the philosophy, science, or scholarship of the period as a whole. For all these reasons, I would like to understand Renaissance humanism, at least in its origins and in its typical representatives, as a broad cultural and literary movement which, by its essence, was not philosophical, but did entail important philosophical notions and consequences. I have not succeeded in discovering in humanist literature any general

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p­ hilosophical doctrine, other than a belief in the value of man and the humanities and in the renewal of ancient wisdom.41

In contrast to this vision is the translation and edition of numerous scientific works during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Among them, the Geographia of Claudius Ptolemy or the rescue of other texts by Mela or Pliny stand out. Likewise, the recovery of literary texts by relevant figures in European science of this period, such as Nicolaus Copernicus, is also noteworthy. Nebrija himself is an exponent of this activity in both cases. In addition, other works of mathematical, physical or related disciplines, such as those of Archimedes, Euclid, Apollonius or Vitruvius, among others, were also recovered, edited and commented. It is, therefore, a global enterprise, which knew no spurious distinctions between the various disciplines of knowledge. In any case, this indifferentiation between humanities and science is a characteristically generic one. There are many examples in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries of complete intellectuals and, in fact, in the field of astronomy both Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler were prolific poets. And in the first case, translator from Greek into Latin of the Epistles of the Byzantine historian Theophylact Simocates, his only contribution to the prevailing humanism until the appearance, probably posthumously, of De revolutionibus, in 1543. Since their creation in the thirteenth century and their expansion throughout the different European countries, significantly throughout the fifteenth century, the universities became the centre of knowledge in the late Middle Ages. In them, the faculties of letters were in charge of teaching the liberal arts, in which the knowledge of natural reality was linked to natural philosophy and mathematics, a subject that included arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music (quadrivium), the latter two being the most important. This differentiation between natural philosophy and mathematics was already established by Aristotle, who considered that the disciplines of the quadrivium did not provide causal explanations, so that the astronomer-­ mathematician simply described the movement of celestial bodies, while the natural philosopher gave an explanation of why this movement occurred (Dear 2007, p. 43). The relevance that astronomy attained in this context of the late medieval university, and at the dawn of the Renaissance, is justified by two types of reasons: on the one hand, its eminently practical character, including the elaboration of calendars, and on the other, its usefulness when it came to making horoscopes. In this last aspect, it is worth remembering that astronomy and astrology were two closely linked disciplines, and that in order to practice astrology it was necessary to master the science of the movement of the heavenly bodies, that is, astronomy. There was, on the other hand, in the medieval university tradition, a complex relationship between astronomy and cosmology. Thus, while the former focused its objective on giving numerical support, by means of calculations, to celestial phenomena, the latter focused its attention on explaining them from theoretical models, of clear Aristotelian roots or even earlier, in which celestial dynamics was reduced 41

 Kristaller (1982, pp. 40, 5. Translated from the Spanish version).


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to perfect, uniform and circular motions, and among them, without a doubt, the approaches established in Ptolemy‘s Almagest were the ones that gained the greatest acceptance. Although, as has already been pointed out, it is possible that Boethius translated this treatise directly from Greek into Latin, it is certain that the dissemination of the Ptolemaic work would take place from the translation of the Arabic text into Latin by Gerard of Cremona in the second half of the twelfth century, which would become the reference treatise of medieval Latin astronomers. The approach of Ptolemaic astronomy is based on a clearly Aristotelian argumentation, which starts from a geocentric consideration of the universe, in which a spherical and static Earth would be located in the centre, surrounded by celestial bodies that, in circular orbits, would rotate around it. However, these circular trajectories did not correspond to the reality of the observations and, although already in the transition between the third and second centuries BCE, Apollonius Perge was able to establish the concepts of epicycles and deferents, as well as the theory of eccentric orbits, it would be Claudius Ptolemy who would develop it in his Syntax. His complex model of the universe would become not only the one used by most astronomers, but also the basic content of the teaching of astronomy in the universities during the High Middle Ages. If we look at the hierarchy of disciplines in the medieval university, it is evident that cosmology, focused on questions related to the nature of the cosmos and its movements and, therefore, in close connection with natural philosophy, will hold a pre-eminent position with respect to astronomy, whose practical application was valued above all. This would be the situation of the science of the cosmos from the introduction of the Almagest until the second half of the fifteenth century. Undoubtedly, a basic milestone in astronomical knowledge, in this new historical stage, is the publication of the work De revolutionibus orbis coelestium, by Nicolaus Copernicus in 1543, which takes up the idea, already pointed out by Aristarchus of Samos in the third century BCE, of the heliocentrism of the celestial sphere. This theory would be supported by the later works of Giordano Bruno, Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, as the most outstanding figures, and would culminate, well into the seventeenth century, with Galileo Galilei. As it has been pointed out, the Tractatus de Sphæra de Sacrobosco was the first European treatise on astronomy that, already in manuscript version, had a wide diffusion since its writing in the second quarter of the thirteenth century. During the following two centuries, the contributions were very scarce, being reduced to commentaries and similar texts on this work, and it is possible to affirm that, until the middle of the fifteenth century, the astronomical knowledge in Europe, in the field of planetary astronomy, did not experience great advances. But, from the second half of the fifteenth century until the publication of the Copernican work, the development of astronomical science was marked by a series of scholars whose works would have as a culmination a change in the cosmological paradigm prevailing until then. Perhaps the most traditional humanism, understood as a discipline that does not separate activities such as literature or grammar from those understood as purely scientific (mathematics, astronomy, physics, chemistry), came to an end with the

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exhaustion of the discovery of classical culture, after finding most of the surviving texts in the different libraries: there were no more Greek manuscripts to be translated and assimilated, nor virgin Latin texts to be commented on. Therefore, the mastery of Greek was no longer necessary, and Latin was gradually displaced by the vernacular languages, which, however, took Cicero as their model. This phenomenon coincides with the specialization by areas, which could be related. The few texts that remained in relative anonymity were not so relevant and could be left for experts focused on very specific disciplines. Thus, in the transition between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the era of the great polymaths was over. The Scientific Revolution was beginning and man’s capacity not only to measure Nature by its anthropocentric parameters, but also to model it according to his desires.

2.3 Leonardo da Vinci: The Ignored Humanist In this second half of the fifteenth century, in which knowledge was basically derived from learning from the studia humanitatis, the figure of Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) arose, who, apart from his extraordinary artistic work, for which he was recognized during his lifetime, has come to be defined as “the (unrecognized) father of modern science” (Capra 2007). Unlike the vast majority of Renaissance scholars, Leonardo was not a scholastic and for him the principle of authority of classical authors was relative, in the sense that the works of ancient writers could be a starting point, but never conclusive. True science, for Leonardo, had to be based on the observation of nature and experimentation, and that was precisely the procedure with which he approached his work. William Dampier points out that Leonardo intuitively perceived and effectively used the experimental method, a century before Francis Bacon theorized about it and Galileo put it into practice. A method that could be defined today as proto-­ scientific. However, as has already been pointed out, there were scholars who preceded him in its application, although da Vinci approached science from a practical point of view, which gives his intellectual attitude the qualification of “modern” (Dampier 1971, pp. 105, 103). Leonardo learned Latin late, so neither manuals nor libraries were his usual working tools,42 a circumstance that caused the reprobation, by the supporters of the studia humanitatis, of his working method, of which da Vinci defended to the hilt: I am sure that, because I am not a person with literary training, someone presumptuous will consider it reasonable to criticize me under the pretext that I am an illiterate man, foolish

 Nor did his private library have a large number of volumes, as can be seen from the inventory of them made by da Vinci himself and which appears in two of his codices. On the one hand, in the Codex Atlanticus (Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, f. 207 n° 1r), he lists a total of 37 volumes, to which we should add another seven, among those lent to friends or quoted by Leonardo himself in some passage of his manuscripts (D’Adda, 1873) and, in the Codex Madrid II (ms. 8936, Biblioteca Nacional de España, f. 2v-f.3r) the number of titles rises to 117. 42


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people! […]. They will say that because I do not have a literary education I will not be able to explain what I want to discuss. Well, they do not know that my objects of study need to be treated more from experimentation than from the words of others. The teacher of those who write valid things is experimentation and, consequently, I will consider it my teacher and in all cases I will refer to it.43

Given his lack of knowledge of the Latin language, Leonardo’s literary work is written in vernacular Italian, although it is true that his manuscripts contain abundant lists of Latin terms, clear evidence of his effort to acquire sufficient knowledge of this language. In fact, it is noteworthy that Leonardo repeatedly quotes classical authors, from which it follows that he came to read their texts, especially with the aim of refuting their arguments.44 His ideas, research, experiments, inventions and field notes were recorded by Leonardo in different notebooks through what he called ricordi or notes. Although Leonardo’s intention, expressed in some passages, was to compile in several books the notes written on a particular subject,45 the truth is that he never carried out this task, and only drafts of work are available today, as is the case of the Codex Madrid I (ms. 8937)46 or the Codex Leicester, of which Leonardo never made a final version, so he never published his works. There could be two reasons why his contributions did not go into print: on the one hand, the fact that his prolific mind led him constantly to add new ideas, or to vary some already expressed in previous notes, so he never considered any topic closed. On the other hand, Leonardo manifests in certain passages a criticism of the printed books since he considers that they lose their uniqueness, although, paradoxically, in the Codex Madrid II indicates a formula for stamping.47 The first printed work of Leonardo, which dates from 1651, 132 years after his death, was the Trattato di pittura,48 which, in fact, is the result of the compilation work carried out by the painter Francesco Melzi, Leonardo’s most advanced pupil and to whom Leonardo bequeathed his manuscripts.

 Codex Atlanticus, Milan, Biblioteca Ambrosiana, f. 119v.  Richter (1883a, b, vol. II, p. 135). This work, written in two volumes, is the first transcription and translation of Leonardo’s original manuscripts. 45  Thus, for example, in f. 4v of Codex F, written in Milan, in 1508, and currently preserved in the library of the Institute of Paris, Leonardo indicates that “For the reasons of the greatness and power of the sun, I reserve the fourth book for you […]”. Likewise, on f. 1r of the Codex Arundel, today kept in the British Library in London, he states the intention that the notebook, which he begins on March 22, 1508, “[…] elaborated from many loose sheets, which I will copy here, hoping to distribute them correctly later according to the subjects treated in them”. 46 47  Codex Madrid II, Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España, fol. 119r. 48  Trattato della pittura di Lionardo da Vinci, Nouamente dato in luce, con la vita dell’istesso autores, escritta da Rafaelle du Fresne, Giacomo Langlois, Paris, 1651. [online], . A Spanish translation of this work was made by D.  Diego Antonio Rejón de Silva, in 1827 (Vid. El Tratado de la pintura por Leonardo de Vinci y los tres libros que sobre el mismo arte escribió Leon Bautista Alberti, Imprenta Real, Madrid, 1827. [online], 43 44

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After his death, his works aroused great interest, both from experts in different subjects, who obtained manuscript copies of some texts that, nevertheless, they could read with difficulty given the specular writing used by Leonardo, and, above all, from collectors and bibliophiles, so that after Melzi’s death, in 1568, his legacy was dispersed and sold to private nobles, but fortunately, over time49, was donated or acquired by public institutions in Italy, France, England and Spain, and only one codex, originally called Leicester, which was auctioned in 1995 and acquired by the computer magnate Bill Gates, remains in private hands today. The Vincian manuscripts preserved today are composed of about 6500 autographic pages, which, according to the calculations made by specialists, are equivalent to about 40% of its total production (Ruiz García 2012, p. 108). For Leonardo, the universe could be explained from the mathematical sciences that “are those that through the senses reach a first degree of certainty. And there are only two, of which the first is arithmetic and the second, geometry”, of which, perspective is “the firstborn daughter […] insofar as its craft deals with the visual lines, which extend between the object and the eye […]”.On the other hand, perspective is the origin of astronomy “[…] because the height and magnitude of the celestial bodies are measured in astrolabes by means of lines of sight. It also includes the lines of natural movements, with which the world is measured.” Likewise, for da Vinci, from the conjunction of arithmetic, geometry and perspective, “[…] astronomy was born, which by means of the visual ray determines with numbers and measurements the distances and measures of the celestial bodies, as well as those of the terrestrial ones.”50 Leonardo’s cosmological model was the prevailing one of his time (Fig.  2.4), that is to say the Aristotelian-Ptolemaic one, participating, therefore, of the geocentric theory that he justifies in the following paragraph: “Let a be the center of the weight of the earth; m is the center of the weight of the sphere of water; n is the universal center of the world. Therefore, if water and earth are considered as forming a single body, we may affirm that there is a single centre, common with the centre of the universal world.”51 There are several representations made by Leonardo in which he draws the course of the Sun around the Earth, and contained in different manuscripts, both of his Lombard period (1483–1500) as in those that collect later annotations (codices Arundel, Leicester and Ms. F –Pedretti 1957, p. 121– and Madrid I). As an example,  Although a good part of the Leonardine legacy passed from one hand to another, evidently with a clear intention of profit, the methods used for this purpose were, on some occasions, absolutely reprehensible, as in the case of Guglielmo Libri, who, as an inspector of libraries in France, stole from the library of the Institut de France, in 1840, the final notebooks of manuscripts A and B, which he later sold to the great English bibliophile Lord Ashburnham, who, on learning of this outrage, returned them to their place of origin in 1891. Libri is also credited with the theft of the last notebook of manuscript E, in the same library, which, unfortunately, is still lost. A character who, of course, clearly deserves to be called a “bibliopirate” for his criminal and unscrupulous actions (Ruiz García 2012, p. 136). 50  Codex Madrid II, Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional de España, fol. 67r, 62r bis, 67r. 51  Codex Madrid I, Biblioteca Nacional de España, fol. 6r. 49


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the following paragraph, included in the latter codex, explains the different size of the Sun perceived throughout the day: “I affirm that, when the sun appears above the horizon and the same when it moves away from it, the apparent size of its figure. Is much greater than when the sun is above us”.52 This estatement presupposes, therefore, a displacement of the star. Another example, written down in 1511 in one of his notebooks, states that: “The Earth cannot be the centre of the Sun’s orbit nor the centre of the universe”.53 It is, therefore, evident the terrestrial mobility. In the last stage of his life, there seems to be a change in this cosmological approach that has led some authors, and especially Carlo Pedretti, historian and

Fig. 2.4  Fragment of fol. 6r of the Madrid I Codex Leonardo justified here the geocentric theory. In the original the writing is inverted. Biblioteca Nacional de España (Leonardo Da Vinci, Codex Madrid I (Mss. 8937) Treatise on Statics and Mechanics, [online], , , [accessed: 19 June 2019].)

 Fragment in which Leonardo justifies the different size of the Sun along the day according to the route made by this star. Codex Madrid I, Biblioteca Nacional de España, fol. 5v. 53  “The earth is not the center”, in Richter, The Notebooks. II. 137, no. 858; and Cusanus 1954; quoted in Lester 2009, p. 395. 52

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possibly the leading authority on the work of Leonardo da Vinci, to propose a shift towards heliocentrism. Thus, in a note dated 1508, Leonardo indicates that “The earth is not in the center of the solar circle nor in the middle of the world, but in the middle of its elements that accompany it and that are united to it”.54 A consideration that would lead him to affirm, in 1510, in a note in the margin of a folio of anatomical content that “The Sun does not move”.55 As Richter warns, it is an isolated affirmation, without any other type of commentary or explanation. However, it is also true that Leonardo may have had some knowledge regarding the heliocentric theory, since his great friend Luca Pacioli was a professor of mathematics at the University of Bologna, at the time that Copernicus was part of the same as a law student, and combined that task with his astronomical observations, in close collaboration with Domenico Maria de Novara (Truffa 2007, pp.  840–841), who would also be Professor of Astronomy in the Bolognese study, and who is argued that he would have been a disciple of Pacioli. Apart from these possible personal connections, it is certain that Leonardo may have had some knowledge of the heliocentric ideas of Copernicus that, fruit of his work with Novara and his own observations, would be reflected in a brief work, supposedly written in 1507, entitled Nicholai Copernici de hipothesibus motuum coelestium a se constitutis commentariolus (Brief commentary of Nicolaus Copernicus on his own hypotheses about the celestial motions), which circulated only in manuscript form. However, Leonardo’s astronomical contributions must be put in close relation with his superior interest in optical studies, from which he made different observations of the celestial bodies, in particular the Sun and the Moon, not so much of their movements but of their perception by the human eye and on the diffusion of light from one celestial body to another. In this last aspect, it is worth noting that, although Leonardo did not make great contributions in the astronomical field, we owe to him, however, the first drawings showing the surface characteristics of the Moon.56 Leonardo was also the first to explain what is known as cinereal light (Codex Leicester, f. 2v), a phenomenon, long observed since antiquity but, until then, lacking justification. Indeed, Leonardo, through his studies on the optics and the reflection of the light, determined that the total visibility of the Moon, by means of a tenuous luminosity, when this one is in its crescent phase, was due to the reflection of the light of the Sun, that from the oceans of the Earth, arrived at the Moon, that contained, atmosphere and oceans. Although really our satellite lacks these two elements, and that most of the reflection of the solar light does not come from the oceanic masses of the planet Earth, but from the cloudy formations of its

 Codex F, Bibliothèque de l’ Institut de France, f. 41v.  Pedretti (1957). Without any comment on a supposed heliocentric implication, this note by Leonardo was already indicated, in the last quarter of the XIX century, by J.P. Ritcher, who made the first extensive transcription and translation of the original manuscripts (Richter 1883a, b, vol. II. p. 152). 56  These are two drawings contained in the Codex Atlanticus showing “with clarity and precision the lunar seas” (Reaves and Pedretti 1987, pp. 55–58). 54 55


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atmosphere, the certain thing is that Leonardo approached the origin of the question with certainty. Finally, it is possible that Leonardo made his own estimation of the size of the planet, and that even this determination was used for the manufacture of some of the first terrestrial globes that included the Iberian discoveries (Missinne 2015, pp. 239–307). On the other hand, in his work it is shown that he was inspired by Ptolemy‘s cartography for his anatomical descriptions.57 The fact that he did not publish his works and that, after his death, they were acquired by collectors and bibliophiles, meant that his magnificent work remained hidden for centuries. It is worth asking, then, how science would have evolved if this had not happened, and in this sense, it is significant the reflection that the Austrian physicist Fritjof Capra, made in a work published in 2007, in which he points out that: “While Leonardo’s manuscripts gathered dust in the ancient libraries of Europe, Galileo was regarded as ‘the father of modern science’. I am deeply convinced that the true founder of modern science was Leonardo da Vinci, and I wonder what the evolution of Western scientific thought would have been if his notes had been known and studied immediately after his death.”

2.4 Astronomy in the Fifteenth Century There are two reasons that justify the progress of this science from the second half of the fifteenth century: on the one hand, the needs derived from navigation, and on the other hand, the possibility of having new sources of information. In fact, the voyages initiated at the beginning of the fifteenth century by the Portuguese in the Atlantic, along the African coasts, which would have their culmination at the end of that century with the first landing of Columbus in America, demanded a continuous improvement in the navigation techniques and in the elaboration of maps, aspects intimately related to astronomical knowledge. The voyages progressively provided information that made it possible to question the old descriptions of the Earth and, in particular, the theories of Ptolemy, which were rediscovered practically at the same time. Likewise, in this progress in the knowledge of the cosmos, played a role of first order, the recovery of the manuscripts that, basically, from Constantinople and from the libraries of the European monasteries, were coming to light throughout the fifteenth century. Not only were the originals of essential works of the Greco-Roman period rescued, until then only known through their translation into Arabic, but what is perhaps more relevant, new works that had disappeared until then. The fundamental astronomical text, Syntaxis Maghiste by Claudius Ptolemy, was known in the West by its Arabic translations, where it was called Almagest, and from which its 57  Veltman, Leonardo da Vinci: Studies of the Human Body and Principles of Anatomy, [online], , [accessed: 29 October 2018].

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content was transferred to Latin. When scholars could count on the Greek originals, it was not possible to impute the inaccuracy of the Ptolemaic system to correctly foresee the celestial movements to the errors derived from the multiple and successive translations made into Arabic. In spite of this, the first printing of the Ptolemaic work did not take place until the beginning of the sixteenth century, from the Latin translation, made in the twelfth century by Gerardo de Cremona, who belonged to the first school of translators of Toledo, and that would be improved in 1528 by Giorgios de Trebizonda. The version in its original Greek would be printed in 1538, following a manuscript that had belonged to Johann Müller “Regiomontanus”, together with the commentaries of Theon of Alexandria. On the other hand, the work carried out by Peuerbach led him to state, already in the second half of the previous century, that it was necessary for astronomers to work from the Greek originals. This “new” source of information allowed astronomers to conclude that Ptolemy‘s original formulation was inadequate. There is no doubt that the rational synthesis of scholasticism helped to prepare men’s minds by teaching them that an understanding of the universe was possible. But the method used became inadequate when they began to observe and experiment. It was necessary to establish a different basis for the knowledge of nature, so that the deductive method of Aristotle or Thomas Aquinas necessarily had to be replaced by an inductive method based on observation and experimentation (Dampier 1971, p.  105). This method was first applied by mathematicians and astronomers from the beginning of the fifteenth century and, above all, in the second half of that century. In this epistemological progress, which began two decades before the birth of Copernicus, it is worth mentioning the contributions made by a series of scholars whose works gave rise to a European astronomical tradition, confronted with the Ptolemaic work, thus allowing a certain evolution of astronomy. It is, in the transition between the Middle Ages and the Modern Age, when original contributions are produced by different astronomers, among them, Nicholas of Cusa, Georg von Peuerbach, Toscanelli, Johann Müller “Regiomontano”, Martin Behaim, Petrus Apianus, Francesco Maurolico, Gemma Frisius, Erasmus Reinhold and Christopher Clavius. Nicholas of Cusa58 was born in 1401 near the ancient Roman city of Trier, near the Moselle River, in the town of Cusa (Bernkastel-Kues), and died 63 years later. As a cardinal and polyglot, he was one of the ambassadors sent by the pope to Constantinople in 1437 to negotiate the union of the Orthodox Church with the Catholic Church, nominally carried out at the Council of Basel-Ferrara-Florence (1431–1445), a circumstance he took advantage of to search for manuscripts with the aim of incorporating them into the corpus of knowledge of the West. An avid bibliophile, he bequeathed his large collection of texts, gathered in his pilgrimages

 O’Connor and Robertson, “Nicholas of Cusa”, [online], , [accessed:3 September 2015]. 58


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through different countries, to the hospital he founded in his hometown, where a large number of codices are still deposited. Apart from his work on the reform of the calendar, he excelled in mathematics, law, theology, diplomacy and astronomy, among many other subjects. His interest in the latter discipline, somewhat belatedly, began in 1444, with the acquisition of 16 books dealing with this science and different instrumentation, still preserved today in his city of origin. Besides carrying out an update of the Alfonsines Tables, with the purpose of making more adjusted predictions of the positions of the Sun, the Moon and the five known planets, Nicholas of Cusa stood out, without a doubt, by his cosmological conception, of marked neoplatonic sign, in which the universe was an infinite sphere in whose interior the stars would be, or fixed, or in movement (Kuhn 1978, p.  301). The Earth would rotate around its own axis (“ad centrum mundi moveri”) and, possibly, at some point, perhaps he also speculated about its orbit around the Sun.59 In this sense, it is worthwhile to quote here what Alexander Humbolt wrote in his great work Cosmos: “[…] it is also fair to say that about a hundred years before Copernicus, the German cardinal Nicholas of Cusa had enough courage and independence to proclaim again the double motion of our planet” (Humboldt 1875, p. 193). Moreover, he pointed out that the stars, the Sun and the Earth should be of the same nature, that is, they would contain the same elements, although mixed in different proportions. An idea, undoubtedly, very innovative and far-sighted. This cosmological conception, which however had already been expounded by Nicholas Oresme in the previous century, as has been pointed out, makes Nicholas of Cusa, to a certain extent, one of the forerunners of the heliocentric theory, at a time when approaches of this nature were considered heretical. However, although his works would reach wide circulation and great influence, he would never be, as happened to Oresme, criticized by the Church, much less condemned as a heretic, as would happen to Giordano Bruno who, for maintaining similar theses, although more revolutionary, was condemned to the stake in 1599. Georg von Peuerbach60 lived between 1423 and 1461. Like Nicholas of Cusa, he noticed the errors accumulated by the tables of Alfonso X, in his case as a result of the advance of eight minutes in a lunar eclipse over the predicted time, so he recalculated and published them under the name of Tabulae Eclipsium. Among his astronomical observations, there is also the one of the passage of Halley’s comet in 1456, which would be used, three centuries later, to determine the periodicity of its orbit. He was possibly the inventor of Jacob’s rod or crossbow (Carabias Torres 2012, p. 81). In addition, he carried out an important pedagogical work, remarkable  Strobl (1970, p. 344) states that “Cusa, who already anticipated Einstein’s general theory of relativity: seen from the earth, the sun moves; seen from the sun, the earth moves”. However, perhaps it would have been more accurate to suggest that he anticipated Galileo’s relativity. No one could have anticipated special relativity (which is the extension of classical relativism) and of course general relativity. 60  O’Connor and Robertson, “Georg Peurbach”, [online], , [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 59

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not only for the trips and conferences given in diverse countries, but, mainly, for the publication of three works: Theoricarum novarum planetarum testus,61 in which he expounds the Ptolemaic cosmological system in a clear and accessible way; his Algorismus, a book of initiation to arithmetic, with decimal numbers and fractions, which was widely distributed; and his Epitome in Ptolemaei Almagestum, a direct translation, following the suggestion of his protector Cardinal Johannes Bessarion, of Claudius Ptolemy‘s Almagest, carried out together with his disciple Regiomontanus. In fact, it is an abbreviated version of the Alexandrian text, but updated with new measurements, which would become a canon of Latin astronomical science from its appearance in 1462, and although it would not be published until 1496, exerting great influence in the formative programs at the end of the fifteenth century (Dear 2007, p.  66). In addition, also with the collaboration of Regiomontanus, he produced the first systematic table of sines that would be of great use for astronomical calculations (Cotter 1968). It was through Peuerbach’s works that Copernicus came into contact with Ptolemaic theories, and his reference work would be the Epitome in Ptolemaei Almagestum (Dear 2007, p. 51). Johann Müller “Regiomontanus”62 (1436–1476), of humble descent, his prodigious mind enabled him to enter the University of Leipzig at the early age of 11 and, though quite brief, he had a life rich in events and contributions. In addition to completing the translation of the Almagest, begun by his teacher Peuerbach, he produced scientific instrumentation of remarkable quality. Both through his relationship with Cardinal Bessarion, and later with the Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus,63 he had access to a large number of rare manuscripts (in the latter case because of the Magyar’s victorious campaigns in the Balkans against the Ottomans and subsequent plundering). In 1464, he wrote De triangulis omnimodis, a systematic exposition of trigonometry, including the spherical, which was basic to the development of astronomy. During the time he lived in Nurenberg, and with the financing provided by Bernhard Walther (Lynn 1889), Regiomontanus was the architect of the construction of what can be considered the first astronomical observatory of the Modern Age in Europe, which he himself used in his research and which is the basis of his manual Scripta de Torqueto, Astrolabio, Regula Magna Ptolemaica to build astronomical instrumentation, in which astrolabes, ballistae, quadrants (Fig. 2.5, Figs. 1.6 and 1.7), sundials and the torquetum are described. With his precise instrumentation he also observed the passage of Halley’s comet in 1456. In addition, he greatly improved the theory of lunar motion and asserted that its position relative to the stars (the method of lunar distance, published in his  With this text, Peuerbach intended to offer an improvement of the Theorica planetarum, the anonymous work, which, since the thirteenth century, was used, among others, in the teaching of astronomy, and to which reference has already been made in the preceding chapter. 62  O’Connor and Robertson, “Johann Müller Regiomontanus”, [online], , [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 63  Matthias Hunyadi or Matthias I Corvinom, king of Hungary from 1458 to 1490. He promoted the Renaissance in his dominions. 61


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Ephemerides in 1474 and covering up to 1506) could be used to determine longitude properly, thus anticipating, by three centuries, the resolution of the problem. His influence was so extensive that Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci,64 during their voyages to the New World, would use his ephemerides to determine the longitudes of their locations. He also wrote on calendar reform in Kalendarium and De Reformatione Kalendarii, and in his own printing house he published numerous scientific works, both contemporary, medieval and ancient, thus becoming the first scientific publishing house. Meanwhile, the cartographer Nicholas Germanus produced the first celestial and terrestrial globes in 1477, based on the work of Claudius Ptolemy and the translation, made decades earlier, of Jacobus Angelus of Scarperia, which unfortunately have not survived. The one that has come down to us is the terrestrial one (Erdapfel) by  Martin Behaim, dated 1492 (Fig. 1.23), the oldest one preserved. Completed before Columbus’ return on his first voyage to America, it does not include the New World and shows a large ocean between the west coast of Europe and the East.

2.5 Astronomy in Sixteenth Century Up to the Publication of De Revolutionibus In this first half of the century, precopernican,65 Francesco Maurolico66 (1494–1575), Petrus Apianus and Regnier Gemma Frisius stand out. The first one, of Greek origin although established in Messina, would contribute, among other questions, to the precise measurement of the size of the Earth, proposing, in his Cosmographia, the method that Jean Picard would use in 1670. He would translate, and also restore from fragments, numerous texts by Theodosius of Bithynia, Menelaus of Alexandria, Autolytus of Pitane, Euclid, Apollonius of Perga and Archimedes. Among his astronomical observations are data of the supernova of 1572, sighted by him five days before Tycho Brahe, although he did not publish anything about it. However, he was among the first to openly attack Nicolaus Copernicus for his heliocentric theory. Petrus Apianus67 (Peter Apian, 1495–1552) would reach the dignity of imperial mathematician with the Emperor Charles V, to whom he would dedicate his Astronomicum Caesareum in 1540, where the idea of using eclipses of the Sun to determine the longitude is promoted. He also studied Halley’s comet and was the  In reality it is not entirely clear whether this cosmographer made all the voyages he claimed to have made. 65  The authors listed below are contemporaries of Copernicus, probably unknown to the latter’s greatest work, except Gemma Frisius who seems to have had a copy of it. 66   O’Connor and Robertson, “Francesco Maurolico”, [online], , [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 67  O’Connor and Robertson, “Petrus Apianus”, [online], , [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 64

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Fig. 2.5  Cross-staff or ballestilla, an astronomical ring, equatorioum and mural quadrant (a) The ballestilla allows the measurement of angular distances, although in a very inaccurate way. They are taken from the Spanish version of Cosmographia (1548), by Peter Apianus. (b) Demonstration of the use of an astronomical ring, in Cosmographia. (c) The equatorium is an analogical system that allows to calculate with simplicity the ephemeris, in this case of Jupiter. Taken from Astronomicum Cesareum (1540), by Pianus. (d) Quadrans Apiani astronomicus et iam recens inventus et nunc primum editus (1532), by Apianus. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 02193-14r, 02193-66v, 15963-D, and 02688 Gr)

first to realize that the tail of this type of object is always aligned with the Sun. Previously, in 1524, he had published Cosmographia seu descriptio totius orbis, a basically Ptolemaic work but incorporating the Iberian findings in the east, south and west. Until the end of the sixteenth century, this work was considered a standard manual of descriptive and practical geography and astronomy, so it was the subject of numerous editions, reprints and translations.68 He produced the first complete  The numerous editions of Apianus’ Cosmographia in the sixteenth century are listed in Carabias Torres (2012, p. 89): 1524, 1529, 1533, 1535, 1539, 1540, 1544, 1545, 1545, 1548, 1550, 1551, 1553, 1564, 1574, 1575, 1584; see also Hallyn and Lammens (2007, vol. I, p. 394).



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large-scale map of Europe, but unfortunately it has been lost. Extraordinarily practical in his works, he was ennobled by the emperor and enjoyed an extraordinary salary and notable privileges (he received for Astronomicum Cesareum 3000 gold pieces and was named knight of the Holy Roman Empire, Crane 2003, p. 172). Finally, Gemma Frisius69 (Jemme Reinerszoon, 1508–1555), although of limited financial means, made his way into the academic world through his intellectual gifts. Although he studied medicine and worked as a doctor and professor of that subject at the University of Louvain, it was mathematics and cosmography to which he devoted his research and work. He reprinted Apianus’ Cosmographia in 1529, only five years after the first edition. The following year appeared De Principiis Astronomiae Cosmographicae70, which consists of three parts related to the principles of astronomy and cosmography, the use of globes, and a geographical description of the Earth. It is probable that this work was written as an explanatory text of one or several globes that Frisius had built or had in preparation, since it contains one of the first technical but practical explanations of the parts and uses of a globe, as well as a detailed interpretation of how these instruments can be used in cosmographic studies (Stevenson 1921, pp. 102–105). This work contains one of the two most relevant contributions of Frisius, the mechanical clock, for the determination of longitude by means of the time difference between two locations. In the 1533 edition of Cosmographia, he added another work of his, Libellus de locurum describendorum ratione et de eorum distantiis inveniendis, where his second contribution, the cartographic triangulation for the determination of distances is described for the first time in full. This book also contains a description about how to apply the method of the time difference, derived by mechanical methods, to estimate longitude at sea. In 1534, he published Usus annuli astronomici, in which he describes the improvements he introduced in an instrument, the astronomical ring (Fig. 2.5), a kind of armillary sphere, of small size, with three movable rings for the horizon, the equator and the Ecliptic (Hallyn and Lammens 2007, p. 394), which was very popular until well into the eighteenth century. He worked together with the famous goldsmith of Louvain Gaspard Van der Heyden, whose Latin name was Gaspar de Myrica, in the manufacture of instrumentation, maps and terrestrial globes. In the legend of the celestial globe dated 1537 appears a third specialist, Gerard Mercator, who between 1534 and 1536 received from Frisius scientific and technical training and, at the latter’s request, also knowledge of the art of engraving in the workshops of Van der Heyden (De Smet 1964, p. 45). Later it would be Gerard Mercator who would left his imprint in this discipline and change the representation of the world. Although Frisius was familiar with the theories of Copernicus a decade before De revolutionibus saw public light, thanks to the copy provided to him by Johannes Dantiscus, a Polish poet and diplomat who is considered to be the highest  O’Connor and Robertson, “Regnier Gemma Frisius”, [online], , [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 70  Gemma Phrysius, De Principiis Astronomiae Cosmographicae, Deque usu globi ab eodem editi. Item de Orbis divisione, et Insulis, rebusque nuper inventis, Gregorium Bontium, Ambreres, 1530. 69

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representative of humanism in his country, it was not until 1545 when, in his De Radio astronomico, he clearly expressed his preference for the Copernican tables on lunar motion over those elaborated by Ptolemy, while severely criticizing the theory of homocentric spheres that Girolamo Fracastoro had tried to reintroduce in the 1930s (Hallyn and Lammens 2007, p. 394). In fact, basic astronomy, based on epicycles, was not the only one in use in the middle of the sixteenth century. Curiously, the homocentric theory of Eudoxus and Callippus returned with unusual force, thanks to Giovanni Battista della Torre, Girolamo Fracastoro and Giovanni Battista Amici (Dreyer 1953, pp. 305–312), in an attempt to avoid epicentrics and other mathematical artifices. Della Torre is the author of a work entitled Le sfere omocentriche in which he sought to revive the cosmological model in which the universe was configured by a set of concentric spheres whose movements combined to produce those of the planets and other celestial bodies. This work was not published during the author’s lifetime, but in 1538, four years after his death. Girolamo Fracastoro (c. 1477–1553), a renowned physician and humanist, was a professor of Logic in Padua between 1501 and 1509, so he coincided with Nicolaus Copernicus when he studied there and it is likely that they interacted and discussed astronomy, a subject to which Fracastoro dedicated two treatises.71 In the first of these, published in Venice in 1535, entitled Homocentricorum sive de stellis, and based on an earlier proposal by Giovanni Battista della Torre, he formulated a complicated system of 77 crystalline spheres –eleven more than those established by Aristotle– centred on the Earth, associated in groups with movements perpendicular to each other, to describe the observed trajectories of the planets and the sphere of the fixed stars. This treatise did not enjoy great repercussion, due in good measure to the lack of clarity of its explanations and to the complication of the system. Another work by Fracastoro is his De sympathia et antipathia rerum, published in Venice in 1546, in which he affirms the existence of a harmonious and homogeneous universe as a whole, governed by physical causes that exclude any supernatural explanation. With an independent work, Giovani Battista Amici published in 1536 a treatise entitled De motibus corporum coelestium iuxta principia peripatetica sine excentricis et epycicles, which is much clearer in its exposition than that of Fracastoro. After reviewing the theories of Aristotle, Eudoxus and Callippus, Amici expressed his total disagreement with the existence of epicycles and eccentrics, used by those authors in their explanations, and took up again the system of homocentric spheres as the basis of his cosmological conception. A promising career that was skewed before the great revolution established from the publication of De revolutionibus, because Amici died at the early age of 26–27 years, “by an unknown murderer, it is believed, for envy of his knowledge and virtue”, according to his epitaph (Di Bono 1990).  Pastore and Peruzzi (eds.), (2006). The second treatise, entitled Homocentrica, was published in 1539, although it is possible that there was a first edition of 1535 (Dreyer 1906, p. 297), but in a more recent work (Prins 2014, p. 264, note 142), these two treatises are cited. 71


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In any case, both the theory of epicycles and the theory of homocentric spheres shared the same problems: the inability to explain the variation in brightness of the planets and their angular sizes, phenomena that actually occur because their distances from the Earth vary as they orbit the Sun, just like our planet. Heliocentrism will save the situation with a much simpler solution, but one that will require a complete paradigm shift.

2.6 Humanism and Science in the Kingdoms of Aragon and Castile Humanism penetrated Spain in its three branches: Erasmian, Ciceronian and Ramist (anti-Aristotelian). The expression “scientific humanism” has been coined by some authors (Flórez Miguel et al. 1999, quoted in Sánchez 2011) to refer, above all, to the activity of the cosmographers of the University of Salamanca in the crucial period of the Iberian discoveries: when ships and men from Portugal and Spain sailed new waters, defying classical geography, breaking the barriers of the known world until then. This type of humanism emerged in Spain together with the scholasticism resulting from the assimilation of Greek, Hellenistic and Islamic knowledge that had dominated academic culture in Renaissance Europe until the mid-fifteenth century. Scientific humanism was nourished by astronomical (and astrological) currents from Vienna (and Montpelier), Italian humanism (Bologna), Parisian nominalism and Averroism, and the Oxford school of calculators. Salamanca exerted considerable influence in astronomy, natural philosophy and physics. As an example, the foundations of modern dynamics were laid by Domingo de Soto. Also in the emergence of law and economics. This movement also tried to recover the geographical knowledge of Antiquity “through philologically refined editions and direct translations, free of medieval inaccuracies” (Carabias Torres 2012, pp. 66–69, 111). Given its focus on cosmography, perhaps the expression “humanistic science” would be more appropriate, as it can be extended to the whole continent. The universities of Salamanca and Valencia, focused on what would later be called Erasmist humanism, trained new generations of cosmographers who were strongly involved in the imperial expansion and the associated discoveries, but above all in the geographical revolution that allowed its interpretation and that preceded the change from geocentrism to heliocentrism and the new scientific paradigm. Antonio Nebrija was educated in the first, while Luis Vives was taught in the second. 2.6.1 Cosmography in the University of Salamanca Salamanca, with both Hispanic and Lusitanian professors and an activity that was projected to both countries, stood out especially as a propitious environment for the symbiosis between the associated knowledge of the rediscovered Latin and Hellenic

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texts, and the new scientific knowledge, coming to a great extent also from the ancient ones. Salamanca collected in its melting pot the medieval scientific ideas coming from the Islamic, Jewish and Christian culture, to a great extent by the two Schools of Translators of Toledo, and a new reality coming from the calculators of the University of Oxford, the Aristotelian philosophy, and the new science of Peuerbach and Regiomontanus (Sánchez 2011). However, Salamanca was not free from the action of the Spanish Inquisition, established in Castile in 1478,72 since, to give an example, there was a book burning at the university in the 1480s (Kamen 1997, p.  103). In any case, Salamanca stood out for astronomy, the recovery of works on geography by Pliny, Ptolemy and Pomponius Mela, and the dissemination of the work of Euclid. Language took on special importance, since only precision allowed an exact explanation and a correct transmission: thus the scientific language arose. And astronomy was at the centre of the scientific disciplines (Sánchez 2011), not only because it was part of the quadrivium or mathematical arts, but also because of its obvious practical applications. Salamanca was, then, a true melting pot of sciences and letters in the broadest sense, probably favoured by combining in its educational programme the heritage of the Muslim and Hebrew cultures, so close in time and place to the Christian one. The image of the Schools of Translators of Toledo and the atmosphere fostered by Alfonso X of Castile were probably still present. Castilian was in some cases the actual teaching language in Spanish universities, going against the its statutes. In any case, the teaching of astronomy in Castilian was authorized in Salamanca. Be that as it may, numerous texts of cosmography were written in Castilian, thus anticipating Galileo73 in the use of the vernacular language. The University of Salamanca was essential in the diffusion of astronomy in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The situation of the teaching of this subject, prior to the publication of the first syllabus in 1538, is only known through non-legislative sources and account books (Carabias Torres 2012, p. 97). In the early 1460s, the first chair of this subject was established there, which was held by Nicolás Polonio, possibly of Polish origin and a fundamental figure. In the transmission of knowledge about astronomy in this university.74 Indeed, among the materials that form part of  It has to be remembered that the Inquisition was established in 1184 by means of the bull Ad abolendam by Pope Lucius III, in order to fight the Cathar heresies in the Langedoc and the Waldensian heresies, originating in Lyon (Strayer 1992). In Aragon it was established in 1249. With the Isabell of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragons, and the Hapsburg Spanish dynasty, it would be the only court with jurisdiction in all of Spain. 73  Carabias Torres, (2012, pp. 96, 124). Note that Leonardo Da Vinci also wrote in the vernacular. 74  The professors of Astrology at the University of Salamanca since its foundation were: Nicolás Polonio (¿? – 1464); Juan de Salaya (1464–1469); Diego de Calçadilla (1469–1476); Fernando de Fontiveros (1476 – ¿?); Diego de Torres (¿? – ¿?); Rodrigo de Vasurto (¿? – 1504); Sancho de Salaya (1504–1542, with doubts about his professorship). Since the acts between 1481 and 1503 are missing, it is possible that Abraham Zacut enjoyed the post during that interval. Be that as it may, he was a protégé of Bishop Gonzalo de Vivero (bishop 1447–1480) and at least he taught various disciplines of the quadrivium at least in the Lesser Schools (the so-called Private Study). See Cantera Burgos (1931, pp. 72–73, 75). 72


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a voluminous manuscript of Spanish origin, today preserved at the University of Oxford, and which is essential for the history of astronomy in Spain (Chabás 1998, p.  167), there is, among others, a set of tables, the Tabulae ad meridianum Salmantinum, as stated in the first of them, calculated for Salamanca taking 1460 as the year radix. These tables are based on the Alfonsine tables and represent, therefore, the first evidence of their use after they were compiled during the first half of the thirteenth century by the astronomers at the service of King Alfonso X. It is a particular way of presenting the Alfonsine tables, called Tabulae resolutae, which differs in many aspects from the first printed edition of the tables (Venice, 1483). Besides the tables, in the mentioned manuscript another document is included, organized in 18 chapters, on the use of some astronomical tables, canons destined to the students of Salamanca and in which it is explained how to realize the computation of the positions of the Sun, the Moon and the other five planets, ascendants, times of syzygy (conjunctions or oppositions) or how to elaborate an almanac. Although nothing is actually mentioned in the Oxford manuscript about the author of the tables and canons, it is very possible that it was Nicolás Polonius, since at least three times he is recognized as such by Diego de Torres, professor of astrology at the University of Salamanca, in his Opus astrologicum (1487). What does seem certain is that Polonius brought with him a version of the Tabulae resolutae on his arrival in Salamanca with the intention of using them as a textbook (Chabás 1998, pp. 168, 167, 172). Salamanca also played an important role in the diplomatic “Great Game”,75 intervening in the geostrategic game with Portugal, with whom they competed for the rights granted by the discovery of the different lands beyond the seas (ignoring that of the original inhabitants), a competition that began with the right of sovereignty over the archipelago of the Canary Islands. Thus, cosmographers of the university were in the negotiations of the treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 for the delimitation of the border in the Atlantic according to a meridian that went from pole to pole. This situation was analogous to the one that would occur several decades later in the negotiations that would lead to the Treaty of Saragossa in 1529 and the location of the antimeridian at 297.5 leagues east of the Moluccas Islands. This division would be valid for both countries until its abrogation in 1750 (Gil Fernández 2013, pp.  37–53). In this aspect, much more political, Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca (1451–1524, who was closely linked to that of Nebrija himself (Sagarra Gamazo 2006, pp. 29–40), played a very significant role. Somewhat later, the figure of Juan Pérez de Moya stood out, among others, with his Tratado de cosas de Astronomia y Cosmographia y Philosophia Natural, of 1573. The texts of Euclid or Aristotle were synthesized together with the new geographical discoveries to reinterpret reality (as was the case of Juan Martínez Silíceo, Pedro Margallo and Fernán Pérez de Oliva), the geographies of Pomponio Melo and Claudio Ptolomeo were publicized (Elio Antonio de Nebrija, Francisco Núñez de la

 To a large extent, it was a precursor of the British and Russian empires in the middle of Asia during the nineteenth century (Meyer and Brysac 1999). 75

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Yerba and Hernán Núñez de Toledo y Guzmán “el Pinciano” ), and the planet was divided into four parts as opposed to the traditional three of classical culture (the aforementioned Pedro Margallo and Fernán Pérez de Oliva and also Martín Fernández de Enciso). Pliny “he Elder”, Seneca, and again the work of Mela were commented (Hernán Núñez de Toledo “the Pinciano”). 2.6.2 Abraham Zacuto One of the most relevant figures in the field of astronomy in this period is the Jew Abraham bar Samuel bar Abraham Zacut or Zacuto, born in Salamanca in 1452. The traditional source on his life and work dates back to the works carried out in the 1930s by Francisco Cantera Burgos (1935). However, the recent study carried out jointly by J. Chabás and B. R. Goldstein (2000) is, in the words of Julio Samsó “the first serious attempt to evaluate these works and place them in the context of Iberian astronomy at the end of the Middle Ages” (2004, p. 82). The research work carried out by Chabás and Goldstein has served, in addition to analysing Zacuto’s work in depth, to clarify and clarify some aspects related to the biography of this Jew from Salamanca. In this sense, it is necessary to indicate that if Zacuto has traditionally been linked to the University of Salamanca, either as a student or as a teacher, the truth is that there is no documentary proof in this respect, although what is very probable is that he was aware of the astronomical work developed in that institution, given “the similarities of some of his astronomical tables with others that have been preserved in Latin manuscripts elaborated at the same time in Salamanca” (Chabás and Goldstein 2009, p.  20). Nor does the patronage of Gonzalo Vivero, bishop of this city, seem to be real, a circumstance pointed out by Cantera Burgos, and deduced from one of the clauses of the prelate’s will (Cantera Burgos 1931, pp. 76). Chabás and Goldstein (2009, p. 21) do not consider that this testimony is sufficient to define the bishop as “protector of the Jewish sage”, “generous protector” and “great friend and protector” (Cantera Burgos 1931, pp. 65, 77 and 141), nor that Zacutus dedicated his main astronomical work to him (Chabás and Goldstein 2009, p. 21). The decree of expulsion of the Jews from the crowns of Castile and Aragon in 1492 led to his exile, despite having the patronage of important figures (Bishop Gonzalo de Vivero and the nobleman Juan de Zúñiga y Pimentel), possibly due to his deep religious beliefs. His next stage was in Portugal, where he was linked to the court of the monarchs João II and Manuel I, and to which, possibly, he had access through the intermediation of Diego Ortiz de Calçadilla, an ecclesiastical dignitary of high rank there and who had been professor of astronomy at the University of Salamanca (Chabás and Goldstein 2000, p. 13.). The expulsion of the Jews caused some 120,000 people to cross the border into Portugal. Others crossed the Pyrenees or left for different destinations in the Mediterranean. Zacuto gave a brief account of this human and intellectual bloodletting:


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On Monday, the 25th of June in the year 1492 I left Alcalá de Fenares, at noon, not to return, for King Don Fernando and Queen Doña Isabel –annihilated be their name and their memory–banished all the Jews who were under their empire. The edict (or order of departure) took place in the month of April until the end of 3 months of the said year and on the 9th of Ab was carried out (or confirmed) the edict, the year 5252 of the Creation. And I set out for Cartagena by sea in a ship from Gerona on a Friday, the eve of the Sabbath, at dark on the 20th of July, arriving at Gerona on Thursday, the first of Elul, after six days of sailing, and we settled (or dwelt) there at the beginning of the month and of the [Atonement?]. We left that place on a Saturday, the first day of the feast of Tabernacles, and went to Chio and then to Xakshi on a Wednesday, at about 3 o’clock in the day or January of the year 1493, and I offered the betrothal feast to my wife, the second night, at two o'clock in the evening of the 14th of the said month, and my brother did the same at the departure of Saturday, the 20th of the said month.

His journey did not end there, as the persecutions against the Jews began in Portugal in 1496, which forced Zacuto to leave the country for Tunisia. The threat of Spanish invasion pushed him to Turkey or Jerusalem or Damascus, where he would end up dying (Cantera Burgos 1931, pp. 64–66, 79–81, 124). Regarding cosmography and Zacuto’s influence on navigation techniques and the Age of Discoveries, it is possible that he was part of the committee that advised the Catholic Monarchs when Christopher Columbus travelled to Salamanca seeking the support of the crown (1486–1487).76 His previous relationship with Columbus and the support he gave him seems to have been confirmed (Pérez 2005, p. 224). The works attributed to Abraham Zacuto are: Sefer Yuḥasin (Book of Genealogies); Bi’ur Lufíot (or Almanach perpetuum), a compendium of the larger work Ha-jibbur ha-gadol (Jiburr, Magna Compilation or Magna Compositio); Sefer Tekunat Zakkut; Arba’im la-Binah; Hosafot le-sefer ha-ʿAruk; Matok Lannephex; Do clima e sitio de Portugal; Tratado de las ynfluencias del cielo; and Juyzio de los eclipses. Several types of texts can be distinguished: cabalistic, lexicographical, historical, geographical and astral (Cantera Burgos 1931, p. 82ff). Besides, he was one of the last medieval astronomers to write his treatises in Hebrew. His intellectual recognition is undoubtedly based on his astronomical activity. His first book on this subject is the so-called ha-Ḥibbur ha-gadol (The Great Composition), composed between 1470 and 1478. Of this work different manuscripts in Hebrew and Latin have been preserved, and only one translation of the canons into Spanish, made in 1481 by Juan de Salaya, professor at the University of Salamanca, with the help of Zacuto himself.77 The Hibbur is characterized for including precise tables with the positions of the planets, which facilitated in an extraordinary way its use. The essential advantage for navigation was that it allowed the determination of the position (latitude) by measuring the declination of the Sun with the astrolabe. It was especially useful when approaching the equator, when the use of the polar star was not possible. Vasco da Gama, after an apprenticeship with

 Bernáldez (1870, chapter CXVIII). Although it is not so clear that such a consultation was made. Note 18 in Cantera Burgos (1931, p. 79). 77  Cantera Burgos (1931, p. 20). This manuscript is preserved in the Library of the University of Salamanca (ms. 2–163). 76

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Zacuto, used this methodology in his voyage to India and from then on Lusitanian ships benefited from this technique.78 The transcription of this manuscript was made by Cantera Burgos (1931, p. 152), and in the first paragraph of it, Zacuto justifies the reason that leads him to the elaboration of this work: and also in the compilation of these tables we fulfilled the root of what was necessary for our law of the science of astrology for the months and for the passovers which is to know on which day the moon will appear according to what the rabbi moisem of Egypt wrote in the ordinances of sanctifying the month […] and to understand some steps of the talmuth that speak in these cases and all this will be clarified by these tables and you will see that slightly you will make all the rules that rabi moisen wrote that were necessary to see the moon […] and it was necessary to make these tables because it was not enough to know the conjunctions only because sometimes the sight of the moon comes earlier and sometimes it is delayed. And according to this this commandment and this judgment by the conjunctions that rabi Jacob puel made […] and for this reason I took out the course of the sun and the moon for each day […].

In conclusion, Zacuto’s work has, as its first objective, to determine the days in which the new moon is visible, a fundamental phenomenon in the Jewish calendar since, from its visibility, the beginning of a new month and the different festivities are established. The ha-Ḥibbur ha-gadol is, therefore, an almanac comprising a set of astronomical tables, whose radix year is 1473, to calculate the positions of the planets taking into account their own cycles, although, as Zacut himself indicates, he was the first to “make an almanac for the moon” (Cantera Burgos 1931, p. 152). This treatise has, besides the tables, 19 chapters that constitute the explanatory canons of the use of the tables and that were object of the translation of Salaya before mentioned. Thus, concludes Berthold Cohn that: “For this reason, his influence on the development of practical astronomy his Time, nautical, has been a far-reaching, and has in this way indirectly contributed to the great maritime successes and Portugal and Spain in the late fifteenth century and during the course of the sixteenth century” (Cohn 1917, pp. 102–23; Cantera Burgos 1931, p. 144). From his Hispanic period are, likewise, two other works, composed during the time that he was, as it has already been indicated, at the service of D.  Juan de Zúñiga, last Master of the Order of Alcántara, in the town of Gata, Extremadura, the Tratado breve de las ynfluencias del cielo,79 and De los eclipses de sol y la luna, in which Zacuto cites a third work written by himself and entitled Juyzio del eclipse, in reference to the solar eclipse of March 16th, 1485, but of which nothing has been preserved.  A description of Zacuto’s influence on Lusitanian nautical tables can be found in Pereira Da Silva 1914–15, pp. 883–898, quoted in Cantera Burgos (1931, p. 124). 79  In the Chronicle of the Order of Alcantara, of Fray Alonso de Torres y Tapia, it is said: “The Jewish Astrologer read to him the Sphere, and all that was lawful to know in his Art; and he was so fond of it that in one of the highest rooms of the house he had the Sky painted for him with all its Planets, Stars and Signs of the Zodiac. Already today this is very tarnished with antiquity” (Chronica de la Orden de Alcantara, 1763, p. 569). 78


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During his stay in Portugal, one of the first works to appear in Portugal with movable type printing was published in the city of Leiria. It is the Almanach perpetuum celestium motuum astronomi zacuti, which, in the words of Cantera Burgos, is “the form under which the magnum opus of Zacut [ha-Ḥibbur ha-gadol] has been generally known” (Cantera Burgos 1931, p. 124). These are actually two editions printed, in 1496, one with the canons in Latin and the other in Castilian, which have traditionally been considered to be the result of the translation of the Ḥibbur made by Josep Vizinho (Vecinho or Yicinho). However, Chabás and Goldstein argue that, if one looks at the sources, canons, mentioned in the Hibbur and the Almanach, they are in fact two different works (Chabás and Goldstein 2009, p. 66). 2.6.3 Nebrija and Cosmography Nebrija’s cosmographical facet is scarcely recognized. Initially trained in Salamanca, he came into contact at the University of Bologna, where he moved later, with the “fever” produced by the first printing of Ptolemy‘s Geographia, in 1462 or 1477, complement of the Almagest, which describes his cosmology. Perhaps it was there that his interest in the description of the cosmos was born. Nebrija also shone in this field and played an essential role in the recovery of Ptolemy‘s work and its diffusion in Spain. He wrote In cosmographiae libros introductorium (Introduction to Cosmography) at the turn of the century (possibly in 1498, but dates up to 1502 are possible), which represented a milestone by recommending the reading of Ptolemy, Strabo, Pliny and Mela, and establishing as a starting point the point Aries for the celestial sphere and the island of Hierro, in the Canaries, for the terrestrial one, following Ptolemy. According to Bonmatí, Nebrija’s purpose was the execution of a revision of the Ptolemaic cosmography (Bonmatí Sánchez 1998, pp. 509–513). He also referred to the new discoveries beyond the ocean, incorporating, for the first time, the new lands to cosmography. He criticized although he used profusely the Tractatus Sphaerae, of the mathematician Johannes de Sacrobosco, indispensable reference since they were written in 1250, and it was one of the most studied and spread works inside the astronomy and the program of the quadrivium in the Universities of Oxford, Paris or Salamanca. His is also De ratione Calendari (Tabla de la diversidad de los días y horas y partes de hora in las ciudades, villas y lugares de España), which he would not publish. According to Fernando de Navarrete, among others, who relies on a text by Pedro Mexía from Silva de varia lección, Nebrija could have accurately calculated the measure of the degree of the terrestrial meridian, although there is no consensus and different authors disagree on this matter, so it is likely that Nebrija assumed earlier measurements. If he had in fact made an independent estimate, his measurement of the degree of the meridian, 62,500 geometric steps, would have been made before Jean François Fernel produced his determination between Paris and Amiens in 1528. Therefore, he would be the first Spanish geodesist (Fernández García 2002) and the initiator of the race in Europe. In addition, Nebrija alluded in his In

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cosmographiae libros introductorium to the territories discovered in the west and also determined the measure of the terrestrial circumference. What is unquestionable was his interest in the standardization of measurements (shown both in his Cosmographia80 and in Repetitio Sexta De mensuris, from 1510), which he carried out by means of an experiment typical of a scientist, not of a grammarian. He ordered to measure the distance between two Roman milestones in the Via de la Plata, an ancient road in Extremadura. It was known that each Roman mile had a thousand steps, and each one of them had five feet. To do so, he made the measurement with an inelastic rope and, in order to minimize errors, he repeated the measurement 100 times (Fontán 2008). In addition, he made a systematic identification of different systems of measurement present in classical cultures, equating them to the Roman standard, with the consequent equivalences. According to Rico, the full meaning of Ptolemy and his Geographia can only be understood after the publication of Introductorium Cosmographicum (Rico 1983, p.  15, quoted in Carabias Torres 2012, pp.  72, 107, 109; see also Szaszdi Nagy 1991). Thus, Nebrija is one of the representatives of a mathematical or astronomical geography, quantitative, where places are located by their longitude and latitude, as opposed to the qualitative character of medieval descriptions. 2.6.4 Other Scholars Among other cosmographic activities, studies on magnetism were carried out, such as the one elaborated by Fernán Pérez de Oliva,81 which would end up being published by his nephew after his death. The most up-to-date geographical information was compiled and solutions to the oceanic navigation were looked for (Martín Fernández de Enciso, already mentioned, whose maps, given their strategic importance, were censored, or Pedro Nunes and Alonso de Santa Cruz). In these works also excelled Francisco Núñez de la Yerba, Pedro Margallo, Fernán Pérez de Oliva, Juan Martínez Silíceo,  Jerónimo Muñoz, Hernán Núñez Pinciano, and Abraham Zacuto, already mentioned. These were very diverse activities, but if there was an articulation or a driving force behind them, it could well be found in the dissemination of Claudius Ptolemy‘s work in the peninsula and in the activity of the grammarian and great humanist Elio Antonio de Nebrija, whose work has already been discussed. It stands out between the most relevant cosmographic works of the sixteenth century the Ars aritmética of Juan Martínez Silício (1477–1557), who was professor in the University of Salamanca and also tutor of Felipe II, with editions of 1514, 1518, 1519, 1526 in Paris and 1544 in Valencia. Other authors linked to Salamanca  Nebrija, In cosmographiae libros introductorium, Juan Porras, Salamanca, ca. 1503, although as Franciso Lisi (1994, pp. 371–377) raises the possibility that it was published earlier, in 1498. 81  Hernán or Fernán Pérez de Oliva died in 1531, long before the publication of the influential text De magnete by William Gilbert in 1600, in which magnetism is studied in relation to navigation, among other uses. 80


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very active in cosmography were Fernán Pérez de Oliva and Andres de Poza (? – 1595), who taught at the Nautical School of San Sebastian, who made use of the method of lunar distances to determine longitude. In any case, between 1481 and 1600 195 works on cosmography were published in Spain and another 169 texts written by Spaniards appeared outside the country, and a witness of that time, Antonio Agustín, affirmed that in Salamanca there were more than 52 printing presses in 1538, when he entered the College of Bologna, an evident proof of the intellectual activity, linked to the university life, of that time (Esteban Piñeiro 2002, note 13; Navarro Brotons 1999, p. 198; Carabias Torres 2012, pp. 112–114, 132). Therefore, it can be concluded that the Iberian expansion in the Atlantic was accompanied by a remarkable scientific-technical development that was parallel to the establishment of humanism in the peninsula.

2.7 Calendar Reform as an Astronomical, Social and Religious Problem The reform of the Julian calendar was made at the request of Julius Caesar. The solution was developed by the astronomer Sosigenes and was implemented in 46 BCE, called “year of confusion”, because 90 days were added to solve the delay accumulated until then. Despite its novelty, the Julian calendar makes an error of one day every 128 years. Almost four centuries later, still under the Roman Empire, the Council of Arles in 314 CE, which brought together bishops from the West, decided that Christian Easter should be celebrated at the same time all over the world. Thus began the interest in chronology and astronomy in the Christian world, despite the clear lack of interest in other disciplines of knowledge. In the following decade, the Council of Nicaea (325 CE) decided that Easter should be the first Sunday after the first full moon following the equinox. During the High Middle Ages, Bede “the Venerable” (c. 672–735 CE) generalized the use of the supposed date of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth as the first year and also addressed the problem of determining Easter. Other councils that dealt with the reform are those of Constance (1414–1418) and the Fifth Lateran Council (1512–1517). Initially the question was to be solved, from the ecclesiastical point of view, at the Council of Trent (1545–1563), but in the end there was no time and it was decided that the pope would promulgate the solution (Carabias Torres 2012, pp. 24–27, 142). Walcher of Malvern (eleventh  – twelfth centuries) was a cleric influenced by Andalusian learning, either directly from Petrus Alphonsi or through the influence of Gerbert of Aurillac (Pope Sylvester II). From 1091 he lived in England, where he was prior of the monastery of Malvern. He wrote De lunationibus and De dracone, which deals with the lunations and the calendar, between 1107 and 1112, and which shows the influence of Petrus Alphonsi on him (Millás Vallicrosa 1943, pp. 65–105).

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Studies on calendar reform were renewed in the thirteenth century, especially with the figures of Grosseteste (1170–1253) and Roger Bacon (c. 1214–1294). But they were not the only ones. Other late medieval astronomers participated in the formulation of the problem. Among them are, from the mid-fourteenth century, Pierre d’Ailly, Nicholas of Cusa, John de Murs, Fermin de Belleval, Paul von Middleburg, John de Gmunden, Georg Peuerbach, Johannes Müller (Regiomontanus), Johannes Stöffler and, in Spain, Pedro Ciruelo (Carabias Torres 2012, pp. 20, 26–28, 147, 236). In fact, the University of Salamanca participated in the Gregorian reform of the calendar, mainly promoted by Christopher Clavius (Christophorus Clavious, 1538–1612) through deliberations of its members and two reports made in the sixteenth century. The first one dates from 1515 and was requested by Ferdinand “the Catholic” and Pope Leo X.  The second was written for Felipe II and the Pope Gregory XIII in 1578. The original of the 1515 report is not preserved, but it is copied in its entirety in the second one, whose originals are in the Vatican and in the University of Salamanca. In fact, Carabias Torres (2012, pp.  20, 235–237) concludes that the role of Salamanca was essential, if not unique, in the Gregorian reform, as the proposed solution was adopted, given that the proposal described in the Salamanca report was in practice the one that was distributed, as a summary entitled Compendium novæ rationis restituendis kalendarium, 1577, from the manuscript treatise of Luis Lilio (Aloysius Lilius, c. 1510–1576). This text was sent throughout the Christian world, as was the Kalendarii Romani veteris Julii Cœsaris aetate marmori incisi explanatio, by Pedro Chacón (1526–1581). Thus, on February 24th, 1582 the bull Inter Gravissimas was published by order of Gregory XIII, according to which the 4th of October of that year should be followed by the 15th of the same month. The Gregorian reform of the calendar was based on the Prussian Tables of ephemeris of Erasmus Reinhold, which were calculated from the heliocentric system of Copernicus (Boorstin 1986a, b, p. 15.). The application of the reform was immediate in several Catholic countries (Spain, Portugal, Poland-Lithuania, France, Italian states), although its practical effects were not clear and in some cases contributed to a confusion similar to that of the Julian reform. In fact, although Felipe II of Spain (and Filipe I of Portugal since 1580) decreed the change on September 29th, 1582 from Lisbon for his European kingdoms, he had to promulgate on May 14th, 1583, from Aranjuez, for his American possessions, the Pragmatic on the ten days of the year.82 The great promoter of the Reformation in the Catholic world was the Jesuit astronomer Christopher Clavius, although there were Protestant astronomers, such as Johannes Kepler, who recognized the virtues of the Reformation.83 Prussia, a Protestant vassal state of Poland, accepted the change in 1612, although in the Protestant states of the Germanic Roman Empire outside Spanish control, the  Pragmática sobre los diez días del año, [online], , [accessed: 16 September 2018]; Ruiz Morales (2009, 403–412). 83  The reaction to the reform has been studied by Hoskin (1983, pp.  255–264); Nobis (1983, pp. 243–254). 82


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Reformation was introduced in 1700, as it was in Denmark and Norway. Some states of the Dutch Republic implemented it between 1700 and 1701, while the United Kingdom would not make the change until 1752. A year later Sweden and Finland would do it. In Russia it did not happen until the revolution of 1917. In any case, the great pan-European intellectual movement that led to the calendar reform of 1582 was one of the engines that prepared the Scientific Revolution of the following century, since it gave a decisive impulse to the development of astronomy.

2.8 Ptolemy, Pico della Mirandola and the End of Astrology The separation between science and superstition has been a complex process that even today, unfortunately, has not been completely closed. A clear exponent of this process of differentiation comes to us from Antiquity, with an anecdote about the Athenian statesman Pericles told by Plutarch: But when the ships were already manned, and Pericles had gone aboard his own trireme, it chanced that the sun was eclipsed and darkness came on, and all were thoroughly frightened, looking upon it as a great portent. Accordingly, seeing that his steersman was timorous and utterly perplexed, Pericles held up his cloak before the man’s eyes, and, thus covering them, asked him if he thought it anything dreadful, or portentous of anything dreadful. ‘No,’ said the steersman. ‘How then’ said Pericles, ‘is yonder event different from this, except that it is something rather larger than my cloak which has caused the obscurity?’ At any rate, this tale is told in the schools of philosophy.84

Claudius Ptolemy did not only bequeath us his Geographia and the Almagest. We have evidence of the existence of several works by later references or by reworkings of them, in fields ranging from astronomical instrumentation to music, including optics. However, as a man of his time, he did not completely disassociate himself from activities outside the realm of rationality. And, in fact, one of the most influential works during the Middle Ages was his Tetrabiblos or Apotelesmatika, known in Latin as Quadripartitum, which essentially deals with astrology,85 a pseudoscience without any real foundation. The Tetrabiblios was essentially unknown in the West during the early Middle Ages. Its later “popularity” must be attributed to Islamic civilization (Heilem 2010). In the Middle East it remained the manual par excellence for such irrational activities. Unfortunately, it spread in the West from translations made in Toledo and elsewhere, becoming a great success and one of the justifications for this type of “art”. Thus, astrology and astronomy were placed on a par and the latter, glossed in the Almagest and with an enormous predictive capacity, seemed to give validity and accreditation to the former. However, Ptolemy himself separated them, stating in Tetrabiblios that astronomy was a mathematical science while the latter could not

84 85

 Plutarch, Lives, Volume III, “Pericles”, 1916, The Loeb Classical Library, pp. 101–102.  Which can be translated as “Four Books”, “Effects” and “Four Parts”, respectively.

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aspire to the same type of results.86 In spite of this, both activities will interchange their names indiscriminately until the fifteenth century and in fact astrology would be taught as a scientific discipline in European universities until the middle of the seventeenth century, already in the age of the telescope and in spite of the fact that the supposed intellectual apparatus that maintained it had been dismantled by true science, both from the theoretical and observational point of view. During the late Middle Ages, two activities related to astrology were differentiated: judiciary, which consisted in the supposed prediction of the future, and natural astrology, essentially for medical purposes. The clear terminological separation of astronomy and astrology begins in the sixteenth century but does not end until the eighteenth century, as evidenced by the Diccionario de la Lengua Española (Dictionary of the Spanish Language) of 1726.87 Although there were numerous attacks on this type of superstition (for example, by Nicolas Oresme or the earlier attacks by Maimonides or ibn-Banna in al-­ Andalus), it is likely that the most effective was that made by the humanist Pico della Mirandola, a key figure in the Renaissance. Born in 1463 and died at the age of 31, Pico della Mirandola’s intellectual production, despite his early death, marked, and continues to mark, an eclectic vision of the world, centred on man and his dignity. In 1486 he published Conclusiones philosophicae, cabalisticae et theologicae, better known as The 900 Theses, a syncretic text of different religious interpretations. In the same year appeared the Oratio de hominis dignitate (Discourse on the dignity of man), which has come to be called the “manifesto of the Renaissance”, articulated along three axes that are still very relevant today: the right to dissent, respect for religious and cultural diversity, and the tribute due to individuality. It highlights the importance of the search for knowledge within a Neoplatonic framework that does not neglect other schools of thought. In fact, he pointed out in some of his writings an incipient heliocentrism (Lester 2009, pp.  351–352; Levinas and Vida 2016, pp.  281–331) and for several of his theses he would be condemned as a heretic, although he would end up being pardoned by Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo de Borja, nephew of Calixtus III). Pico amassed an extraordinary library, which is said to have been bequeathed on the condition that it would not end up in a religious institution. However, it was sold in 1498, four years after his death, to Cardinal Domenico Grimani. The bequest manifest indicates that it contained at least 1190 very eclectic titles, making it one of the largest private libraries, and included texts in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic (Ashley-Montagu 1936). His attack against astrology, Disputationes adversus astrologiam divinatricem, starts from the free will of the human being. Among other tools, he uses Ptolemy himself to dismantle the fallacy that this pseudoscience represents. In spite of this,  “The first of these, which has its own science, desirable in itself even though it does not attain the result given by the second [astrology], has been expounded to you as best we could in its own treatise [the Almagest]”. Quoted in Rutkin (2010). 87  Carabias Torres (2012, pp.  74–75); Real Academia Española, Diccionario de Autoridades  – Tomo I, 1726, [online], , [accessed: 24 September 2018]. 86


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astrology would take a long time to disappear from the academic curriculum. Thus, when Cosimo I de Medici refounded the University of Pisa in 1543 (the year of Copernicus’ publication of De revolutionibus), its statutes were rewritten. It is explicitly stated that the third year of mathematics was to be taught to Ptolemy, but none of his books are cited. The monk Filippo Fantoni taught at that institution between 1560 and 1567, and again between 1582 and 1589, when he was replaced by Galileo. The text chosen for his course was Tetrabiblios, a clear example of academic freedom misunderstood. In any case, the University of Salamanca, famous for its school of cosmography, abandoned astrology in 1562 (Esteban Piñeiro 2006, pp. 367–391). Thus, the rationalist movement would soon become a gale that swept away all superstition, at least at the university level. The cultural world would echo this on numerous occasions. And our most distinguished writer could not remain on the sidelines either: […] because it is certain that this monkey is not an astrologer, neither his master nor he raises nor knows how to raise these figures that they call judiciary, which are so much in use in Spain now, that there is no little woman, nor page, nor old cobbler who does not presume to raise a figure, as if it were a jack of cards from the ground, spoiling with his lies and ignorance the marvelous truth of science.88

It is true that many renowned scientists made use of astrology. In many cases making clear their scepticism or simply as a means to earn their livelihood or by imperative of their courtly position. One of the best known was Johannes Kepler, who called it the “stepdaughter” of astronomy, although the term “bastard” would have suited him better. Further, he wrote a sentence that leaves no room for any doubt about his own view of this situation: A spirit accustomed to mathematical deduction, when confronted with the fallacious foundations [of astrology] resists long, long, like an obstinate mule, to set foot in that dirty puddle, until he is forced to do so by blows and curses.89

Unfortunately, superstition continues to have significant roots among different layers of the population, even among those who consider themselves cultivated, and a considerable presence in different media. Palpable proof that Renaissance humanism and its natural heir, the Enlightenment, have not managed to triumph completely. Today, with hyper-specialization, we seem to be moving even further away from that ideal of the complete and rational human being. When technology becomes a golden idol, it is probably more necessary than ever to have a humanistic science that allows us to respond to the needs of the citizen. There is still a long way to go in the integral education of the human being.

 Cervantes, El ingenioso caballero don Quijote de la Mancha, 2, XXV, “Wherein is noted the adventure of the braying and the droll of the titerero, with the memorable riddles of the soothsaying monkey”. 89  Kepler, De Stella nova in pede Serpentarii, G.W., Vol. I, p. 147seq., quoted in Koestler (1959). 88

3  The Causes of the Scientific Revolution


3 The Causes of the Scientific Revolution 3.1 Scientific Revolution: Definition and Background The concept of “Scientific Revolution” has in general an imprecise temporal limitation, ranging from the publication of Nicolaus Copernicus’ De revolutionibus in 1543 to that of Isaac Newton’s Principia philosophiae naturalis in 1687. It is possible to find a turning point at the turn of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As Bauer et al. (1988a, b, p. 211) states: “[…] the seventeenth century saw the birth in Western Europe of a new science, which was to develop in the following centuries and gradually spread throughout the world.” The application of mathematics as the language par excellence of science, developments in dynamics, optics, chemistry, the discovery of electrical and magnetic phenomena, the birth of microscopic anatomy and plant physiology, among others, and the appearance of the first scientific treatises in vernacular languages, mark a clear difference with previous developments. Therefore, in the seventeenth century there is a perceptible acceleration of change together with an impact of scientific activity in other areas: conflicts with the ecclesiastical hierarchy, a new relationship with various centres of power, especially in France, the foundation of scientific academies and journals that allowed the rapid dissemination of new discoveries, the multiplicity of places in which the barriers of knowledge are broken, the large number of scientists, the variety of disciplines involved (not only astronomy and geography). The change, therefore, reaches all levels of the most cultured society. This evolution will continue and during the eighteenth century all layers of society and all means of production will be affected. However, these transformations in the way of interpreting the world, these new scientific disciplines rest, as Newton said paraphrasing Bernard of Chartes, on the shoulders of giants,90 although not only of them. Certainly the incessant flow of books from the Hispanic kingdoms and from the Byzantine Empire had revitalized the intellectual life of the West, especially from the Renaissance of the twelfth century onwards (Haskins 1928, p.  11; Briffault 1928, pp.  188–191; Goitein 1963, 217–233; Cloud 2007, pp. 309, 341). It has already described the great figures who took advantage of this wealth of knowledge that flowed from the past to expand intellectual horizons, in a small number of cases even beyond what the Greco-­ Roman scholars had achieved. However, geography was where the knowledge of the ancients was largely surpassed. Iberian discoveries in the Atlantic, supplemented to a lesser extent by overland travellers in the interior of Africa and Asia, showed a much more complex world. Ptolemy‘s Geographia, rediscovered for Europe at about the same time, was largely superseded although it continued to be imitated  The original phrase of Bernard of Chartes would be “nanos gigantum humeris insidentes”, according to John of Salisbury, in Metalogicon, 1156 (MacGarry (ed.), 1955, p. 167). However, Eco affirms that its origin goes back to Priscillian (c. 500  CE), according to a testimony of Guillaume de Conches (1080/1090–1145/1150). Merton (1993), with foreword by Umberto Eco, p. XIV. 90


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and was the conceptual framework upon which new geographical knowledge was integrated. The needs of navigation and cartography pushed the development of new instruments and astronomy. Therefore, it can be said that in the fifteenth century and the first half of the sixteenth century lie the real foundations of the Scientific Revolution, and that one of the real engines, perhaps the primum mobile, is the new geography. As for the second half of the sixteenth century, after the publication of De revolutionibus by Nicolaus Copernicus in 1543, it can be seen in retrospect that the paradigm shift was served. Heliocentrism initially had a very small impact, limited to a discussion in certain astronomical and theological circles, but soon, after the appearance of several astronomical events such as the supernova of 1572, the impact would be significant until it became unstoppable in the seventeenth century. Therefore, this period can be perfectly classified as a transition to the real revolution.

3.2 The Republic of Letters Even during the most barbarous years of the wars of religion in the sixteenth century, communications between men of culture and their common ideal, knowledge, never ceased to exist. Both the humanists, among whom Erasmus of Rotterdam would stand out, and the first modern scientists, with Galileo at their head, up to the true intellectual revolution of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, with Kepler, Descartes and Newton, to mention but a few, never ceased in their contacts. All of them, more than in a certain country, lived and dreamed in an imaginary space, in a true Republic of Letters, to which we could add the expression “and of the Sciences”. Their loyalties were not with nations, or at least not only, but with the inquiry of truth. To quote Erasmus, “We must wish this century well: it will be that of the golden age”. The so-called Republic of Letters was an epistolary network that developed from the sixteenth century onwards and spread massively throughout the continent in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. In a certain sense it was a pyramidal relationship, where letters were copied and circulated widely, including new members, who in turn increased the diffusion and the network of contacts. It was not a society as such, but a mental construct, a feeling of belonging to a community that was trying to understand reality and needed to communicate its discoveries. A flow of information without borders, although conflicts and nationalisms were not always alien to it. The lingua franca, as it could not be otherwise, was Latin, in an academic form developed during the Middle Ages, as already mentioned, based on Cicero’s style. Although the letters exchanged were handwritten, undoubtedly the emergence and development of the Republic of Letters has to do with the invention of the movable type printing press and the reprinting and circulation of books that were “sequestered” in monastery libraries, as well as an incessant intellectual activity that produced a great deal of new works and geographical and, later, astronomical discoveries. Along with a certain professionalization of scholarly and research activity, the first scientific societies arose naturally. The Academia Secretorum Naturae was

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founded in Naples in 1560, a territory of the Spanish Empire, only to be closed by the Inquisition 18 years later. The Accademia dei Lincei took over in 1603, in Rome, which ended its activity in 1651. Of more restrictive nature was the Academy of Mathematics, created by Felipe II in 1582 in Spain and whose objective was to unite the efforts of geographers, astronomers, architects and engineers to the service of the empire (Lafuente 1999). In France the Académie Française would appear in 1635 and the Académie des Sciences thirty-one years later, under the auspices of Louis XIV. In 1662 King Charles II of England, after the restoration following the interlude of the republic of Oliver Cromwell, would give a charter to the Royal Society, the longest-lived scientific society, as it has maintained its activity uninterruptedly until today. The exchange of information would also become professionalized and in the year 1665 two publications would appear in France and England that would have a great influence at continental level: Journal des Sçavans (Fig. 2.6) and Philosophical Fig. 2.6  Cover of the first issue of Journal des Sçavans, January 5, 1665


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Transactions. The first was founded by Jean Gallois and Denis de Sallo, and the English one was edited and published by Henry Oldenburg. Some time later, in 1682, Acta Eruditorum, under the responsibility of Otto Mencke, would appear in German lands; and in the Netherlands, Nouvelles de la République des Lettres, in 1684 and edited by Pierre Bayle, and two years later, Bibliothèque Universelle directed by Jean Le Clerc. Some Romance languages, especially English and, above all, French, which had already been used before in some monographic volume, such as Galileo and Oresme, or the Spanish navigation manuals, would soon find their place. The intentions were clear to all. As an example, suffice it to mention the letter of presentation of the new English publication, in which Oldenburg wrote to the members of the Royal Society: […] the Noble Engagement of Dispersing the true Lustre of his Glorious Works, and the Happy Inventions of obliging Men all over the World, to the General Benefit of Mankind […].91

A laudable wish, which has not always been fulfilled.

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Perez, J., Cisneros, el cardenal de España, Taurus, 2014 Pérez Camacho, J. J., Sols Lucis, I., “Domingo de Soto in el origen de la ciencia moderna”, Revista de Filosofía, tercera época, vol. vii, núm. 12, 1994, pp. 27–49. Pérez García, R. M., “El mundo editorial de la Sevilla de Diego López de Cortegana in el contexto de sus problemas culturales”, in Escobar Borrego, F.  J., Díez Reboso, S. and Rivero García, L. (eds.), La Metamorfósis de un inquisidor: El humanista Diego López de Cortegana (1455–1524), Sevilla, Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Sevilla, Serie: Historia y Geografía, núm. 250, 2013. Pérez González, M., “Leonardo Bruni y su tratado De interpretationes recta”, Cuadernos de Filología Clásica. Estudios Latinos, núm. 8, Madrid, Serv. Publicaciones UCM, 1995, pp. 193–233. Perona, J., Antonio de Nebrija, Lebrija (Sevilla) 1441 o 1444-Alcalá de Henares 1522, Murcia, Servicio de Publicaciones, Universidad de Murcia, 2010. Perona, J., “Antonio de Nebrija y los lenguajes científicos”, Voces, V, 1994, pp. 65–89 Perona, J., “Las Castigationes Plinii y el Ars Medicamentaria de Nebrija”, en Revista de Investigación Lingüística, núm. 11, Universidad de Murcia, 2008, pp. 249–264. Perona Sánchez, J., “Latina uocabula ex iure ciuili in uoces hispanienses interpretata. II, 1 de Elio Antonio de Nebrija”, in Cahiers de linguistique hispanique médiévale, núm. 16, 1991, pp. 189–365. Picatoste y Rodríguez, F., Apuntes para una biblioteca científica española del siglo XVI, Imprenta y fundición Manuel Tello, Madrid, 1891. Prins, J., Echoes of an Invisible World. Marsilio Ficino and Francesco Patrizi on Cosmic Order and Music Theory, Leiden-Boston, Brill, 2014. Reaves, G. and Pedretti, C., “Leonardo da Vinci’s drawings of the surface features of the Moon”, in Journal for the History of Astronomy, vol. 18, núm. 1, 1987, pp. 55–58. Reynolds. L. D. & Wilson, N. G., Scribes and scholars. A guide to the Transmission of Greek and Latin Literature, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1968, pp. 274–275. Rico, F., Nebrija frente a los bárbaros. El canon de gramáticos nefastos in las polémicas del humanismo, Salamanca, Publicaciones Universidad de Salamanca, 1978. Rico, F., “Lección y herencia de Elio Antonio de Nebrija 1481–1981”, in García de La Concha, V. (ed.), Nebrija y la introducción del Renacimiento in España, Salamanca, Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, 1996, p. 9. Rico, F., “El Nuevo Mundo de Nebrija y Colón”. En: Carmen Codoñer Merino, et al. Nebrija y la introducción del Renacimiento in España. Salamanca: Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca, 1983, pp. 157–186. Richter, J.  P., The literary works of Leonardo da Vinci, compiled and edited from the Original Manuscripts, Londres, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1883a, vol. II. Richter, J. P., Scritti letterari di Leonardo da Vinci, Londres, Sampson Low, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1883b, vol. II. Ruíz Arzálluz, I., “Caminos de Petrarca in la España del siglo XV”, in Madrid, Boletín de la Real Academia Española, Tomo XC, Cuaderno CCCII, julio-diciembre 2010, pp. 291–310. Ruíz García, E., “Una aproximación a los impresos jurídicos castellanos (1480–1520), in Galende Díaz, J. C. (dir.), IV Jornadas Científicas sobre Documentación de Castilla e Indias in el siglo XVI, Madrid, Dpto. de Ciencias y Técnicas Historiográficas, Universidad Complutense, 2005, pp. 305–355. Ruiz García, E., “Producción manuscrita de Leonardo”, in El imaginario de Leonardo. Códices de la BNE, Catálogo de la Exposición celebrada in la Biblioteca Nacional de España del 28 de mayo al 29 july 2012, Madrid, Ministerio de cultura, pp. 107–191. Ruiz GiméneZ, C. (dir.), La Unión Médica. Periódico oficial de la Academia Quirúrgica Matritense, y de la Cesaragustana y Mallorquina, Madrid, Impr. El Precursor, 1851. Ruiz Morales, M., “Pragmática astronómica del Rey Felipe II”, Chronica Nova, 35, 2009, pp. 403–412. Ruíz Pérez, P., “Sobre el debate de la lengua vulgar in el Renacimiento”, in Criticón, núm. 36, 1987.


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Rutkin, H.D., “The Use and Abuse of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos in Renaissance and Early Modern Europe: Two Case Studies (Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and Filippo Fantoni)”, en Jones, A. (ed.), Ptolemy in Perspective”, Archimedes, vol. 23, Springer, 2010. Sabbadini, R., La Scuola e gli studi di Guarino Guarini Veronese. Con 44 documenti, Tip. Francesco Galati, Catania, 1896. Sagarra Gamazo, A., “Elio Antonio de Nebrija y Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca: de la gramática a la cartografía al servicio de la Reina”, Revista de estudios colombinos, núm. 2, 2006, pp. 29–40. Samsó, J., “Abraham Zacut and José Vizinho’s Almanach Perpetuum in Arabic (16th–19th C.)”, in Centaurus, vol. 46, núm. 1, 2004, pp. 82–97. Sánchez Salor, E., “La segunda edición de las Introductiones latinae de Nebrija. El ejemplar de don Juan de Zúñiga”, in Revista de Estudios Extremeños, 59 (2), 2003, pp. 631–660. Sánchez, A., “Cosmografía y humanismo in la España del siglo XVI: la Geographia de Ptolomeo y la imagen de América”, Scripta Nova. Revista Electrónica de Geografía y Ciencias Sociales. Barcelona: Universidad de Barcelona, vol. XV, núm. 354, 2011. Gonzalo Sánchez-Molero, J. L., “Los impresores ante el Consejo Real: el problema de la licencia y del privilegio (1502–1540)”, in XIII y XIV Jornadas bibliográficas Bartolomé J. Gallardo. 2006. Agustín Sánchez Rodrigo (1870–1933). 2007. Dos pinceladas sobre mercaderes de libros in el siglo XVI, Badajoz: Unión de Bibliófilos Extremeños, 2009, pp. 119–184. Sánchez Ron, J. M., “Felipe II, El Escorial y la ciencia europea del siglo XVI”, in La ciencia in el Monasterio del Escorial: actas del Simposium, Francisco Javier Campos y Fernández de Sevilla (coords.), vol. 1, 1993, pp. 39–721. Saquero Suárez-Somonte, P. and González Rolán, T., “Actitudes renacentistas in Castilla durante el siglo XV: la correspondencia entre Alfonso de Cartagena y Pier Cándido Decembrio”, in Cuadernos de Filología Clásica. Estudios Latinos (Nueva serie), Edit. Univ. Complutense, Madrid, 1991, pp. 195–232. Schlelein, S., “Vacilando entre Edad Media y Renacimiento: Castilla y el Humanismo del siglo XV”, in Egido, A. and Laplana, J.E. (eds.), Saberes humanísticos y formas de vida. Usos y abusos. Actas del Coloquio Hispano-alemán, Zaragoza, 15–17 de diciembre, 2010, Zaragoza, Institución “Fernando el Católico” (C.S.I.C.), Excma. Diputación de Zaragoza, 2012. Signes Codoñer, J., “Translatio Studiorum: La emigración bizantina a Europa occidental in las décadas finales del Imperio (1353–1453)”, in Bádenas De La PeÑA, P. and Pérez Martín, I. (eds.), Constantinopla 1453: mitos y realidades, Madrid, Nueva Roma 13, CSIC, 2003, pp. 213–223. Soto Rábanos, J. M., “Las escuelas urbanas y el renacimiento del siglo XII”, La enseñanza in la edad media: X Semana de Estudios Medievales, Nájera 1999, coord. por José Ignacio de la Iglesia Duarte, Logroño 2000, pp. 207–242. Stevenson, E.  L., Terrestrial and Celestial Globes: Their History and Construction, Including a Consideration of Their Value as Aids in the Study of Geography and Astronomy, 2 vols., Publications of the Hispanic Society of America, núm. 86, 1921. Strayer, J. R., The Albigensian Crusades, University of Michigan Press, 1992. Strobl, W., “Orígenes de la Filosofía in la ciencia moderna”, in Anuario filosófico, Pamplona, Servicio de Publicaciones, Universidad de Navarra, vol. 3, núm. 1, 1970, pp. 327–347. Symonds, J.  A., Renaissance in Italy. The revival of learnng, Hery Holt and company New York, 1888. Szaszdi Nagy, A., La legua y la milla de Colón, Casa Museo de Colón, Valladolid, 1991. Truffa, G., “Novara, Domenico Maria da”, in Thomas Hockey et  al. (eds.), The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, Springer Reference, New York, 2007, pp. 840–841. Villaseñor Sebastián, F., “La corte literaria de Juan de Zúñiga y Pimentel (Plasencia, 1459-Guadalupe, 1594)”, in Anales de Historia del Arte, vol. 23, núm. especial (II), 2013, pp. 581–594. Winter Jones, J., Hammond, L. D., & Rogers, F. M. (eds),. Travelers in Disguise: Narratives of Eastern Travel by Poggio Bracciolini and Ludovico de Varthema, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1963. Witt, R. G., Coluccio Salutati and his public letters, col. Travaux d’Humanisme et Renaissance, vol. 151, Genève, Librairie Droz, 1976.

Chapter 3

The New Astronomy at the Dawn of the Scientific Revolution Simplicibus itaque verbis gaudet Mathematica Veritas, cum etiam per se simplex sit Veritatis oratio. “Mathematical Truth prefers simple words, because the language of truth is simple in itself”, Tycho Brahe, Epistolarum astronomicarum liber primus (1596), quoted in Dreyer 1919, p. 23. Tycho Brahe

Abstract  The publication of De revolutionibus by Nicolaus Copernicus represented an intellectual break with the geocentric and geostationary past, which was accentuated by the new astronomical observations collected by Tycho Brahe and the use of the telescope by Galileo Galilei, which allowed access to new phenomenologies, and the reinterpretations formulated by Johannes Kepler. These four scientists, but not only them, contributed in a decisive way to the new vision of the kosmos, and also had an extraordinary impact on culture and politics, not only in the countries that experienced the religious reform, but also in those that were within the Catholic orb. The Hispanic Monarchy was no exception to this revolution in thought.

1 The Heliocentric Revolution and Copernicus 1.1 The Publication of De revolutionibus Nicolaus Copernicus1 published his magnum opus, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium2 (Fig. 3.1), in 1543, shortly before his death. He may have seen a copy of the first edition, as it arrived the same day he died. We know this fact because  O’Connor and Robertson, “Nicolaus Copernicus”, MacTutor History of Mathematics archive (MHMA), [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]; Gingerich (2007, pp. 252–254). 2  Copérnico, Sobre las revoluciones, translation and preliminary study by Carlos Mínguez Pérez, Altaya editions, 1997. The first three editions of Copernicus’ work were published in Nuremberg in 1543, Basel in 1566 and Amsterdam in 1617 (Gingerich 2004, pp. 159–164). 1

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 D. Barrado Navascués, Cosmography in the Age of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution, Historical & Cultural Astronomy,



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Leopold Prowe, to whom Alexander von Humboldt gave the honour of being the world’s first “Copernicologist”, quotes a letter sent to Rheticus, after Copernicus’ death, by Tiedemann Giese, bishop of Kulm and friend of the latter, in which he related the following: “For many days he was deprived of his memory and mental vigour; he only saw his complete book at the last moment, on the very day he died” (Sikorski 2015, p. 24; Prowe 1967). The editing and printing of the text was completed months earlier and there is no reason to think that it would not have reached Copernicus in all that time. Be that as it may, he might have deplored how the publication process concluded, since Andreas Osiander, a Lutheran theologian expert in mathematical texts who was entrusted with the supervision of the printing of the manuscript in Nuremberg, subtly changed the initial title motu proprio. Not only that, his audacity went so far as to add a warning to the reader (his reviled Ad Lectorem) stating that the aim of the work was not the search for truth, but to present a mathematical device to calculate the positions of the planets with a simpler procedure. In the copy of De revolutionibus preserved at Yale University there is a note by Praetorius, a mathematician from Nuremberg, which states: “Rheticus claimed that the preface was added by Andreas Osiander. But it was rejected by Copernicus. The title was also changed by the same person against the author’s will, because it should be De Revolutionibus mundi [On

Fig. 3.1  De revolutionibus, by Nicolaus Copernicus, published in 1543 (a) Title page of editio prínceps of 1543. Universität Wien (Hw 47). (b) Copernicus’ heliocentric cosmology, in the original manuscript of De revolutionibus. The page corresponding to the first original of the text and includes a diagram of the solar system with the Earth and the rest of the planets revolving around the Sun. Biblioteka Jagiellonska (Ms. BJ 10000, f. 9v)

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the movements of the globe -terrestrial-]. Osiander, however, added orbium coelestium [On the movements of the celestial globe]” (Westman 1975, pp. 304). Therefore, it was not only a change of title, but also of the underlying cosmology, the structure of the universe. What reason can explain this apparently inadmissible procedure? And, above all, what relevance did the De revolutionibus had at that time? In order to understand his work, it is necessary to revisit his own life and trajectory as an scholar. Copernicus began his education at the University of Krakow, which was very prestigious in the most traditional circles, although it was influenced by the new physics of the University of Paris and by the “Buridanism”.3 Later, after studying for several years in Bologna (he was a student of Domenico Maria Novara (Truffa 2007, pp. 840–841), who in turn studied with Regiomontanus) and in other cities in the north and center of the Italian peninsula (Kowalczyk 2014, pp.  77–86), he returned definitively to his native Poland in 1503, to Warmia/ Ermland, where he remained for the rest of his life. There he enjoyed the position of canon of the cathedral of the city of Frombork and also acted as personal physician to his uncle, Lucas Watzenrode, bishop of Warmia,4 who had supported Copernicus’ studies. After his uncle’s death in 1512, Copernicus rejected the possibility of ordination to the priesthood despite a strong pressure, including the possible loss of his benefice as a canon of the cathedral.5 As an intellectual of his time, Copernicus contributed to the recovery of ancient texts. Thus, he translated 85 letters of moral character written by Theophylact Simocates, a Byzantine historian of the seventh century, which were published in Krakow in 1509 (Kowalczyk 2014, p. 78). However, perhaps the most interesting for its possible implications is the translation of an apocryphal letter of the Pythagorean Lysias, a missive supposedly addressed to Hipparchus, a text that should have appeared in the printed version of De revolutionibus but which Copernicus himself eliminated (Mínguez Pérez 2008, pp. 59–68). It would not be the only element that was self-censored and, in fact, his Pythagoreanism is questioned nowadays.6 Between 1507 and 1514 he distributed copies among his closest circle of a manuscript entitled N.  Copernici de hypothesibus motuum coelestium a se constitutis

 By Jean Buridan, a fourteenth century scholar who initiated a skeptical movement (Mínguez Pérez 2008, pp. 59–68). 4  The humanist Aeneas Silvio Piccolomini was bishop of this see in 1457–1458, just before he was elevated to the pontificate as Pius II, as already mentioned. 5  It is possible to find studies in which it is affirmed that he was a priest. Possibly this was based on the biography written by the astronomer Camille Flammarion in the middle of the nineteenth century, in which he says: “He refused all these worldly temptations, preferring the meditative life of a quiet canon; and he became a priest. John Konarski, bishop of Krakow, conferred on him holy orders” (Flammarion, p. 60; Stein 1945, p. 3). However, it is now assumed that he was only a canon of the cathedral, an office which at that time did not imply ordination. 6  Africa (1961, pp. 403–409); Rosen (1962, vol. 53, 504–508); cited in Mínguez Pérez (2008). See also Sánchez Navarro (2003) 3


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commentariolus, usually known as Commentariolus,7 in which he set out a heliocentric “research program” or steps to follow, based on seven axioms, among which the most important is that the rotation of the Earth is responsible for the apparent motion of the stars and that their rotation around the Sun causes the annual cycle of the latter. This text, which was only printed in 1878 and lacked mathematical apparatus, must have had a notable influence, because even Tycho Brahe included a fragment of it in his Astronomiae instauratae progymnasmata of 1602. It is possible that the distribution of the Commentariolus influenced the fact that he was invited by Paul von Middleburg to participate in the reform of the calendar in the year 1513 or 1514, in order to calculate precisely the length of the tropical year (Carabias Torres 2012, p. 151; Koestler 1959), but he rejected the proposal and only limited himself to a consultation from Poland, which he never abandoned after his studies in Italy. The first response from religion to his new cosmology came from Protestantism. Three years after the distribution of the Commentariolus, Martin Luther publicly exposed his 95 theses against indulgences, nailing a text on the door of the palace church in Wittenberg, thus initiating the reform of Christianity and a period of religious wars. Luther, on the basis of scripture, vehemently denied Copernicus’s heliocentric interpretation, going so far as to denigrate him, albeit without naming him, in 1539. In any case, the Protestant Reformation and its response, the Catholic Counter-Reformation, precipitated the appearance of a social and cultural fracture in Europe, to which heliocentrism would not be alien, especially in the seventeenth century. The mathematician and cartographer Georg Joachim Rheticus8 was a student of Copernicus during the last years of his life and played an essential role in the publication of De revolutionibus. Rheticus published in 1540 Narratio Prima de libris revolutionum Copernici,9 announcing Copernicus’ book, which Copernicus had  According to Proverbio, the Commentariolus would have been written between 1512 and 1514 (Proverbio 1983, pp. 129–136; quoted in Carabias Torres 2012, p. 183). Other authors even claim that it could have been composed between 1502 and 1514 (Rosen 2004, cited in Levinas and Vida 2016, p. 281–331). The Little Commentary was not published as a printed text until the nineteenth century, but it served to spread Copernicus’ name among the scholarly community of the time (Mínguez Pérez 2008). 8  O’Connor and Robertson, “Georg Joachim von Lauchen Rheticus”, MHMA [online], , [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 9  Revolutionum eruditissimi viri et Mathematici excellentissimi, Reverendi D.  Doctoris Nicolai Copernici Torunnaei, Canonici Varmiensis, per quendam Iuvenen, Mathematicae studio sum Narratio Prima, published in Danzig (Poland), by Franz Rhode, in 1540 ( e-rara-1297). Kepler included a copy of Narratio Prima in Misterium Cosmographicum, published in 1596, from an edition of 1541 (, adding his own diagrams. Kepler, Prodromus dissertationum cosmographicarum, continens mysterium cosmographicum, de admirabili proportione orbium coelestium, deque causis coelorum numeri, magnitudinis, motuumque periodicorum genuinis & propriis, demonstratum, per quinque regularia corpora geometrica, Tubingae, Georgius Gruppenbachius, 1596.


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finished shortly before (Fig. 3.2 shows the heliocentric cosmology, reinterpreted by Kepler decades later). Probably, the reception of the book together with the positive response of Pope Clement VII to his secretary Johann Widmannstetter‘s explanations of the heliocentric theory in 1533 favored Copernicus’ decision to finally publish the work. Thus, Copernicus allowed Rheticus to copy the corrected manuscript, in its final version, during a stay with him from the summer of 1540 to August 1541. In May 1542, Rheticus handed the work to the printer Petreius, a specialist in astronomical texts, who immediately began typesetting it (Koestler 1959). However, Rheticus left Nuremberg and entrusted the supervision of the process to Osiander. In fact, Osiander had been in the publication process from the beginning and he had written letters to Rheticus and Copernicus in April 1541, suggesting that it might be more appropriate to present the rotation and translation movements of the Earth as a hypothesis, rather than as a true fact, in order to avoid criticism from the orthodox, both from the academic and theological points of view. No answer is known. In any case, when understanding Osiander’s role in both the publication of De revolutionibus and the insertion of the initial anonymous text warning the reader that it was a mathematical artifice to “save the appareances”, it must be borne in mind that his interest in astronomy was exclusively theological, based on the need to have an accurate calendar and chronology. Thus, from his perspective, it was irrelevant whether or not an astronomical cosmological model corresponded to a physical reality. Osiander was also involved in the edition of another astronomical work, the Ars magna of Hieronymous Cardan, also printed by Petreius, in 1544–1545, and Johannes Kepler considered him a connoisseur of astronomy.10 In any case, the reason why Osiander would not include his name in the Ad Lectorem may have been his intention to protect the heliocentric theory from the zeal of the Catholic authorities by avoiding its association with a reputable Protestant theologian as was his case. Copernicus must have been aware of this fact since he did not mention Rheticus, also a Protestant, in De revolutionibus, despite the role he had played. Osiander may have had in mind both the future of Copernicus’ work and his welfare. But the latter would die, as has been indicated, shortly after the text came off the press and without having to face any kind of opposition, intellectual or religious.

1.2 The Background of Heliocentrism Copernicus was fully aware of the heliocentric antecedents of several Greco-Latin authors. According to his own words in De revolutionibus: Wherefore I endeavored to reread the books of all the philosophers I could lay my hands on, to inquire whether any had been of opinion that the motions of the spheres were different from those supposed by those who teach mathematics in the schools.


 Kepler, Apologia, 1609. Frisch edition. 1. p. 24S, quoted in Wrightsman (1975, pp. 213–243).


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Fig. 3.2  The heliocentric cosmography in Rheticus’ Narratio Prima, according to Kepler The illustration comes from Mysterium Cosmographicum, 1596, where a version of the Narratio Prima edition of 1541, with a preface by Michael Maestlin, was enclosed. ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Rar 1367. (https://www.e-­

A geocentric cosmology had dominated for many centuries, especially since the works of Claudius Ptolemy (second century CE), particularly his Almagest, which was widely disseminated in the West and in the Islamic cultural area. But earlier the Pythagorean Philolaus (died 385 BCE) had asserted that everything, including the Earth, revolves around a central fire, although this was a philosophical rather than a scientific interpretation. Copernicus knew this cosmological vision and was also aware of the scope and implications of the new geographical discoveries of the Portuguese and Spanish from the geographical point of view.11 His own words, taken from the preface De


 De revolutionibus, I, 3. See the implications in Echeverria (2015, pp. 237–255).

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revolutionibus, addressed to the pontiff Paul III, echo a text by Plutarch where this point is clear: And I found in Cicero that Nicetus was the first to be of the opinion that the earth moved. Then, also in Plutarch I found that there were some others of that opinion, whose words, so that all may have them clear, I thought it good to transcribe: ‘Some think that the earth remains still, while Philolaus the Pythagorean says that it moves in an oblique circle around the fire, in the same way as the Sun and the Moon. Heraclides of Pontus and Ecphantus the Pythagorean think that the earth moves, but not by translation, but like a wheel, around its own center, from sunset to sunrise’.12

Heraclides Ponticus (fourth century BCE), philosopher, astronomer and disciple of Plato, was probably the first who truly formulated that the Earth rotates on its axis from a more physical point of view. Hiketas of Syracuse and Ekphantus, also Pythagoreans, shared his ideas, although it is not certain that they were real and perhaps they were only characters of a writing by Heraclides. What is certain is that Aristarchus of Samos, in the third century BCE, fully assumed this concept and identified the Sun with the central fire, placing it at the center of the universe. Furthermore, he postulated, like Anaxagoras two centuries earlier, that the stars are objects similar to the Sun. These truly revolutionary ideas, which were known to Copernicus, did not appear in the manuscript that Rheticus and Osiander received (detail in Fig. 3.3, full page in Fig. 3.4) nor, obviously, in the printed version of De revolutionibus. It was Copernicus himself who eliminated, perhaps in an exercise of prudent self-censorship, the reference to Aristarchus’ heliocentrism, perhaps influenced by Osiander’s letter of 1541. The printed version of De revolutionibus includes three references to various matters treated by Aristarchus, some possibly erroneous.13 However, the autograph manuscript of Copernicus preserved in the library of the Jagiellonian University in

Fig. 3.3  Detail mentioning Philolaus and Aristarchus Biblioteka Jagiellonska (Ms. BJ 10000, f. 11v)

12  The quotation that Copernicus extracts from Plutarch corresponds to De placitis philasophorum, book III, chapter X. This is not the only occasion on which he gives this kind of assessment: “The Pythagoreans Heraclides, Ecphantus and Mycetus of Syracuse were rightly of this opinion, according to Cicero, who supposed the earth to revolve at the center of the world. They were of the opinion that the stars set because of the interposition of the earth and that they went out when they ceased to interpose themselves”, Book I, chapter V, p. 21. 13  The quotations to Aristarchus are questions that are not related to heliocentrism: Copernicus, III, 2; III, 6; II, 13; on pp. 154, 164 and 183.


3  The New Astronomy at the Dawn of the Scientific Revolution

Fig. 3.4  Handwritten page De revolutionibus It contains corrections by Copernicus and quotes Aristarchus of Samos at the beginning of the sixteenth line, a mention that disappeared in the printed version. Biblioteka Jagiellonska (Ms. BJ 10000, f. 11v)

1  The Heliocentric Revolution and Copernicus


Kraków,14 not the copy used for the printed version, contains six references to Aristarchus.15 One, of great interest, heliocentric, was crossed out. It states: Philolaus believed in the mobility of the Earth and some believe that Aristarchus was of the same opinion. (Batten 1981).

The final version, as has already been shown, is quite different. A curious correction, undoubtedly, which must have been due to a specific motivation. Several authors (Lester 2009, p. 396; Levinas and Vida 2016, pp. 281–331) have postulated that the Iberian discoveries contributed to this paradigm shift, by enlarging the oikouménē, the habitable lands, with the Antipodes shown in Martin Waldseemüller’s map of 1507 (Fig. 1.18), and eliminating the central role of the three continents known in Antiquity. Thus, the new vision of the planet contributed to the development of the heliocentric system, although this connection seems at least a risky hypothesis. In any case, Copernicus was heir to a rich tradition that comes from Antiquity and that, from the fourteen / fifteen centuries onwards, gained great strength (Fig.  3.5). Thus, among his precedents at the beginning of the Modern Age are Nicholas of Cusa, Regiomontanus (a student of Peuerbach), Domenico Maria Novara (himself a pupil of Regiomontanus and Copernicus’ teacher in Bologna, as already described), and Celio Calcagnini. Moreover, although with his work De revolutionibus Copernicus changed cosmology completely, replacing the geocentrism and geostatism of Claudius Ptolemy’s Almagest, the structure of his book shows clear Ptolemaic roots.16 Thus, by denying the centrality of the Earth, De revolutionibus founded modern cosmology in a process called the “Copernican revolution” and enlarged the size of the cosmos, placing the Sun very close to a central position. This conception was opposed to the experience of the common man and to scholarly knowledge, but, above all, to the ecclesiastical doctrine of the doctors of the church. Copernicus thus made a leap into the void, which required a great intellectual effort for its justification and implementation. He thus took a personal and professional risk, although he died before he could feel the effects. This would not be the case of scholars who followed his cosmology: decades later Jerónimo Muñoz, Diego de Zúñiga, Giordano Bruno and Galileo Galilei, among others, would suffer pressures, trials, imprisonment and even, in the case of the former, death at the stake.  Gingerich (1985). In this work it is stated that there are four citations to Aristarchus that finally appeared in the printed version. 16  There is a parallelism between the two texts of Claudius Ptolemy, Geographia and Almagest, and their renovations in the sixteenth century, which largely followed their structure by Gerardus Mercator and Nicolaus Copernicus, which shows the extraordinary impact of his work over the centuries. 14 15


3  The New Astronomy at the Dawn of the Scientific Revolution

Fig. 3.5  Different traditions of thought in relation to the evolution of astronomy The connections between prominent astronomers within their cultural spheres, from Antiquity to the beginning of the seventeenth century, are shown

1.3 Heliocentrism up to the Beginning of the Scientific Revolution With the significant precedent of the heliocentric ideas of Nicholas of Cusa in the fifteenth century, Rheticus would be the first modern heliocentric scholar. The ideas spread rapidly in certain educated circles and, for example, the following year after the publication of De revolutionibus, Prince Felipe of Habsburg later kink of Spain and Portugal, studied this work, by explicit order of his father Emperor Charles V, with his preceptor Bishop Juan Martínez Silíceo.17 Gradually heliocentrism spread and among its advocates were Thomas Digges (c. 1546–1595), Giordano Bruno, Christopher Rothmann (c. 1550/1560 – c. 1600), Diego de Zúñiga (1536–1597/1598) or Jerónimo Muñoz (1520–1591) before the end of the century. Thus, De revolutionibus had a certain impact, both editorially (very poor compared to more classical and geocentric texts such as Petrus Apianus (1495–1552) or even Johannes Sacrobosco’s Sphera) and intellectually. The University of Salamanca included heliocentrism as a method of calculation in the second half of the sixteenth century, but without entering into assessments of

 The monarch was passionate about science and enjoyed the lessons of the cosmographer Alonso de Santa Cruz. His son Felipe II gave much importance to mathematics contrary to his image of dark and excessively religious person (Fernández Navarrete 1852). 17

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its implications as a representation of reality. Thus, the syllabus of the visitador Diego de Covarrubias in 1561 provided the option, by vote of the students, to study Copernican heliocentrism. This fact was possibly due to its defence by Hernando de Aguilera, professor of astronomy between 1561 and 1576 (Esteban Piñeiro 2006, p. 370; Carabias Torres 2012, pp. 93, 95, 121–122). One of the first public and explicit admissions came from Augustinian theologian and monk Diego de Zúñiga, in In Job commentaria of 1584, although he would later retract it following purely academic criteria and without any ecclesiastical pressure. He was a fervent heliocentrist and his texts, of theological character, would be eventually banned together with De revolutionibus. The following paragraph makes clear his interpretation of the Bible and of the paragraph Job 9:6 which states that the Sun orbits around the Earth: This difficult passage may be illustrated by the sentence of the Pythagoreans, that the earth moves naturally; for otherwise it is not possible to explain the motion of the discordant stars, either by their speed or by their slowness.... In our days, Copernicus has explained in a similar way the course of the planets, and, without any doubt, better than with the Syntaxis [Mathēmatikē Syntaxis, the Almagest] of Ptolemy, he has come to know by means of his doctrine the position occupied by the planets and goes on to show how admirable this movement is, and assures us that among all the passages of the Bible that are quoted to prove the immobility of the earth, none can be presented so clear, so explicit and so definite as this one which proves its mobility. Diego de Zúñiga, In Job Commentaria18

Zúñiga was also responsible for the statutes of University of Salamanca of 1594, in which the studies of the chair of astronomy were established: In the second quadrennium they alternated with reading Nicolaus Copernicus and the Prutenicae tabulae of Erasmus Reinhold. In the third quadrennium they returned again to Ptolemy. Diego de Zúñiga19

The Catholic Church showed initially an ambivalent attitude. As indicated above, some high-ranking hierarchs encouraged the publication and dissemination of De revolutionibus. In fact, the reform of the calendar promoted by Pope Gregory XIII, which was promulgated in 1582 in the states of the Italian peninsula, Portugal and Spain, and which was proposed by Aloysius Lilius and promoted by Christopher Clavius, was based on the Prutenic Tables of Erasmus Reinhold, published in 1551, which are the first calculated with the Copernican heliocentrism, despite assuming that it was only a “mathematical artifice” to “save appearances”, a convenient euphemism that would be used on numerous occasions, both from Antiquity and in the anonymous prologue of De revolutionibus itself due to its editor, Andreas Osiander. The ideas and solutions behind this calendar reform, still in use, were  Picatoste y Rodríguez (1891).  Zúñiga, Estatutos hechos por la muy insigne Vniuersidad de Salamanca, Titulo XVIII, De la Cathedra de Mathematicas y Astrologia: impreso por Diego Cousío, Salamanca, 1595 [online],, [accessed: 24 September 2018]; see also De Bustos Tovar (1973, pp. 235–252). 18 19


3  The New Astronomy at the Dawn of the Scientific Revolution

possibly based on the reports of the University of Salamanca in 1515 and 1578 (Carabias Torres 2012, pp. 20, 24–28, 142, 236. Additional informaiton in Chap. 2, Sect. 2.7). Eventually, after the discoveries made by Galileo Galilei from 1610 onwards through the use of the telescope and his intervention in the theological field, several heliocentric works were vetoed or were subject to interdiction until their “correction”, as happened to De revolutionibus. In Protestant countries the initial reactions in the academic establishment were indifferent if not negative. Thus, Caspar Paucer, the professor at the University of Wittenberg, proposed to the Landgrave of Hesse in 1551 the prohibition of the teaching of Copernicus’ theory, while the universities of Zürich, Rostock and Tübingen explicitly condemned heliocentrism. On the contrary, in the Catholic world, important members of the curia impulse the publication of Copernicus’ text, although the Sorbonne followed in the footsteps of the Protestant universities (remember that the University of Paris even prohibited the teachings of Aristotle in 1215 when his texts were translated into Latin). Already in the beginnings of the seventeenth century, Thomas Harriot,20 Galileo Galilei, Simon Stevin,21 Michael Maestlin, Johannes Kepler, Juan Cedillo Díaz and Juan Bautista Vélez (Esteban Piñeiro 2006) openly declared themselves heliocentrists. A small number for an interpretation of reality destined to change the world. The first scholar to show absolute support for heliocentrism was Johannes Kepler, although Galileo Galilei, in his epistolary exchanges22 with him, claimed to be a convinced heliocentrist long before his writings of 1612–1616, the year of his first major conflict with the Holy Office and the subsequent admonition not to teach heliocentrism. After the 1616 admonition, the Catholic hierarchy would completely change its attitude from utilitarian flexibility to great intransigence. Therefore, although 2300  years ago some scholars already postulated that the Earth rotated on itself and revolved around the Sun, it would be the interpretation of a motionless Earth that would prevail until the seventeenth century in Protestant countries. In the Catholic Europe De revolutionibus was censored in 1616 until its “correction”, limiting its use for the realization of ephemeris calculations, and it would remain formally in the Index of the books forbidden by the Inquisition (Fig. 3.6) until 1835.23

 O’Connor and Robertson, “Thomas Harriot” MHMA, [online], , [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 21  O’Connor and Robertson, “Simon Stevin” MHMA, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 22  Galileo’s first letter to Kepler on August 4, 1597, published in “Johannes Kepler, Gesammette Werke”, Munich: Beck XIII, 130–131, 391, 1937, quoted in Koestler (1959). A detailed study is also found in Postl (1977, pp. 325–330). 23  Pope Benedict XIV ordered the disappearance of heliocentric works from the Index in 1757/1758. However Galileo and Copernicus would continue to appear in the 1758 and 1819 editions and would only disappear from the Index in 1835. 20

1  The Heliocentric Revolution and Copernicus


Fig. 3.6  Title page and two pages of the Index librorum prohibitorum, in its 1681 version It is the dreaded index of books banned by the Roman Inquisition, printed in 1704. The titles of Copernicus’s De revolutionibus and Galileo’s Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo can be seen. ETH-Bibliothek Zürich (Rar 2719)

1.4 Giordano Bruno and the Infinite Worlds Giordano Bruno has often been called a “martyr of science”, since he paid with his life for daring to interpret reality from alternative positions, opposing an ultra-­ orthodox, intransigent interpretation, which implies a violent reaction. The following statements are among his best known phrases: And such a space we call infinite, because there is no reason, capacity, possibility, sense, or nature that should limit it. In it there are infinite worlds similar to it and not different from it in kind, because there is no reason or defect of natural capacity (I mean both passive and active power) by which, just as in this space which surrounds us they exist, they do not exist equally in all the other space which by its nature is not different or diverse from it.24 There are, then, innumerable suns; there are infinite earths which revolve equally around such suns, just as we see these seven [planets] revolve around this sun which is near us.25

Both quotations appear in De L’Infinito Universo E Mondi, 1584, in the fifth and third dialogues, respectively.  From L’Infinito Universo E Mondi, 1584, In the original Italian: “Cotal spacio lo diciamo infinito, perché non è raggione, convenienza, possibilità, senso o natura che debba finirlo: in esso sono infiniti mondi simili a questo, e non differenti in geno da questo; perché non è raggione né difetto di facultà naturale, dico tanto potenza passiva quanto attiva, per la quale, come come in questo spacio circa noi ne sono, medesimamente non ne sieno in tutto l’altro spacio che di natura non è differente ed. altro da questo”. Giordano Bruno, Dialoghi italiani I, Dialoghi metafisici Nuovamente ristampati con le note di Giovanni Gentile, Terza edizione a cura di Giovanni Aquilecchia, Sansoni Firenze, second edition 1985. Electronic edition of 31 October 2006. 25  In the original Italian: “Sono dunque soli innumerabili, sono terre infinite, che similmente circuiscono quei soli; come veggiamo questi sette circuire questo sole a noi vicino”, Giordano Bruno, in the “third dialogue”. 24


3  The New Astronomy at the Dawn of the Scientific Revolution

Since the discovery outside the solar system of the first planets orbiting solar-­ type stars26 there has been a great variety of discoveries that have completely changed the existing paradigm, reminiscent of anthropocentrism. The different planetary systems show an extraordinary diversity: gas giants similar to Jupiter or much hotter, planets similar in size to the Moon, or in orbits very close to their host stars, other objects orbiting around binary stars or even around neutron stars. The search and characterization, including the properties of their atmospheres and evolution, continues (Barrado Navascués 2021). In all these discoveries, the figure of Giordano Bruno, to some extent, still resonate. His life took place during the second half of the sixteenth century. He was born in 1548, five years after the publication of De revolutionibus. Among the experiences that would mark his education is an anecdote as a child, recounted by himself, which may have been the starting point of his later Neoplatonism: a trek to the submit of the Vesuvius, the imposing volcano overlooking the Bay of Naples, the kingdom of which he was a native and therefore a subject of the Spanish kings of the Habsburg dynasty. As he saw the horizon vary as he climbed, he realized that the senses can provide misleading sensations. For his treatises and the problems he faced, he has been called the “philosopher of astronomy” (Riehl 1905). Giordano Bruno was a member of the Dominican religious order and among his intellectual references were Thomas Aquinas, who lived in the same monastery where Bruno did his novitiate, and Ramon Llull .27 In the convent he probably never felt comfortable because of the routine and discipline, and it is even possible that he came close to or even converted to Protestantism at some point in his life (Dear 2007, p. 155). Contrary to Copernicus, who delayed the publication of his theory for almost 40 years, perhaps fearing the reaction of the academic intelligentsia or the Inquisition, and who after his stay in northern Italy lived the rest of his life in the same city, in nowadays Poland, he broke completely with academic but above all religious orthodoxy, becoming a nomad who lived in several European countries, perhaps looking for and free environment, more suitable for his metaphysical speculations. He thus left his native Naples, and after a brief stay in Rome and other Italian cities, he visited the Protestant countries of central Europe where religious reform had, to a certain extent, facilitated education and a certain non-conformism. However, because of his ideas, he became an uncomfortable character, which led him to recognize that intolerance was the sign of the times. In fact, Geneva, one of the cities visited by Bruno and then dominated by Jean Calvin, is a clear example, since it was there, in 1553, that the Spanish theologian and physician Michael Servetus was executed on charges of heresy. After passing through France, Bruno would take the Copernican heliocentrism to England, and in 1584 he held a famous  By Michel Mayor and Didier Queloz in 1995, Nobel Prize in Physics 2019. See Barrado Navacués (2019, pp. 35–38). 27  Ramon Lull in Catalan, Raimundus or Raymundus Lullus in Latin, (c. 1232–1315). A scholar and theologian, his technical developments include the improvement of the nocturlabium, first described in the twelfth century, and the wind rose (Farré Olivé 1996, pp. 3–12). 26

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oral tournament at the University of Oxford. A Pyrrhic triumph, as he failed to convince anyone of his intellectual or theological positions. Bruno eventually returned to the Italian peninsula in 1591, after failing in his search for stability in the Germanic states and the protection of one of their princes (protection that Martin Luther obtained some decades earlier), at the invitation of the Venetian patrician Giovanni Mocenigo, to be his teacher. In May 1592 he planned to return to Frankfurt to supervise the printing of his works, a decision that Mocenigo did not like. After a fierce argument, Mocenigo denounced Bruno, who was arrested by order of the Inquisition and all his property and books were confiscated. At the first trial of Bruno in Venice, Mocenigo provided a long list of heretical ideas he claimed to have heard from the accused. Despite his interpretations of the Christian scriptures, there was little room for theology in the run-up to his trial, and among the many accusations was one against his theory of an unlimited universe and the infinitude of worlds. In any case, what was to be a temporary stay in the north of the Italian peninsula ended with nine years in prison, a trial and dead at the stake. Bruno, like Galileo Galilei years later, coerced by his accuser, abjured of his beliefs. However, he returned to defend his original positions, even in the face of the possibility of suffering torture. As would happen to Galileo in 1616, behind the trial and as examiner of his theories was Robert Bellarmine (or Belarmino). This Jesuit cardinal, known as the “hammer of heretics”, would be responsible for condemning the theory of the Earth’s mobility around the Sun and forbidding the Pisan to spread and use it except as a mathematical hypothesis. He was also the main architect of Bruno’s fate. Bellarmine, who received an exquisite education, would nevertheless make comments that leave no doubt about his position. The intransigence of the Cardinal, the highest exponent of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, was very clear. An attitude that he maintained throughout his life and that extended to the trial of Galileo Galilei: Does not Augustine clearly affirm (De Genesi ad litteram, XXI, 16) that about the size of the Moon it is much better to believe the divine Scriptures than the astrologers, since the latter maintain that some stars are larger not only than the Moon, but also than the Sun?28

Finally, Bruno was placed under the jurisdiction of the Holy Office in Rome, where he was condemned as a heretic, essentially for his ideas about the trinity,29 and sentenced to death at the stake. For the implementation of the sentence, Bruno was “relaxed” to the civil authority, the one in charge of his execution, and burned on the pyre on February 17th, 1600.

 In a text of 1617. The terms “astrologer” and “astronomer” maintained a synonymy until the seventeenth century, which added some confusion in the activities of professionals in each of these subjects. Belarmino, Condones, 1617, p. 461, quoted by Beltrán Marí (2006, p. 102 and note 69 on page 660). 29  Kuhn (1996, p. 261); Dear (2007). However, in the list of charges there was also his defense of heliocentric cosmology (Beltrán Marí 2006, p. 130). 28


3  The New Astronomy at the Dawn of the Scientific Revolution

Giordano Bruno was not a scientist, but his vision was an inspiration to other intellectuals and had pan-European recognition. In any case, he was not the first to speculate about the position of the Earth in the cosmos. Since the pre-Socratic scholar Anaximander of Miletus, there have been quite a number of intellectuals who have managed to avoid the accepted convention of explicit or more subtle anthropocentrism in the interpretation of the cosmos and our position in it. Be that as it may, Giordano Bruno has remained in the collective memory as a thinker who was capable of defending his beliefs to the last consequences.

2 Tycho Brahe: New Stars and Accurate Stellar Catalogues If Nicolaus Copernicus laid the theoretical foundations of the heliocentric revolution in the mid-sixteenth century, it was Tycho Brahe who provided the observations that would prove that the old ideas of the cosmos were obsolete. Tycho, like the “new” star he described in the constellation Cassiopeia, sighted on November 11th, 1572, was truly an innovative man. Tycho Brahe30, Latinized name of Tyge Ottesen Brahe, was born in Knutstorp, in Skåne, in the south of the Scandinavian peninsula, at that time under the jurisdiction of the Danish monarch, on December 14th, 1546. He was educated by his uncle Jorgen Brahe, who was close to the royal court. In fact, King Frederick II of Denmark and Norway would finance the construction of a modern astronomical observatory on the island of Hven, called Uraniborg: the castle of Urania, muse of astronomy. From there Tycho Brahe made observations that would change the way of doing astronomy and understanding the universe. Tycho Brahe was probably one of the greatest observational astronomers of all times, unlike Galileo, famous for his many discoveries and his physical laws, but whose observations did not reach the perfection of those made by the former. The quality of the instruments he designed and built, his methodical procedures, the thoroughness of his work and the consequences of his results place him in the Olympus of thinkers and scientists. And this despite the fact that he never used any optical instrument, since its astronomical use began a few years after his death. Among other key issues, it should be noted that without his observations Johannes Kepler would not have been able to enunciate the three laws that bear his name and describe the motion of the planets around the Sun. The care with which Brahe carried out his measurements led him to always design instruments of higher quality that would stand the test of time. He also improved their use by experimenting with new mechanisms and materials (Fig. 3.7). On the other hand, he checked them periodically to avoid systematic errors due to the degradation of their various parts. Moreover, Brahe methodically obtained both data and errors. He also measured

 Moesgaard (2007, pp. 163–165); O’Connor and Robertson, “Tycho Brahe”, MHMA, [online], , [accessed 3 September 2015]. 30

2  Tycho Brahe: New Stars and Accurate Stellar Catalogues


Fig. 3.7  Tycho Brahe’s Sextant and quadrant From De mundi aetherei recentioribus phaenomenis liber secundus, 1588, Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division (QB41.B735 1603)

positions of the different celestial bodies at any moment of their orbits, not only at the most significant ones, such as planetary oppositions and quadratures, as was common among the astronomers of the time. Finally, he was also the first astronomer to take into account the refraction of the atmosphere, that is, the change in direction of a ray of light as it passes through it, to measure the true positions of the stars. He was always willing to improve his own theories, never becoming obstinate in an idea. As an example, in 1599 he realized that his theory of the Moon’s motion did not fit his observations, since the eclipse predicted by it began twenty-four minutes earlier than he had calculated. Therefore, he revised and improving it. It is precisely this meticulousness that allowed him to understand that the tables of celestial positions that were used at the time, among which the Alfonsine Tables of the Castilian King Alfonso X “the Wise” stand out, contained substantial errors. This is the case of his observation of the conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter made on August 17th, 1563. Thus, one of his great scientific contributions was the revision of the astronomical tables, carried out with the help of Johannes Kepler, whom he hired as assistant, and which would be published in 1627, after the death of Tycho Brahe, following years of preparation by Kepler. Tables that were indispensable, among many other functions, for precise navigation, using the stars to determine the position.


3  The New Astronomy at the Dawn of the Scientific Revolution

Fig. 3.8  Tycho Brahe’s drawing of the 1572 supernova It appeared in his book De nova stella, published the following year. The different stars are identified: A caput Caßiopeæ (ζ Cas), B pectus Schedir (α Cas), C Cingulum (η Cas), D flexura ad Ilia (γ Cas), E Genu (δ Cas), F Pes (ε Cas), G suprema Cathedræ (β Cas), H media Chatedræ (κ Cas), and I Noua stella, which is the supernova

One of Tycho Brahe’s main contributions to the field of stellar astronomy was, as already mentioned, the observation, on November 11th, 1572, of a new star in the constellation Cassiopeia, although he was not the first to do so (Fig. 3.8). Wolfgang Schuler in Wittenberg made the first historical record on November 6th. In the following days, observations were made by Hainzel, Lindauer, Francesco Maurolico and Cornelius Gemma. In Spain, Jerónimo Muñoz published months later the treatise Libro del Nuevo cometa (Book of the new comet), which was opposed to the Aristotelian thesis of immutability of the sky and would be silenced by the strong critics, in spite of having been published at the request of Felipe II, proof that the royal patronage was not always sufficient and that this king, sometimes reviled, was not such an absolute monarch as sometimes he is represented. Tycho Brahe published, in the same year as Muñoz’s book, his De nova Stella et nullius aeri memoria primus visa. Brahe would receive immortal fame while Muñoz would suffer attacks and perhaps came to fear for his life.

2  Tycho Brahe: New Stars and Accurate Stellar Catalogues


Brahe, without being aware of it, observed a supernova, probably of type Ia. That is, the annihilation of a white dwarf at the end of its life, after having exhausted all its nuclear fuel, due to the interaction with a giant companion star. But it would be several centuries before this kind of knowledge was achieved. For him and the rest of the world it was a new star, an unexpected and surprising event, an object that stood out for its brightness for a few months, gradually weakening until it disappeared, sowing perplexity on the continent. The observation of the supernova of 1572 and the comet of 157731 (Fig.  3.9) would be an important evidence for the dismantling of the influence of Aristotle and the scholastic school, which had become a hindrance in Western thought, although the controversy between the new science and tradition did not cease with this discovery and, some five decades later, it almost cost Galileo Galilei his life, as indeed happened with Giordano Bruno. In any case, as a consequence of this event, and as happened to Hipparchus of Nicaea seventeenth centuries earlier, Brahe decided to compile a new stellar catalog that, thanks to the great precision of the instrumentation used, provided data of 1004 fixed stars, much more accurate than those of any previous one.32 This was a necessary improvement to ensure that they could eventually be used in the solution of the longitude problem (de Grijs 2017). Another of Tycho Brahe’s works that deserves to be highlighted is his Astronomiae Instauratae Mechanica, dedicated to Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, who supported his work. Initially published in a short version in 1598, the definitive edition33 was not produced until 1602 by Johannes Kepler, a year after Brahe’s death. The book contains wonderful engravings of his impressive astronomical instruments and the description, so current, that he makes of them. Brahe, in an attempt to preserve part of the geocentric system, proposed and promoted, with the publication of De mundi aetherei recentioribus phaenomenis liber secundus in 1588, an alternative cosmology that represented an intermediate path between the Ptolemaic system and the new heliocentrism. In his cosmology the Moon and the Sun would orbit around the Earth and the rest of the planets would do so around our star (Fig.  3.10), thus maintaining the centrality and immobility of the Earth.

 Jerónimo Muñoz also publiseh his own observations of this comet in Summa del Prognostico del Cometa: y de la Ecclipse de la luna, que fue a los 26 de septiembre del año 1577 a las 12 horas, 11 minutos: el qual cometa ha sido causado, por la dicha Ecclipse. Juan Navarro editor, 1578. 32  The catalogue Stellarum octavi orbis inerrantium accurata restitution, dated 1598, circulated in manuscript. A few years after his death in 1601, Astronomiae Instauratae Progymnasmata, which includes only 777 stars, was published. Johannes Kepler and Christen Sørensen Longomontanus, both Brahe’s assistants, republished the stellar catalogue. Longomontanus only the 777 stars in Astronomia danica of 1622; Kepler the totality in Tabulae Rudolphinae of 1627. The biography of Tycho Brahe written by J. L. E. Dreyer in 1890, a great specialist in his work, describes the genesis. Updated information can be found in Verbunt and Van Gent (2010). 33  Tycho Brahe, Astronomiae instauratae Mechanica (Mechanics of Astronomy renewed 1602), San Millán, Málaga, 2008. It includes an essay on Brahe and his work by Nicolás García Herrera. 31


3  The New Astronomy at the Dawn of the Scientific Revolution

Fig. 3.9  The comet of 1577 revolving around the Sun Also depicted are the orbits of Mercury and Venus, and the orbit of the Sun centered on the Earth. De mundi aetherei recentioribus phaenomenis liber secundus, 1588, Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division (QB41.B735 1603)

The relationship between Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, though not without its ups and downs, was based on mutual recognition of their work. Brahe always supported Kepler’s effort, and Kepler recognized the crucial role Brahe played in his own research. The collaboration between the two eventually would cause an extraordinary scientific impact.

2  Tycho Brahe: New Stars and Accurate Stellar Catalogues


Fig. 3.10  Tycho Brahe’s mixed cosmology The planets would orbit the Sun, and the orbit of the Sun and the Moon would be centered on the Earth. De mundi aetherei recentioribus phaenomenis liber secundus, 1588, Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division (QB41.B735 1603)

On the other hand, among his assistants, Brahe counted, in the last months of his life, with Simon Marius, who, later, would be the discoverer, together with Galileo, of the satellites of Jupiter. No physical evidence remains of his work (certainly “sic transit gloria mundi”). Nor of the instruments he created, some of them truly amazing for their size and precision, such as the great wall quadrant, analogous to the one that Ulugh Beg, astronomer and king in Central Asia, built a century earlier, nor of the buildings of the observatory of Uraniborg, on the island of Hven. Only his scientific results survive as a support for the new science. Thus, another lesson he bequeathed to us is


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that the only permanent thing is knowledge. His epitaph was therefore premonitory: “Nec fasces nec opes, Sola Artis sceptra perennant” (“Neither honors nor riches: it is only the perfection of the work that will survive”).

3 Kepler: The Last Pythagorean? Johannes Kepler34 (1571–1630) began an ecclesiastical career at the Protestant seminary of Maulbronn, where he stayed from the age of 13 to17, before moving to the University of Tübingen, one of the bastions of the Reformation, where he studied for another four years, although he did not graduate in theology, as he was offered the post of professor of mathematics in the town of Gratz. By then Kepler was a convinced heliocentrist, due to the influence of his teacher Michael Maestlin. From the personal point of view, he was apparently of an unhealthy and withdrawn nature, according to the many intimate details with which he embellished his writings. Kepler started his public career as a scientist with a work, Mysterium Cosmographicum35 (Fig. 3.11), which takes us back two thousand years before his time, since it has a notoriously Pythagorean and arcane character. His trajectory concluded with Somnium sice Astronomia lunaris, published posthumously, which is considered the first work of science fiction in the modern sense,36 anticipating what would happen four centuries later, the journey of man to the Moon. This literary work can also be classified as hermetic. His own life describes this circular evolution: he came from the lowest strata of Germanic society (his father was a soldier of fortune), but he still received an excellent formal education37 and rose to the highest academic heights, becoming an imperial mathematician and arbiter of astronomy at the dawn of the age of telescopes, when the perfect Aristotelian image collapsed shockingly. However, he ended up wandering, almost back to abject poverty. If in a certain way Tycho Brahe was the first modern astronomer because of the use he made of his precise instruments and the way he acquired his observations, it could also be said that Kepler was the last of the medieval sages, despite his modernity. Although it would

 O’Connor and Robertson, “Johannes Kepler”, MHMA, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]; Apt (2007, pp. 620–622). 35  The full title is Prodomus dissertationum cosmographicarum, continens misterium cosmographicum, de admirabili proportione orbium coelestium, by Georgius Gruppenbachius, Tübingen 1596. 36  Juan Maldonado (1485–1554) wrote another work also entitled Somnium in 1532, with the same subject matter and inspired by the passage of Halley’s comet in 1531. It was published together with other short works in Ioannis Maldonado quaedam Oposcula nunc primum in lucem edita, Juan de Junta, Burgos (1541). 37  In the advanced Protestant system of his native Wurtenberg, under the rule of the very Protestant Duke Christoph and his son Ludwig, which provided scholarships for poor and brilliant students. 34

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Fig. 3.11  Heliocentrism and geocentrism in Kepler’s Mysterium Cosmographicum, 1596 ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Rar 1367

probably be more accurate to say that his roots are in Antiquity and that he is a worthy heir of the Pythagoreans, so long reviled. Galileo Galilei, Tycho Brahe and he would form a triad that would overthrow, with their observations and theoretical formulations, interpretations of the world established since the Roman Empire. However, Kepler, the most mystical, would connect to a great extent with a vision even before Rome: the archaic Hellas and the first philosophical schools.

3.1 Kepler’s Pythagorean Heritage The sixth century BCE corresponds to one of the most extraordinary centuries in the history of thought, not only in the West, but worldwide: Confucius and Lao-Tse in China, Buddha in India, and probably Zoroaster in ancient Iran initiated their own revolutions in the religious and philosophical fields of their respective cultures. However, given this synchronicity, it is difficult to reject that they are not, in some way, interconnected through travelers and traders, for the frontiers of ideas are more permeable than the political barriers. In the Mediterranean, the Ionian philosophers began a new intellectual adventure, a different way of understanding the world: the rational interpretation. And among them Pythagoras of Samos (c. 570 – c. 495 BCE)


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stood out. He was heir to Thales of Miletus, the initiator of a very influential school. Thales brought geometry to the Hellas and predicted, or most probably interpreted correctly, an eclipse of the Sun. Pythagoras introduced the idea that the Earth was spherical,38 perhaps due to the circular shape of its shadow cast on the Moon during eclipses. It is also possible that the concept obeyed a purely aesthetic motivation, an idea of perfection represented by the circular and spherical shapes. He divided the world into five zones according to latitude or klimatas, a concept that would later develop into climatic zones. For him or for his school, the universe would be a sphere rotating around an axis passing through the Earth. In addition, he recognized that the Moon, the Sun and the planets had independent motions in a direction opposite to the daily rotation of the sphere of fixed stars, although it could have been his student Alcmeon of Crotona who realized this fact. He would also have initiated theoretical geometry, number theory, acoustics, and fused music and astronomy through the harmony of celestial objects, including the relationship between notes, relationships between distances and numerical proportions, thus initiating the use of mathematical language to describe physical reality. Philolaus, already in the fifth century BCE, a Pythagorean born in Tarentum or Crotona and who may have come to know Pythagoras, turned cosmology upside down by proposing a universe in which the stars orbit around a central fire called Hestia, hidden by Antichton39 or anti-earth. The light of the Sun would be the reflection of that fire. All the planets, including the Earth, would revolve around Hestia. Our planet, in addition, would revolve on itself, producing the apparent diurnal motion. Although perhaps the proposal about the rotational movement corresponds to two other Pythagoreans of whom nothing is known: Hyketas and Ekphantus (Dreyer 1906, p. 49; Duhem 1913, quoted in Koestler 1959, p. 28), who would have been born in Syracuse. However, as we have already mentioned, it is most likely that these characters were rhetorical devices used by Philolaus. Much later, Heraclides Ponticus (c. 390–310 BCE), a disciple of Aristotle and Democritus but a Pythagorean, devised a cosmological system in which Mercury and Venus would orbit around the Sun, and our star and the rest of the known planets (Mars, Jupiter and Saturn) would revolve around the Earth. The next step in the ladder of knowledge corresponded to Aristarchus, born on the island of Samos as Pythagoras, but much later, since his life took place between 310 and 230 BCE, approximately. He placed the Sun in the center (not near it, like Philolaus) and he suspected that the stars were bodies analogous to the Sun, but located so far away that they did not display a parallax or apparent movement with respect to a fixed reference due to the translation of the Earth. Thus, heliocentrism was perhaps accepted as a possible cosmology among many other models at the time of the Roman Empire, although it was rejected by one of  Perhaps postulated by Epimenides of Cnosso or Crete in the seventh  – sixth century BCE (Barrado Navascués 2021). Another possibility is Parmenides of Elea (c. 570–495/480 BCE). 39  A concept that would be repeated with Pomponius Mela in the first century, with his Antichtone, the southern continent, the geographical counterweight to Europe and Asia. 38

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the best astronomers of Antiquity,  Hipparchus of Nicaea, and the geocentric and geostationary system reigned absolute from Claudius Ptolemy onwards, in the second century CE. Therefore, Aristarchus would be the last of the Pythagorean astronomers, if can classify him within this philosophical school, and his ideas remained in a corner until the sixteenth century, when heliocentrism would be taken up again by Nicolaus Copernicus. As for Pythagoreanism and its emphasis on form, harmony and number, it would be Johannes Kepler, at the end of the same century, who would take up the baton.

3.2 Kepler and the Multiple Harmonies of the Cosmos Kepler, at some point during the period when he was teaching in Graz (1594–1600), experienced an epiphany, related to the cosmological order, that would change his life and, possibly, the history of science. In his own words: I will never be able to describe in words the delight I felt at my discovery.40 Kepler, Mysterium Cosmographicum.

Like Pythagoras two thousand years before, he tried to find arithmetical relations between the orbits of the planets.41 But finally his leit-motif would be geometry: the insertion of the five regular solids, formed by regular polygons and that can be circumscribed in a sphere, between the orbits of the planets. Thus, the cosmological order would be as follows: the orbit of Saturn would inscribed inside a cube; the orbit of Jupiter would contain a tetrahedron; inside the orbit of Mars would be a dodecahedron; the Earth would circumscribe an icosahedron; between Venus and Mercury would be an octahedron. And, of course, in the center would be the reigning Sun42 (Fig. 3.12). Published in 1596 as Prodromus dissertationum cosmographicarum, continens mysterium cosmographicum or simply Mysterium Cosmographycum, it is the first explicit statement of heliocentrism by a professional astronomer after the publication of De revolutionibus by Nicolaus Copernicus in 1453.43 According to A. Koestler, it represented the transition from medieval to modern science and combined the empiricism of the latter with the dominant aprioristic mysticism of the former (Koestler 1959). A fusion that would be a signature of Kepler’s works. In any case, perhaps the most remarkable feature is that Kepler, for the first time, looked

 Kepler, Mysterium Cosmographicum, G. W., vol. 1. Preface to the reader (Koestler 1959).  Relationships that would finally be found in the eighteenth century and exposed by the rule of Titius-Bode, although it seems to be a curiosity and not to have any relevant physical meaning. 42  Quoted in Dreyer (1953). 43  According to Beltrán Marí (2006). However, Rheticus published earlier Narratio Prima (the advance of Copernicus’ work, actually entitled De libris revolutionum Copernici narratio prima and Erasmus Reingold’s Prutenic tables, based on Copernicus’ heliocentrism, appeared in 1551. 40 41


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Fig. 3.12  The cosmology of the Mysterium Cosmographicum, published in 1596 The text was republished, profusely annotated by Kepler, in 1621. ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Rar 1367

for physical causes, not only descriptive ones. He associated, then, physics and astronomy even before Galileo Galilei and, obviously, he anticipated Newton. Certainly, the Mysterium Cosmographycum is plagued with errors and mystical elucubrations, which Kepler himself would reveal and comment on in a second edition, in 1621, profusely annotated and whose new material occupies almost as much as the original content. Kepler’s candor and honesty transpire in all his writings. In any case, its publication had a certain success,44 partly because Kepler distributed it  At that time about a thousand copies of science and the like were published (Reicke 1900, p. 120, quoted by Koestler 1959). 44

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to the most relevant astronomers of the moment and it would serve him to initiate his relationship with Tycho Brahe, astronomer of the Holy Roman Empire and owner of the collection of the most precise instruments and, therefore, of the best astronomical observations of the moment. Tycho’s cooperation was necessary to find the proof of the Earth’s motion: the parallax due to its translation around the Sun, a phenomenon which would not be demonstrated until the nineteenth century.45

3.3 The Collaboration with Tycho Brahe: The Orbit of Mars and the Rudolfian Tables Tycho Brahe invited Kepler to join him at his new observatory at Benatek, some 35 km from Prague, in an affectionate letter signed on December 9th, 1599. The meeting took place on February 4th, 1600 and the first consequence was a redistribution of observational work among Tycho’s various assistants. Kepler was assigned Mars, a providential coincidence, since this planet has a slight eccentricity, the highest among the planets, which would allow him to derive the first of his famous three laws.46 The following 18 months, until the death of the aristocratic imperial astronomer, were complex in the relationship of both astronomers. Two days after Brahe’s passing, Kepler was appointed imperial mathematician, on November 6th, 1601. Fortune finally smiled on the still young Kepler. To the emperor he would dedicate one of his magna opera, Astronomia nova, which in its full title reveals the significant role played by Tycho and Kepler’s own honesty in acknowledging it so explicitly. He also recognized the role of physics in this new interpretation of reality. Thus, the full title of the volume is: New Astronomy Based on Causality or Physics of the Sky Derived from Investigations of the Motions of the star Mars Based on the Observations of the Noble Tycho Brahe.47 Published in 1609, Astronomia nova contains the first two laws of planetary movements, but restricted only to Mars. The text rests on the extraordinary observational treasure that Tycho accumulated throughout his career and that Kepler obtained despite the opposition of his legal heirs, in a heterodox way, although he would end up reaching an agreement with the husband of Tycho’s daughter, who

 The first measurement of annual parallax, the effect of the Earth’s motion around the Sun and the distance to the star, was made in 1838 by Friedrich Bessel. He used the star 61 Cygnus, one of the nearest stars. The closer the star, the more significant the effect. Even so, these are measurements that require very precise instrumentation and were not within the reach of sixteenth or seventeenth century astronomy. 46  The orbit of a planet corresponds to an ellipse, with the Sun at one of the foci. In the Libros del Saber de Astronomía del Rey D. Alfonso X. de Castilla, Tip. de Don Eusebio Aguado, Madrid, 1863–67, a diagram is shown which suggests that the orbit of Mercury is elliptical. This assertion was refuted by Dreyer (1953). 47  Astronomia Nova ΑΙΤΙΟΛΟΓΗΤΟΣ seu physica coelestis, tradita commentariis de motibus stellae Martis ex observationibus G.V. Tychonis Brahe (G.V. is the acronym of Generositas Vestra). 45


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was another of his assistants. Kepler would declare, in a letter to Christopher Heydon dated October 1605 (see Koestler 1959): I confess that when Tico died I quickly took advantage of the absence or lack of circumspection of his heirs to take over the observations or perhaps to usurp them [. . .]

Kepler was aware of the possible conflict with the ecclesiastical hierarchy (Koestler 1959)). The separation between the two spheres is explicitly expressed in the introduction to Astronomia nova: But as to the opinions of the saints on these matters of nature, I answer, in a word, that in theology the only valid thing is the weight of authority, while, in philosophy, it is only the weight of reason. One saint, Lactantius, denied the roundness of the earth; another saint, Augustine, admitted the roundness of the earth, but denied the existence of the antipodes. Sacred is the Holy Office of our own day, which admits the smallness of the earth, but denies it motion: but more sacred than all these things is the truth to me, when I, with all due respect for the doctors of the Church, prove, from philosophy, that the earth is round, and inhabited by antipodes on every surface; that it is of insignificant smallness, and that it runs swiftly among the other stars.

Difficulties returned after the death of his patron, Emperor Rudolf II, in 1612. He then abandoned his post as imperial mathematician and began an itinerant life, complicated by the trial of his mother for witchcraft, although he did not give up his research. The third law would appear, almost hidden, in Harmonice Mundi, natural continuation of the Mysterium Cosmographicum and published in 1619. This work represents a synthesis of Kepler’s diverse interests, in what Koestler (1959) calls a new Song of Songs, a praise to the “supreme harmonizer of creation”, a mystical synthesis of science and religion, in which numerical proportions play a preponderant role. Years later he extended his three laws to the other planets, the Moon and the satellites of Jupiter discovered by Galileo and Simon Marius in 1610. The new text, Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae, appeared in 1621 and is an exposition of a new cosmology in which epicycles and deferents, the geometrical artifacts that had been added to try to account for the increasingly precise observations of the planets, no longer had a place. At last the solar system had the structure we use today to describe it. The last great work, of notable practical importance, was the Tabulae Rudolphinae, also in honor of his imperial patron. Its publication was not without its vicissitudes: from non-payment by the chancellery to wars, sieges and the possibility that the soldiers had melted down the printing press to make bullets. In the end, the sheets initially printed in the city of Linz were burned, but Kepler saved his precious manuscript and ended up printing the text in Ulm in 1627. The Rudolphine Tables contain an extended catalogue of stellar positions (all those measured by Tycho Brahe) and the way to calculate the positions of the planets. They represented a clear advance over those made in the sixteenth century under the aegis of geocentrism because of their simplicity of use, and they are much more precise and clear than the cumbersome heliocentric model proposed by Copernicus.

4 “Eppur si muove”: Galileo and the Immobility of the Earth


They were the necessary leap from the Alfonsine Tables developed at the court of Alfonso X “the Wise” in the thirteenth century, which time had left out of date. They made it possible for astronomy to be used for precision navigation and mapping, together with the Jovian method devised by Galileo, which would be developed throughout the seventeenth century. In the end, the stormy relationship between Tycho and Kepler would germinate into a new cosmographic vision that would lay the foundations of a new universe.

4 “Eppur si muove”: Galileo and the Immobility of the Earth 4.1 The Telescope, Sidereus Nuncius and the New Kosmos The life of Galileo Galilei,48 an anonymous university professor, changed in the year 1610. This process began in 1609, when he received news of the existence of an instrument, composed of lenses, capable of “zooming in” on objects. With this limited information, during the summer of that year, Galileo built his first telescope, which he gradually perfected, so that by December 1609, he was already making observations with telescopes of adequate quality.49 The history of the telescope invention is remarkably controversial. In 1608 in the Netherlands, still under nominal Spanish sovereignty but de facto independent, several patents were applied for by Jacob Metius, Zacharias Jansen and Hans Lippershey. However, the first manual for its construction was published a few years later, in 1618, by Girolamo Sirtori, Telescopium sive Ars perficiendi novum illud Galilaei visorium instrumentum ad Sydera. In this text Joan Roget, from a family from Angoulême and settled in the Spanihs city of Gerona, is mentioned as the first telescope builder, together with his brother Pedro (De Guilleuma 1959; Esteban Piñeiro 2009), from whom Lippershey might have copied the idea. The connection, nevertheless, does not seem so clear and in any case it is not the only antecedent of the visoriums, as it was called, since the idea of opposing two lenses to “approach” the distant objects appears already in De Magia Naturali, published in 1558 and revised and extended in 1589, in Naples, by Giambattista Porta.50 It has even been

 O’Connor and Robertson, “Galileo Galilei”, MHMA, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]; Finocchiaro (2007, pp. 399–401). 49  The first magnifications he achieved were a factor of 4, although he would reach 7 and up to 32 times (Arago 1842, p. 268, quoted in Humboldt, 1874, note 20, p. 460). 50  O’Connor and Robertson, “Giambattista Della Porta”, MHMA, [online], < http://www-history.>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]; Lynnn, 1902. 48


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speculated that Leonardo da Vinci developed a system of image enlargement that could be considered an antecedent.51 The use that Galileo Galilei, among others, made of this instrument contributed to the complete change of the scientific paradigm and the interpretation of the role of man in the universe, and both for him and for today’s astronomers, heirs of Galileo’s work, the horizon was expanded to unsuspected limits. Among the many discoveries he made were, the mountains of the Moon, the phases of Venus, the four main satellites of Jupiter, the attempt of an explanation of the tides, the great density of stars in the Milky Way, the laws of dynamics, studies on gravity52 and, obviously, the enormous value of the use of the telescope and the pendulum as scientific instruments. He also saw the spots on the Sun and the rings of Saturn, although without realizing their nature in this last case and he cannot be assigned the priority for the sunspots discovery. The initial discoveries were announced in a brief publication, Sidereus Nuncius (Sidereal Messenger), with which Galileo showed a new kosmos and, with those that followed in the following months, he abandoned the initial prudence that he had transmitted to Kepler and explicitly and publicly adopted a heliocentric vision (for example, in the letter to Father Antonio Castelli of December 21st, 1613). However, the surprise caused in Europe by this cosmological vision was not without controversy and ended up causing a disagreement with the intelligentsia and the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Some of the images recorded by Galileo are shown in Fig. 3.13. At the end of the year 1610 he discovered the phases of Venus, analogous to the lunar phases, and he communicated it by letter to Kepler by means of a curious anagram (Drake 1984), to Castelli and also to Christopher Clavius53 (jesuit and main responsible for the Gregorian reform of the calendar after the death of Aloysius Lilius), to ensure the priority, although he kept it unpublished until years later. Thus, the discoveries made with the telescope in 1610, most of them collected in Sidereus Nuncius, afterwards, produced perplexity among the intellectual elite and caused skepticism in different spheres, particularly among the Jesuits. It was precisely the discovery of sunspots54 that directly confronted Galileo with the members of this religious order, due to the dispute that arose with Father Christopher Scheiner,  Atalay, “Brief History of the Astronomical Telescope IV: Did Leonardo Invent the Telescope 100 Years Before Galileo?”, National Geographic, 5 July 2011, [online], , [accessed: 2 October 2017]. 52  An antecedent can be found in the work of Domingo de Sotos (1495–1560). Cuesta Domingo, “Domingo de Soto”, in Real Academia de la Historia, Diccionario Biográfico electrónico. 53  O’Connor and Robertson, “Christopher Clavius”, MHMA, [online], < http://www-history.mcs.>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 54  Sighted independently by several people between 1609 and 1611. Probably the first record corresponds to John Fabricius, De Maculis in Sole observatis et apparente earum cum Sole conversatione Narratio, of 1611, although the first observation could be by Thomas Harriot. Other observations were made by Galileo, Scheiner or Johann Baptist Cysat (Lynn 1891; Koestler 1959). 51

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Fig. 3.13  Title page and several pages of the princeps edition of Sidereus Nuncius, 1610 The Sidereal Messenger is a small pamphlet in Latin published by Galileo. It broke the geocentric and Aristotelian vision of the universe, showing among other phenomena, the irregularities of the Moon, the new stars visible in the constellation of the Pleiades, and the new satellites of Jupiter. The title page corresponds to a copy conserved in the Crawford Library of the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh while the other three come from ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, (Rar 4342: 1)


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who had observed them in 1611. Galileo claimed the priority of the discovery,55 but the polemic between both scholars included not only the precedence but also the explanation of the phenomenon. Scheiner considered, at first, that it was an optical effect, although, later, he blamed it on the interposition of foreign bodies between the Sun and the instrument, whose shadows were projected on the solar disk while they crossed in front of it. He thus explained the phenomenon and, at the same time, the Aristotelian dogma of the incorruptibility of the heavens was saved. Scheiner communicated his discovery of sunspots to Mark Welser56 in three letters that were published in Augsburg at the beginning of 1612 under the title De maculis solaribus et stellis circa Iovem erratibus accuratior disquisition (A more accurate investigation of the solar spots and the stars errantes around Jupiter) and under the pseudonym Apelles latens post tabulam (“Apelles hidden behind the painting”). Galileo became aware of Scheiner’s work when Mark Welser himself sent him a copy of his letters, and through the publication mentioned above, and his response was to send three letters to Welser, dated May, August and December 1612, which would be published in Rome in 1613, with the title Istoria e demostrazioni intorno alle macchie solari e loro accidenti, (History and Demonstrations about Sunspots and their Accidents) in which Galileo expresses his absolute disagreement with Christopher Schneider’s explanation, considering that “[....] I am sure that such spots are in contact with the solar body, that there they are generated and dissolve without ceasing [. . .]”.57 Galileo considered, therefore, that sunspots were existing formations on the surface of the Sun, which contravened directly the peripatetic theory defended by Scheiner. He also had a dispute with another Jesuit, namely Horazio Grassi. The reason was the nature of comets and it began in 1616, but in this case Galileo was wrong in his statements. Although he also found allies in some members of various religious orders, various intellectuals linked to the ecclesiastical establishment would, from that moment on, relentlessly besiege him. These disagreements with certain members of the Church were also a form of entertainment for the political class, but did not raise suspicions of heresy, except in very small circles. An example of this is the letter sent to the mathematicians of the Roman College by Robert Bellarmine, cardinal and inquisitor in the trial of Giordano Bruno and who would also be Galileo’s main accuser in the 1616 proceedings: Most Reverend Fathers: I know that your reverences are aware of the new celestial observations of a valuable mathematician by means of an instrument called a cannon or ochiale, and I have even seen, by means of the said instrument, some marvellous things about the Moon and Venus. I therefore wish you to do me the pleasure of telling me sincerely your opinion on the following questions: (1) whether you accept the multitude of fixed stars

 Galileo Galilei, Istoria e Dimostrazioni Intorno Alle Macchie Solari, which appeared in 1613, based on Tre lettere sulle macchie solari, 1612. 56  Chief Councillor of Augsburg in 1611. Throughout his life he maintained contact with many exponents of European culture and, although close to the positions of the Jesuits, he nevertheless showed an openness to the ideas of Galileo. 57  Letter from Galileo to Cardinal Maffeo Barberini, June 2, 1612 in Prada Márquez (2017, p. 57ff). 55

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invisible to the naked eye, and in particular that the Milky Way and the nebulae are aggregations of very small stars. (2) that Saturn is not a single star, but three united stars. (3) that the star of Venus has changes of figure, growing and decreasing like the Moon. (4) that the Moon has a rough and uneven surface. (5) that around the planet Jupiter there are four moving stars, which have very fast and different motions from each other. I wish to know this because I hear different opinions and Your Reverences, versed as you are in the mathematical sciences, will easily tell me if these new discoveries are well founded or if they are appearances and not true. If you please, you can put the answer on this same sheet. From home, April 19th, 1611.58 Robert Bellarmine

It is striking that Bellarmine, despite having been able to personally verify these phenomena through a telescope, sought the opinion of ecclesiastical experts. Given his background, especially his role in the condemnation of Giordano Bruno, it is inevitable to think that there was some intentionality in the beginning of Galileo’s trial.

4.2 The Epistolary Relationship Between Galileo and Kepler The two interpretations of the world made by Galileo and Kepler, the first one assimilated to Plato’s philosophy, in its different versions, and the second one, to a Pythagorean vision, are often confronted (Drake 1973, pp. 174–191; Koestler 1959). Regardless of whether this dichotomy is true, what is certain is that there were notable differences between the two, both in character and in the development of their lives, which are reflected in the epistolary communication between these two great scholars. The former, manifestly pragmatic, modern in his conception of science even claiming priority in discoveries in which his simultaneous authorship is not evident and a consummate polemicist, could well be a modern physicist, immersed in a positivist interpretation and fully in accordance with the clear and deep division between science and humanities. On the contrary, Kepler possessed an introverted and insecure personality, of a clearly mystical nature. This epistolary communication, which began in 1597, took the form of a total of ten letters (Postl 1977), although among Kepler’s papers another missive has been found that was probably not sent (at least, there is no proof that Galileo received it). The starting point of this exchange was Galileo’s reception of the Pythagorean revision of the architecture of the cosmos drawn by Kepler in his Mysterium Cosmographicum, and although there is no express evidence that it was Kepler who sent him two copies of his work, it is certain that there was a reply from Galileo, written, according to his own words, in a hurried manner. A diplomatic and polite reply, but with no commitment to the content of the book. Nevertheless, Galileo explicitly confessed in that letter his Copernican faith and his love for the truth, at a time when there were no problems with the Inquisition in sight:


 Galileo Galilei, Opere, XI, pp. 87–88. Quoted in Beltrán Marí (2006, p. 133–134).


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I am certainly very glad to have a companion in the search for truth and especially a friend of truth itself. For it is regrettable that there are so few scholars of truth who do not follow a perverse reasoning in philosophizing [. . .]. It is many years since I accepted the doctrine of Copernicus, which has enabled me to discover the causes of many natural effects which are undoubtedly inexplicable to the common hypothesis. I have found many reasonings and criticisms of the arguments against it, but, nevertheless, until now I have not dared to make them known, terrified by the fate of Copernicus himself, our preceptor, who, though among some gained immortal fame, yet infinite (for such is the number of fools) were those for whom he stood out as an object of ridicule and rejection. Doubtless I would venture to bring my ideas to light if there were many such as you; but as long as there are not, I shall refrain from doing so.59 Galileo Galilei, Opere, X.

However, most of the exchanges were motivated by the publication in 1610 of Sidereus Nuncius, Galileo’s groundbreaking pamphlet in which he announced the discovery of Jupiter’s satellites and the irregularities of the Moon surface, among other phenomena. Kepler’s response showed enthusiasm and unconditional support for the new wonders, and this without having direct evidence of them because he did not have a telescope: Let us build ships and sails suitable for the celestial ether, and there will be many people who will not be afraid of the immense empty space. In the meantime, let us prepare, for the brave travellers of the sky, maps of the heavenly bodies: I will make them of the moon, and you, Galileo, will make them of Jupiter.60 Johannes Kepler, Dissertatio cum Nuncio Sidereo.

In addition to these letters, communication between the two followed strange paths, such as the intermediation of the Tuscan ambassador to the imperial court, Giuliano de Medici, or even the emperor himself, and included the use of anagrams, encrypted messages that guaranteed the priority of different discoveries (the rings of Saturn, interpreted as two immense satellites, or the Venus phases). They also exchanged messages in their publications, by direct references to each other. Kepler’s last letter is dated March 28th, 1611, but he would receive no reply. Galileo sent his last communication 16 years later, in 1627, although it was simply a simple letter of introduction concerning a traveller.61 Although it seems that Galileo did not respond to Kepler’s various appeals, who was addicted to communication by letter, a more profuse relationship between the two would obviously have been desirable, in which the Pisan would have been able  The letter is dated August 1597. However, the first time that Galileo confesses his Copernicanism is somewhat earlier and was formulated in a missive sent in May of that same year to Jacobo Mazzoni in which he declared: “. . . . Your Excellency so decidedly and frankly contests the opinion of the Pythagoreans and Copernicus about the motion and position of the Earth. For, having considered it as much more probable than that of Aristotle and Ptolemy, it made me pay much attention to your reasons”. However, during the time he was teaching at the University of Pisa, from 1590 to 1592, he showed himself, at least publicly, unequivocally geocentrist. Opere, II, pp.  198 and 202, and Opere, X, p.  68, quoted in Beltrán Marí (2006, p.  67, 74–75, 651–652, note 13). 60  Quoted by Koestler (1959). 61  Galileo Galilei, Opere, XIII, pp. 374 ff. Quoted by Koestler (1959). 59

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to expand on his explanations. As Manuel Artigas and William Shea point out, Galileo did not give Kepler’s laws the importance they deserved, which would have allowed him to endorse his Copernican arguments with greater authority, and this was probably due to “[...] Kepler’s somewhat confused style, which mixed the scientific with the non-scientific in a way that did not suit Galileo’s style” (Artigas and Shea 2009, pp. 79, 83). In any case, the material we possess on these two mainstays of modern science seems to show us, in truth, two very different personalities.

4.3 The Controversy with Simon Marius and the Discovery of Jupiter’s Satellites Galileo was immersed in great controversies. If the dispute between Galileo and Christopher Scheiner was based on sunspots, another quarrel, in the academic field, and not resolved until much later, involved the astronomer Simon Marius (Braddy 1970), Latinized version of the German name Simon Mayr or Mayer, who claimed the co-discovery of the Jovian satellites and was therefore attacked in a devastating way by Galileo (Lynn 1905). The alleged plagiarism, accepted for 300 years, was dismantled decades ago, although citations to it can still be found in different texts. Simon Marius, born in 1570 or probably in 1573 near Nuremberg, studied astronomy in Prague with the renowned Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, becoming the former’s assistant for a few months before his death in 1601. For three years, until the beginning of 1605, he studied medicine in Padua. In this city, which belonged to the Republic of Venice, he might have met Galileo for the first time, as the latter lived there from 1592 to 1610, his annus miriabilis, where he taught the subjects of mechanics, geometry and astronomy. By July 1605 he had returned to Germany, where he resumed his position as mathematician at the court of the Margrave of Ansbach, Georg Friedrich. After Marius’ departure from Padua, his pupil Baldassarre Capra came into conflict with Galileo on two occasions, accusing him of plagiarism in 1607 for the invention of the military compass. Apparently, Galileo thought, without evidence, that Marius’ hand was behind this lawsuit that ended up winning the astronomer from Pisa. In 1608 (the same yer of the patents by Metius, Jansen and Lippershey) Marius obtained a telescope, but his observations of the sky began in the summer of 1609, as he himself described in Mundus Iovialis, which appeared in 1614, thanks to the patronage of Johann Fuchs, chief adviser to the margrave. In the winter of that year he turned his telescope towards Jupiter. And here begins the controversy, accentuated and obscured because Marius and Galileo used different calendars and belonged to two opposing worlds. The Catholic countries had already accepted the Gregorian reform, the current calendar, while, paradoxically, Protestant Germania was still anchored in the Julian calendar, which provided a delay of ten days with respect to former. Let us remember that the calendar was modified in 1582 and immediately


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adopted in Spain and Italy. The Germanic lands outside the dominion of the Habsbourg dynasty would not do so until 1700. Thus, according to Marius’ account of 1614, he noticed in early December 1609 the presence of several unclassified “stars” in the vicinity of Jupiter, but by the 29th of that month he suspected that they might actually be orbiting the planet and began measuring their positions. This date, according to the Gregorian calendar, would correspond to January 8th, 1610. The night before, from Italy, Galileo had already discovered three satellites of Jupiter. Marius observed in a methodical way until the 12th of Julian January, 2 second of January according to the Gregorian calendar. On this date he already believed that there were four satellites, and accepted this result as definitive at the end of February or beginning of March (again, Julian and following his account of 1614). For Galileo’s part, on January 11th he understood that the “stars” were orbiting around Jupiter (after Marius, if one accepts the description contained in Mundus Iovialis). Two days later he saw the fourth satellite, before Marius. And, as already noted, in March 1610, Galileo published Sidereus Nuncius, a work in which he set out, among other things, his discovery of Jupiter’s satellites. That same year, Kepler published his Dissertatio cum Nuncio Sidereo and Narratio de observatis a se quator Jovis satellibus erronibus, in which there is no mention of Marius’ research, although in Dioptrice, published the following year, Kepler includes a fragment of a letter written by Marius to Odentius, a reader of mathematics at the university of Altdorf and a common friend, from which it appears that, at least before December 30th, 1610, the date of Marius’ letter, he knew the phases of Venus, continued to observe Jupiter and to compile tables to predict the positions of its four satellites. In 1612 Marius discovered the Andromeda nebula62 (M31, the closest galaxy to our own) and mentioned for the first time publicly his observations of Jupiter and its satellites in the pamphlet Frankischer Kalender oder Practica (Lynn 1905). A year later, in October 1613, Kepler suggested to Marius the names for the four celestial objects; four lovers of the god Zeus: Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto, from the innermost to the furthest. Marius finally made his observations public in Mundos Iovialis in 1614 and, although he gave due credit to Galileo, he also claimed co-discovery. The text includes precise astronomical tables to predict the positions of the four satellites at any given time, something Galileo had overlooked, and concludes that their orbits are inclined with respect to the Ecliptic, a statement that proves that Marius made very precise observations. On the other hand, in the book several sets of names are proposed, and among them he picks up Kepler’s idea. However, Galileo’s nomenclature will remain for centuries: Roman numerals, with Jupiter I being the nearest (Io) and Jupiter IV the farthest (Callisto). It would be from 1847, after the proposal made by John Frederick William Herschel, son of the discoverer of Uranus, to use names from Greco-Latin mythology to designate the multiple satellites of Saturn,  It has actually been discovered on several occasions. The first record corresponds to the Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi, as it appears in his Book of the Fixed Stars, written around 964 CE. 62

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when the current names of Ios, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto would begin to be used, although Galileo’s numerals would also continue to be valid. Galileo’s reaction to Marius’s publication did not come until nine years later, with the printing in 1623 of Il Saggiatore, in which he unleashed a destructive attack on Marius’s reputation. He rejected the veracity of his observations and claimed that the orbits of the four satellites were parallel to the Ecliptic, contrary to his own observations, illustrated in diagrams, made years earlier, thus showing a more than questionable attitude. Reanalysis of both sets of observations has led to the conclusion that Marius was honest in his data, although he might not have understood the significance of his discovery in 1610. On the one hand, the positions of the satellites published by Galileo are relative to the angular size of Jupiter, which he never disclosed. On the other hand, the tables calculated by Marius include Galileo’s data. Since his results of the radii of the orbits and the corresponding values for the new moons are more accurate than Galileo’s, he must necessarily have made his own observations. So both Galileo and subsequent generations of astronomers and historians were unfair to the role that Marius played in the discovery of the Jovian satellites. Because the moons of Jupiter are bright enough to be perceived with the naked eye, without the need for a telescope, provided that the brightness of Jupiter can be avoided,63 the whole process would have a certain farcical aspect, were it not for the implications it had. Ganymede or Jupiter III according to Galileo, is the largest, bigger than the Moon or Mercury, and is remarkably bright, reaching a magnitude of 4,6 (by comparison, the faintest stars visible on a dark night have magnitude six), which in principle would allow its identification without the aid of a telescope and could have been discovered already in antiquity. But it was Galileo Galilei who first recorded its existence.

4.4 First Denunciations, the Admonition of 1616 and the Condemnation of 1633 Galileo made few mistake during his life, some of them very important for his career but also for the history of science. On of them happened because he interfered with the theological doctrine of the Catholic Church. It was not in vain that the Council of Trent forbade the personal interpretation of biblical texts that deviated from the common explanation of the Holy Fathers “in matters of faith and morals”.  Under optimal conditions, when Jupiter is at opposition (shortest distance to Earth), the angular separation distance between the planet and Callisto reaches 10 arcminutes, reachable to the human eye’s visual acuity (1 arcminute). However, Jupiter is almost 3000 times more luminous than this satellite and about a thousand times more luminous than Ganymede. Therefore, in practice it might be very complicate to detect any of them. See astronomy-questions-answers/is-it-possible-to-detect-jupiters-satellites-with-the-unaided-eyeif-callisto-and-ganymede-appear-when-ganymede-is-at-greatest-elongation-from-jupiter/ 63


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Thus, the second decree of the fourth session, published on April 8th, 1546, established that: It [the Council] further decrees, for the purpose of restraining insolent wits, that no one, trusting in his own wisdom, shall dare to interpret Holy Scripture itself in things pertaining to faith and morals which have to do with the propagation of Christian doctrine, violating Holy Scripture to support his opinions, against the sense which Holy Mother Church has given and gives to it, to which it belongs exclusively to determine the true sense and interpretation of the sacred letters; Nor against the unanimous consent of the holy Fathers, although these interpretations are not to be given birth at any time. Let the Ordinaries declare the contraveners, and punish them with the penalties established by law.64

It was not, therefore, a question about dogma, but about authority, and Galileo, although at first he had no intention of crossing these limits, soon after, and despite being aware of the problems that this could bring him, in the famous Letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany,65 written during the spring of 1615, he entered fully into such disquisitions. In any case, Galileo’s problems with the Inquisition and the Catholic hierarchy began in his youth, when his own mother might have denounced him, at an undetermined date between 1582 and 1589, to the Holy Office. He was denounced in Padua, in 1604, by Silvestro Pagnoni, a former assistant who stayed with him for a year and a half, and who reported that during all that time Galileo had not attended Mass, except on one occasion, and that he was also dedicated to making horoscopes.66 Galileo’s real tribulations, and with him those of heliocentrism as a theory contrary to the dogma of Scripture, began in 1611, a year after the publication of Sidereus Nuncius, when Robert Bellarmine, who later, in 1616, would be the protagonist of the admonition to Galileo, began to make inquiries about his work. An example of this is the letter, already quoted, that he sent to the mathematicians of the Roman College, in which he asked their opinion on the new observations made by Galileo. On May 17th of the same year, Galileo’s name was mentioned in the Congregation of the Holy Office, where Bellarmine was present, on the occasion of the trial opened against Dr. Cesare Cremonini.67

 El Sacrosanto y ecuménico Concilio de Trento, translated into Spanish by Don Ignacio Lopez de Ayala, Imprenta de Ramón Ruiz, Madrid, 1798. 65  Galileo Galilei, Opere, V, pp. 309–438. The full text in English can be found in Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia of Religion and Science, [online], , [accessed: 16 July 2017]. 66  It is Pagnoni who revealed, in 1604, the possible denunciation of the mother: “Io credo che la madre sia stata al Santo Oficio a Fiorenza contro detto suo fiolo, et strapazza dicendole villanie grandissime: putana, gabrina”. The document where the denunciation is first recorded, possibly by Silvestro Pagnoni, is in Poppi (1992). According to Beltrán Marí (2006, pp. 17, 22) it happened when Galileo was between 18 and 25 years old. Therefore, if he was born in 1564, that would be the time interval in which the maternal denunciation took place. Paolo Rossi relates that, if the statement that Galileo’s mother denounced her son to the Holy Office were true, Galileo’s first denunciation would occur in 1592 (Rossi, 1997, p. 112). 67  Galileo Galilei, Opere, XIX, p. 275, quoted in Beltrán Marí (2006, p. 140). 64

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Without being aware of it, Galileo would complicate the situation with the so-­ called Letter to Castelli, a text written “as the pen flies”, according to its author, to his friend the Benedictine father Antonio Castelli (Benedetto Castelli after his ordination). This letter can be considered as the first public manifestation of his adherence to heliocentrism. The origin of the missive is to be found in the discussion about the Copernican theory and its problematic compatibility with different passages of the Holy Scriptures that took place at a lunch held on December 12th, 1613 at the court of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, in the presence of the duke Cosimo II and his mother Cristina of Lorraine, and attended by Benedetto Castelli. Two days later, Castelli communicated what had happened to Galileo, who interpreted the debate as an alarm signal, since a certain anti-Copernican hostility was beginning to infiltrate the Medici court. In fact, only a year before, Niccolò Lorini, Preacher General of the Dominican Order and professor of Ecclesiastical History at the Florentine Studium, had publicly declared that the new cosmology was in open contrast with Sacred Scripture (Bucciantini and Camerota 2009, p. 3). Galileo took the opportunity offered by Castelli’s letter68 to expose, in his letter of reply, dated December 21st, 1613, his own cosmological vision, in which he affirms: [. . .] it has given me occasion to reconsider some things in regard to the appeal to Holy Scripture in natural questions in general, and some other particulars on the passage in Joshua, which was put to him as contrary to the motion of the Earth and the stability of the Sun by the Grand Duchess.69 Galileo, Letter from Castelli.

As has been indicated, this letter can be considered Galileo’s first public manifestation of his heliocentric conception when he affirms that: [. . .] I say that this passage palpably demonstrates the falsity and impossibility of the Aristotelian and Ptolemaic system, and on the contrary, it perfectly conforms to the Copernican system.70

This letter, which, although sent to Castelli, was intended to be read and discussed publicly, was widely circulated among Galileo’s supporters, but also ended up in the hands of his opponents, starting from that moment a strong reaction against him. Thus, it can be considered a huge strategic mistake on his part. Among the initial opponents of the Copernican view defended by Galileo were Lodovico delle Colombe, Tommaso Caccini, Niccolò Lorini, Giovanni Maria Tolosani and Agostino Gallamini (Cardinal Aracoeli), among others. In any case, the trigger for the real persecution of Galileo and heliocentrism is to be found in the  English version in Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia of Religion and Science, [online], , [accessed: 16 July 2017], from an original translated by the University of Missouri School of Law from the Italian original (Galileo Galilei, Opere, V, pp. 282–288). 69  Galileo Galilei, Opere, V, p. 282, quoted by Beltrán Marí (2006, p. 181). 70  Galileo Galilei, Opere, V, p. 286, quoted Beltrán Marí (2006, p. 184). 68


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sermon of December 21st, 1614 by the Dominican Tommaso Caccini, in which he lambasted Galileo’s followers and mathematicians, “authors of all heresies”.71 Although reproved even by members of his order, this sermon resulted in a denunciation by Niccolò Lorini, formulated on February 7th, 1615 to Cardinal Paolo Sfondrati, prefect of the Congregation of the Index and member of the Congregation of the Holy Office, and which included a copy of Galileo’s letter to Castelli and an explanatory gloss in which Lorini refers that: [. . . having come into my hands a writing, which is here in the hands of all, composed by those who call themselves Galileans, which affirms that the earth moves and the sky is still, following the positions of Copernicus, in which, in the judgment of all the fathers of this most religious convent of St. Mark, there are many propositions that seem to us suspicious or reckless, such as saying that certain ways of speaking of the Holy Scriptures are inadequate, That in disputes about natural effects the Scriptures themselves have the last place, that their interpreters very often err in their interpretations, that the Scriptures themselves should not deal with anything other than the articles concerning faith, and that in natural things philosophical or astronomical argumentation always has more force than sacred and divine argumentation, propositions which you will see, Your Excellency, set forth in the text of the Holy Scriptures. Finally, when Joshua commanded the Sun to stand still, it is not to be understood that the command was given only to the first motive, and not to the Sun itself. Therefore, seeing not only that this writing runs in the hands of all, without any of the superiors stopping it, and seeing that they pretend to expound the Holy Scriptures in their own way and against the common interpretation of the holy Fathers, and to defend opinions which seem altogether contrary to the Holy Scriptures, seeing that they speak little respectfully of the ancient holy Fathers and of St. Thomas, and that the whole philosophy of Aristotle (of which the scholastic philosophy makes so much use) is overthrown, and, finally, that in order to appear ingenious they say a thousand impertinences and spread them all over our city, which has been kept so Catholic both by its good nature and by the vigilance of our Messrs. Princes; that is why I have decided, as I said, to send it to Your Most Illustrious Majesty, so that you, while full of the most holy zeal which, moreover, by the office you hold, with your most illustrious colleagues, to keep your eyes open in such matters, may, if it seems to you that there is need of correction, put in place such remedies as you consider most necessary, [. . .]72

Although Lorini affirms that the Letter to Castelli that he sends to Sfondrati is “vera copia”, in the “transcription” there is possibly a misrepresentation.73 It contains two significant and perhaps deliberate changes, alterations that were examined by the Inquisition, with the aggravating factor that of the three conflicting propositions of the Letter to Castelli, two come from Lorini’s changes.74  Galileo Galilei, Opere, XII, p. 130, quoted Beltrán Marí (2006, p. 193).  Galileo Galilei, Opere, XIX, pp. 297–298, Beltrán Marí (2006, pp. 199–200). 73  The historian Mauro Pesce (2005) believes that the document preserved in the Vatican Secret Archives reflects the original letter. It seems, therefore, that the question of whether or not Lorini’s letter to Sfondrati is true in its entirety is still open (Bucciantini and Camerota 2009, p. 4). 74  In fact, in a letter written by Galileo and addressed to Monsignor Piero Dine on February 16, 1615, he expressed his concern that Lorini’s copy was not reliable, pointing out that perhaps the person who transcribed it may have “inadvertently changed a few words; a mutation that, with a little willingness to censor, can make things appear very different from my intention”, enclosing a copy with the request that he send it to Roberto Bellarmine (Galileo Galilei, Opere, V, pp. 291–292, quoted in Beltrán Marí (2006, pp. 199–202). 71 72

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Lorini’s denunciation prompted a meeting of the tribunal of the Holy Office on February 25th, 1615, which concluded that the Letter to Castelli contained erroneous statements about the meaning and interpretation of Sacred Scripture. On March 19th the Congregation met, presided over by Pope Paul V and with the participation of Cardinal Bellarmine. The next day the formal denunciation of Tommaso Caccini would set in motion the machinery of the Inquisition against Galileo (Beltrán Marí 2006, pp. 219–220). Until the sentence of 1616 a series of events would occur that would only complicate Galileo’s situation. Three days after Caccini’s denunciation, and in view of the way events were developing, Galileo sent a new missive to Piero Dini, which, although addressed privately, was intended for public dissemination in order to persuade the authorities in Rome to consider the heliocentric conception more favorably. Galileo was aware that Bellarmine’s main objection to the Copernican theory was to be found in the text of Psalm 18, which all biblical commentators had traditionally used as irrefutable proof of the Sun’s motion and which placed the Earth at the center of the universe.75 Therefore, in order to demonstrate the compatibility between biblical history and heliocentric cosmology, he provided in this letter his own exegesis of the psalm, even using some passages from Bellarmine’s own Explanatio in Psalmos (Bucciantini and Camerota 2009, p. 17–18). The Cardinal undoubtedly had a great interest in the case, because on April 12th he wrote a letter to Paolo Foscarini,76 a Carmelite who had tried to make heliocentrism compatible with the Bible, warning that the interpretation of the Scriptures was forbidden and in which he expressly quoted Galileo. Everything seems to indicate that Galileo had, in principle, no intention of going beyond the limits established in the decree of April 8th, 1546, cited above, for in a letter to Dini, dated May 23th, 1615, he says: If it were up to me they would have always remained dormant, I mean to enter into the Holy Scriptures, into which no astronomer or natural philosopher who keeps within the limits proper to him has ever entered.77

In any case, the main problem would come later, when the Letter to Christine of Lorraine was made public after June 1615.78 After months of maneuvering, meetings and exchanges of letters, on February 19th, 1616, a commission composed of 11 consultors of the Holy Office, among whom there was no astronomer, discussed heliocentrism and the authors and works  Note 35 to Chap. 4, Beltrán Marí (2006, p. 689–681).  Galileo Galilei, Opere, v. XII, pp. 171–172. English translation, in Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia of Religion and Science, [online], , [accessed: 16 July 2017], retrieved from Finocchiaro (1989, pp. 67–69). 77  The letter is not dated. Galileo begins it by stating that eight days earlier he had responded briefly, because he was ill, to Dini‘s letter of 2 May. Opere, XII, pp. 183–185, quoted in Beltrán Marí (2006) 78  Galileo finished it between May 16 and June 20, 1615, according to a letter from Piero Dini and another sent to Federico Cesi (Galileo Galilei, Opere, V, p. 319; and Opere XII, 190 (Beltrán Marí 2006, pp. 251 and 255). 75 76


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related to this subject, concluding that the heliocentric theory was heretical because it contradicted the Holy Scriptures. On the basis of this opinion, the Congregation of the Holy Office, by order of Pope Paul V, instructed Cardinal Bellarmine to admonish Galileo, who did so formally but privately, prescribing him to abandon his ideas on the motion of the Earth and expressly forbidding him to publish anything on thetopic. Few days later, on March 1st, the Congregation of the Index prohibited a series of books related to heliocentrism and its validity from a theological point of view, among them, Foscarini’s booklet that considered heliocentrism compatible with the Holy Scriptures. The works of Nicolaus Copernicus and Diego de Zúñiga were also partially suspended until they would be “corrected”. In this regard, it should be remembered that the heliocentric theory and the mathematical model that accompanies it were essential to calculate with precision and simplicity the planetary movements, as well as being related to the reform of the calendar made in 1582, so it was extremely difficult its complete prohibition. Therefore, in the decree79 issued by the Congregation of the Index, published on March 5th, 1616, Copernicanism was not considered as a doctrine “contrary to the faith and heretical”, as the consultants of the Holy Office had estimated, but simply as false and opposed to the Holy Scriptures,80 a subtle but significant theological change. Be that as it may, ignoring the admonition, Galileo published in 1616 his Discorso del flusso e reflusso del mare, an attempt –erroneous– to explain the terrestrial tides as a consequence of the Earth’s movement, and which had little impact, and also the Discorso delle Comete, 1619.81 He also continued his fight in favor of heliocentrism with the publication of Il saggiatore in 1623, which would be denounced anonymously the following year.82 In 1632 Galileo Galilei published his extraordinary work entitled Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo which was to be the cause of his definitive downfall. Besides being a masterpiece of Italian language and argumentation, it is, above all, a brilliant exposition of the two competing cosmological systems. Presented as an exchange of opinions between two characters defending the interpretations of Claudius Ptolemy and Nicolaus Copernicus, moderated by a supposed arbiter,83 it is in fact a strong pro-heliocentric plea. In it he forcefully exposes the superiority of

 Latin original and English translation, in Interdisciplinary Encyclopedia of Religion and Science, [online], <>, [accessed: 16 July 2017]. 80  Galileo Galilei, Opere, XII, p. 244. 81  Under the name of Mario Guiducci. This was part of another controversy, in this case with the Jesuit Orazio Grassi. They exchanged arguments and counter arguments in press. On the other hand, the Inquisition included in the Index a book by Kepler, Epitome Astronomiae Copernicanae, the same year. 82  See Beltrán Marí (2006, p. 444). Il saggiatore also included arguments against Grazzi and his views about comets. The Jesuit would reply with his treatise Ratio ponderum librae et simbellae (1626). No further exchange is known. 83  Simplicio and Salviati, who defend the geocentric and geostationary, and heliocentric theory, respectively, together with the supposedly neutral Sagredo. 79

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the Copernican theory, which placed the Sun at the center of the universe, thus forcing the movement of the Earth, which was opposed to the literal interpretation of certain passages of the Bible and to the geocentric and geostationary vision of Claudius Ptolemy. Consciously, or perhaps not, Galileo maneuvered to get the work published, and, despite the limitations imposed by Pope Urban VIII during the editing process of the book, completely supervised by the Roman hierarchy, it appeared with the imprimatur of the Inquisition of Rome, that is, with the official declaration of being free of moral or doctrinal error. Despite this, it would soon be banned for more than two centuries. Galileo’s claim had, therefore, a consequence opposite to the desired one since the ecclesiastical hierarchy, headed by Pope Urban VIII, supposed friend of the Pisan, initiated a process against the book, Galileo’s career and heliocentrism. Although Galileo had the protection of the Dukes of Tuscany, the powerful Medici family, on June 22nd, 1633 he was formally condemned84 by the Inquisition, at the behest of Pope Urban VIII, and forced to abjure, on his knees and under threat of torture, the Copernican theory, described as heretical. Finally Galileo would be condemned to house arrest in his house in Florence, where, in spite of being, the last four years of his life, under the suspicion of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, he continued to develop his science and to carry out diverse experiments until practically the end of his days.85 Galileo died, blind, on January 8th, 1642. Probably, Galileo, already old and defeated, did not pronounce the well-known phrase “Eppur si muove” when he left the room where he was forced to abjure the heliocentric theory. And yet it moves, although for some it would not happen until 1835, with the withdrawal of De revolutionibus from the Index of banned books. The whole process against Galileo was, in fact, of great complexity and it brought together a whole series of factors that should be outlined. Thus, taking as a precedent the cautious development of the heliocentric theory by Copernicus, it is possible to identify a series of circumstances that led to the condemnation of Galileo, such as the procedural methods of the Inquisition, which were circumvented, or even contravened, the ideological warfare between Galileo’s supporters and enemies in the academic world, to the role of international politics, including the struggle against Protestantism and the confrontation between Spain and France within the Thirty Years’ War that forced the reorientation of Urban VIII’s policy, which, perhaps, could have influenced his drastic change of opinion regarding Galileo’s work. Or, simply, perhaps the trial was a response to the animosity generated in the pontiff when he saw himself reflected in the Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo.  “Vehemently suspected of heresy”, a very important and serius charge in the hierarchy of heresies, as defined by the Inquisition. 85  Under house arrest he would publish Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche, intorno à due nuove scienze (“Discourse and mathematical demonstration, around two new sciences”) in 1638, which initiated mechanical physics and was the coup de grace that completely disarmed the Aristotelian vision. 84


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The history of this process extends until the late twentieth century, when Pope John Paul II convened a commission of experts, in 1979, with the aim of reviewing the circumstances and outcome of the trial. The so-called “Galileo case” is full of multiple manipulations by inquisitors and historians, which go as far as fraud and misrepresentation of evidence. Thus, his conviction has been based on the existence of a document dated February 26th, 1616, in which he was forced not to maintain, teach or defend, in any way, the Copernican doctrine. The truth is that the validity of this document has been called into question, and, although it may not be spurious, it lacks a signature, and may not even represent the details correctly (Lynn 1888), which would exonerate Galileo from his alleged guilt in breaking his word and publishing, in 1632, the Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo. Whatever the truth, one question is canon law and another is physical reality, which was evidently on Galileo’s side. The main consequence of the trial of Galileo was that, from 1633, the Catholic world would be officially geocentric. This event would generate clashes between theological and scientific interpretations of reality, a conflict that is still present, latently or directly. On the contrary, the Protestant world, initially opposed to Copernicus (prominent religious leaders manifested themselves against heliocentrism, including Martin Luther), would accept this new perspective after Kepler, perhaps facilitating its rapid scientific evolution. Although it is true that in the states of the Italian peninsula in the seventeenth century very relevant physicists appeared, regardless of the notable influence of the Catholic hierarchy. Be that as it may, Galileo Galilei is one of the greatest scientists of all time and the father of modern physics.

4.5 The Immediate Effect on Other Catholic Theologians and Scientists One of the first books published after the admonition of 1616 was Sphaera Mundi,86 by the Jesuit Giusseppe Biancani (1566–1624). He describes the theories of Copernicus, Brahe, Keplar and Galileo, rejecting them as false since the oppose the Sacre Scriptures, bur perhaps from a position influenced by his previous problem with the censure. More prudent than Galileo Galilei was Juan Cedillo Díaz,87 who died in 1625 and who was Cosmógrafo Mayor del Consejo de Indias and professor at the Academia Real Mathematica in Madrid. Cedillo began a translation of De revolutionibus to Spanish, reaching up to chapter thirty-five. It is probable that the process was carried out in 1612 or 1613. Perhaps for fear of the Inquisition, the manuscript

 The publication corresponds to 1619, but it was written in 1615.  Esteban Piñeiro, “Juan Cedillo Díaz”, Diccionario Biográfico Español [online], [accessed: 7 November 2020]. 86 87

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appears with the title Idea astronómica de la fabrica del mundo y movimiento de los cuerpos celestiales, (Astronomical idea of the manufacture of the world and motion of the celestial bodies), without the name of the author of the original work or of the translator himself (Esteban Piñeiro 2006, pp. 367–391). In any case, it was never finished and much less given to the printing press. One of the most fervent and influential opponents of heliocentrism and Galileo’s interpretations was Jean-Baptiste Morin (1583–1656), appointed in 1630 professor of mathematics at the Collège Royal. However, he made substantial contributions to the problem of longitude determination, perfecting the method of precise measurement of the Moon’s position relative to the stars by introducing lunar parallax into the calculations, improving the methodology for solving problems of spherical trigonometry and the computation of lunar tables. Although the committee set up by Cardinal Richelieu, composed of Étienne Pascal, Claude Mydorge, Jean Beaugrand, Pierre Hérigone, J. C. Boulenger and L. de la Porte, did not properly evaluate his proposal, his successor, Cardinal Mazzarino, granted him a pension in 1645. In 1651, the Jesuit Giovanni Battista Riccioli88 (1598–1671) published his extraordinary Almagestum Novum, an encyclopedic work. In his ninth book he made a critical analysis of the heliocentric and of the geocentric systems, but in the version of Tycho Brahe since the classical one of Ptolemy had been discarded. He examined 126 arguments, of which, according to him, there would be 49 for and 77 against the motion of the Earth, repeating the exercise carried out by Nicolas Oresme in the fourteenth century. As he himself commented, his position, though not dogmatic, favored the Earth as the center of the cosmos. Thus, even in the more conservative camp there were doubts and a certain compromise was sought between theological orthodoxy and the use of the heliocentric theory with its precise calculations, a framework where later discoveries could be accepted, properly interpreted. A comparison of the different cosmological systems is given in Fig. 3.14. In any case, Copernicanism and Galileo’s theories had strong defenders in different countries of the Catholic world, as was the case in France. Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc (1580–1637) and Joseph Gaultier de la Vallette (1564–1647) began their observations at the end of 1610 with a telescope bought by their protector Guillaume du Vair, ecclesiastic and president of the parliament of Provence, and with this instrument both observed the Orion nebula and the satellites of Jupiter, months after the publication of Sidereus Nuncios by Galileo, contributing to its acceptance as a real phenomenon and calculating its ephemeris. Peiresc attended classes given by Galileo and years later coordinated observations of the lunar eclipse of August 28th, 1635 in order to determine precisely the longitudes of various cities in the Mediterranean, both on the African and European coasts, establishing that this sea was 1000 km shorter than previously estimated.

 O’Connor and Robertson, “Giovanni Battista Riccioli”, MHMA, [online], < http://www-history.>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 88


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Fig. 3.14  Almagestum Novum (1651), by Riccioli In the balance are the cosmological systems of Copernicus (heliocentric) and Tycho Brahe (reformed geocentric). Bayerische StaatsBibliothek

The team of collaborators included Morin, already mentioned, who would later have a bitter public dispute with Peiresc, and Pierre Gassendi89 (1592–1655), a fervent heliocentrist, Morin’s opponent and the first observer of a planetary transit, that of Mercury in 1631, which had been predicted by Kepler and published the following year. Among his other texts of major impact are in De motu (1642), De proportione qua gravia decidentia accelerantur (1646), and Institutio astronomica juxta hypotheseis tam veterum, quam Copernici et Tychonis (1647). He also devoted considerable effort to the improvement of Kepler’s Rudolfian tables and to the determination of longitude by the use of the method of lunar eclipses. He reported on the attempts of Alexandre Calignon de Peyrins to demonstrate Earth rotation (Mantovani 2019, pp. 58–69) by determinations of the horizontal displacements of bodies in free fall from masts of a ship, which had the support of Cardinal Richelieu, the powerful chief minister of Louis XIII of France, who appointed him to the chair of mathematics at the Collège Royale in 1645. Among his assistants was Jean Picard.

 O’Connor and Robertson, “Pierre Gassendi”, MHMA, [online],>, [accessed: 8 November 2020]. 89

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Another very relevant example is provided by Ismaël Boulliau90 (1605–1694), a clear exponent of the early defence of the ideas of Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo. Born into a Calvinist family, he converted to Catholicism and was ordained a priest at the age of 26. His astronomical publications include Astronomia philolaica (1645) and Ad astronomos monita duo (1667). In the first, classified as the most important work prior to Newton’s Principia, Boulliau accepted elliptical orbits for the planets and postulated that if there was a force responsible for their motion (it was contrary to it in the case of the Sun), it should follow a dependence inversely proportional to the square of the distance. In the second book he determined the period of the variable star Mira Ceti, whose instability discovered by David Fabricius in 1596, being wrong by only 0.3% (its period is about 332 days and its brightness varies by a factor 1500, being invisible to the naked eye a large part of the time). Boulliau also worked in close collaboration with Christiaan Huygens. 4.5.1 Descartes’ Vortexes: Heliocentrism in Disguise René Descartes (1596–1650), one of the greatest thinkers of all times, followed the same strategy of Juan Cedillo Díaz. Thus, he expounded his theory on the genesis and organization of the cosmos in a work entitled Traité du monde et de la lumière, a text in which he adopted a clearly heliocentric vision, which he may have begun to write at the end of 1629 or the beginning of 1630,91 and which he must have finished in 1633, the year in which Galileo’s condemnation took place. This fact was decisive and the first complete edition was not published years after his death, although he reused some of the material in other texts. Indeed, Descartes went so far as to affirm that “I have almost decided to burn all my papers, or at least not to let anyone see them”.92 On the other hand, he asserted that if Galileo’s theory was false “all the foundations of my Philosophy are also false [. . .]” (Adam and Tannery 1897–1913, p. 271) and that “I have wished to suppress entirely the treatise I have made and to lose almost all my work of four years in order to render entire obedience to the Church, in so far as it has defeated the opinion of the motion of the earth”.93 A thought that he reiterated in a letter that he

 O’Connor and Robertson, “Ismael Boulliau”, MHMA, [online], , [accessed: 7 November 2020]. 91  In a letter to Marin Mersenne, dated October 8, 1629, Descartes said that he had decided to write a small treatise explaining the reason for the colors of the rainbow. However, only a month later, in another letter to the same addressee, he indicated that “[...] et au lieu d’expliquer un Phaenomene seulement, je me suis resolu d’expliquer tous les Phaenomenes de la nature, c’est a dire toute la Physique.” (vid. letter to Mersenne, November 13, 1629). In February 1630 he had already begun the writing, for in a letter in which he answered a series of questions that Marsenne had put to him, Descartes indicated that “[...] et c’est l’endroit de mon Traité où je suis maintenant.” (Adam and Tannery 1897–1913, pp. 23, 70, 120). 92  Letter to Marsenne, end of November 1633 (Adam and Tannery 1897–1913, p. 270). 93  Letter to Mersenne, February 1634 (Adam and Tannery 1897–1913, p. 281). 90


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sent in April 1634 to Martin Mersenne and in which he made clear to him the reason why he had not sent him his Treatise: You are no doubt aware that Galileo has recently been arrested by the Inquisitors of the Faith, and that his opinion concerning the motion of the earth has been condemned as heretical. Now I want to tell you that all the things I explain in my treatise, among which is also this opinion of the motion of the earth, depending one on the other, it is enough to know that, if there is one that is false, to know that all the reasons I have used have no force; and although I thought they were supported by very certain and very evident demonstrations, I would not for the world want to hold them against the authority of the Church.94

These motivations were more than enough for the work to remain unpublished, and it would only be printed, for the first time, posthumously, in 1664, when Jacques le Gras issued a small book entitled: Le Monde de MR Descartes, ou Le Traité de la Lumiere et des autres principaux objets des Sens.95 Nevertheless, Descartes, ten years later, in 1644, published his Principia Philosophiae96 in which, to a large extent, he reproduces his theories on the configuration and structure of the universe contained in his Monde, and where, in relation to what he calls the “first Heaven”, which is the visible world, the Sun is placed at its center, and the Earth, and the rest of the planets, orbit around it. In spite of his heliocentrism, Descartes was careful to record in his work that, as regards his theory “[. . .] I warn that I do not pretend that it is to be received as entirely in accordance with the truth, but only as a hypothesis, or supposition which may be false”.97 For Descartes, the starting point would be the existence of an initial “Chaos”, “that is to say a whole confusion of all the parts of the Universe”98 that began to acquire an organization from the moment in which God imprinted movement to the matter of which the universe is composed. This matter, which is the same for all celestial bodies, due to movement, would fragment into particles of very different sizes, made up of three types of elements, Earth, air and fire, which would give rise to the formation of all the components of the world (celestial bodies, heavens, light...) and which would completely fill space. Thus, the Cartesian universe is a space totally occupied by matter, a continuum where emptiness does not exist.99 In the infinitude of the Cartesian universe, matter is organized in vortices or whirlpools (Fig. 3.15) that revolve around their own axis, following three laws or mechanical principles that Descartes establishes,100 and that he considers the simplest, intelligible and true, since, even supposing the existence of the initial chaos,  Letter to Mersenne, April 1634 (Adam and Tannery 1897–1913, p. 285).  Descartes, Le Monde de MR Descartes, ou Le Traité de la Lumiere et des autres principaux objets des Sens, (1664). 96  Descartes, Principia philosophiae (1644). Library of Congres: item/46028327 97  Descartes, Les Principes de la Philosophie (1647), in Adam and Tannery (1897–1913, 1904, Part Three, art. 19, p. 110). 98  Adam and Tannery (1897–1913, 1904, Part Three, art. 47, p. 125). 99  Adam and Tannery (1897–1913, 1904, Part Two, art. 16, pp. 71–72). 100  Adam and Tannery (1897–1913, 1904, Part Two, arts. 37, 39 and 40, pp. 84–87). 94 95

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Fig. 3.15  Vortices in Descartes’ cosmology Representation of the structure and organization of the universe. In red are the axes of the eddies and in blue the delimitation of the first sky in the center of which is the Sun (S). Principia philosophiae, 1644, pp. 110 and 122. Library of Congress

this, by means of these laws, would reach, little by little, the order “[. . .] qui est à present dans le monde [. . .]”.101 These vortices, in turn, would give rise to a structuring of the universe into three distinct heavens: the first heaven would be the whirlpool in the center of which the Sun (S) is situated (Fig. 3.15); the second heaven, of much larger dimensions than the first, would be made up of the vortices located around the first, and the third heaven, immense, in view of the second, by those located beyond it. As Descartes pointed out, his fundamental objective was to treat those parts of the universe that he called “visible world”, that is to say, that could be perceived by the senses (which are visible) so that in it he distinguished three elements that had as main characteristic the “to be luminous”, that he attributed to the Sun and to the fixed stars that send light towards the Earth; “to be transparent”, for the skies that let it pass, and finally, “to be opaque or dark”, that would be proper of the Earth, the planets and the comets, that reject and reflect the light.102 Given its enormous distance from the Earth, he obviated any reference to the third heaven “[. . .] because we do not observe in it anything that can be seen by us [. . .]”, while for the whirlpool whose center is the Sun and in which the Earth is

101 102

 Adam and Tannery (1897–1913, 1904, Part Three, art. 47, pp. 125–126).  Adam and Tannery (1897–1913, 1904, Part Three, art. 53 and 52, p. 129).


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included, and which he considers as first or principal, “[. . .] we will have many more things to point out in it than in the other two.”103 Descartes offered a graphic scheme of the main vortex (Fig. 3.16) in which, following his heliocentric postulates, the Sun (S) appears in the center of it, and then Mercury (☿), Venus (♀), Earth (T), Mars (♂), Jupiter (♃) and Saturn (♄). The matter of which the sky of this first vortex would be composed would be very liquid, and would undergo a continuous circular motion around its center, and counterclockwise, i.e., A-B-C-A in the indicated graph . The planets, which are completely surrounded by this matter, and suspended in it, would lack their own motion, being at rest, but the changes observed in their position are due to the motion of this sky, so that “we cannot properly say that the Earth or the planets move, but that they are transported”104 by it and, therefore, with the same sense of rotation. It is precisely this way of expressing the motion of the Earth, not as a quality of its own, but as a consequence of its transport within the vortex of the first heaven, that allowed Descartes, on the one hand, to maintain his adherence to the heliocentric system, and, on the other, to deny the motion of the planet. It was, then, simply

Fig. 3.16  The vortex of the first sky, with a heliocentric arrangement Descartes, Principia philosophiae, 1644, p. 83. Library of Congress

103 104

 Adam and Tannery (1897–1913, 1904, Part Three, art. 53, p. 130).  Adam and Tannery (1897–1913, 1904, Part Three, arts. 26–28, p. 113–116).

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an artifice of language, so when he was warned, possibly by a member of the clergy, of the consequences that the publication of his work could have, Descartes’ response was forceful: For the censure of Rome, concerning the motion of the earth, I see no similarity: for I most expressly deny this motion. [. . .] And all the passages of Scripture, which are against the motion of the earth, do not look at the system of the world, but only at the manner of speaking; so that, proving, as I have done, that the earth does not move, following the system I have set forth, I entirely satisfy those passages.105

Leibniz, years later, would write that Descartes used a “philosophical ruse” to deny the motion of the Earth, although, in his opinion, he was an extreme Copernican.106 Thus, although his Principia philosophiae entered twenty years later in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum, it would not be for this reason, but for his approaches to matter, which were assimilated to the atomist theories, in clear opposition to the dogma of transubstantiation (Roux 2000, pp. 211–274). The matter of the sky moves in an unequal way, being the movement faster in the parts closer to the Sun107 than in those at a greater distance, likewise, the planets, among which the Earth is included, which describe in their displacement circles that are unequally distant from the center of the vortex, will also take more or less time to make a complete turn around the Sun. Thus, while Saturn, the planet furthest from the center of the vortex, takes thirty years to complete one revolution around the Sun, Mercury, the closest planet, takes only three months, and the Earth one year.108 This same relation between the distance to the center and the speed of rotation is applied by Descartes to two other smaller vortices, which he associates with the planet Jupiter and the Earth, and which move in the same direction as “the larger one that contains them”.109 The first includes the four Medicean satellites, which Descartes names as “the other planets that make their circuit around this star”, which would be dragged by the spin of Jupiter’s vortex, so that while the outermost, Callisto, takes 16 days to make a complete revolution around it, Io, the closest to  Letter to ***, 1644? (Adam and Tannery 1897–1913, 1903, p. 550). The authors cite the Jesuit Father Noël as the possible sender. 106  Leibnitz, Essais de Theodicée sur la Bonte de Dieu, la Liberté de l’Homme, et l’Origen du Mal, 1720, p. 230. 107  Descartes justifies this fact “[. . .] because the matter of the first element that composes the Sun, rotating extremely fast on its axis, increases even more the motion of the parts of the sky that are close to it, than those that are farther away [. . .]” (Adam and Tannery 1897–1913, 1904, Third part, art. 148, p. 195). The rotation of the Sun on its own axis has been known since the beginning of the seventeenth century, when Galileo, among others, observed that there were spots moving in an east-west direction on the surface of this star, which were, or were not, periodically observable, deducing, therefore, the existence of a rotational motion of the Sun on its own axis, in a counterclockwise direction. Since it is not a solid body, this movement is differential according to latitude, so that while at the equator, sunspots disappear every 25 days, at the poles they disappear every 30 days. 108  Adam and Tannery (1897–1913, 1904, Part Three, arts. 30–31, pp. 115–116). 109  Adam and Tannery (1897–1913, 1904, Part Three, art. 33, p. 117). 105


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that planet, takes only 42 h. The Earth, on the other hand, is the center of a whirlpool in which the Moon, also by dragging, revolves around it, completing its cycle in a month, while the Earth takes only 24 h to rotate on its own axis. 4.5.2 The Influence of Copernicus, Kepler and Galileo in Spain Among the first Spanish heliocentrists were Diego de Zúñiga and Jerónimo Muñoz. But their influence, together with that of Kepler and Galileo, was maintained in some scholars who played a very relevant role, generally Jesuits linked to the Colegio Imperial, some time later. Among them Vicente Mut, José de Zaragoza and Jose Cassani stand out. Vicente Mut Armengol110 (1614–1687) was an astronomer, historian, engineer and military professional. His works include the astronomical treatises De sole alfonsino restituto (1649), Observationes motuum caelestium cum adnotationibus astronomicis et meridianorum differentiis ab eclypsibus deductis (1666) and Comentarum anni MDCLXV (1666). He was a member of the Republic of Letters and exchanged numerous epistles with other astronomers like Athanasius Kircher and Giovanni Battista Riccioli, especially in the 1640s. In fact, he can be classified as a close collaborator of Riccioli, who named a lunar crater after him in his Almagestum Novum (1651). Among Mut’s results, which Riccioli set down in this text and in Astronomia reformata (1665), are the study of eclipses, measurements of the diameter of Jupiter, and compilations, with critical analysis, of geographical longitudes, together with his own determinations, for the improvement of maps. In fact, he revised the size of the Mediterranean by shortening it markedly, to 44° 15′. He also made extensive use of the tables calculated by both Johannes Kepler and Philip van Lansberge (Johan Philip Lansberge) (the Tabulae motuum coelestium perpetuæ, published in 1632), both heliocentric. However, he possibly did not fully accept the heliocentric postulate, nor did he fully understand the implications of Kepler’s laws of planetary motions, explicitly assuming them to be artifices of calculation or “falsae positiones”. Mut studied Galileo’s kinetic theory, especially its application to ballistics and parabolic trajectories, especially in his work Arquitectura Militar (1664), which would lead him to suggest, by analogy, that the comet of 1664 described this type of trajectory and not a rectilinear one, as was assumed until then for this type of object. In his own words: As this year’s comet traced almost a semicircle against the order of the signs [of the Zodiac], it seems impossible that it passed from Libra to Aries with rectilinear motion, as if by a string, since in such a straight trajectory it would have been close to the Earth, even extraordinarily close, with an inordinate parallax, which in fact was not so enormous. In fact, the string subtending the great circle by a quadrant is closer to the center. This difficulty also arises with the system that accepts the motion of the Earth, so that the comet which, because

 Navarro Brotons, “Vicente Mut”, Diccionario Biográfico Español [online], [accessed: 28 October 2020]. See also Navarro Brotons (1979, pp. 43–62). 110

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of its rectilinear trajectory, we feared would fall to the Earth, Kepler feared would also fall on the Sun... the rectilinear motion weakening, it tilts with a parabolic trajectory.111

He also played a role in the development of astronomical instrumentation, describing in 1666 a 160 cm telescope and an instrument with a reticle for precise measurements of the positions of the stars and the sizes of the planets, essentially a micrometer. According to his own words, he would have started to use it in 1653, before the description made by Christiaan Huygens in his treatise Systema Saturnium (1659). In any case, Mut can be classified as a rationalist and predecessor of Nicolas Antonio or Father Tomás Vicente Tosca. Within the circle of Jesuit intellectuals or formed by them we find José de Zaragoza112 (1627–1679), a friend of Vicente Mut, who made observations of the comets of 1664 and 1677. He taught at the Colegio Imperial and wrote the treatises Esphera in común celeste y terráquea (1675) and Fábrica y uso de varios instrumentos mathemáticos (1675). Zaragoza commented in his works on the discoveries made from the observations of Brahe, Kepler and Galileo, especially the detections of “new” stars (the supernovae of Tycho and Kepler) and comets, affirming that the tail was illuminated by sunlight, the phases of Mercury and Venus, the four satellites of Jupiter, the peculiar shape of Saturn, the irregularities of the Moon and the identification of spots on the surface of the Sun. In any case, despite this break with Aristotelianism, he aligned himself with Riccioli and, commenting on the heliocentric theory, wrote that “it is condemned by the congregation of the SS.  Cardinal Inquisitors as contrary to the Sacrad Scriptures, although by way of hypothesis or supposition they can all make use of it for the calculation of the planets, so that only the actual reality of this composition is condemned, but not its possibility”. It is therefore the orthodox line of the Spanish intelligentsia, formally geocentric but functionally heliocentric. Among his collaborators were the Jesuits Baltasar de Alcázar and Juan Carlos Andosilla. Somewhat later is the astronomer, mathematician, historian, military engineer and lexicographer Jose Cassani (1673–1750), founding member of the Real Academia Española in 1713 and he participated in the Diccionario de Autoridades (1726–1739)113 . He made observations of the eclipses of 1701 and 1706, which were published by the Academy of Sciences of Paris and wrote the Tratado de la naturaleza, origen y causas de los cometas (Treatise on the nature, origin and causes of comets), published in 1737, but composed since 1703, which can be

 Mut, Comentarum anni MDCLXV, 1666, quoted in Navarro Brotons (1979).  Navarro Brotons, “José de Zaragoza”, Diccionario Biográfico Español, 2014 [online], < http://> [accessed: 28 October 2020]. 113  Possibly to Cassani corresponds the first definition and use of the term satellites in its astronomical meaning: “SATELLITES. Four small stars, which always accompany the planet Jupiter, and five others that go around Saturn. It is an optional voice of Astronomy. Casan. Comet. Chap. 5. As seen in four Stars, which are called Satellites, or Archers of Jupiter, because they continually go round in four different circles, the center of which is the same Planet”. Real Academia Española, Dictionary of Authorities, 1737 (1726–1739). 111 112


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considered as the first published on this subject. He was also educated at the Colegio Imperial, where he was later professor of Mathematics, between 1701 and 1732. In conclusion, the new heliocentric cosmology and the new observations did have a direct impact in Spain in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, but at least formally from a point of view that complied with the requirements of the Inquisition, maintaining, once again, the orthodox theological interpretation, and always under the domination of the Jesuits and their educational system.

4.6 The Proof Sought by Galileo: The Finite Speed of Light and the Motion of the Earth One of the classical reasons of geocentrism for locating the Earth at the center of the universe was the lack of parallax of the stars. That is, if our planet moved around the Sun, the apparent position of any star should vary depending on the relative configuration of these three objects, arranging in a triangle, of variable shape, with each celestial object at one vertex. In fact, this is the explanation for the strange motion of the outer planets, the loop they describe during opposition, in addition to their own motion around the center of the solar system. In any case, the real reason for the absence of measurable parallax lies in the fact that the distance to the nearest star is so large that only the technological developments of the mid-nineteenth century made it possible to measure it. However, the proof of the Earth’s motion would be found in the stars or, to be more precise, in the light that reaches us from them. The basic rationale is that light has a finite speed and this produces a number of observational effects when combined with the motion of the Earth. The Greek scholar Empedocles of Agrigentum, in the fifth century BCE, was the first to suggest that light should have a finite speed. However, it was not until the Modern Age that this idea was taken up. Isaac Beeckman, in 1629, devised a method to determine the validity of this hypothesis. He started from the premise that a particle cannot be in two places at the same time and from the corpuscular nature of light. In order to measure its speed and following a discussion with his student René Descartes,114 he performed an experiment: the observation of an explosion of gunpowder hidden behind a wall by means of its reflection in a mirror placed at a great distance. Both Beeckman and Descartes could not, for obvious reasons, determine which they detected first, the sound of the deflagration or the reflected flash. But the question was already posed in scientific terms, with a methodology for making a measurement. A few years later, in 1638, Galileo Galilei, ill and confined under house arrest by order of the Roman Inquisition, tried again, also without success. He concluded, however, that the transmission of light is not instantaneous and that its speed is so

 O’Connor and Robertson, “René Descartes”, MHMA, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 114

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high as to prevent its determination. At least at that time, with the technology available. The experiment devised by Galileo was tried years later in Florence, and it too was a failure. It was Ole Roemer (or Rømer, 1644–1710), by using the eclipses of Jupiter’s satellites, who was able to extract the first value of the finite speed of light (Fig. 3.17). He published the achievement in France in 1676 and the following year it would appear in England, with the result of 198,500 km/s, 30% lower than the real value of 299,793 km/s. It was a chance discovery or serendipity, like so many others in science, while observing the satellites of Jupiter in order to improve their ephemerides and the accuracy of the determination of the position on the surface of the Earth, in particular the longitude. Roemer was working under the orders of Giovanni Dominico Cassini115 (1625–1712, also known as Cassini I), together with Jean-­ Félix Picard116 (1620–1682), in the ambitious cartographic project of Louis XIV and his minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert.

Fig. 3.17 The measurement of the speed of light by Rømer in December 1676 Diagram of the original article published in Journal Des Scavans

 O’Connor and Robertson, “Giovanni Domenico Cassini”, MHMA, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. The Cassini “astronomical reign” in France lasted 120 years. It included: Giovanni Domenico Cassini (Cassini I, 1625–1712), Jacques Cassini (Cassini II, 1677–1756), César-François Cassini (Cassini III or Cassini de Thury, 1714–1784), and Jean-Dominique Cassini (Cassini IV, 1748–1845), who eventually resigned as director of the Paris observatory because of disagreements with the new rulers after the French Revolution and finally abandoned astronomy. 116  O’Connor and Robertson, “Jean Picard”, MHMA, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 115


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Cassini had already observed anomalies in his own observations of eclipses, during campaigns between 1666 and 1668, and initially attributed them to the finite speed of light, although he did not develop the explanation and would in fact oppose it years later. Rømer, who collaborated with Picard and Cassini in assessing the longitude of Uraniborg, Tycho Brahe’s old observatory in Denmark, was invited to join the Paris group, where he would remain until 1681. He took measurements together with Picard, analyzed data from the nearest satellite, Io, and in 1676 announced this discovery to the Academy of Sciences. Different scientists in Europe took sides with Rømer’s interpretation or with Cassini’s objections. Rømer made use of the fact that the Earth-Jupiter distance depends on the relative position of the two as they orbit around the barycenter of the solar system. This is minimum at opposition, when they are aligned, with the Sun and Jupiter at the extremes and the Earth in the middle; and maximum when it is the Sun that occupies the intermediate position (the distance is nearly the double). Therefore, delays appear with respect to the expected time if the speed were infinite, if the information were transmitted instantaneously. Both Giovanni Domenico Cassini and Picard had noticed the variations of the measured times with respect to the predictions of the eclipses of the satellites, but it was Rømer who, observing Io, the closest satellite to the planet, correctly interpreted that it is due to the finite speed of light. However, his reasoning would be received with some skepticism by the community of the Republic of Letters (Bobis and Lequeux 2008, pp. 97–105). It was not until James Bradley discovered in 1727, much later, the phenomenon of the aberration of light, that the question of the finite speed of light was definitively closed. Aberration is a consequence of its speed and consists in the seasonal change of the positions of the stars (and the other celestial bodies) that appears as a consequence of the combination of the speed of the light they emit and that of the receiver located on the Earth, which moves around the Sun. It is analogous to the obliquity of rain when we run perpendicular to its fall. Curiously, besides Cassini, Picard had detected this phenomenon in 1671, but he had not found the right explanation. The aberration of light was the proof that Galileo (and Kepler) sought to demonstrate the Copernican theory through the use of Aristotelian logic, the scientific methodology of his time, but for him it was a century late. A very subtle phenomenon, difficult to measure, but which proved beyond question that the Earth revolved around the Sun. In any case, the determination of the speed of light requires an estimate of the radius of the Earth’s orbit. Christiaan Huygens,117 shortly after Rømer‘s work, used one of the first accurate determinations, based on the transit of the planet Venus through the solar disk, to derive a velocity of about 220,000  km/s, better than Roemer’s, but still far from the true value. New, more precise methods were devised

 O’Connor and Robertson, “Christiaan Huygens”, MHMA, [online], < http://www-history.mcs.>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 117

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later by, among others, Isaac Newton,118 Hippolyte Fizeau (already from laboratory experiments), Léon Foucault and Albert Abraham Michelson, the latter in the nineteenth century. Some empirical evidence for the rotational and translational motions of the Earth are: • The aberration of light, discovered by James Bradley in 1728, which is the result of the sum of the finite speed of light with that of the Earth around the Sun and produces a variation in the apparent position of the stars. • The free fall of bodies, already suggested by Galileo. As they fall they move eastwards. The first confirmation was obtained in an experiment carried out in 1791 from the Tower of the Asinelli, in Bologna. • The annual parallax of the stars. The first measurement was obtained in 1838 by Friedrich Bessel. • The Focault pendulum. The first communication was made in 1851. • The deflection of artillery shells to the right in the northern hemisphere. • The doppler effect in the high-resolution spectra of stars when comparing measurements of the same object observed when facing east or west, or when spectra are acquired at different times of the year.119

4.7 The “Absolution” of Heliocentrism and the “Galileo Case” as Seen Today After 150 years of prohibition, Pope Benedict XIV ordered, in the last year of his pontificate (1757–1758), the exclusion of works of a heliocentric character from the Index, invalidating the decree of 1616. Nevertheless, both Copernicus’ and Galileo’s works continued to appear on the list of banned books until the 1835 edition of the Index (Fig. 3.18 shows the 1819 edition, in which they still appeared, with a detail in Fig. 3.19), and this not only in spite of the validity of the decree mentioned, but also of the resolution of the Holy Office and of the Congregation of the Index of 1822, which explicitly allowed the approval of books of Copernican character. In fact, this decision was taken because of the appeal made to Pope Pius VII by Giusseppe Settele, a cleric who considered heliocentrism to be a physical reality, but to whom Filippo Anfosi, Master of the Sacro Palazzo (the Vatican’s censor-in-­ chief), denied the imprimatur of one of his books. A year later, in 1823, Maurizio Olivieri, consultant to the Inquisition, proceeded to a new examination of five relevant books, those of Copernicus, Zúñiga, Galileo,  O’Connor and Robertson, “Sir Isaac Newton”, MHMA, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 119  In the first case, the Earth’s rotational velocity is combined with the star’s own motion, while in the second case it is the translation motion around the Sun. Both phenomena obviously occur simultaneously and can leave a significant imprint with the right instrumentation. 118

Fig. 3.18  1819 edition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum et Expurgatorum

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Fig. 3.19  Detail of the Index with mentions of Copernicus, Foscarini, Galileo and Kepler The 1819 edition still contained these heliocentric works. Each was accompanied by the date of the decree of prohibition

Foscarini and Kepler, with the aim of determining whether these works contained any other unorthodox element. Possibly they must not have passed his analysis because it was not until the pontificate of Gregory XIV that it was decided to remove these authors definitively from the Index of 1835. The elimination was made without any explicit justification or apology (Finocchiaro 2009, pp. 190–195; Casanovas 1989, pp. 791–805), but, in any case, it was very opportune since three years later, in 1838, Fiedrich Bessel, measured the annual parallax of the star 61 Cygnus, direct effect of the Earth’s translation movement around the Sun, adding, thus, another determinant observational proof to the one made by James Bradley in 1729 with the aberration of the light. Four centuries have passed since the beginning of the so-called “Galileo case”. The repercussions of this case, over time, have been of great importance for understanding the relationship between scientific thought and religious belief, especially in the West. Pope John Paul II reevaluated the condemnation and the link between religion and science, and in 1992 declared that the error of the theologians of that


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time was to interpret the scriptures in a literal way to understand the physical reality.120 Succinct words for such a relevant schism. At the beginning of his pontificate a meeting was held to eliminate the supposed mutual misgivings. A close reading of the various contributions to The Galileo Affair: a meeting of Faith and Science, held in 1984, does not exactly help to dispel doubts. In fact, George Coyne, one of the editors and former director of the Vatican observatories, has commented, following the 400th anniversary of the condemnation of heliocentrism, that “It is a genuine historical case of a real and continuing contrast between an ecclesiastical structure of intrinsic authority and the freedom to seek truth in any human endeavour”, describing the situation as “tragic mutual incomprehension”. In any case, Coyne reviews the many inaccuracies of the re-­ evaluation of the so-called “Galileo Commission” created during this papacy.121 400 years after the condemnation of heliocentrism and the beginning of Galileo’s tribulations, today, above all, freedom of thought and the search for truth are valued, and the life and work of a huge number of scientists and intellectuals who, even today, pay an extraordinary price for defending these rights, are honoured. An example of this is the systematic destruction of cultural heritage in the Middle East as a result of the wars in that region, while at the same time attempts are made to silence, by barbaric methods, anyone who dares to cross the boundaries of orthodoxy.

5 Science and Literature: The Effect of the New Cosmography 5.1 Cosmography in the Works of Cervantes and Other Authors The writer Miguel de Cervantes (1547–1616), in addition to his monumental work El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, which he himself considered to be the first modern novel, has to his credit a respectable literary production that includes poetry and theatre. What is surprising is that his scientific culture must have been

 “Thanks to his intuition as a brilliant physicist and by relying on different arguments, Galileo, who practically invented the experimental method, understood why only the sun could function as the center of the world, as it was then known, that is to say, as a planetary system. The error of the theologians of the time, when they maintained the centrality of the Earth, was to think that our understanding of the physical world’s structure was, in some way, imposed by the literal sense of Sacred Scripture [. . .]”, John Paul II, L’Osservatore Romano, No. 44 (1264), November 4, 1992. 121  Yanes, “Forbidden to go around the Sun”, OpenMind, [online] , [accessed: 28 February 2016]. The proceedings of the 1984 meeting can be found at: Coyne, Heller, Życiński, (eds.) (1985). The last contribution, with much more explicit statements pointing out the responsibility of the ecclesiastical hierarchy appear in Coyne (2005, pp. 340–359). A fascinating and very complete description can be found in) 120

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considerable, since he was aware of technical problems, such as navigation and the determination of latitude, and of the advances that were taking place at the beginning of the seventeenth century with the invention of the telescope. He might even have made a significant scientific contribution by naming the satellites of the planet Jupiter, identified when Galileo Galilei directed the new instrument to the heavens in the winter of 1609–1610. In fact, Cervantes has an astronomical facet omitted until now, which shows us that he knew the latest scientific discoveries. The story La Gitanilla, which is part of the Exemplary Novels, contains a poem in which the virtues of Queen Margaret of Habsburg, wife of Felipe III, are extolled, which includes the following verses: Next to the house of the Sun Jupiter goes; for there is no thing difficult to privation founded on prudent deeds. The Moon goes on the cheeks of one human goddess and the other; Venus chaste, in the beauty of those who form this sky. Little ganymedes cross, go, come back and return by the studded girdle of this miraculous sphere.122

Cervantes’ scientific culture is evident, not only in his description of the planets and the Sun, which until that time most intellectuals accepted that they orbited around the Earth, according to the so-called geocentric theory, but the most significant thing is that Cervantes refers to Jupiter’s satellites, shortly after their discovery, since the last four verses have an explicit meaning: “cross, go, come back and return” (“cruzan, van, vuelven y tornan”) leaves little room for the imagination, and would correspond to a fairly concise description of orbiting around Jupiter; and the last two lines, “by the studded girdle / of this miraculous sphere” (“por el cinto tachonado / de esta esfera milagrosa”) refer to the Ecliptic, the imaginary circle on which the planets and apparently the Sun move, and to the celestial sphere. It is written, then, in an astronomical and not only mythological key. The dating of the text is relatively simple: it was published in 1613, with a dedication signed in July; the censorship is dated July, second 1612 and the approval is seven days later. The proposal that Kepler made to Marius about the names of the satellites is, as Marius himself indicates in his Mundus Iovalis (1614), dated October 1613, therefore, well after the time when Cervantes wrote his work, from which we can deduce that the name used by Cervantes clearly precedes the suggestion of the two Germanic astronomers.

 “Junto a la casa del Sol / va Júpiter; que no hay cosa / difícil a la privanza / fundada in prudentes obras./ Va la Luna in las mejillas / de una y otra humana diosa; / Venus casta, in la belleza / de las que este cielo forman. / Pequeñuelos Ganimedes / cruzan, van, vuelven y tornan / por el cinto tachonado / de esta esfera milagrosa.” 122


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Most revealingly, it provides clues to Cervantes’ scientific culture and to the dissemination of Galileo’s important discoveries. The poem is about a midwifery mass, although it does not identify which of the princely births it corresponds to. Margaret of Habsburg, the wife of Felipe III of Spain (II of Portugal), had eight children between 1601 and 1611, but the context of the poem might indicate that it refers to the last, Alfonso of Habsburg, born and died on 22 September 1611, although it is generally assumed that it refers to the birth of the future Felipe IV, which took place on April 8th, 1605. If so, the story of La Gitanilla had to be written between this date and June 1613 (in fact, before July 1612). The very development of the plot indicates that it is later than 1610, since the main character, Preciosa, is kidnapped in 1595, and is fifteen years old when the story unfolds. And it would be extraordinary if Cervantes had moved the story into the future. However, it is possible that the romanza precedes or post-dates the novel itself and was included in the text before it was printed. In any case, let us remember that the publication of Sidereus Nuncius was in March 1610. It is very unlikely that Kepler or Marius had access to Cervantes’ Exemplary Novels. It is possible, although of little feasible demonstration, that someone who had read them would have commented to Kepler the Cervantine name, generic for the four satellites, of small ganymedes. But it is more than plausible that the author of Don Quixote imagined a very suitable name for the small court of followers of the largest planet in the solar system, based on Greek mythology (a rule whose practice has been maintained until recent times) and that he fully agreed with Kepler with this approach. Cervantes would be, therefore, not only the first to write a novel in Spanish, and in an extraordinary way, but with his poetry, not always well valued, he would have named these four objects that helped to build the image of the world as we understand it now. However, was this an isolated event, a fortunate coincidence? The answer is negative, since Cervantes unveils himself as a person of great culture covering many different fields in his texts. The two parts of Don Quixote clearly show that his astronomical and geographical knowledge was significant. Let us cite a few examples: [. . .] of three hundred and sixty-five degrees that the globe contains, of water and land, according to the computation of Ptolemy, who was the greatest cosmographer that is known, we shall have walked half of it, arriving at the line that I have said. [. . .] if I had here an astrolabe with which to take the height of the pole, I would tell you the [leagues] we have walked. [. . .] that I have told you, and cure you of no other, that you do not know what are colures, lines, parallels, zodiacs, clitics, poles, solstices, equinoxes, planets, signs, points, measures of which the celestial and terrestrial sphere is composed; that if all these things you knew, or part of them, you would see clearly what of parallels we have cut, what of signs seen, and what of images we have left behind and are now leaving behind. Cervantes, Don Quixote, 2, XXIX, “Of the famous adventure of the enchanted ship”.

The cosmographic references in Cervantes’ work show a significant knowledge of Claudius Ptolemy‘s Geographia and Johannes Sacrobosco’s Treatise on the Sphere (Domínguez 2009, 139–157). Both authors were notoriously geocentric and in fact

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their works defined (including Ptolemy‘s Almagest, as far as astronomy is concerned) the cosmographic canon of the end of the Middle Ages and the Modern Age until the beginning of the seventeenth century, just when Don Quixote and the Exemplary Novels appeared. According to Esteban Piñeiro (2005, pp. 23–34, quoted in Domínguez 2009), Cervantes’ knowledge went far beyond that of a man with a good education. Thus, the question of his education resurfaces with force. It is true that his travels around the Italian peninsula, his participation in the battle of Lepanto against the Ottomans,123 his five years of slavery in Algiers and his work in Andalusia, especially in Seville, brought him into contact with seafaring circles where the most pressing problems of the time were discussed, among which the problem of longitude stood out. It should be remembered that in the biography of Cervantes written by Martín Fernández de Navarrete, mention is made of a document, now lost, according to which the native of Alcalá would have been enrolled for two years at the University of Salamanca (Fernandez de Navarrete 1819, p. 12), an educational center known, among other activities, for its cosmographic school. The cosmographers  Martín Cortés, Pedro de Medina, Juan Bautista Labaña and Rodrigo Zamorano passed through there, with whom he might have had contact (Fernández Duro 1869, pp. 321–360). It is possible that, in Madrid, he attended the open classes offered by the Academia Real Mathematica, which, as mentioned above, was financed by the Council of the Indies and had been set up with very ambitious aims. The writer Lope de Vega, other very relevant figure within the Spanish Siglo de Oro, did attend these seminars and, given that they were a possible gateway to the palatial and noble gatherings, it would not be surprising that Cervantes was also enlightened in this environment occasionallys. Certainly, he was no stranger to the calendar reform of 1582 or to the role played by the University of Salamanca in the training of navigators and cosmographers, as this fragment clearly indicates (Esteban Piñeiro 2006, pp. 367–391): I’ll bet that if they go to study in Salamanca, they’ll be court mayors in a trice. It’s all a mockery, but to study and study more and more, and to have favour and fortune; and when a man least expects it, he finds himself with a rod in his hand or a mitre on his head. Cervantes, Don Quixote, 2, LXVI, “Which deals with what he who reads it will see or he who hears it read will hear it whoever hears it read”.

Be that as it may, the most remarkable thing is that in 1613 or before Cervantes knew about the new astronomical discoveries that would break with medieval scholasticism and with the geocentric image of the cosmos. It was certainly a paradigm shift initiated by Copernicus’  work De revolutionibus (1543), the supernovae of Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler (1572 and 1604, respectively) and the comet of 1577, which broke the immutability of the heavens. But above all because of the advances made through the use of the telescope. It is possible to speculate that Cervantes learned about the latter through his relations with the nobility, in whose

 October 7th, 1572. A coalition of Spain and many Italian States, Including the Venetian Republic and the Papal States, defeated the Ottomans in the largest sea battle since Antiquity, and marked a turning-point in the muslim expansión in Europe. 123


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mansions demonstrations would take place from time to time. Thus, he dedicated, for example, several works to the Count of Lemos, who was viceroy of Naples. Precisely this city is, as already mentioned, one of the possible origins of the telescope and the place where the first scientific academy was created in 1580. Cervantes lived there for two years, until 1575, and could well have come into contact with the intellectual circles of the city. Finally, it is worth noting that Cervantes was not the only literary figure of the early seventeenth century to incorporate elements of this scientific revolution in his works. William Shakespeare (Pujantes Álvares-Castellano and Campillo Arnaiz 2007, p. XL and pp. 409–410), his Anglo-Saxon counterpart, included numerous astronomical references (Chappell 1945; McCormick-Goodhart 1945). John Donne, the great English poet contemporary to the Bard of Avon, makes an explicit reference to Kepler‘s supernova in a poem included in the collection To the Countesse of Huntingdon: Who vagrant transitory Comets sees Wonders, because they are rare: but a new starre Whose motion with the firmament agrees, Whose motion with the firmament agrees.124

Also John Milton, some decades later, included a description of the universe in his Paradise Lost,125 although in this case it was essentially composed of allegories according to the geocentric approach, at first sight outdated for the most advanced environments. However, the vision of this poet, probably transitional, is actually halfway, since on numerous occasions the verses of this work reflect a heliocentric perspective. On his trip to Italy, Milton met Galileo in 1638, during his house arrest after his condemnation by the Roman Inquisition in 1633. Perhaps for this reason, Galileo was the only contemporary to find a place in Paradise Lost, in which he is depicted as a martyr to scientific truth, an image that has survived to the present day. Thus, Milton was possibly a heliocentrist, but his transition from geocentrism was gradual, a fairly well-founded stance from a practical point of view, since the physical basis of heliocentrism would not appear until the publication of Isaac Newton’s Principia in 1687. Be that as it may, Galileo’s writings were widely read in England and in fact the first edition of the Dialogue dates from 1661, and the beginning of Book VIII of Milton’s work could be interpreted as a non-technical summary of Galileo’s Dialogue.126 Thus, literature, especially from the seventeenth century onwards, has acted as a lever of change towards new scientific paradigms, providing assimilable reference figures in the popular imagination.127 The transition is permanent, and in many cases  Quoted in Koestler (1959).  The work was first published in 1667. Milton, The Complete English Poems (1992). 126  Gilbert (1922, pp. 152–185). A much more detailed view can be found in Orchard (1913). 127  Therefore, with a critical look, how many astronomical references can be found in European literature? How many can be found in the enormous Spanish work of the second part of the Golden 124 125

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slow because it is counter-intuitive (as happens with the heliocentrism) but, unquestionably, necessary. Let us remember that the common spoken language is still geocentric when including expressions such as the “rising of the Sun” and of the other stars, the “celestial vault”, to give some examples.

5.2 Scientific Satire in the Eighteenth Century: Jonathan Swift and Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift (1667–1745), an Irish clergyman, published the well-known political satire Gulliver’s Travels128 anonymously in London in 1726. The work is structured in four journeys: the visit to the country of Lilliput, where tiny human beings live; to Brobdingnag, where minuscule Gulliver becomes a court toy of the queen of the country; to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Glubbdubdrib, Luggnagg, and Japan, with its curious flying island and its conversations with deceased characters and immortal beings; and to the country of Houyhnhnhnms, where the horses are rational beings with virtually no moral flaws and the humans, called yahoos, are malicious brutes. The internal narrative suggests that these journeys would have occurred in the period 1699–1715, although the writing of the first two journeys can be established as 1720, the last would be 1723 and the third would have been composed in 1724–1726.129 Each part includes its own message. Thus, the visit to the country of the Houyhnhnhnms is a reflection on the disappointing human nature and its systems of government, while the third part is a critique of English rule over Ireland.130 But it can also be interpreted as a mockery of the scientific and technical rationalism that was already emerging at the time. Thus, Swift makes clear his deep knowledge of the innovations and problems of cosmography, as well as a critique of the system of academies that began to develop in the second half of the seventeenth century.131 Indeed, Nicolson and Mohler

Age of the Spanish literature? 128  Swift, Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World. In Four Parts (1726). This first edition includes deleted parts and an interpolation by Benjamin Motte, the editor, possibly to avoid potential problems with British justice. Due to this fact, it is considered that the editio princeps corresponds to the printed version made by the Irish publisher George Faulkner in 1735, where some of these omissions were corrected and a text by Swift was inserted in the form of a letter from the protagonist to his cousin, giving an account of the vicissitudes that occurred in the 1726 edition. 129  As is evident from his letters (Nicolson and Mohler 1937a, b, pp. 299–334); These authors consider that the scientific details of the visit to the floating island of Laputa were developed in 1726, months before the publication of the first version. 130  For the literary criticism of Swift’s text, see Eddy (1923, p. 158). For an analysis of the political satire see Firth (1919). Quoted in Nicolson and Mohler (1937a, b), An updated version from the cosmographic point of view is found in Barrado Navascués (2020, pp. 17–21). 131  Charles II of England granted the Royal Charter in 1662 and Louis XIV founded the Académie des sciences in France in 1666.


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(1937a)132 interpreted the whole content of the third voyage as the result of a knowledge of the scientific literature up to the composition of the text. Thus, there are several abridged editions of the Philosophical Transactions, the means of presenting the results of the various scholars of the Royal Society, as is the case of the three volumes of the Miscellanea Curiosa of 1705, which could have been used by Swift as a source of inspiration for the voyages and specifically for the scientific part described in Laputa and Balnibarbi. Swift would have followed the example of other writers, since experiments such as those carried out by Wilkins, Hooke, Boyle, among others, served as literary inspiration, especially in the Anglo-Saxon world. Among other examples, John Wilkins (1614–1672), Edmund Waller (1606–1687), John Dryden (1631–1700) and Evelyn (1620–1706) in England or John Winthrop (1606–1676) and Cotton Mather (1663–1728) in their American colonies reflected contents presented in the Royal Society in their literary texts (Lloyd 1929, 44, 472–94; Nicolson and Mohler 1937a). Nicolson and Mohler conclude that the third part of Gulliver’s Travels is a satire of the articles published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, both in the part concerning the island of Laputa and his visit to Balnibarbi. Contrary to this interpretation is Renaker (1979, pp. 936–44), who draws a parallelism between Laputa and the French Cartesians, on the one hand, and Balnibarbi and England on the other. A completely different alternative is made by Fitzgerald,133 for whom the third part is an allegory about individual rights and absolutism. According to this author, the various episodes described in this journey are critiques of the philosophical systems of Jean Bodins (Les six Libres de la République 1576), Robert Filmer (Patriarcha 1680) and Thomas Hobbes (De Cive 1642, and Leviathan 1651). Regardless of these interpretations, Swift’s novel contains several generic geographical references, including the passage of the equator or descriptions of new lands discovered by European navigators at the time, especially in Oceania, such as New Holland, modern Australia. The lands visited by Gulliver are located in areas unknown, at least to British authors134 of the early eighteenth century, but plausible. However, the descriptions of islands and continents are cartographically impossible.135 All four parts of the account contain mentions of positional determinations,  Nicolson and Mohler’s (1937a, b) interpretation, although substantiated with numerous examples, contains several speculations and some errors, both typographical (the date of the third edition of Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica) and conceptual (the discovery of the solar spots is not by Galileo Galilei, but by Thomas Harris, and Johannes and David Fabricius). 133  Fitzgerald (1988, pp. 213–29) connects the composition of the third voyage with The Drapier’s Letters, six letters written between 1724 and 1725 in response to the English patent to mint coinage without seeking permission from the Irish parliament. A somewhat forced interpretation that requires a great intellectual effort to connect such diverse contents. 134  The Philippine archipelago was “discovered” at the beginning of the eighteenth century in England (Claine 1707–1709, 26, 189, quoted in Nicolson and Mohler 1937a). 135  At the time of the publication of Swift’s account the Manila Galleon, with the tornaviaje, had been sailing in Pacific waters for 150 years, connecting the Philippine Islands with New Spain, and Portuguese vessels had been plying the waters of the Indian Ocean for over 200 years. A discussion of the cartography and its inconsistencies can be found in Moore (1941, pp. 214–28). 132

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both complete in longitude136 and latitude, and only the latter. However, there is one mention of the quest for longitude, an essential driver of the Scientific Revolution, as an unattainable goal. The mention appears in the third voyage, in the conversation about the Struldbruggs or immortals and what Gulliver would do if he were one of them: I should then see the discovery of the longitude, the perpetual motion, the universal medicine, and many other great inventions brought to the utmost perfection.137

Regarding Swift’s scientific culture and its relevance in his social criticism, the third voyage138 contains at least nine direct astronomical references and a whole chapter. Instruments (globes and spheres in front of the throne of the king of Laputa139) are cited in this one and the need to compile stellar catalogues or to make precise descriptions of cometary trajectories is mentioned. The central character of the novel, Gulliver, depicts the upper class of Laputa as totally absent beings, absorbed in complex rational abstractions and in need of servants to bring them back, even for a moment, to reality. Their limited world is exaggerated to the point of drawing a clear parallel with the Pythagoreans, showing interest only in mathematics and music, a simile that is emphasized by their ability to hear the sound of the spheres. An example of this incapacity is provided by the anecdote of the suit for Gulliver: the measurements are taken with squares, compasses and rulers, deducing their proportions by mathematical methods that lead, inevitably, to an inadequate clothing.140 Simultaneously, it shows them as preoccupied with astrology, a very common practice among astronomers until the eighteenth century, but publicly ashamed of this knowledge. Some of the most interesting examples are included below: At the center of the island there is a chasm about fifty yards in diameter, from whence the astronomers descend into a large dome, which is therefore called Flandona Gagnole, or the Astronomer’s Cave, situated at the depth of an hundred yards beneath the upper surface of the adamant. In this cave are twenty lamps continually burning, which from the reflection of the adamant cast a strong light into every part. The place is stored with great variety of sextants, quadrants, telescopes, astrolabes, and other astronomical instruments. But the  As will be described below, the British parliament, following the shipwreck of a fleet in the Isles of Scilly in 1707, had offered a reward of 20,000 pounds to whoever was able to solve the problem of longitude. Previously, the kings of Spain had offered generous rewards (Felipe II in 1567 and Felipe III in 1598, even inviting Galileo Galilei years later to go to Spain to solve this problem), the Duchy of Tuscany or the States General of Holland. 137  Part three, chapter X: Praise of the Lugguaggians. -Detail and description of the struldbrugs, with numerous talks between the author and several eminent persons on this subject. 138  Firth (1919) considers the structure of the third book and the episodes to be carefully drawn from the science of his time (quoted in Nicolson and Mohler 1937b). 139  Perhaps a reference to the painting by Henri Testelin Colbert présente à Louis XIV les membres de l’Académie Royale des Sciences créée in 1667, , [accessed: 3 June 2020]. 140  This anecdote may reflect a mockery of Newton, who saw his calculation of the distance between the Earth and the Sun multiplied by 10. Dennis, Gulliver’s Travels, p. 167, n. 1, quoted in Nicolson and Mohler (1937a). 136


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greatest curiosity, upon which the fate of the island depends, is a lodestone of a prodigious size, in shape resembling a weaver’s shuttle. This lodestone is under the care of certain astronomers, who from time to time give it such positions as the monarch directs. They spend the greatest part of their lives in observing the celestial bodies, which they do by the assistance of glasses far excelling ours in goodness. For although their largest telescopes do not exceed three feet, they magnify much more than those of an hundred-yards among us, and at the same time show the stars with greater clearness. This advantage hath enabled them to extend their discoveries much farther than our astronomers in Europe. They have made a catalogue of ten thousand fixed stars, whereas the largest of ours do not contain above one third part of that number. They have likewise discovered two lesser stars, or satellites, which revolve about Mars, whereof the innermost is distant from the center of the primary planet exactly three of his diameters, and the outermost five; the former revolves in the space of ten hours, and the latter in twenty-one and an half; so that the squares of their periodical times are very near in the same proportion with the cubes of their distance from the center of Mars, which evidently shows them to be governed by the same law of gravitation that influences the other heavenly bodies.141 They have observed ninety-three different comets, and set tled their periods with great exactness. If this be true (and they affirm it with great confidence) it is much to be wished that their observations were made public, whereby the theory of comets, which at present is very lame and defective, might be brought to the same perfection with other parts of astronomy.

They are therefore clear samples of the military and political uses of the knowledge of physics, useful to repress possible revolts in the island of Balnibarbi, as the magnetism to handle the floating island, to hide the Sun or to destroy cities with the simple procedure of approaching it to the mainland. In fact, this possibility has been interpreted by many authors as a criticism of the English domination of Ireland. The Astronomer’s Cave could refer to both the Paris Observatory and the Royal Society, which was visited by Swift on a trip to London in 1710.142 The text mentions a stellar catalogue, which can be considered an invective against the results of the astronomer royal John Flamsteed, first director of the Greenwich Observatory, founded in 1675, who was acquiring data on the positions of stars for more than 40 years, without publishing them, a fact that would only happen after his death thanks to the work of his wife Margaret and his collaborators

 The phrase “Although their largest telescopes do not exceed three foot, they magnify much more than those of an hundred yards among us, and at the same time show the stars with greater clearness” was added in the second edition of Motte’s version. 142  Lister, A Journey to Paris In the Year 1698, London (1698, pp. 52–53); quoted in Nicolson and Mohler (1937b). Concerning the Paris Observatory: “[...] we understand, that at Paris the Royal Observatory, now a building for making Celestial Discoveries, is very far advanced, and will shortly be in a condition to be employed for the use intended; whence we may expect a considerable advancement of the Astronomical Science. In the same Edifice, which the said Observatory maketh apart from, we are inform’d that there is, besides many other rooms fit for Philosophical uses and purposes, a very deep Cave, having an hundred threescore and tensteps of descent; wherein many forts of Experiments are intended to be made, being of that nature, that they require to be remote from the Sunbeams and the open Air; such as are Thermometrical ones, and such as concern Refrigerations, Coagulations, Indurations, and Conservations of Bodies, and a thousand things more. (Phil. Trans., 1671, 6, 2217). 141

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Abraham Sharp and Joseph Crosthwait. The results would appear in Stellarum inerrantium Catalogus Britannicus in 1725, the third volume of Historia Cœlestis Britannica143 and Atlas Coalestis in 1729. Among the coincidences in literary inspiration is the invention of the two Martian satellites.144 The orbital periods and distances satisfy Kepler‘s third law, and Swift reaffirm the universality of the law of gravitation. Isaac Newton had published his law of the attraction of bodies in his three editions of the Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, in 1689, 1713 and 1726, the year of the appearance of the first edition of Gulliver’s Travels. In the second paragraph, on comets, he censures Edmund Halley, who succeeded Flamsteed as astronomer royal after his death in 1719 (he held the post from 1720 to 1742). Halley studied two dozen comets during his long career145 and predicted the return of one of them in 1758, the comet that is now known by his surname. Swift’s criticism of Halley is also present in Chapter X, in the conversation he has about immortals and what he might do if he were so gifted, a sentence in which he shows great incredulity at these calculations: What wonderful discoveries should we make in astronomy, by outliving and confirming our own predictions, by observing the progress and returns of comets, with the changes of motion in the sun, moon, and stars.

Unfortunately for Swift, the comet was sighted in late 1758, with perihelion on March 13th, 1759, and thus posthumously proved that Halley was right. Swift’s skepticism of science and technology is most clearly manifested in the journey to Lilliput, in the form of his rejection of mechanical clocks (Chapter II of Part I), in his mockery of the academies and the absurd experiments funded at the Accademy of Projectors in the city of Lagado146 (all of Chapter IV of the entire third voyage), and with the Houyhnhnhnms’ attitude to astronomy (Chapter IX of Part IV): He put this engine to our ears, which made an incessant noise like that of a watermill. And we conjecture it is either some unknown animal, or the god that he worships: but we are more inclined to the latter opinion, because he assured us (if we understood him right, for he expressed himself very imperfectly) that he seldom did anything without consulting it. He called it his oracle, and said it pointed out the time for every action of his life.  Flamsteed, Historia Cœlestis Britannica, Tribus Voluminus contenta. Volume Tertium, (1725).  Among the antecedents, Galileo Galilei and Simon Marius independently discovered Jupiter’s four satellites in 1610. Titan was identified by Christiaan Huygens in 1655 orbiting Saturn, while Thetis, Dione, Rhea and Iapetus were revealed by Giovanni Domenico Cassini between 1671 and 1684. Coincidentally Mars has two small satellites, Phobos and Deimos, discovered in 1877 by Asaph Hall, orbiting at a distance of 1.4 and 3.5 Martian diameters, with orbital periods of 7.66 and 30.35 hours, respectively. 145  Halley, A Synopsis of the Astronomy of Comets, John Senex (ed), (1705), [online], < https://>, [accessed: 3 June 2020]. 146  Lagado’s academy could have been inspired by the Abstracts of Rabelais’s The Court of the Queen of Whim, according to Walter Scott’s edition of 1814, which would also be supported by the Irishman’s knowledge of the Frenchman’s work and the various quotations he included in his writings (Eddy 1922, pp. 416–418). 143 144


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They calculate the year by the revolution of the sun and the moon, but use no subdivisions into weeks. They are well enough acquainted with the motions of those two luminaries and understand the nature of eclipses; and this is the utmost progress of their astronomy.

Swift thus shows the absurdity of depending on strictly marked times. The simplicity, for him, and the rejection of the sophistication of the Scientific Revolution, in full swing, is patent. Finally, for Swift, science and its theories are passing fads. Thus, in chapter VIII of Gulliver’s third voyage, in the visit to the country of Glubbdrubdrib, where the magicians capable of raising the dead dwell, it is affirmed: I then desired the Governor to call up Descartes and Gassendi, with whom I prevailed to explain their systems to Aristotle. This great philosopher freely acknowledged his own mistakes in natural philosophy, because he proceeded in many things upon conjecture, as all men must do; and he found that Gassendi, who had made the doctrine of Epicurus as palatable as he could, and the vortices of Descartes, were equally exploded. He predicted the same fate to attraction, whereof the present learned are such zealous asserters. He said, that new systems of nature were but new fashions which would vary in every age; and even those who pretend to demonstrate them from mathematical principles would flourish but a short period of time and be out of vogue when that was determine.

It is a diatribe against Newton and his mechanical universe, in spite of other favorable comments previously made towards the law of universal gravitation. In conclusion, the plot of the various episodes that take place during the four journeys, including the description of the distracted sages of Laputa, the absurd experiments of the academy of Lagado, the visit to the small island of Glubbdubdrib, with the conversation with the sages of the past, and to the kingdom of Luggnagg, with the interaction with the Struldbruggs or immortals, clearly indicate that Swift’s novel is, in addition to a political and moral critique of human societies, a profound censure of the rational and mathematical vision that begins to unfold with the Scientific Revolution. In any case, Swift’s story, despite its excesses, understandable in the satirical context, induces reflection on human nature.

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3  The New Astronomy at the Dawn of the Scientific Revolution

Farré Olivé, E., “La Sphaera Horarum Noctis de Ramon Llull”, La Busca de Paper, n. 22, Primavera, 1996, pp. 3–12. Fernández Duro, C., “Cervantes, Marino”, Revista de España, 8, 1869. Fernandez De Navarrete, M., Vida de Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, escrita e ilustrada con varias noticias y documentos inéditos pertenecientes a la Historia y Literatura de su tiempo, Imprenta Real, Madrid, 1819. Fernández Navarrete, E., “Memoria sobre las tentativas hechas y premios ofrecidos in España al que resolviere el problema de la longitud la mar”, colección Documentos inéditos para la historia de España, volumen 21, editado por Miguel Salvá y Pedro Sainz de Baranda. Imprenta de la viuda de Calero, 1852. Finocchiaro, M., The Galileo Affair. A Documentary History, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1989. Finocchiaro, M., Defending Copernicus and Galileo. Critical Reasoning in the Two Affairs, Springer, 2009. Finocchiaro, M.  A., “Galilei, Galileo”, in Thomas Hockey et  al. (eds.), The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, Springer Reference, New York, 2007, pp. 399–401 Firth, D., “The Political Significance of Gulliver’s Travels”, Proceedings of the British Academy, 1919, 9. Fitzgerald, R. P., “Science and Politics in Swift’s Voyage to Laputa”, The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 87, núm. 2, 1988, pp. 213–29. Flammarión, C., La Astronomía y sus fundadores. Copérnico y el Sistema del Mundo, trans. by D. Francisco Martínez, Madrid, Biblioteca de la Irradiación, s.a. Gilbert, A. H., “Milton and Galileo”, Studies in Philology, vol. 19, núm. 2, 1922, pp. 152–185. Gingerich, O., “Did Copernicus owe a debt to Aristarchus?”, Journal for the History of Astronomy, 16, 1985, p. 37. Gingerich, O., The book nobody read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus. Heinemann, Londres, 2004. Humboldt, A., Cosmos. ensayo de una descripción física del mundo, imprenta de Gaspar y Roig, Madrid, 1874. Koestler, A., The Sleepwalkers. A history of man’s changing vision of the Universe, the Macmillan company, 1959. Kowalczyk, E., “Los estudios italianos de Copérnico como reflejo de un modelo de formación renacentista in Polonia”, in Eslavística Complutense, núm. 14, 2014, pp. 77–86 Kuhn, T. S., The Copernican Revolution, Harvard University Press, 1958. Lester, T., The forth part of the world. The race to the ends of the Earth, and the epic story of the map that gave America its name, Free Press, New York/London, 2009. Levinas, M. L., and Vida, S. P., “La cosmografía de Waldseemüller, la conceptualización de ‘América’ y su relación con el copernicanismo”, Scientiæ studia, vol. 14, núm. 2, 2016, p. 281–331. Lloyd, C. “Shadwell and the Virtuosi”, Publications of the Modern Language Association, 1929, 44, 472–94 Lynn, W. T., “Galileo Galilei and his condemnation”, The Observatory, 11, 1888, p. 314. Lynn, W. T., “John Fabricius and the Solar Spots”, The Observatory, 14, 1891, p. 129. Lynn, W. T., “The Invention of the Telescope”, The Observatory, 25, 1902, p. 436. Lynn, W. T., “Simon Marius and the Satellites of Jupiter”, The Observatory, 26, 1905, p. 254 Mantovani, R., “Before Foucault: the Proofs of the Earth’s Rotation”, Transversal: International Journal for the Historiography of Science, 2019 (7), pp. 58-69 Mccormick-Goodhart, L., “Shakespeare and the Stars”, Popular Astronomy, 53, 1945, 489. Mínguez Pérez, C., “Copérnico y el humanismo renacentista”, Quaderns de filosofia i ciència, 38, 2008, pp. 59–68. Moesgaard, K. P., “Brahe, Tycho [Tyge] Ottesen”, in Thomas Hockey et al. (eds.), The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, Springer Reference, New York, 2007, pp. 163–165. Moore, J.  R., “The Geography of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’”, The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 40, núm. 2, 1941, pp 214–28.



Navarro Brotons, V., “Física y Astronomía modernas en la obra de Vicente Mut”, Llull, vol. 2, 1979, pp. 43–62. Nicolson, M. & Mohler, N. M., “The scientific background of Swift’s Voyage to Laputa”, Annals of Science, 2:3, 299–334, 1937a. Nicolson, M. & Mohler, N.  M. “Swift’s ‘Flying Island’ in the Voyage to Laputa”, Annals of Science, 2:4, 1937b, pp. 405–430 Orchard, T.  N., Milton’s Astronomy. The astronomy of ‘Paradise Lost’, Longmans, Green and Co, 1913. Pesce, M., L’ermeneutica biblica di Galileo e le due strade della teologia cristiana, Roma, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, 2005. Picatoste y Rodríguez, F., Apuntes para una biblioteca científica española del siglo XVI, Imprenta y fundición Manuel Tello, Madrid, 1891. Poppi, A., Cremonini e Galilei inquisiti a Padova nel 1604: nuovi documenti d'archivio, Edit. Antenore, Padova, 1992. Postl, A., “Correspondence between Kepler and Galileo”, Vistas in Astronomy, vol. 21, 1977, pp. 325–330. Proverbio, E., “Copernicus and the determination od the Length of the Tropical Year”, in Coyne, G.  V., Hoskin, M.A, Pedersen, O., Gregorian Reform of the Calendar Proceedings of the Vatican Conference to Commemorate Its 400th Anniversary, 1582–1982, 1983, pp. 129–136. Prowe, L., Nicolaus Coppernicus, primera edición in Berlin, Weidmann, 1883–1984 [1967], 2 vols. Pujantes Álvares-Castellanos, A. L. and Campillo Arnaiz, L. (coords.), Shakespeare in España. Textos, 1764–1916, University of Granada-University of Murcia, 2007, p. XL and pp. 409–410. Reicke, E., Der Gelehrte, Monographien zur DeutBchen KulturlleBchichte, vol. VII, Leipzig, 1900, p. 120 Renaker, D., “Swift’s Laputians as a Caricature of the Cartesians”, Pmla, 94, núm. 5, 1979, pp. 936–44. Riehl, A., Giordano Bruno. In Memoriam 17 February 1600, T.N. Foulis editores, 1905. Rosen, E., “Was Copernicus a Pythagorean?”, Isis, vol. 53, 1962, pp. 504–508. Rosen, E., Three copernican treatises, Dover, New York, 2004. Rossi, P., La nascita della scienza moderna in Europa, Gius. Bari, Laterza and Figli, Roma-Bari, 1997, p. 112 Roux, S., “Descartes atomiste?”, in Festa, E. and Gatto, R. (eds.), Atomismo e continuo nel XVII seculo, Napoli: Vivarium, Instituto italiano per gli studi filosofici, 2000, pp. 211–274. Sánchez Navarro, J., “Las Matemáticas y la, Cultura: Matemáticas, Arte y Ciencia en los comienzos de la Revolución Científica”, in Curso Universitario Interdisciplinar “Sociedad, Ciencia, Tecnología y Matemáticas”, Facultades de Matemáticas y Física, Universidad de La Laguna, 2003. Sikorski, J., “The mystery of Nicolaus Copernicus’s grave myths and reality”, in Kokowski, M. (edit.), The Nicolaus Copernicus grave mystery. A dialogue for experts, Cracovia, Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2015, pp. 19–30. Stein, J., “Copérnico era sacerdote?”, Memorie della Società Astronomia Italiana, vol. 17, 1945, p. 3. Truffa, G., “Novara, Domenico Maria da”, in Thomas Hockey et  al. (eds.), The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers, Springer Reference, New York, 2007, pp. 840–841. Verbunt, F., Van Gent, R.  H., “Three editions of the star catalogue of Tycho Brahe. Machine-­ readable versions and comparison with the modern Hipparcos Catalogue”, Astronomy and Astrophysics, vol. 516, id.A28, 2010, p. 28. Westman, R. S., “Three responses to the copernican theory: Johannes Praetorius, Tycho Brahe, and Michael Maestlin”, in Westman, R. S. (ed.), The Copernican Achievement, Berkely-Los Angeles-London, University of California Press, 1975, 405 pp. Wrightsman, B., “Andreas Osiander’s contribution to the Copernican achievement”, in Westman, R. S. (ed.), The Copernican Achievement, University of California Press,Berkeley-Los Angeles-­ London, 1975, pp. 213–243.

Chapter 4

The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion In my domain the sun does not set. Phrase attributed to the Spanish king Felipe II. Rule, Britannia! Rule the waves! Rule Britannia, rule the waves, James Thomson. Originally in the play Alfred, 1740, included in The Works of James Thomson, 1763.

Abstract  Navigation over long distances requires precise knowledge of location. The determination of longitude is a problem of great complexity whose resolution required the improvement of astronomical catalogs, of the theory describing the motion of the Moon, the development of new calculation algorithms, especially in spherical trigonometry, and of the technologies needed both to build more accurate measuring instruments and to measure time accurately with mechanical clocks. This goal was achieved by the end of the eighteenth century. Portugal and Spain contributed decisively to this process, especially during their explorations in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, to be relieved by other European powers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, such as the Netherlands, France and England. The process required the foundation of new structures to channel the different efforts: academies and national observatories, institutions that are still in force today.

1 The Measurement of Position on the Terrestrial Globe One of the fundamental problems that human beings have faced throughout history has been to determine their position on the planet. The scientific and technical progress developed in ancient Greece ended up leading to the school of Alexandria. Eratosthenes of Cyrene rationalized geography (McPhail 2011) establishing the grid system that even today, 2200 years later, is still used, and posed a problem of difficult solution: the location of any point on a map. In reality, the location on the north-south axis, i.e. the latitude of a place, following the meridian line, is not complex since it only requires knowing the date and the height of the Sun above the horizon, determined at noon. In fact, a refinement of this technique allowed Eratosthenes to measure the circumference of the Earth by © The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 D. Barrado Navascués, Cosmography in the Age of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution, Historical & Cultural Astronomy,



4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

applying it to two places situated on the same meridian but at different latitudes: thus, the different extension of the shadow in each of them made it possible to experimentally verify the curvature of the Earth and, assuming its sphericity, its radius. This is not the only method to fix the latitude: both the constellations visible at night and the length of the day, known on a specific date, are useful for a precise determination, if the appropriate instrumentation is available. A variant, also proposed by Eratosthenes, and valid for a specific location, is the measurement of the ratio between the shortest and the longest day in the course of a year. However, the geographical location on the east-west axis, that is, the determination of longitude along the parallels, involves a much greater difficulty. In fact, it has probably been one of the problems that science and technology have taken the longest time to solve, almost twenty centuries, and in which brilliant minds were involved but did not know how to find the right solution, including Galileo, Cassini, Flamsteed, Euler, Huygens, Newton or Halley, and also some Spanish or Portuguese figures who have remained in the background. The precise determination of the longitude had a double purpose: on the one hand, that the graphical representations, the maps, both general and of concrete regions, reflected in the most approximate way possible the exact location of the places, as well as the relations of direction and existing distance between them; and on the other hand, in close relation with the use of the maps, the calculation of the longitude, would allow any traveller to establish the direction of his displacement and, in addition, the distance to which his place of destination is. For the terrestrial crossings, the existence of geographical accidents, which could be taken as reference points, facilitated significantly the development of the trips, as it happened in the case of the coastal navigation, where the coastal landmarks (capes, gulfs, cliffs, among others) constituted the indicative elements that allowed to trace the direction and the course of the ships. However, from the fifteenth century onwards, a new stage in the history of navigation began, in which sea voyages were no longer limited to always sighting the coasts, but also entered the high seas where, logically, there was a lack of these essential reference points to determine the position and thus be able to plot the course. The technical problems posed by the new deep-sea navigation led to the development of the art of navigation, nautical navigation, understood as “that which teaches men how to guide and direct a ship to the proposed port by sea”.1 Therefore, the problem of calculating longitude at sea became a fundamental issue in view of the need to be able to precisely fix, at any time, the position of a ship, since the safety of the transported goods, sometimes of great value, and also, obviously, the very survival of the colonial empires depended on it. This is why throughout the fifteenth – eighteenth centuries Spain, Portugal, England, the Duchy

 Treatise read at the Academia Real de Mathemáticas by Juan Bautista Lavaña, Portuguese cosmographer in the service of King Felipe II, quoted in Vicente Maroto (2003, pp. 187–230). 1

1  The Measurement of Position on the Terrestrial Globe


of Tuscany, the Netherlands and France offered substantial prizes and rewards to whoever was capable of resolving this issue, although the initiative was relatively successful. However, even in the mid-seventeenth century few localities had precise determinations (Fig. 4.1). In any case, the numerous scientific advances, especially astronomical and mathematical, linked to the resolution of the longitude problem, which took place in the last two centuries indicated, gave way to renewed waves of explorations that probably led to the commercial dominance of the West.2 Historically, purely astronomical solutions have been proposed for the determination of longitude, and from the seventeenth century onwards, they have been combined with technical developments for measuring time, especially the marine chronometer since the eighteenth century. However, for a proper understanding of the problem, it is necessary to define it exactly and to go back to the Hellenic world, specifically to the third century BCE, or even earlier.

Fig. 4.1  Position determinations in the mid-seventeenth century Only a few localities were located with any precision on the globe. Parallela geographiae veteris et novae, 1648, Philippe Briet. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 06553–06555)

 The well-known text by Sobel (1995) reviews the history of the problem of longitude, especially in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The book is very dynamic and focuses above all on the measurement of time and the role played by John Harrison, a carpenter who developed several clocks of great precision and stability. It is largely concerned with the British role in the history of the resolution of the problem, skipping or describing in a very cursory manner events of great importance that would take place elsewhere. A more focused alternative on the problem of navigation can be found in Brown (1956, p. 781); de Grijs (2017). For the Spanish prizes, see de Grijs (2020b). 2


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

2 Determining Longitude: Methods The Earth, when rotating on itself, makes a path by definition of 15° in one hour, so the difference in longitude between two points located on the terrestrial sphere corresponds to the difference in time between them. Therefore, time is the key to the measurement of longitude: in the comparison of the local time, easily estimated by the position of the stars, the Moon or the Sun with respect to the north-south axis or passage through the local meridian, with that of a reference point, in which is placed the first meridian, the point of zero latitude or fixed point. The process requires certain calculations and the use of astronomical tables. The time issue was an unresolved problem neither in the classical period nor in the Middle Ages, since, in reality, it was a secondary issue since the coastal navigation, practiced at that time, allowed to avoid the difficulty, even if it meant increasing the duration of the crossings due to the need to keep sight of the coast. However, in the transition between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, with the beginning of navigation in the Atlantic, which led to the discovery and conquest of new territories by the Portuguese and Spanish, the problem of longitude became crucial, both because the location of these lands was uncertain or simply unknown. Although the use of compasses and portulanos, or fixed routes between ports, was quite widespread at the beginning of the sixteenth century, the precise determination of the position constituted, as already indicated, a technical difficulty for a navigation lacking reference elements.

2.1 Background in Pre-scientific Navigation Invaluable sources for a knowledge of navigation and astronomy in Antiquity are those provided by Homer with The Odyssey and The Iliad, and Aratus with Phenomena. In the first case, the great Mediterranean epic includes numerous references to the star Sirius, to the constellation Orion or to the stellar associations of the Pleiades and the Hyades, without being recognised as such, where their use for navigation is clearly shown. Aratus, in the third century BCE, was even more prolix and described how Hellenes and Phoenicians made use of different constellations to determine the north: Ursa Major in the first case (called Helix) and Ursa Minor in the second (Cinosura, according to the poem, following Thales of Miletus, seventh and sixth century BCE), since both constellations have different visibility depending on the latitude, and both cultures expanded in very different geographical areas. Clear antecedents of scientific navigation can be found in the four Atlantic voyages of Christopher Columbus, which took place between 1492 and 1504, in which he was forced to control his progress towards the west with a method of estimation, taking into account the rate of progress and the course. The admiral himself recounted the vicissitudes through which he and his crew passed. In the account he wrote of his first voyage, according to the compilation of Fray Bartolomé de las

2  Determining Longitude: Methods


Casas, which was made with numerous papers of the admiral of the ocean sea, he narrated the perplexity of the pilots only five days after leaving Palos: “There were different opinions among the pilots of the three caravels as to where they were and the admiral came out truer, [. . .]”.3 2.1.1 The Fixed Point or Zero Meridian Latitude is referenced to the equator, which is the greatest circle among all parallels. However, all meridian circles are analogous and the determination of longitude requires the definition of an arbitrary point as a reference. Hipparchus of Nicaea (c. 190 – c. 120 BCE) proposed the island of Rhodes as a reference for longitudes, both westward and eastward. Three centuries later, Claudius Ptolemy (c. 90 – c. 168 BCE) established the Fortunate Islands (the archipelagos of the Canaries and the Azores) as the starting point, and therefore all measurements were to be made eastward.4 This reference was maintained practically until the Scientific Revolution. In fact, so relevant was the problem of determining longitude and establishing a practical point of reference that Cervantes himself, in the story Dialogue of the Dogs, speaks of the problem in the voice of a mathematician, temporary owner of the dog Berganza: Twenty-two years I have been trying to find the fixed point, and here I leave it, and there I take it, and it seems to me that I have already found it and that it cannot escape me in any way, when I do not hunt, I find myself so far from it that I admire myself.5

However, from the seventeenth century onwards, the cultural struggle between different countries, which involved scientific and technical developments, commercial strength and maritime power, ended with the establishment, in 1884 and within the framework of an international conference held in Washington, of the Greenwich meridian as a fixed or reference point. In any case, to establish from which location to start measuring is not enough, the real problem is to find the time correspondence between the reference meridian and any location located at a different longitude. As in the case of latitude, the firmament can provide the first answer.

 Colón, in the edition of 1954. See also De Las Casas, “Relaciones, Cartas y otros documentos concernientes á los cuatro viages que hizo el Almirante Don Cristóbal Colón para el descubrimiento de las Indias Occidentales”, in Fernández de Navarrete (1853, p. 157. Reedited in 1959). 4  In reality, Ptolemy’s reference point was the Sacred Promontory (Cape St. Vincent), perceived as the westernmost location in Europe. Ptolemy and his predecessor Marius of Tyre arbitrarily placed the Fortunate Islands 2.5 degrees west, and there they located their reference meridian. The true difference is more than nine degrees (Bunbury 1879, p. 566). 5  Cervantes, “Dialogue of the Dogs”, in the Exemplary Novels, 1613. On his cosmographical knowledge, see the previous chapter. 3


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2.2 Astronomical Methods The regularity of celestial phenomena marks a tempo that has been used as an astronomical clock. Among the phenomena that have been used are: eclipses of the Sun and Moon, the displacement of the Moon on the celestial sphere (including particular conjunctions with planets or bright stars and occultations of stars, as well as the determination of the position in absolute terms, de Grijs & Vuillermin, 2019, de Grij 2020a) and the transits and eclipses of Jupiter’s satellites. In practice, however, the use has required the development of various techniques, the improvement of astronomical instrumentation, the compilation of celestial catalogues and the calculation of highly accurate astronomical tables. 2.2.1 The Use of Lunar Eclipses The use of eclipses as a method for calculating longitude dates back to the second century BCE and was proposed by Hipparchus of Nicaea, specifically a procedure for its measurement based on lunar eclipses. It is a very precise method, since this phenomenon is easily observable all over the planet, but, on the other hand, it is not very practical since, in the case of lunar eclipses, although at least two events of this type occur every year, the maximum possible number is seven. As far as solar events are concerned, their observability is reduced to very specific geographic regions and therefore their use is very limited. Christopher Columbus made use of this method on at least two occasions in order to determine longitude accurately. In his Book of Prophecies he gives an account of these two estimates, which he made on the basis of the eclipses of September 14th, 1494, and February 29th, 1504. With them he placed the newly discovered lands on the map of the world, possibly using for his calculations the tables of Regiomontanus or  the tables of Zacut. Thus, according to Columbus’ account, contained in fol. 59v of that work, “In the year 1494, while I was on the island of Saona, which is the eastern cape of the island of Hispaniola, there was an eclipse of the moon on the fourteenth of September, and it was decided that there was a difference of five and a half hours from there to Cape St. Vincent in Portugal” (Colón, Relaciones y cartas 1892, p. 342). If we consider the real longitude of these locations, the distance in decimal degrees between them is 59.53°, so the error in the calculation made by Columbus, which amounted to 82.5°, is almost 23°, which, given the low precision of the instrumentation at that time, is not excessive. He also gives an account of the estimate of the longitude he made on his last voyage, on February 29th, 1504, when he was in the port of Santa Gloria, on the island of Jamaica, although, on this occasion, the error in the calculation was of the order of 38°. Certainly, the technical means and astronomical theories were not sufficiently precise, but the resolution of the problem of longitude, with the new oceanic navigation, became a pressing problem.

2  Determining Longitude: Methods


2.2.2 The Method of Lunar Distances Parallel to the development of the eclipse method, the idea arose to consider the daily movements of the Moon as a starting point for the calculation of longitudes, especially at sea, where only rapid and frequent phenomena can be used for this purpose. Indeed, the Moon has such an easily observable motion around the Earth and can therefore be used as a clock. With a sidereal revolution of 27.322 days, the Moon moves 0.55° in one hour. However, the Moon has several characteristic motions that make the application of the method of lunar distances complex. A detailed knowledge of its cartography (Fig. 4.2) is a sine qua non to achieve the required accuracy. Thus, from the sixteenth century onwards, the so-called “lunar methods” were put into practice, allowing the calculation of the terrestrial longitude at the point where the observer is located, according to the observation of different phenomena: the transits of the Moon along the meridian, its distance to the meridian of the place or the height above the horizon, which allows the calculation of the hour angle of the Moon and, finally, the lunar distances. It will be this last parameter that, with the development of technical instruments and precise tables, will finally allow the precise calculation of the longitude. This method consists in calculating the angular distance between the Moon and the Sun (luni-solar distance), or between the Moon and some selected bright star (luni-astral distance), so that, if suitable astronomical tables are available and by means of some calculations of spherical trigonometry, the observer can obtain the absolute time. The method of the lunar distance was stated by Johannes Regiomontanus, who already exposed the method of the lunar distance in 1474, in his Ephemerides, his theoretical contribution can be qualified as quite correct, although lacking of practical demonstration, since he had neither any instrument that allowed him to measure the lunar distance nor reliable tables to carry out his work. Numerous astronomers, throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, worked on the development of the method of lunar distances, and this would be one of the great projects of eighteenth century astronomy. The first practical application of the method of lunar distances has been attributed by several authors to Amerigo Vespucci,6 who, in a letter addressed from Seville to Lorenzo Piero Francesco de Medici on July 18th, 1500, describes the first trip he made to the Americas, financed by the Spanish monarchy, and in which he gives an account of the calculation he made of the position. It is not known with certainty the place from which he carried out the operations, although from the data provided, it is assumed that it was somewhere on the coast of Venezuela. An ample fragment of this missive illustrates how the process went: As for the longitude, I say that in order to know it I found so much difficulty that I had great difficulty that in the end I found nothing better than to observe and see at night the ­opposition

 Stein (1950, pp. 345–353). Vepucci refers to the tables computed by Regiomontanus and under the directions of Alfonso X of Castile in the thirteenth century. 6


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

Fig. 4.2  The Moon in a 1665 representation by Giovanni Battista Riccioli The different lunar features are named and the part of the opposite hemisphere of the Moon that is visible due to the phenomenon of libration is also shown. Astronomiae Reformatae. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 01862) of one planet with another, and the Moon more than the other planets; because the planet of the Moon is faster in its course than any other, and I checked it with the Almanac of Giovanni da Monte Reggio, which was composed according to the meridian of the city of Ferrara, agreeing it with the calculations of the Tables of King Alfonso: and after many nights that I was in observation, one night among others, being on the twenty-third of August 1499, when there was conjunction of the moon with Mars, which according to the Almanac was to take place at midnight or half an hour before: I found that at the rising of the moon on our horizon, which was an hour and ½ hour after the setting of the sun, the planet had passed to the eastern side, that is, that the moon was more easterly than Mars about a degree and a minute more, and at midnight it was more easterly by 5 and ½ degrees, a little more or less, so that proportioned, if 24 hours are worth 360 degrees to me, what will 5 and ½ hours be worth to me? I find that it is worth 82 degrees and ½. And so distant was I in longitude from the meridian of the city of Cadiz: assigning to each degree 16 leagues and ½ [sic], I was 1366 leagues and ½ from the city of Cadiz, which is 5466 miles and ½. The reason why I assign to each degree 16 leagues and 2 is because according to 3 Ptolemy and Alfraganus, the earth has a circumference of 24000 miles worth 6000 leagues, which, dividing them into 360 degrees, corresponds to each degree 16 leagues and

2 , 3

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and this proportion I checked many times with the point of the pilots on the map, finding it true and good.7

Thus, the calculation would have been based on the tables of Regiomontanus, the first to suggest the method, verified with the older Alfonsine tables. Vespucci observed the phenomenon five hours and a half after the time calculated for Cadiz, so he deduced that the difference in longitude between this city and the point where he was located was 82.5. In any case, although Vespucci has been considered the first to apply the method of lunar distances for the calculation of longitude, the truth is that there are doubts about it. On the one hand, the authorship of the chart is in doubt, since the manuscript that contains it, the Codice Vaglienti of the Biblioteca Ricardiana in Florence, is composed of copies of documents relating to the Spanish and Portuguese expeditions, transcribed by Pietro Vaglienti. It is not, therefore, an original writing and neither the handwriting nor the signature correspond to Vespucci. On the other hand, the many errors made in the calculation of the longitude do not seem typical of someone who, like Vespucci, was an expert in nautical astronomy. Moreover, after the analysis carried out by Stein (1950, pp. 348–351) of the data provided by Vespucio to obtain the longitude, it seems to be demonstrated that he simply extrapolated the longitudes determined by Christopher Columbus (Randles 1984, p. 145) from the eclipse observed in 1494. In the second decade of the sixteenth century, Johann Werner8 (1468–1522) proposed a method of lunar distance based on the motion of the Moon relative to the stars. The proposal appeared in his In Hoc Opere Haec Continentur Nova Translatio Primi Libri Geographicae Cl Ptolomaei, an annotated translation of the Alexandrian’s Geographia, published in 1514. The Portuguese cosmographer Rui Faleiro,9 Magellan’s scientific advisor on the voyage that would end up going around the world under the direction of Elcano, provided him with a method for determining longitude and latitude, as Antonio Pigafetta, the official chronicler of the voyage, relate: Ruy Faleiro, who, compass in hand, demonstrated on the world map that the islands were situated 180 degrees west of the line of demarcation. As even Cardinal Cisneros doubted, Faleiro gave Magellan a method for calculating the longitude, so as not to exceed the line [. . .].10

Rui Faleiro‘s method, used during the voyage, consisted of determining the angular distance between the Sun, the Moon and the planets, as well as their eclipses and conjunctions. With it, multiple longitude measurements were made and at least

 Stein (1950, p. 346); Fernández Navarrete (1852, pp. 224–233).  O’Connor and Robertson, “Johann Werner”, [online], < uk/Biographies/Werner.html >, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 9  Mira Caballos, “Rui Faleiro”, in Real Academia de la Historia, Diccionario Biográfico electrónico, [online], <>, [accessed: 14 April 2021]. 10  Pigafetta, Primo viaggio intorno al Globo, 1524; Spanish version published in 1922. 7 8


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

two of them would not be improved until two centuries later. The merit belongs to the cosmographer of the fleet Andrés de San Martín, an extraordinary navigator: The cosmographer Andrés de San Martín went ashore with the instruments on the 21st of July [1520] to experiment the way of taking the longitude, by the industry that in Seville had given the bachelor Rui Falero; and taking the needle and quadrant, and the other things that he commanded in his regiment, he found that while the sun was at the summit of its height since he repaired to the highest point of his circle that day, the shadow of the thread showed him South 74 S. E. three degrees more to the South, and from there he took the turn of the S. E.; and Sunday the 2second of the said month he made the same experience in the nao, and inferred the same.11

In fact, San Martín made measurements on December 17th, 1519 from the bay of Rio de Janeiro using the Moon and Jupiter, together with the tables of Abraham Zacuto. Also on August 24th of the following year he observed an eclipse of the Sun and, much later, already in the Philippines, he would be able to obtain one of the longitude measurements of the archipelago (on Homonhon Island) which, as has been said, would not be surpassed until the end of the eighteenth century. Unfortunately, it is possible that San Martín died there. In any case, he realized that only an improvement of the tables, a more precise knowledge of the lunar motion and a proper development of the instrumentation used would allow an accurate determination of longitude. His papers were entrusted to Ginés de Mafra, who returned to Europe in 1526 via Lisbon, where they were confiscated. During the Iberian Union between 1580 and 1640 they passed to Madrid and although they were consulted by different chroniclers during that century, they would eventually disappear. Unfortunately, we do not know in which year Rui Faleiro proposed his method and if it is, or not, previous to the one elaborated by Johannes Werner in 1514, related to lunar distances. Nor is there any information about the mutual knowledge they may have had of each other’s work and whether they both derived their methodologies from Regiomontanus or were even influenced by the work of Amerigo Vespucci. Ten years later (1524), it was the German mathematician and astronomer Peter Apian (or Apianus)  who published a work entitled Cosmographicus Liber Petri Apiani mathematici studiose collectus,12 which is actually a commentary on Werner’s work, which, moreover, he does not mention in any passage. In this text, Apian explains the calculation of longitude, both by the method of eclipses and by the motion of the moon and the position of the fixed stars (Cosmographicus liber, chapter X, fols. 25 and 30). To him we owe the precise exposition of the system of lunar distances and the consideration that for its correct functioning it was necessary to have adequate celestial charts (the inaccuracies in the positions and the scarce progress along the sixteenth century can be appreciated when comparing Fig. 4.3  Herrera y Tordesillas, Historia general de los hechos de los castellanos in las Islas y Tierra Firme del mar Océano que llaman Indias Occidentales, (1601–1615); quoted in Fernández Navarrete (1852, p. 105). 12  Published in Spanish version in 1548. 11

2  Determining Longitude: Methods


Fig. 4.3  How to find the star Polaris: Apianus (1532) and Gallucci (1617) (a) Illustration of Quadrans Apiani astronomicus et iam recens inventus et nunc primum editus ... Royal Institute and Observatory of the Navy (Signatura 02688, B 4r). (b) Theatro y descripción universal del mundo, published several years after the first use of the telescope for astronomical purposes. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura: 01873, 263v)

–by Apian, in 1532, and by Gallucci, in 1617–). His work, written in Latin and translated into French, Spanish and Flemish, achieved great popularity,13 and to this Gemma Frisius would contribute greatly, who, four years after the publication of the original work, would republish it (1529, Antwerp) in a corrected version, and subsequently on two other occasions, in 1533 and 1544. From the point of view of application, the explorer William Baffin, during his travels in the Arctic regions, made an attempt to determine the longitude of those new territories in 1615.14 At the beginning of the seventeenth century Johannes Kepler was convinced of the usefulness of his tables for the determination of position and when he published the Rudolphine Tables in 1627 he indicated a method for the calculation of the distance between the Moon and a star, which in fact is similar to the one proposed by Gemma Frisius in the middle of the previous century (MacKay 1793, p. 65). Pedro de Ureña, around 1615, developed a method, according to his unpublished treatise De Astronomía, which would be developed later by Juan Caramuel Lobkowitz15 (de Grijs 2020b).

 There are 47 different editions of this work that were printed between 1524 and 1609; among them two translations into Spanish: one, published in 1548, with the title Libro de la cosmographia, which also includes the additions and corrections made by Gemma Frisius, (), and a second, published in Antwerp, in 1575, with the title La cosmographia de Pedro Apiano, when both Apianus and Frisius had already died. 14  Markham (1881). The first observation he made is described on page 20 of the text, with additional details in the note on page 122. 15  Yáñez Neira, D., “Pedro de Ureña”,; García Camarero, E., “Juan Caramuel Lobkowitz”,; Real Academia de la Historia, Diccionario Biográfico electrónico. 13


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

Miguel Florencio Van Langren (1598–1675), better known as Langrenus, proposed two lunar methods to the Spanish court between 1621 and 1644, more elaborate versions of the methods of Regiomontanus in 1474, Johannes Werner of 1514, or Rui Faleiro sometime in the first two decades of the sixteenth century, albeit unsuccessfully. A booming France under the aegis of Cardinal Richelieu entered the scene in the first half of the seventeenth century. In 1633, Paris University professor Jean Baptiste Morin proposed a solution based on the lunar method. The following year a commission examined the procedure, but in fact Morin only detailed the necessary mathematical apparatus and did not propose a practical solution. In any case, he continued to insist and in 1645 Richelieu’s successor, Cardinal Mazarin, granted him a pension of 2000 livres (MacKay 1793, p. 66). The practical and effective application of the method of lunar distances was not possible until the elaboration of tables of lunar ephemerides with sufficient precision to be able to calculate the longitude at sea with sufficient accuracy. The first tables, computed by Tobias Mayer (Forbes 1967), who would play a fundamental role in the resolution of the longitude problem, required complicated procedures to obtain the position of the Moon and, from them, the lunar distances and therefore their use was not common among sailors. In order to simplify the calculations for navigators, The Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemerides for the year 1767 was published in England, which contains the tables of lunar distances already calculated, thus facilitating in an extraordinary way the practical resolution of the determination of longitude by this method (López Moratalla and Lara Coira 2004, vol. I, p. 420). On the other hand, because for about six days each month the Moon is too close to the Sun to be visible, it is a system that cannot always be used. In any case, until relatively recently it has continued to be relied upon to verify the functioning of marine chronometers, the mechanical method which will be discussed later. But before the lunar method became functional, many astronomers worked on its development and many discoveries and scientific advances were made, often due to prizes or direct funding from the governments of the most powerful nations of the time or those who had the ambition to play a stellar role. 2.2.3 Galileo’s Method: Eclipses of Jovian Satellites The great majority of the different methods devised for the calculation of longitude had the Moon as a reference element. However, an alternative was the proposal of Galileo Galilei, who formulated a method analogous to the one conceived by Hipparchus of Nicaea, 1800 years before, that is to say the observation of this phenomenon, simultaneously, in two different locations, although, in Galileo’s method, the eclipses are not lunar, but those corresponding to the satellites of Jupiter, whose existence, as it has already been indicated, he discovered in 1610, with the publication of Sidereus Nuncius (see Chap. 3, Sect. 4.3 and the role of Simon Marius). Two

2  Determining Longitude: Methods


years later, he already had computed tables detailing their movement, whose periodicity, according to his estimation, was of a few days.16 The great advantage over the method of lunar eclipses is that the Jovian satellites have about 100 occultations each year, which occur when passing behind the disk of the planet, and Galileo’s tables allowed to predict months in advance each of them. The superiority of his method is reflected, in Galileo’s own words (Opere, t. XII, doc. 1235): [. . .] because all that has been achieved by the experts of this profession in past times, has been through the benefit of lunar eclipses, which is rare and does not fit to provide the accuracy we need, it should not be doubted that we can obtain a thousand times more benefit from these other celestial accidents, a thousand times more frequent and a thousand times more punctual than these eclipses.

Thus, the Pisan astronomer, physicist and mathematician offered a precise and universal clock, and the possibility of determining the longitude in an unequivocal way, establishing the difference between its local time, calculated by the position of the Sun, and the reference time, obtained by the eclipse. Although this procedure raised hope in the resolution of the longitude problem, the truth is that it is a very effective method on land, but very impractical at sea, since it is a phenomenon difficult to observe in this environment, since the movement of the ship made it difficult to keep Jupiter and its satellites in the field of view of an astronomical optical instrument. The method was offered, without success, to Spain. The last occasion on which Galileo could have put it into practice was under the patronage of the United Provinces, whose nominal sovereign was  the Spanish king  Felipe IV,17 although they possessed their own Staten-Generaal, in which the various provinces were represented. In 1636, this governing body offered a reward of 30,000 ducats to anyone who could devise a safe method of determining longitude at sea (Brown 1956), so that, through Elia Diodati, Galileo’s friend in Paris, the Staten-Generaal, learned of Galileo’s method, appointing a commission, headed by the astronomer and mathematician Maarten van den Hoven,18 who was to travel to Italy, since Galileo had been under house arrest for three years. The Inquisition discovered the project and, in August 1638, Galileo wrote a letter to Diodati to put the trip on hold. Both the official letters and the gold chain given to Galileo by the Staten-Generaal were received by him through Dutch merchants, the Ebers brothers. However, given his precarious physical condition, since he was already completely blind and too weak to fulfil his part of the bargain, he refused the offered present, although he entrusted all the calculations to his former student, Vicenzo Renieri, for their  Galileo, Opere, t. II, (Longitudine per via dei Pianeti Medicei), pp. 435–506, quoted in Humboldt, 1874, note 18, pp. 310, 472. However, it is possible that Humboldt’s reference is not correct or is incomplete. In the same note he quotes Venturi, where the proposal for the Spanish court is mentioned (“Proposta de la Longitudine”, letter to Giuliano de’Medici of 1612). Vid. Venturi (1818, pp. 177–180). 17  Felipe III implicitly recognized its independence in 1609. Formal recognition came in 1668. 18  The Latinized name is Martinus Hortensius and he was the first modern scientist to measure the size of the planets, although Hipparchus of Nicaea had done so 17 centuries earlier. 16


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

revision and shipment to the Netherlands. As fate would have it, all four members of the commission died within a short interval of time and Hortensius himself died in 1639 without completing the commission. After a hiatus of two years, the Staten-­ Generaal of Holland entrusted Christiaan Huygens to continue with the work, but Galileo died on January 8th, 1642 and the project was never completed. On the other hand, Renieri died in 1647 without having been able to publish the papers he received from Galileo, documents that would disappear until the middle of the nineteenth century.

2.3 Relevant Innovations 2.3.1 Some Essential Technical Improvements From the fifteenth century onwards, ancestral techniques gave way to new instruments or to substantial improvements of traditional ones. Birds and remains of vegetation continued to be indications of the presence of dry land (Russell 2000, p. 101), together with navigation by dead reckoning (a distance estimation), but the circular astrolabe, the compass, the crossbow, the marine quadrant, the equatorium, the torquetum, the astronomical ring, the alidade, plumb bobs, etc. (see examplos in Fig. 2.5), to measure depths and clocks, initially made of sand, would become fundamental tools. All of them would develop and find improved, more professional uses in combination with astronomical tables and portulan charts. The astrolabe, one of the astronomical instruments par excellence, which is a stereographic projection of the celestial sphere on a plane, underwent a series of improvements over time. Ramon Llull19 (Raimundo Lulio, c. 1232–1315 or 1316) at the end of the thirteenth century, possibly converted it into an instrument suitable for marine use. In his extensive scientific production, two works, Nova Geometria and Liber Principiorum Medicinae, contain the first precise description of this instrument, which he called astrolabii nocturni20 and sphaera horarum noctis, and established the method for using it to measure time. With this instrument, sailors had the first really useful watch for nautical purposes. However, the first description of marine use appears centuries later, in the treatise El arte de navegar by Martín Cortés de Albacar, from 1551 (Fig. 4.4). On the other hand, recent findings in a Portuguese ship from the early sixteenth century have allowed us to identify an astrolabe on board. Called the Sodré astrolabe, it is possibly a transitional instrument between the classical planispheres and those for marine use, as detailed analysis has shown that there are incisions on a quarter of the edge of the disc that are spaced every 5 degrees (Mearns et  al. 2019, pp.  495–506). The wreck could  O’Connor and Robertson, “Ramon Llull”, [online], < Biographies/Llull.html >, [accessed: 3 September 2015]; Font (1908); Sureda (1969); Campbell (1990, pp. 91–137); quoted in Baig i Aleu (2001, pp. 587–603). 20  Beati Raymundi Lulli, Operurum, 1721, vol. 1, chap. XXXVI, p. 46. 19

2  Determining Longitude: Methods


Fig. 4.4  The routes to the New World in 1551 Map of the cosmographer Martín Cortés de Albacar, published in Breue compendio de la sphera y de la arte de nauegar con nueuos instrumentos y reglas. Museo Naval de Madrid (Signatura CF 108, lxxvii)

possibly be the Sâo Pedro or the Esmeralda, ships of Vasco da Gama’s fleet, which left Lisbon in February 1502 and ran aground off the coast of Oman on their way to India (Mearns et al. 2016, pp. 331–350). Therefore, nautical astronomy has its roots in the Iberian explorations, despite the rudimentary instrumentation. The so-called School of Sagres was possibly determinant in the initial instrumental improvements, in highlights the case of the development and use of the marine quadrant in the Portuguese explorations of the Atlantic, already mentioned in 1560 by Diogo Gomes.21 The crossbow, ballestilla or Jacob’s staff, an instrument of great technical simplicity for the measurement of angular distances as an alternative to the astrolabe, of complex use, became the essential element to determine latitude by the height of the Sun above the horizon (Boorstin 1986, p. 164). Johann Werner suggested its use in In Hoc Opere Haec Continentur Nova Translatio Primi Libri Geographicae Cl Ptolomaei, published in 1514. The Davis quadrant, described in the manual Seaman’s secrets, published in 1594, was developed by the navigator John Davis and represented a substantial improvement over the crossbow. Among the advances due to Petrus Nonius, Pedro Nunes or Núñez (Nunes 2013), major cosmographer of Portugal and professor at the University of Salamanca, it is necessary to emphasize the possibility of measuring angles in a very precise way, by means of the scale that bears his name and that was described in his work

 Diogo Gomez visited Guinea and used a marine quadrant, described for the first time in Reportório dos Tempos, translated and published by the printer Valentim Fernandes de Moravia, in Lisbon in 1518, although the oldest printed navigational work is the Regimiento do astrolabio o do quadrante, anonymous (Garnier Morga 2018, p. 80; Selles 1994,,p. 75). 21


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

De Arte atque Ratione Navigandi, published in 1522. This method is essential for the determination of the angles of position between stellar objects. Gemma Frisius developed the astronomical ring, consisting of three hollow sphere-shaped circles, marking degrees, hours, months and weeks, tangents and zodiacal signs, was described in Usus annuli astronomici (1540), which may have been based on an ingenuity of Pedro Nunes. As far as the development of instrumentation in the kingdoms of the Hispanic Monarchy is concerned, there were many artifacts designed and built, and also varied the solutions proposed to perform the calculations, some of which can even be described as pilgrimage. Thus, for the court of Felipe II, clocks were requested that marked exactly twenty-four hours, and the cosmographer Alonso de Santa Cruz, who served under the Emperor Charles V and his son Felipe II, came to manufacture instruments to determine the longitude that, according to his writings, were made with wheels and steel weights, or sand and water, reporting, also, that some used the force of the wind or even wicks whose flame was consumed in a day (Brown 1956). In 1555, Santa Cruz composed for king Felipe II the Book of Longitudes,22 a treatise structured in two distinct parts: the first describes the different methods for the determination of longitudes and proposes instruments for their estimation, while the second part contains an explanation of the geography of Claudius Ptolemy. Contributing to this effort were the reputed Andrés de San Martín (on the Magellan-Elcano voyage), Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa (with a measurement of the position of the Strait of Magellan in 1580, made with his own instrumentation), Juan Alonso (an instrument developed around 1566 and sent for examination at court in 1572), and Martín de Rada (on Miguel López de Legazpi‘s voyage to the Philippines and who made numerous astronomical measurements in order to determine the longitude of the archipelago23), among others. Of notorious inventiveness was the architect Juan de Herrera, whose official position was that of aposentador of the kingdom and architect of El Escorial monastery. He obtained, by means of a certificate granted by Felipe II on December 13th, 1573, the privilege of manufacturing an instrument to determine the longitude, without specifying the details, which, the following year, established as of obligatory use in the Spanish fleet of galleons. In spite of the excellent results that this device provided, demonstrated in intercontinental voyages, he did not receive, on the other hand, any retribution for his effort. Remarkable instrumental improvements, in particular the quadrant (Fig. 4.5) and the sextant, which enabled unprecedented accuracies to be achieved, were made by

 Santa Cruz, Libro de las Longitudines y manera que hasta ahora se ha tenido in el arte de navegar, con sus demostraciones y ejemplos; dirigido al muy alto y muy poderoso señor don Phelippe segundo, de este nombre, Rey de España, por Alonso de Santa Cruz, su Cosmógrapho Mayor. The original manuscript is in the Biblioteca Nacional: <, [accessed: 4 July 2021]. 23  Martín de Rada would also make a brief trip to China in 1575 of which he left a parallel account with his companion Miguel de Loarca (Folch Fornesa, 2013, pp. 191–241). 22

2  Determining Longitude: Methods


Fig. 4.5  Use of a quadrant to measure a height, according to Apian in 1532 Illustration published in Quadrans Apiani astronomicus et iam recens inventus et nunc primum editus. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 02688, D 2r)

Tycho Brahe and published, among others, in Astronomiae instauratae mechanica, in 1598. The optical instrument for astronomy par excellence, the telescope, was invented and developed between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries (see Chap. 3, Sect. 4.1). Galileo, after proposing his method based on the eclipses of the Jovian satellites, designed two instruments that would allow him to demonstrate his theories: the jovilabio and the celatone or testiera. The first, based on the astrolabes, included the tables with the average movements of each satellite and two non-concentric circles that allowed to show the relative position of the Sun, the Earth, Jupiter and a satellite, expressing the angular positions. On the other hand, the celatone was a helmet-shaped instrument with two small telescopes. He also devised a primitive gyroscope: a chair floating on water or oil, which prevented instability, which he successfully tested in 1617.24 The invention was tried by the Tuscan navy, but the lack of stability of the observer could not be solved satisfactorily. He also applied his discovery about the periodicity of pendulums to the measurement of time, but this idea would only be practicable decades later, after multiple technical improvements. In 1731 came another technological innovation that would facilitate navigation: the octant. It was invented independently by John Hadley and Thomas Godfrey,  “He also had a vast apparatus constructed in the arsenal of Pisa, by means of which, the observer, seated on a sort of boat that floated freely inside another boat filled with water and oil, was sheltered from all sudden movements” (Humboldt 1874, p. 472). 24


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

and was used to determine both latitude and longitude, due to the clever use of a mirror. The incorporation of a telescope in 1757 by John Bird generated the nautical sextant, even more accurate and still in use today, even in warships of the most technologically advanced navy, as is the case of the USA. Tobias Mayer invented the reflection circle in 1752, the details being published in 1767. A much improved version appeared in 1777, designed by Jean-Charles de Borda and Etienne Lenoir, and which is known as Borda’s circle. Years later José Mendoza y Ríos, who would publish his Tratado de Navegación in 1787, would improve it in a remarkable way. 2.3.2 Mathematical Innovations Mathematical advances would also be significant. In 1537 Petrus Nonius published his Tratado da Sphera, in which he demonstrated that the courses that follow a fixed compass reading and therefore have a constant angle with the meridians do not represent the shortest routes, but describe asymptotic spiral curves25 that end at the Pole. All this without taking into account the effect of the magnetic declination that further complicates navigation and, in fact, the shortest route follows the great circle or geodesic,26 although on a flat surface, such as a map, it appears as a curved line. It would be Gerardus Mercator (Crane 2003) who, first, would realize this effect, and he would use it to devise the well-known cartographic projection that takes his name, and that he would use for the first time in his mapamundi of 1569. Throughout the sixteenth century a series of advances were made that facilitated the calculations related to navigation. The manipulation of spherical trigonometric operations, indispensable for this activity, improved notably from 1580 with the appearance of protapheresis (Thoren 1988), which simplified the necessary operations with the identities of different trigonometric functions. Initially based on the work of Ibn Yunus (c. 950–1009), among those who contributed to its modern development were the astronomers Paul Wittich (c. 1546–1586) and Christopher Clavius (1532–1612), together with Johannes Werner (1468–1522), Joost Bürgi27 (1552–1632) and François Viète (1540–1603). These improvements continued in the seventeenth century. Among others, the invention, in 1614, of natural logarithms by John Napier stands out, and six years later, the publication, by Edmun Gunter, of his tables of trigonometric functions, as well as the scale that bears his name and that would be popularized by John Aspley in his work Speculum Nauticum in 1624 (Cotter 1968).

 Technically called loxodromic curves.  On a sphere, the circumference whose center coincides with the sphere. The generic name is geodesic. 27  Clockmaker, mathematician and astronomical instrument maker, he discovered logarithms independently of Napier. O’Connor and Robertson, “Jost Bürgi”, MHMA, [online], < >, [accessed 16 April 2021]. 25 26

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From Leonhard Euler to Jean d’Alembert, through the work of some of the astronomer-mathematicians mentioned above, the new computational tools would allow much more detailed and precise calculations. 2.3.3 From Portulans to Modern Cartography From the eleventh century a change appears in the purely symbolic nautical charts, to turn them into a real marine instrument, in a long process. Cartographic navigation may have been initiated by Ramon Llull between the end of the thirteenth century and the beginning of the fourteenth century (Font 1908; Sureda 1969; Campbell 1990, pp. 91–137. Quoted in Baig i Aleu 2001, pp. 587–603). Thus, the new navigation techniques and the use of the compass were also accompanied by much more detailed charts, the portulan charts. Nautical charts or maritime portulan charts appeared at the end of the thirteenth century in the Italian peninsula. The oldest surviving chart is the Carte pisane, from the end of the thirteenth century. Between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, two well-defined typologies developed: the Italian and the Catalan style. But beyond the needs of navigation and detailed routes, charts appeared that showed great detail. Approximately 200 or so pre-1500 have survived. The first “modern” representation corresponds to the portulan by Angelino Dulcert, made in 1339, and an outstanding member of the so-called “School of Mallorca”. A hybrid between a portulan and a real world map is the one executed by Petrus Vesconte, from 1321 (Lester 2009, pp. 89–92, 97, 113). In parallel to the portulan, cartography became global with the reappearance of the canonical text, the Geographia of Claudius Ptolemy. The manuscript Vat. Urb. 82 includes the oldest world map of this text, and was made in the late thirteenth or early fourteenth centuries. Over the following centuries it would incorporate the discovery of new lands (at least from the European perspective) and new representation techniques would be developed. The most significant advances are summarized here. In 1424, Claudius Clavus’ map, constructed using the methodology described in Geographia, was the first to reach 75 degrees north, extending Ptolemy‘s world. In 1458 or 1459, Fra Mauro completed his world map. Three decades later, in 1489 or 1490, perhaps following a work by Bartolomeu Dias but in any case according to Ptolemy‘s model, Henricus Martellus published a world map that incorporated the Iberian explorations until the discovery of America.28 The manuscript map of Juan de la Cosa, of 1500, the first one where American lands are represented, was followed by the printing in Venice in 1506 of another one executed by Giovanni Matteo Contarini, while in the meantime appeared in 1502 the one realized by Alberto Cantino with the profile of Africa. The new continent was baptized in 1507 by  Martellus also drew a wall map (c. 1491–1492), now at Yale University, with information updated to that time and covering 270 degrees. In it, Eurasia occupies 230 degrees, instead of the actual 130 degrees (Lester 2009, pp. 222, 229). 28


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

Martin Waldseemüller, without having any major relevance from the cartographic point of view. However, an essential innovation appeared the following year with the work of Johannes Ruysch, who used the first projection of Ptolemy, with straight meridians converging towards a point and meridians in curved parallel segments (McIntosh 2015). Moreover, a 1513 edition of Geographia included the first set of modern maps. Diego Ribero’s Padrón Real, a state secret renewed in 1529, correctly outlines all the continents except the unknown Oceania and Antarctica. The first significant reduction of the size of the Mediterranean, from 62 to 56 degrees, to account for more realistic measurements and to allow the representation of the new geographical spaces, is from 1531 and was made by Orontius Finaeus. Gerardus Mercator’s globe of 1541 was somewhat more conservative, as the reduction was limited to only 58.5 degrees, although in 1569 Mercator formulated one of the main innovations, a projection where parallels and meridians were perpendicular to each other, and the former were spaced so that the loxodromic curves of bearing according to the reading of the compass, with a constant angle with respect to a meridian, discovered by Pedro Nunes in 1546, appeared as straight lines. The first complete and updated collection of maps of the world would be that of Abraham Ortelius. of 1570, his famous Theatrum Orbis Terrarum. From then on the cartography found itself defined as a science, that gave account of the reality of the world in a practically complete and truthful way, except for the empty spaces in the South Seas, that would be completed throughout the eighteenth century. 2.3.4 Navigation Manuals Throughout the sixteenth century there were numerous navigation manuals published in Spain and Portugal, however, although none of them established the appropriate formula to determine the position with sufficient guarantees, some of them would stand out for their wide dissemination and for being of vital importance for navigation. The Almanch Perpetuum, written in Hebrew by Zacuto twenty years before his forced departure from Castile by the decree of expulsion of the Jews in 1492, and translated by Vizinho into Latin, was, for half a century, the work most used by navigators to establish their position at sea, based on the declination of the Sun. Regarding navigation as a science, the anonymous text Regimento do estrolabio e do quadrante: tractado da spera do mundo may be the first published, and includes tables calculated by João de Lisboa (c. 1470–1525), Francisco Faleiro, Pedro Nunes and Martín Fernández de Enciso (c. 1469 – c. 1533). João de Lisboa, a Portuguese pilot who sailed the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean, wrote his Tratado da agulha de marear in 1514, which circulated widely in manuscript form and in which, along with the use of the compass, magnetic declination is discussed. The marine quadrant was described in 1518 in the work Reportório dos Tempos, by Valentim Fernandes de Moravia (Garnier Morga 2018, p.  80; Selles 1994).

2  Determining Longitude: Methods


One of the first treatises in Castilian was that of the conqueror Martín Fernández de Enciso, from 1519, his Suma de Geographia.29 Later, from 1535, and more detailed is the Tratado del esphera y del arte de marear, by Francisco Faleiro, brother of Rui Faleiro, both under the Spanish flag. Already in 1545, Pedro de Medina (Cuesta Domingo 2016) published his Arte de nauegar: in que se contienen todas las reglas, declaraciones, secretos y auisos, que a la buena nauegacion son necessarios, y se deuen saber30 (Art of navigation: in which are contained all the rules, declarations, secrets and warnings, which are necessary for good navigation, and which should be known), which can be considered as the first modern manual of navigation that appeared in Europe and was approved by the Casa de Contratación of Seville as an essential reference. Due to its great success, it was translated numerous times into different languages over the following decades: into French on fifteen occasions, the first of which was by Nicolás Nicolay in 1554; into Italian, by Vicente Palentino de Ceranta in 1555, who produced three versions of it; six translations into German, between 1576 and 1633, by Miguel Coignet, and, finally, into English, by John Frampton in 1581. Medina would continue his cosmographical and pedagogical work with his Suma de Cosmographia of 1550, the Nuevo regimiento de la altura del Sol (New regiment of the height of the Sun) of 1561, and the Coloquio sobre las dos graduaciones diferentes que las cartas de Indias tienen,(Colloquy on the two different graduations that the charts of the Indies have), although this last work has also been attributed to Hernando de Colón. In the second half of the sixteenth century, Martín Cortés de Albacar published the Breve compendio de la sphera y de la arte de navegar in31 in 1551, which, after being translated into English in 1570,32 became the first international navigation manual and was widely used by European sailors. This treatise discusses the subject of magnetic declination, an issue that caused Columbus serious difficulties in navigation, and that, without being perceived by him, did lead him to point out the dependence with the longitude and the apparent movement of the pole star around the true Pole.33 Other relevant Spanish manuals was the Compendio del arte de nauegar del licenciado Rodrigo Çamorano, cosmografo y piloto mayor de su Magestad,  The full title, very illustrative, is Suma de Geographía que trata de todas las partidas y provincias del mundo: in especial de las Indias et trata largamente del arte del marear: juntamente con la esphera in romance: con el regimiento del sol et del norte: nueuamente hecha, [online], < http:// >, [accessed: 8 July 2017] or 30 31 32  Produced by John Dee. It was the first navigation manual to be published in English (Cotter 1968). 33  Comments made on 17 and 30 September (Colón, Los cuatro viajes del almirante y su testamento, 1954). 29


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

published in 1581 by Alonso de la Barrera, a very complete treatise but of great simplicity, essential for the preparation of pilots trained in the Casa de la Contratación.34 The author, Rodrigo Zamorano, was catedratico de cosmografia in la Casa de la Contratacion de las Indias. Another example is the Instrucion nauthica, para el buen uso, y regimiento de las naos, su traça, y gouierno conforme à la altura de Mexico35 (Nautical instruction, for the good use, and regiment of ships, their design, and government according to the height of Mexico) by Diego García de Palacio, printed in Mexico in 1587. Much later, throughout the eighteenth century, the volume of manuals published was immense. For its relevance and practical aspect, we can highlight the one written by Pierre Louis Maupertuis. Astronomie nautique appeared in 1745 and 1746, with a second edition in 1751, and included twenty-two specific problems of astronomy applied to navigation. 2.3.5 The New Celestial Maps and Lunar Tables The publication of celestial maps, more precise, deep and wide, was a constant along the sixteenth-eighteenth centuries, besides the continuous improvement of the lunar tables and of the rest of the astronomical knowledge. The following results stand out for their high quality, innovation, beauty and precision. Johann Bayer published his well-known Uranometria in 1603 or Johannes Hevelius  for his star atlas Prodromus Astronomiae, published posthumously by his wife Elisabeth Hevelius, who made an essential contribution to his work, in 1690. John Flamsteed made a complete catalogue, Historia Coelestis Britannica, which appeared in two versions, one of 1712, unauthorized and the responsibility of Edmond Halley and Isaac Newton, and the definitive one that was printed in 1725, after his death, thanks to his wife. Four years later would go to press the Atlas Coelestis, which would be the basic reference for almost a century (Fig. 4.6, which includes the constellation Ursa Minor). The stellar planisphere, as we know it, was closed with the publication in 1763 of Coelum Australe Stelliferum, by Nicolas Louis de Lacaille, also posthumously. Comparison of this celestial chart with earlier ones clearly shows the remarkable improvement in astronomical positions (Fig. 4.3, with the same constellation). In addition to Spain, France, the Netherlands and England, new parties joined the investigations that led to the solution of the position problem. Thus, the Berlin-­ Brandenburg society of scientists, which was founded in 1700 and whose first president was Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, attracted leading figures during the reign  In addition to the first edition, there are others from 1582 (https://bibliotecavirtual.defensa.gob. es/BVMDefensa/es/consulta/, 1586, 1588 and 1591. It was also translated into English by Edward Wright and incorporated as an appendix to his work Certaine Errors in Navigation, published in 1599. Vicente Maroto, “Rodrigo Zamorano”, Diccionario Biográfico Español, [online],, [accessed: 18 April 2021]. 35 34

2  Determining Longitude: Methods


Fig. 4.6  The constellations Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Draco and Ursa Minor, by Flamsteed, 1729 From Atlas Coelestis, published posthumously by his wife Margaret Flamsteed and James Hodgson. Wellesley College

of Frederick II of Prussia, among others: Maupertuis, Euler, Johan Bernoulli, Johann Heinrich Lambert, and Joseph-Louis Lagrange.36 Until the middle of the eighteenth century a little more than a hundred locations on the planet had accurate determinations of both longitude and latitude, based on astronomical methods. Even cities of great importance, with a great commercial activity, lacked good determinations. An example is that of the city of Lisbon, despite being the capital of an extraordinary maritime empire, which had to wait until 1726, when James Bradley determined the exact values.37 One of the most renowned cartographers and astronomers was Tobias Mayer, whose training began outside conventional academic circuits, and whose main interest was in mapping the Moon from 1747 onwards. He determined that it has no atmosphere and initiated the use of selenographic coordinates. The improvement of lunar theory continued its progression with the study published in 1750 on libration. This consists of a slight apparent wobble as seen from the Earth that allows more than a hemisphere to be observed, a motion that is due to the small eccentricity of its orbit, the small angle it makes with its axis of rotation, and the different  O’Connor and Robertson, “Joseph-Louis Lagrange”, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 37  Bradley, “The Longitude of Lisbon, and the Fort of New  York from Wanstead and London, Determin’d by Eclipses of the First Satellite of Jupiter”, 1726. 36


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

perspective of an observer as the Earth itself rotates about itself. From the beginning of his correspondence with Euler in 1751, he began a program of measurements of the positions of the Sun and the Moon that allowed him to estimate precisely, with an uncertainty of only 90 seconds of arc, the position of our satellite from thirteen equations, and he published precise tables in 1753, much better than those of Euler and Clairaut, which appeared the previous year. In the same year he applied his lunar theory to navigation. The results appeared in Tabularium lunarium in Commentt. S.R.  Tom. II contentarum usus in investiganda longitudine maris, of 1754. He later reduced the errors to one minute of arc, and invented the circle of reflection. After sending a memorial to the British Admiralty in 1755, Bradley confirmed that his method provided the required accuracy for marine navigation. Later, Francisco López Royo improved Mayer’s tables and published a manual for precise calculation in 1798.38 Mayer’s contributions, despite his short life when he died at the age of 39, do not end there. In 1757 he published a procedure for determining the ephemeris of eclipses from anywhere on the planet and three years later he provided information on the proper motion of various stars and speculated that the Sun also travels through the stars, a suggestion that would be taken up and verified by William Herschel. Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille, during his expedition to the southern hemisphere (1750–1754), catalogued 10,000 stars of that hemisphere, introduced 14 new constellations, thus completing the 88 recognized by the International Astronomical Union, and, together with Jerôme Lalande39 from France, measured the Moon’s parallax, essential for the method of lunar distances, and that of the Sun using Mars as a reference, thus providing an estimate of the size of the solar system.40 From 1745 Alexis Claude Clairaut41 worked on the three-body problem, applying his methods to lunar motion, and claimed that Newton’s theory of gravitation needed correction. However, with further observations he would retract and confirm Newton’s formulation. In 1752 he published Théorie de la lune and two years later his tables of position. He also applied Newtonian theory to make a fairly accurate prediction of the return of Halley’s comet, and his name, Clairaut, was even proposed for its name. Probably the correct name would have been Halley-Clairaut, and the same criteria should be applied to the two Magellanic Clouds, including the name of the man who completed the first circumnavigation, Elcano. In 1751, the

 López Royo, Memoria sobre los métodos de hallar la longitud in la mar por las observaciones lunares, 1798. 39  O’Connor and Robertson, “Joseph-Jérôme Lefrançais de Lalande”, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 40  He was asked by the Ministry of the Navy after his stay at the Cape of Good Hope to determine precisely the position of the Iles de France and Bourbon, the present-day Réunion and Mauritius, essential in the French colonial system. On his return to France he published what were possibly the first tables of the ephemerides of the Moon accurate enough to be used for the determination of longitude. 41  O’Connor and Robertson, “Alexis Claude Clairaut”, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 38

2  Determining Longitude: Methods


French captain d’Apres de Mannevillette applied the method of lunar distances in a satisfactory way, as would Lacaille in his voyage to the Cape of Good Hope (Cotter 1968, pp. 200–201). All these advances (astronomical, mathematical and technical), meant that from the 1750s the lunar method began to be practicable. Its validity was proven during the international campaign for the observation of the transit of Venus and the measurement of the Earth-Sun distance in 1761, an enterprise promoted by Halley. Nevil Maskelyne,42 who in 1760 published a proposal to determine the parallax of the star Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, travelled to St. Helena and used Mayer’s lunar tables, validating his methodology. Back in the United Kingdom and already appointed as astronomer royal (the fifth, after Nathaniel Bliss’s brief tenure), he began the publication of the lunar tables. Maskelyne’s maritime almanacs began to be printed in 1766 (for the following year), making the Greenwich meridian the reference, as opposed to that corresponding to the Fortunate Isles (initially selected by Ptolemy and in use until the end of the nineteenth century) or other observatories. It was officially declared as the zero meridian in 1884, at the Washington meeting, as mentioned above. Long before Maskelyne, John Flamsteed continued the work of Galileo and Cassini with the Jovian satellites in order to determine the longitude when used as a universal clock. Maskelyne published the corresponding ephemerides together with the lunar ones in 1765. However, Maskelyne himself would realize the enormous difficulties in taking measurements on board a ship and it would never be a practical method for navigation (Cotter 1968). At the beginning of the new century, in 1801, the tables published in London by Mendoza de los Ríos included simple procedures for their use and the precise calculation of latitude and longitude. A miscalculation that he himself found in one of his tables, however, caused it to end his life (Fernández Navarrete 1852, pp. 238–241). As far as Spain is concerned, an observatory was founded in 1753, under the reign of Ferdinand VI, at the behest of Jorge Juan, at the headquarters of the academy of midshipmen, in Cadiz, where Louis Godin was director after his return from the expedition to the Equator to determine the longitude of the meridian degree43 (see Chap. 5, Sect. 1.4). His main objectives were the teaching of astronomical navigation techniques to the officers of the fleet, the measurement of time and the resolution of the longitude problem. Later it was moved to San Fernando, near Cadiz. In 1790 the  Real Observatorio de Madrid was founded, currently the Observatorio Astronómico National. Both continue to publish astronomical ephemerides, and in the case of the Real Observatorio de San Fernando, a nautical almanac, still in use.

 O’Connor and Robertson, “Nevil Maskelyne”, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 43  The expedition led by Charles-Marie de La Condamine, together with Pierre Bouguer, Godin, Jorge Juan and Antonio de Ulloa. 42


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

2.4 Mechanical Methods   Longitude  and time are two parameters indisputably associated. The technical advances produced in the measurement of the latter allowed, from the sixteenth century onwards, the appearance of a new method for the calculation of longitude: the use of mechanical systems, especially clocks. However, it was not until the middle of the eighteenth century that technological improvements made it possible to have a reliable device for calculating time in a sufficiently precise manner. 2.4.1 The Development of Instruments for Time Measurement The sky and its elements provided the first measurements of time, both on very short time scales, through the position of the Sun or the stars in their diurnal and nocturnal paths, as well as the course of the seasons, from the determination, depending on the date, of the Sun’s sunrise and sunset points, their equivalence in the case of the stars, or their visibility. All these systems suffered from a lack of precision, mainly because the available instrumentation was not very reliable, so they were inadequate for the calculation of longitude. This improved considerably in the eighteenth century, but the optimal solution would involve a completely different approach, the measurement of time with mechanical devices. The first references to clepsydras or water clocks date back, according to A. J. Turner, to Mesopotamia (Turner 1984, p. 1), and would be used to measure the systematic movements of the stars, as seems to be clear from the astronomical data tables compiled by Babylonian astronomers (Fermor and Steele, 2000, pp. 210–222) . However, the earliest written evidence of their use has been located in the tomb of the Egyptian nobleman Amenemhat, during the reign of Amenhotep I (1525–1504 BCE) (Turner 1984, p. 2), and the first clepsydra found was the one found in the temple of Karnak in the early twentieth century by the French Egyptologist G. Legrain (Llagostera 2006–2007, pp. 61–76), made in the time of the pharaoh Amenhotep III (or Amenophis III) and dated between the years 1415 to 1380 BCE. Originally, the clepsydra was a vessel, usually in the shape of a truncated cone, which had a series of marks on the inside and a small hole at the base that allowed the water to flow out, filling the container slowly, indicating the passage of time as it was being emptied. Although, in principle, the system may be appropriate for an approximate calculation, the truth is that, from the point of view of fluid mechanics, it has several drawbacks, and among them, the most important, derives from the fact that the outflow rate of a container depends on the pressure of the water, that is, the height it reaches in it, so that the value of the flow rate changes depending on the progressive emptying44 and, therefore, the water level will fall with a variable speed as the vessel is emptied. Already in the Hellenistic period,  Goodenow, Orr, Ross, Mathematical Models of Water Clocks, 44

2  Determining Longitude: Methods


Fig. 4.7  Examples of nocturlabia (a) Description of the use of a nocturlab. It appears in the Spanish version of Apian’s Cosmographia, 1548. (b) English nocturlab from 1650. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatures 02193 and 01244)

Ctesibius of Alexandria, in the third century BCE, was the first to tackle this problem, developing a much more complex system in which, for the first time, some mechanical elements were involved. During the late Middle Ages the astrolabe was developed as a practical tool for the determination of the hours. As Joan Vernet points out, all treatises on the use of the astrolabe, written during the Middle Ages, include the way to determine the time of day and night (Vernet 1979, p. 361): A very useful instrument was the nocturnal or nocturlab (Fig. 4.7), which aimed to measure the time during the night by observing the apparent rotation of a specific star with respect to the Pole. Although the origin of the nocturlabium could be traced back to a very ancient Chinese instrument, called hsuan-chi,45 this instrument, as well as the astrolabe and the quadrant, were already known in the tenth century, or even earlier (Vernet 1979, pp. 281, 361 and 362). Possibly, as has already been described, this technological development is due to Ramon Llull. But it was not until the publication in 1551 of El arte de navegar by Martín Cortés de Albacar, that the horologium noctis or nocturlab reached great popularity. This fact is reflected, for example, in Don Quixote: [. . .] the knight-errant . . . must be an astrologer,46 to know by the stars how many hours of the night are past, and in what part and in what climate of the world he is; he must know mathematics, because at every step he will find himself in need of it”.  Farré Olivé (2007, p. 193). This author points out that, nevertheless, Kristen Lippincott (2000) maintains a different thesis by attributing a divinatory purpose to these instruments, a fact that would be more in keeping with the Eastern tradition. 46  In the sense of astronomer or cosmographer, used interchangeably in certain contexts during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 45


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

Cervantes, Don Quixote, XVIII, “Of what happened to Don Quixote in the castle or house of the Knight of the Green Gaban, with other extravagant things.

In the fourteenth century clepsamia or hourglasses, or ampoules, began to be used in maritime voyages to measure time lapses in the method of navigation by estimation, which, however, provides great uncertainties in the position. The oldest known written reference to this type of watch is found in the Documenti d’Amore by Francesco Barberino, written between 1306 and 1313, where it is stated that an expert helmsman must have, in addition to a magnetised stone, a map and a good observation post, an hourglass.47 On the other hand, its first graphic image appears in the painting by Ambrogio Lorenzetti, which represents Temperance, and which is part of the allegorical figures of the set of frescoes known as the Virtue of Good Government, in the Public Palace of Siena, dated between 1338 and 1339 (Balmer, 1978, p. 616). In any case, sundials (Fig. 4.8) were widespread at all times. The decisive step for the determination of the hours in a mathematical sense, that is to say, as the twenty-fourth part of the day, would be the creation and diffusion of the mechanical clock (Ortega Cervigón 1999, p. 15). It is quite possible that the first instruments of this type were developed in medieval monasteries from at least the eleventh century, because of the need to mark the precise times of the prayers of the clergy. They were, however, clocks that only indicated the hours, as the minute hand would not appear until the fifteenth century. The first illustration of a clock with a dial indicating the minutes was made by Paulus Almanus and is part of a manuscript dated 1475 (Lankford 1997, p. 529). However, in fifteenth century Germany, some clocks indicated minutes and seconds, so they would be the first to record these time fractions, were used by some astronomers (Abbott Payson Usher 1929, p. 170). The oldest preserved clock, which has a hand for the seconds, dates from 1560 and, at present, is part of the J. Fremersdorf collection (Landes 1983, pp. 417–418). In any case, as Dohrn indicates, it will not be until the end of the sixteenth century when we can speak of a habitual use of minutes and seconds; until then, these hourly fractions only appear in theoretical commentaries and in the indications of astronomical and astrological times (Dohrn van Rossum 1997, p. 294). 2.4.2 Calculation of Longitude Using Mechanical Clocks The use of mechanical clocks in astronomy was initiated by Gemma Frisius. His De principiis astronomiae et cosmographiae of 1530, which also describes the method of lunar distances, already mentioned this technique for the determination of latitude (Cotter 1968). The second part of this book, entitled De usu Globi, includes two chapters on longitude: chap. XVII in which he explains, succinctly, the different methods used, including that of eclipses, and chap. XVIII, entitled De novo modo inveniendi

 Barberino, Documenti d’Amore, Roma, Stamperia di Vitale Mascardi, 1640, pp.  257–258. <>, [accessed: 15 April 2021]. 47

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Fig. 4.8  Sundial, in 1555 De mundi sphaera, sive cosmographia de Orontius Finaeus. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 00150–2, 18)

longitudinem, in which he proposes an innovative system for calculating longitude (Crane 2003). He proposes the use of a clock to determine the time difference between the starting point and the place where the observation is made, whose local time, in addition to being obtained by means of the clock, would be calculated by means of an astrolabe or a globe, in order to check the accuracy of the method. The procedure of this new way of calculating longitude is explained by Frisius in the following paragraph: We know that in our time small watches of ingenious construction are being made which are of little inconvenience to a traveller because of their small size. They often run with a continuous movement for 24 h, and if you like they will run with an almost perpetual movement. The longitude, then, can be found with the help of these watches according to the following method: First, we must take care that before starting the journey the watch is set exactly to the time of the place from which we are going to travel. Then, never stop during the journey. After having travelled 15 or 20 miles, if we want to know the distance we have travelled in longitude from the place of departure, we must wait until the hand of the watch touches exactly the point of any hour and at the same moment calculate the time for our present location by means of an astrolabe or a globe. If it coincides to the minute with the time shown by the clock, it is certain that we are still on the same meridian or in the same longitude and our journey has been made to the south or north. But if it differs by an hour


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

or by any number of minutes, then they must be converted into degrees or degree minutes, as we have explained in the previous chapter, and in this way the longitude is determined.48

Although the methodology developed by Frisius is impeccable from a theoretical point of view, the fact is that the fundamental element on which the success of its practical application is based, a reliable and accurate watch, had not been invented. An additional problem would be the emergence of appropriate technologies to maintain its reliability during long sea voyages under adverse conditions. In 1531 Sebastian Münster published his treatise Horologiorum, which deals with sundials, which provide local time. However, the mechanism for delivering a reference time was not forthcoming. The problem would continue to weigh like a burden on exploration and cartography. Alonso de Santa Cruz put forward similar theses in his Libro de las Longitudines (Book of Longitude) of 1555, although Cuesta Domingo states that the Spanish cosmographer may have been the first to advance this proposal, although he mentions that Rey Pastor assigned it on to Hernando Columbus (Cuesta Domingo 2004; Rey Pastor 1970). William Cunningham took up the idea again in 1559 with his The Cosmographical Glasse, conteinyng the Pleasant Principles of Cosmographie, Geographie, Hydrographie or Navigation. Somewhat later Thomas Blundeville published M. Blundevile His Exercises, in 1594. This same idea would be present in Galileo in 1637, through by using the pendulum. His son Vincenzo Galilei built an initial model, but it was Christiaan Huygens who first got such a device to work, in 1656, and proposed its use for measuring longitude. In 1664 his clocks were tested at sea and proved their usefulness.49 His great treatise on the pendulum and the measurement of time, Horologium oscillatorium sive de motu pendularium appeared in 1673. Among his innovations was the coil spring, which he patented in 1675. Robert Hooke,50 independently of Huygens and to whom the priority is currently assigned, invented the spring that controls the speed of oscillation of the regulating wheel, analogous in function to the pendulum. The great leap towards precision had been made. In France, Henry Sully invented a marine clock that allowed true determination of longitude, described in Montre de la Mer, 1716, and Une Horloge inventée et executée par M.  Sulli, 1726. Although his chronometers, the technical term for them, worked adequately in calm seas, they lost accuracy in adverse weather conditions. Pierre Le Roy overcame this problem with several additional technological developments and built his first chronometer in 1756 (an example built in 1766 can be seen in Fig.  4.951). His watch travelled to America and Africa in 1768 with  Gemma Frisius, De principiis Astronomiae et Cosmographiae, Book 2, chap. XVIII. 49  However, Huygens would blame the two technicians in charge of the measurements (La VoyeMignot and Richer) for not having achieved the desired result, see DEW (2010, pp. 1–17). 50  O’Connor and Robertson, “Robert Hooke”, [online], < uk/Biographies/Hooke.html>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 51  h t t p s : / / c o l l e c t i o n s . a r t s - e t - m e t i e r s . n e t / ? q u e r i e s = q u e r y = s e a r c h = N ° % 2 0 d‘inventaire = [01395-0000-]&showtype = record 48

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Fig. 4.9  Pierre Le Roy’s marine chronometer, built in 1766 Musee des Arts et Metiers [01395–0000-]

Jean-Dominique, comte de Cassini52 (Cassini IV), for a period of testing and the following year the French Academy awarded him a prize for the best method of determining time at sea, in competition with Ferdinad Berthoud, watchmaker to the French navy from 1762 and another reputed technologist. Cassini recounted the adventure in 1770, in Voyage fait par ordre du roi in 1768 pour éprouver les montres marines inventées par M Le Roy. The trials would continue with trips to Santo Domingo in 1769 and 1771 (McClellan and Regourd 2000, pp. 31–50). But the most coveted prize, proposed by the British government in the wake of the Scilly Isles marine disaster of 1707, went to John Harrison, originally a carpenter who for decades developed several generations of mechanical devices. The bulky and promising H-1 made its debut in 1735. The H-2 and H-3 prototypes followed, partially funded by the Commissioners for the Discovery of the Longitude at Sea (also known as the Board of Longitude53), appointed in 1714 by the British government. In 1761 a sea trial was conducted with its model H-4, completed two years earlier. After 81 days at sea, it was only delayed by five seconds and after the return to England in March 1762, the cumulative difference would amount to only two minutes. After intense public campaigning the Board of Longitude awarded him £7500 in 1765, an impressive sum even if it was not the full amount of the prize  O’Connor and Robertson, “Jean-Dominique Comte de Cassini”, [online], < http://www-history.>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 53  Some relevant minutes and texts can be found in Royal Greenwich Observatory Archives, “Papers of the Board of Longitude”, [online], <>, [accessed: 18 April 2021]. 52


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promised in 1707. Much later, in 1773, and after direct intervention by the king George III, the remaining £10,000 would be awarded to him. Curiously, the Board of Longitude published, edited by Maskelyne, a champion of astronomical methods, the diagrams of Harrison‘s clocks in 1767 (The Principles of Mr. Harrison’s Time-Keeper, with Plates of the Same), in what should have been a state secret. Following the instructions of the Board of Longitude, Harrison made copies H-5 and H-6 and Larcum Kendall built the model called K-1 in the image of H-1, in 1770. Despite Harrison’s attempts to have the operation of his watches verified on the high seas, it was Kendall’s copy that would be sailed to exhaustion: James Cook weighed anchor on his second expedition in 1772 with K-1 and verified both the mechanical and astronomical methods, praising the watch with high commendation on his return in 1775. The vicissitudes of the clocks built by the Board of Longitude did not end with the death of James Cook during his third voyage, in Hawaii, in 1779. Thus, Kendall’s second watch, built in 1772 and named K-2, sailed with the Bounty and William Bligh. From the mutiny of 1789 to 1808 it was with the rebels in the Pitcairns Islands, in Polynesia, where it would be acquired by a captain of an American whaling ship. In any case, marine chronometers became not only a very useful tool to determine the position on the high seas (at least for those entities that could pay their high price), for the development of trade and the increase of wealth,54 but they were also essential for the realization of much more detailed and precise cartographic works. A concrete example of those early dates is provided by the one carried out on the island of Santo Domingo, a French colonial enclave where a large part of the sugar cane was produced under a slave regime. Antoine-Hyacinthe-Anne de Chastenet mapped in detail this French overseas possession in 1785–1785, and his results were published in Pilote de l’Isle Saint-Domingue and Detail sur la navigation aux cotes de Saint-Domingue.55

2.5 After the Chimera: Other Proposals Christopher Columbus’ first voyage across the Atlantic is the archetypal example of serendipity. In addition to discovering a new continent (due to his miscalculations of the size of the planet, the 180,000 stadia derived by Posidonius and reported by

 It has been estimated that at the end of the Ancien Régime one eighth of the French population made a living from trade. Sixty per cent of foreign trade was of colonial origin and approximately 50 per cent of the crown’s financial income came from the taxes to which they were subjected (McClellan and Regourd 2000, pp. 31–50). 55  McClellan (2000). After the French Revolution, the National Assembly extended citizenship to gens de couleur. However, the colonial government refused to implement this decree. The rebellion of 1789–1791, led by wealthy planter Vincent Ogé, a mulatto, failed and led to a much more violent rebellion by slaves, which would eventually lead to an independent Haiti. 54

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Ptolemy), Columbus noted in his travel diary numerous details about different elements that affect navigation, such as currents and winds, or that the North Star is not located exactly at the geographic North Pole, since it moves slightly around it in an apparent way. Studying this phenomenon, he probably realized that the magnetic declination, or angle between the true pole and the compass direction, depends on the longitude. This phenomenon would be described by other navigators in different parts of the globe: Ferdinand Magellan thirty years later in the Pacific crossing and, already in the seventeenth century, Abel Tasman during his voyage to Australia, New Zealand and some Pacific islands. Thus, this principle would be used repeatedly throughout the following two centuries. Many of the systems proposed to the Spanish court during the reign of Felipe III were based on magnetic declination. However, it was in England where the first systematic study of this phenomenon would emerge. William Gilbert published in 1600 his treatise De magnete, a study classified as one of the beginnings of experimental science. Although it was not the first, as we must remember the contribution of Fernán Pérez de Oliva almost a century earlier. Edmond Halley,56 two centuries after Columbus’ voyages, studied in detail the phenomenon of terrestrial magnetism, took his own observations of magnetic declination and compiled data from other studies. He promoted the idea that this phenomenon depended on both latitude and longitude (Brown 1956). Since the former is always easy to determine, he proposed an alternative method for determining the latter based on magnetism (the first atlantic map was published in 1701. A worldmap57 is displayed in Fig. 4.10). Unfortunately, this lacked an essential characteristic: stability, since magnetic declination, besides having a local component that modifies the reading of a compass, changes with time, as Henry Gellibrand,58 who also contributed significantly to the development of the search for longitude, had already pointed out in 1635, in the work A discourse mathematical of the variation of the magnetic needle together with its admirable diminution lately discovered. Other methods suggested to determine the longitude can be described as curious, others as extravagant, and even ridiculous, from a current perception, although in some cases extraordinarily profitable pecuniary benefits for several of the characters involved. Louis XIV, half a century after various adventurers tried to swindle Felipe III in Spain, came to pay 60,000 pounds in 1667 for the design of an odometer placed in the keel of a ship. The invention proved disappointing when it was evaluated by a royal committee, which included Colbert, Huygens, Picard and Abraham Duquesne, lieutenant general of the French naval forces, among others. A fiasco except for the inventor, who came out of it considerably richer (Brown 1956). Another impracticable method was described in a memorial developed by Humphrey Ditton and William Whiston and sent to the British Parliament in  O’Connor and Robertson, “Edmond Halley”, [online], Biographies/Halley.html>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]; Hughes (1985). 57 58  O’Connor and Robertson, “Henry Gellibrand”, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 56


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Fig. 4.10  World map of magnetic declination, according to Halley in 1702 It was aimed at determining longitude and was published in Nova et totius terrarum orbis tabula nautica variationum magneticarum index juxta observationes Anno 1700. From The New York Public Library (b13909432)

1714.59 They proposed anchoring ships with lighthouses at regular intervals in the main sea lanes, which would fire luminaries at set times. The distance to each lighthouse would be determined by the difference between visual and sound sighting. The proposal was, for obvious reasons, unceremoniously rejected. To finish with this sample of methodologies and ingenuity, we will cite that of George Lynn and his meteors, described in the Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society in a letter of 1727.60 Since Halley had shortly before determined that meteors travel at high altitude, Lynn proposed the simultaneous detection of meteors to mark time at great distances. However, it can only be used after the fact and as Lynn himself wrote with very British phlegm: “[...] but these speculations I leave, Sir, to your better judgment, either to improve the hint, if it deserves it, or if not, entirely suppress it [. . .]”. Nothing more needs to be said.

2.6 Precise Determination of the Geographical Location Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, numerous precise determinations of various locations were made around the globe, although concentrated in Europe, using different methodologies. The different geodetic mappings of France, which required a great effort in resources and time, are good examples of this, although they were not the only ones.

 O’Connor and Robertson, “William Whiston”, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 60  Lynn, A Method for Determining the Geographical Longitude of Places, from the Appearance of the Common Meteors, Called Falling Stars, 1727, pp. 351–353. 59

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Astronomical methods underwent, as has been analyzed, substantial improvements until reaching a great precision. The publication in England of The Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemerides for the year 1767, facilitated the process in an extraordinary way. Almost simultaneously, the first marine chronometers became available. However, for quite some time, they were unique and expensive pieces of equipment, and accurate charting and safe navigation continued to rely heavily on the astronomical method. Well into the nineteenth century chronometers became a common feature on any ship and essential for determining longitude on the high seas. However, their preponderance would last a few decades, because with the arrival of the new century other technologies would make their appearance. Thus, telegraphy and radio signals, already in the twentieth century, would allow the instantaneous transmission of universal time and therefore the calculation of the location. The analysis of the different lists published in the yearbook Connaissance des temps, l’usage astronomes et des navegateurs61 allows a comparison between the different methods. Although incomplete, they are an excellent sample of the global behaviour. Thus, the total number of sites with adequate determinations (except for France) grew slowly from 1682 to 1778, when a great quantitative leap appears (Fig. 4.11). The progression shows a maximum in 1787, with a drop in the following yearbook, published in 1789, which could well be related to the political turbulences prior to the French Revolution or to a methodological change. The detail of the figure contains the breakdown according to different methods and provenance: astronomical measurements made by staff of the Observatorie de Paris, those made by other astronomers and those obtained by estimation methods. Clearly a decline of the latter technique can be observed from the 1740s onwards, just when the dominance of French astronomy becomes absolute, at least in the geodetic field. The determination of longitude by mechanical methods, and with it that of position, made its appearance in 1789 in the lists of Connaissance des temp (Fig. 4.12). At that time, determinations using triangulation also began to be differentiated. This illustration shows the percentage of well determined localities according to different techniques. The real increase in the number of determinations based on chronology happens at the turn of the century, simultaneously with the Napoleonic wars. There is also a slow decline in astronomical methodology and the disappearance of estimation methods. Therefore, it can be affirmed that after the end of the continental wars and the Congress of Vienna that put an end to the European conflicts, a phase of cartography of great precision began that would be translated, eventually, in maps of great technical quality and excellent precision. Thus, mechanical and astronomical solutions to the problem of longitude, including the determination of the position of a ship on the high seas or the size of the colonial domains of European states, contributed on the one hand to safer trade and  Connaissance des temps, l’usage astronomes et des navegateurs. The catalogues can be found on Gallica:;2# , for the period 1679–1803; , for 1805–1979. 61


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Fig. 4.11  Locations with coordinate determinations, 1682–1823 Data from Connaissance des temps, l’usage astronomes et des navegateurs

Fig. 4.12  Percentages of location determinations, according to methods, 1179–1823 Data from Connaissance des temps, l’usage astronomes et des navegateurs

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more efficient communications throughout the world, but also to the development of geography per se, physics and astronomy. In short, to the full awareness of our place in the universe.

3 The Calculation of Longitude and the Implications for Different European Powers 3.1 Spanish Imperial Expansion: Navigation as a Science 3.1.1 The Sixteenth Century The immense maritime domains that made up the first transoceanic empire of Juana I of Castille and Aragon and her descendants, the Emperor Charles V and Felipe II, during the sixteenth century, required safe navigation and precise cartography, among other reasons because the territorial demarcation between Spain and Portugal, established in the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, raised some doubts about their respective areas of influence. Thus, the voyage of Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastian Elcano, around the world, between 1519 and 1522, had, as an initial pretext, to determine whether the Moluccas islands, those of the spices, were within the Castilian area, as Magellan thought, or in the area belonging to Portugal as established by the demarcation of the treaty. If the land route that allowed the discovery of the Pacific Ocean by Vasco Núñez de Balboa was opened in 1513, it was not until the voyage of Magellan and Elcano that the Atlantic Ocean was connected to the South Seas (Pacific Ocean) by sea, and the success of this expedition was greatly influenced by the Portuguese Rui Faleiro, Magellan’s scientific advisor, who was convinced of the existence of a passage between both oceans, and who would have provided him with an effective method for determining longitude and latitude (Chap. 1, Sect. 5.8). It would be the Casa de Contratación of Seville, founded in 1503 and an essential entity in the process of discovery and colonization, which would set the standard in the development of techniques and instruments for navigation. During the reign of the Emperor Carlos V, the Crown was absolutely committed to it, so that in the first half of the century it offered a pension of 16,000 gold ducats, as a perpetual income, to whoever solved the problem of the longitude, a reward that no one ever claimed. Likewise, later on, both Felipe II, in 1567, and his son Felipe III, in 1598, promised 7000 ducats as a prize, of which 1000 would be for expenses, 4000 as perpetual income and the remaining 2000 as annual income (Fernández Navarrete 1852; Brown, 1956; de Grijs 2020b). Many proposals were presented to the Hispanic court at different times, including those of Juan Alonso during the reign of Felipe II; Juan Luis Arias de Loyola, Luis da Fonseca Coutinho, Lorenzo Ferrer Maldonado, Jeronimo Ayanz y Beaumont, Galileo Galilei, and Pedro de Ureña during the reign of Felipe III; and Michiel Florentvan Langren, Christoforo Borri, Antonio Ricci, José de Moura Lobo,


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Domingo de Acosta, and Juan Caramuel Lobkowitz during the reign of Felipe IV. Thus, these prizes would be pretended in numerous occasions, but they would never be granted. The king Felipe II was fully aware of the importance of keeping secret the maps of the new lands and the lines of communication. A clear example of this policy is the case of the report written by Juan López de Velasco62 Geografía y descripción universal de las Indias (Geography and universal description of the Indies), requested by the Council of the Indies, which was never printed, and the eight copies were sequestered by order of the king, who left a note in his own handwriting for this purpose. This precaution was of little use, because a few years later ships under other flags would sail the waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans. One of the first viable proposals presented to the Spanish court was that of Juan Alonso, around 1570. It was an astrolabe, according to Fernandez Navarrete (1852, pp. 17–20), it served for: 1. to take the height of the sun at any hour of the day with the same precision as at noon: 2. as a universal clock to know in any part of the world what time it is and what part of the hour: 3. to know the hours and minutes of all the days of the year and each one of them from sunrise to sunset in any region and climate: 4. to know the distance of the places, according to the longitude, without waiting for eclipses or any other diligence: 5. to practice navigation from East-West with admirable ease and certainty.

Perhaps this instrument was used by Alonso Alvarez de Toledo, cosmographer of the navy of Pedro Menendez de Aviles, in 1584. Under the direction of Juan de Herrera the Academia Real Mathematica was founded in 1582 (Esteban Piñeiro, 2002–2003), with the purpose of emulating other palatine schools of long tradition. King Felipe II himself was educated under the direction of Martínez Siliceo. The objective of Herrera and, presumably, of the monarch, was the formation of technical cadres, sufficiently prepared, in architecture, navigation, cosmography, among other disciplines, as well as the expedition of titles that enabled them for the professional exercise, although, ultimately, this ambitious and very new project in the European context, would be circumscribed to cosmography. The classes were taught in Spanish, which contributed to their initial success, as they did not require a complex Latin that was only accessible to a few. It is known that the playwright Lope de Vega attended them, and it has been speculated that Cervantes might also have attended on occasion, given that he had a certain familiarity with cosmography (Esteban Piñeiro 2005, cited in Domínguez 2009). To Herrera we must attribute not only the foundation of the Academia Real Mathematica, but also the desire that the teaching of mathematics and related sciences should reach other cities in the country. A laudable pretension that, in spite of the firm will of the monarch63 to finance academies in the same ones, it would not

 Appointed cosmographer to the king in 1572 after the death of Alonso de Santa Cruz. Cosmography was completed in 1574. 63  Another example of the non-absolutist character of the government of Felipe II, who did not always manage to carry out his policies even in Castile. 62

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be carried to effect before the disinterest shown by those, opposition led by the procurator of León, as it is gathered in the following paragraph: Juan de Herrera, servant of your Majesty, says: That your Majesty ordered to be dealt with in the last Cortes [parliament] , that an order be given how in some cities of Spain, the sciences of mathematics should be read, in order that with them men might be habituated in things pertaining to good engineers, architects, cosmographers, pilots, artillerymen and other arts dependent on the said mathematics, and very useful to the good police of the republic, and in the said Cortes it was written to the said cities what had been proposed about this and, up to now, nothing has been answered to it: It is convenient to the service of your Majesty that this should be finished and put in the perfection which has been desired.64

An extraordinary opportunity to give impetus to the country’s education that would be frustrated, like so many others throughout history, by the ineptitude, stinginess or blindness of some politicians. The transfer of the court to Valladolid, in 1601, and the disappearance of certain key figures, meant a certain paralysis in the work of the Academy which, however, would be reactivated when, after the retirement of Professor García de Céspedes, Juan Cedillo Díaz took his place, who, as has been indicated, began the translation into Spanish of De revolutionibus without finishing it. After him, the Academy would formally pass to the Colegio Imperial in 1629, although the chair would continue to have a life of its own, as it was financed by the Consejo de Indias. One of the most coveted trade routes, the so-called Manila Galleon, which linked Mexico with the Philippine Islands on an annual basis, thus connecting with the Chinese trade, and which operated for 250 years, despite the dangers of navigation. In fact, the success rate of the voyage between 1580 and 1630 was less than 50% and a minimum of 26 ships have been counted missing and sunk (Serrano Mangas 2013, pp. 247–293). Naval training and education became an indispensable requirement for all those who were to command a ship, and so, from 1608 onwards, both warships and commercial vessels had to have two pilots who had received cosmography classes at the Casa de Contratación and passed a demanding examination (Serrano Mangas 2001, p. 60). 3.1.2 Galileo and Spain Aware of the need to measure time in an exact way, for multiple activities, and of the prize offered by the king Felipe III (II of Portugal) for the one who found the way to measure the longitude in an exact way, Galileo Galilei maintained in 1612 correspondence with the Spanish court through the mediation of the Tuscan ambassador in the same one, although, apparently, he did not receive samples of interest on the part of the diplomat. He also began a correspondence with the Spanish representative in Rome and four years later he wrote directly to the same court, showing a greater rigor in the proposal. That same year, he discussed the project with the 64

 Cited in Esteban Piñeiro (2002–2003, p. 17).


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viceroy of Naples, the Count of Lemos.65 Galileo went so far as to write that he would be willing to travel to Spain and reside in Seville (where the Casa de la Contratación was located) or Lisbon (Portugal, like Spain, was part of Philip III’s possessions, since the Hispanic monarchy was a personal and not a political union) for as long as necessary. His observations allowed him to have, in 1616, much more rigorous measurements than those contained in his previous tables of the Jovian satellites. After discussing his project with the Count of Lemos, the proposal was discussed in the Council of State, in Spain, and, despite the favourable reports, Felipe III did not consider it appropriate to finance the experimental tests to demonstrate the effectiveness of the procedure proposed by Galileo, possibly because of the suspicion created by the avalanche of methods and inventions that came to the court and by opportunists in search of economic benefits. Negotiations came to a standstill in mid-1618, but would be resumed, albeit unsuccessfully, in 1620, 1629 and 1632, a year before his condemnation by the Roman Inquisition. Perhaps because the court was tired of so many arbitrators, in the end the talks, which took a long time, did not come to fruition. From a practical point of view, two problems ended up preventing Galileo from being the beneficiary of the Spanish reward. On the one hand, the observation of an eclipse of any of the Jovian satellites from the deck of a ship is very complicated, given its low brightness, a difficulty that increases if the sea is not completely calm. On the other hand, measuring the time difference between the observer’s location and that of the reference point requires a reliable watch for several hours, since local time is usually measured at noon, and the satellites can only be observed at night, and only when Jupiter is above the horizon. At that time, the clocks available were of poor accuracy. 3.1.3 The Seventeenth Century: Last Proposals and the Arbitrists At the beginning of the seventeenth century, different innovators, inventors, opportunists and adventurers appeared and tried to promote different ideas to solve the longitude problem. Some, paradoxically, had greater fortune than Juan de Herrera. Among them, it is worth mentioning the fierce competition between Juan Arias de Loyola (1603) and Luis de Fonseca Coutinho (1604 or 1605). Both proposed the use of the compass and magnetic drift to determine longitude, almost a century ahead of Edmond Halley’s proposal. The former would base his argument on five propositions (Fernández Navarrete 1852): (1) the invention of the latitude or height of the diurnal pole; (2) the invention of the degrees of latitude or height of the Nocturnal pole; (3) the true correction of the needle; (4) the  Miguel de Cervantes dedicated the book Exemplary Novels to the Count of Lemos, in which he shows his knowledge of the existence of the Jovian satellites, which he called “little ganymedes”. It was published in 1613, that is, a year before the German astronomer Simon Marius proposed the name Ganymede, following Johannes Kepler’s suggestion, for the largest of the satellites. 65

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invention of the true foundations on which the true amendment of the sea chart is to be based; (5) the invention of the degrees of longitude, which sailors commonly called East-­ West navigation.

Arias tried for 29 years to have his method accepted by the Spanish government and, although he managed to obtain some financial support to cover his expenses, he never managed to obtain a pension. On the other hand, Fonseca, thanks to his contacts in the Portuguese and Spanish courts, managed to have his method given priority over Arias’. Thus, tests were carried out in the peninsula, some of them satisfactory, but the final verdict came from those carried out in ships that reached America. He was ordered to embark in 1610 to carry out the verifications himself, but he ended up giving up and disappearing from the scene, after having received funds on several occasions to cover his expenses. Also in the first decade of the seventeenth century Jeronimo Ayanz y Beaumont sent to the court a memorial “on matters of the fixed needle [compass]” (Fernández Navarrete 1852, pp. 138), although in 1610 priority was given to Fonseca Coutiño and Arias de Loyola. There were also those who tried to defraud the public coffers, such as Juan Martínez, Juan Mayllard, Benito Escoto and Lorenzo Ferrer de Maldonado, known for having simulated the discovery of the Northwest Passage, who presented a method in 1615 and who, in spite of the bad reputation that preceded him, obtained a grant of 200 escudos. Years later, in 1637, José de Moura Lobo, an experienced sailor who had already circumnavigated the world twice,66 presented his own project to the Count-Duke of Olivares, after having verified it in his voyages. It is possible that Moura made a third circumterrestrial voyage, but, even so, he could not get his method accepted. At the end of the 1640s, Domingo de Acosta, who was embarked with the Admiral of the Navy Juan de Echeverri (Serrano Mangas 2001, p. 62), presented a project “on tuning the abuja de marear and sunbathing before midday”. These were not the only ones who tried to obtain benefits in a fraudulent way, the list is much longer and, in some cases, the Royal Council of the Indies did not pay attention to chimeras, perhaps fed up with arbitrators and charlatans (Fernández Navarrete 1852). However, not everything was an attempt to take advantage of the need to determine the position in a precise way and, from the beginning of the century, new really useful treatises were published, such as the Regimiento de navegación . . . (1606) by the aforementioned Andrés García Céspedes. On the other hand, in the Council of Flanders, still under Spanish sovereignty, the novel proposal of Michiel Florentvan Langren or Langrenus, cosmographer and mathematician of Felipe IV in those lands, who obtained the protection of the Infanta Isabel, governor of the Netherlands, was presented. According to his own

 In reality, he made two trips to China in different directions. The first one to the East and the second one to the West, during the years 1633–1635. Thus, he covered both hemispheres but without making a proper circumnavigation. He is cited as N. De Mora in Historia del Nuevo Mundo by Bernabé Cobo, Atlas, 1956. 66


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account, contained in a memorial of 1644,67 he began his work in 1621, using the Moon as a reference element and applying two different methods for the calculation of longitude. In a brief letter, dated 1628 (or perhaps 1625 as he himself refers in his memorial), addressed to the Infanta Isabella, Langrenus gives an account of his method. In it appears the first statistical graph of history, with the distribution of the longitude of Rome according to different authors, using Toledo as a reference point. In spite of the fact that Isabel, in a missive of 1629 addressed to the king, recommended Langrenus, it was not until 1632 when tests were carried out in Madrid and Brussels. Informed of the positive result, Arias tried to sabotage the project, although he did not succeed. However, Langrenus’ proposal, despite its extraordinary potential, was not adopted. Christoforo Borri, in 1629, and Antonio Ricci, in 1630, both presented proposals, although neither of them came to fruition.The last relevant proposal, based on astronomical methods, was made by Juan Caramuel Lobkowitz in the middle of the seventeenth century. He based it on the developments of Pedro de Ureña. Essentially it was about improvements in the method of lunar distances (de Grijs 2020b). In 1629, Felipe IV inaugurated the Colegio Imperial, the new name by which the, until then, Academia Real Mathematica would be known. The institution, intended for the education of a bureaucratic elite, remained under the direction of the Jesuits. However, this religious order did not comply with the established agreements, especially in relation to the creation of chairs, including those of science, which would not appear until more than a century later, despite having been financially endowed from the beginning. However, the chair of cosmography would continue its activity as it was financed by the Consejo de Indias. But in practice the Iberian challenge in the search for the solution to the problem of longitude disappeared. In fact, the exploration of the Pacific had already ceased in 1622. From that moment on, maritime and technical supremacy would pass to other powers. In the midst of a political and financial crisis (Allen 2000), with unrewarded scientists and honoured charlatans, who would end up disappearing with large sums of money, the effort faded, and the innovative impulse led by the Iberian lands in the search for the solution to the problem of longitude, weakened. 3.1.4 Jorge Juan: The “Spanish Sage” at King Arthur’s Court Jorge Juan (1713–1773), who has been dominated as the best mathematician of the enlightened Spain, had a primordial role in the renovation not only of the Navy but also of the intellectual life of the country. Let us not forget that Felipe II’s

 Langrenus, The True Longitude By Sea and Land Demonstrated and Dedicated To His Catholic Majesty Philippo IV, 1644. 67

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prohibition to study abroad68 was only cancelled by Felipe V in 1718. The new dynasty,69 would allow not only studies, even paid with state funds, but also the hiring of foreign technicians and scientists. Thus, if the order of Felipe II distanced Spain from the main currents of thought, that of his successor mitigated the effects. And the work of the sailor from Alicante would certainly help to close that intellectual gap. His fame in various fields was so widespread in Europe that he came to be known as “the wise Spaniard” (Die Maculet and Alberola Romá 2002). Certainly an accolade, which also denotes the lack of scholars known outside Spain during the eighteenth century. This appellation does not derive only from his participation in this trip and the publication in 1748 together with Antonio de Ulloa of the books Observaciones astronómicas y físicas hechas in los Reinos del Perú (Astronomical and physical observations made in the Kingdoms of Peru) and Relación histórica del viaje hecho de orden de su Majestad a la América Meridional, (Historical account of the voyage made by order of His Majesty to South America) among others. Jorge Juan maintained an absolute commitment to the reformist policy of Zeón de Somodevilla, later named Marques de la Ensenada,70 and the rest of the ministers of Fernando VI who followed him, and therefore his activities were more than those corresponding to a sailor or a scientist, and included industrial espionage and diplomacy, since he served as ambassador to Morocco, where he obtained an agreement that went much further, for the benefits for Spain, than what the government had requested of him. Jorge Juan was sent to London in 1748, after participating in the measurement of the degree of meridian in Peru in the Franco-Spanish mission (Chap. 5, Sect. 1.4), in a special program of the Marquis de la Ensenada. Provided with secret instructions and his own private code of communication, he was to learn about British shipbuilding techniques, the workings of their arsenals and to recruit technicians for Spain. In 1751 he was appointed head of the Company of Marine Guards and founded the observatory of San Fernando in 1753. Four years later he published the Compendio de navegación para el uso de los cavalleros Guardias Marinas (Compendium of navigation for the use of the gentlement Marine Guards). From 1770 he was be in charge of the Seminary of Nobles in Madrid, institution heir of the Colegio Imperial, under the control of the Jesuits until their expulsion from Spain in 1767. Other works of his were Examen marítimo teórico-práctico  Pragmatic of 22 November 1559, according to which Felipe II forbade his Castilian subjects to study abroad except in the universities of the Crown of Aragon (including Naples), Coimbra in Portugal and the universities of Bologna and Rome in the Italian peninsula, all of them of recognized Catholic character. The complete text can be found in the compilation of the laws of Castile and Spain made by Juan de la Reguera Valdelomar by order of Carlos IV, in Novísima recopilación de las leyes de España, printed in 1805, volume IV, book VIII, title IV, Law I, on page 21. 69  After the death of Carlos II, the last representative of the Spanish branch of the Habsburgs, the Bourbon dynasty was installed in Spain. Both were related by multiple dynastic marriages. The process provoked a conflagration at the European level, the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714). England would be the main beneficiary of the conflict. 70  Spanish enlightened statesman, belonging to the lower nobility, very active in reformist policies. 68


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(Theoretical-Practical Maritime Examination), of 1771 and Estado de la astronomía in Europa (State of Astronomy in Europe), of 1774, published posthumously a year after his death. Jorge Juan was also commissioned to produce the first complete map of Spain using modern techniques (many decades after the French one), but on this occasion the project did not come to fruition. In any case, after his American epic travels, he was asked for a report on the tests with Harrison’s chronometer. The same, extraordinarily prolix and made in 1765, details the whole story from an independent perspective and deserves to be reproduced in its entirety71: My Excellency, my lord: In order to satisfy the King's order which Your Excellency has kindly sent me with the two books dealing with the watch or chronometer invented by John Harrison, and the experiments made to measure longitude at sea with it, it is necessary, for greater clarity and sure intelligence, that I should precede with the account of all the background that occurred on this occasion. The great importance of finding the longitude at sea, whether by a chronometer or by celestial observations, and the great difficulties which occurred by either means, caused the Parliament of England in the 12th year of Queen Anne to pass an act promising great rewards to whoever should find it, graduating them in proportion to the accuracy acquired; And for the regular pursuit of this business she appointed intelligent commissioners to hear, examine, and judge the proposals that were presented, commanding them that whenever they were satisfied that some probability had been obtained in the discovery of the longitude, so that they might judge it expedient to proceed to experiments, they might assign for them up to two thousand pounds sterling, to be paid immediately by giving notice thereof to the Admiralty. In the same act they were warned that when the experiments were made, they were to examine them and judge of their accuracy: that if it was not more than twenty leagues different, ten thousand pounds sterling would be given to the author; if it was fifteen, fifteen thousand would be given; but if it was not more than ten leagues different, twenty thousand would be given: that half of these sums would be paid in advance, provided accuracy was promised, even if it was eighty miles different, and the other half after it had been verified by a voyage to America. In order to acquire this prize, and aided by his penetrating genius, John Harrison made in the year 26 such a pendulum clock, that it differed not ten years from the mean time of the heavens, but one second per month; but taking care that the movements of the ship might alter it, he made a chronometer which he thought sure of this accident; and indeed, in the year 35, the principal mathematicians of the Royal Society gave him a certificate that the chronometer promised a great and sufficient degree of accuracy. In the year 36, on the recommendation of Admiral Charles Wager, John Harrison embarked with his chronometer in a ship of war that went to Lisbon, and on his return a degree and a half difference was found between the pilot’s point and Harrison’s count; but the experience was declared in favour of the latter, of which the pilot himself gave certification. On this occasion the Commissioners of Longitude in the year 37 encouraged Harrison to continue the progress of his enterprise, and granted him £1,250. In 1739 Harrison completed by order of the same Commissioners a second chronometer, with which several experiments were made, and as far as it would fit it was believed to be much better than the other, and to give even more accurate longitude than that demanded by Parliament. Harrison, however, undertook a third, smaller chronometer; and examined in the year 41, when it was already advanced, by the principal gentlemen of the Society, it met with their full approbation, and they sought to recommend it to the Commissioners. And in 1759 he deserved to


 Jorge Juan, “Informe sobre el reloj de Harrison”, in Fernández Navarrete (1852, pp. 224).

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be awarded for his application the gold medal with which his Society is in the habit of rewarding him. In 1748 Harrison had already constructed his third chronometer, and had nevertheless undertaken a fourth, smaller and simpler one; and although he intended to embark his son William to experiment with it, it could not be done, which gave time to complete the fourth chronometer in 1761. He asked for the voyage to be put in practice as in fact William Harrison embarked in the ship of war the Deptford, commanded by Captain Dudley Digges, who was taking the Governor of Jamaica, Lytelton, to Jamaica, and they left Portsmouth on the 18th of November. The chronometer was placed in a safe box with four keys, one of which was carried by Harrison, one by Governor Lytelton, one by Captain Digges, and one by the first lieutenant of the ship, with express orders that it was not to be opened without the attendance of the four who were to certify that it had been done with the necessary legality. Before leaving Portsmouth corresponding heights of the sun were taken to fix the chronometer72 by Mr. Robertson, professor of mathematics, in the presence of Harrison, Governor Lytelton, and the captain and lieutenant of the ship with the port commissioner, Hughes, and the mathematician John Rotison; these observations were signed and sealed, and forwarded to the Admiralty. The mathematician Robison was ordered to embark in the ship itself to guard the whole, and that when he reached Jamaica he might take the corresponding heights of the sun, and observe the longitude by the satellites of Jupiter, in order to compare it with that given by the chronometer; for it was not a matter of being able to rely on that assigned by the charts, especially when Harrison intended even greater accuracy than that given by the satellites themselves. The ship entered Plimouth, from where she left on the 28th of November to continue her voyage with a convoy of 43 vessels. On the 3rd of December the wind was very strong, so that the ship gave up her foremast. On the 6th they were by the point of the pilot and many others in Portsmouth's west longitude of 13° 50', but according to the chronometer in 15° 19', the difference being 1° 29'. This made the new machine to be distrusted, and the more so as the pilots assured us that in those seas the ordinary thing was that the currents were to the E. On the 8th they found themselves in latitude 35° 17' and in W. longitude of 15° 17' according to the chronometer, and by the pilots 1° 30' further E. As the latter were satisfied with their point, they intended to steer to the W. in order to take the island of Puerto Santo, where they needed to go; but Harrison having assured them that it was to the E. and that the next day they would see it, ordered the captain to continue to the E., Nevertheless, the next day at seven o'clock in the morning the island was discovered to the great applause of the captain and all the crew, who congratulated Harrison. This event gave even more credit to the author and his chronometer, because the ship of war the Beaver, which had left Portsmouth ten days before them, had the same thing happen to consider itself to the E. of the Island, and having turned too far to the W., had to turn back after recognizing its mistake, and did not arrive at the said Island until three days later. The voyage was continued, and the chronometer landed La Deseada with the greatest accuracy, although by the points of the Deptford they still lacked three degrees, and by those of other vessels as much as five. The same thing happened in the landings of the other islands, until they reached Jamaica on the 19th of January. Here they took heights, made celestial observations, and concluded that the chronometer landed only one mile off. All this was certified by the Governor, by the captain and lieutenant of the Deptford, and forwarded to the Admiral in the paquebot the Merlinen, which Harrison and the mathematician Robison returned to England. The weather they experienced was extremely rough; however, in spite of it and the little convenience offered by the paquebot, whose agitation was violent, on their arrival near the coast they found the warship the Esseco, which the evening before had seen the lights of Scilly, and the longitude of this vessel was found to agree exactly with that of the chronometer. Arrived at Portsmouth on the 26th of March, astronomical observations were made, and by them it was deduced that in the outward and return voyage from Jamaica, both times together, there were only six 72

 That is, it was set on time.


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leagues difference in the chronometer. Notwithstanding such punctual experiences, Harrison had to suffer his observations; among other lesser ones it was argued that in the longitude of Jamaica, determined by the celestial observations, some error might have been made, and that the accelerations of the chronometer might have been compensated by its delays; but Harrison satisfied himself with much foundation. He said that even if he had any error in the assigned longitude of Jamaica, it was not relevant, for without using it in the voyage to and from Portsmouth only six leagues of difference had been found, and that as for the accelerations and delays that the machine might have had, it had been seen that at the various landings it had been found to be exact, which could not be without having made its march with equality. However, after several debates and speeches, it was declared that the trip made to Jamaica was not enough to be sure on such an important and delicate point, making it necessary for Harrison to return to make another second trip, but that in consideration of how useful the chronometer was already considered to be, he should be given 1,500 pounds sterling at that time, and another 1,000 after the second trip was made, both of which should be part of what was promised as long as it was declared that the chronometer corresponded to the accuracy required by the act of Parliament. Harrison, however, went to Parliament, saying that the same act did not require him to make a single voyage, and that, having done so with even greater accuracy than was required, he was entitled to the promised prize of £20,000. Parliament, however, decreed that the second voyage should be made as provided, and though some of the members were of opinion that Harrison should be given £5,000, it had no effect. Orders were accordingly given by the Admiralty on the 4th of February last, for him to sail in the ship of war Tartarus, commanded by Captain Lindsay, bound for the island of Barbada. Rules were given of what was to be practised, by the gentlemen of the Royal Society, with even greater precautions than those taken on the preceding voyage. The chronometer was regulated at Portsmouth by corresponding heights practised by two astronomers who also embarked with Harrison, and the vessel set sail on the 28th of March. She had strong and contrary weather, but on the 19th of April, Harrison having taken corresponding heights, told the captain at 4 o'clock in the afternoon that the island of the Porto Santo was by his chronometer 43 miles to the westward. He made the captain steer to this course, and at one o'clock in the morning they discovered the island. They continued their voyage, Harrison declaring daily the place where he was on his own account, until the 13th of May, when they arrived at Barbada. The day before Harrison had told them how near the island was, and accordingly they set sail till eleven o'clock at night; but it being dark, and Harrison assuring them that it was only eight or nine miles distant, the captain determined to put on his cape till that day, when they discovered the island at the distance prescribed by Harrison. On their return to England repeated celestial observations were made by several persons appointed for the purpose, in order to compare them with the chronometer, and after an account of everything had been given to the gentlemen of the Board of Longitude, the Board declared that Harrison had not only reached the accuracy required by Parliament, but much greater, for which reason he was worthy of the prize of 20,000 pounds sterling, that they could not give him the corresponding certification until he had manifested and taught the principles on which the chronometer was constructed, so that the public might learn and take advantage of his invention, making many other chronometers which, having experience, would assure its firmness and practicable use, giving Harrison at present up to 10,000 pounds, in addition to those that had been given him for the expenses that the machine occasioned. Harrison acquiesced in this decree, and that his good faith might not be doubted, said he would put his chronometer in the possession of the Admiralty with all the corresponding plans, so that in any accident he or his son might be missing, any skilled man might make them: and that for the present not to lose time, immediately he received the money released to him, he would command his son to take as many officers as he could to teach them and make the necessary chronometers for the use not only of the navy but also of commerce.

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All this narrative is in accordance with what is set forth in the two books which Your Excellency has sent me by order of the King, and although printed by the interested party, it seems to me that, being so authenticated, there is no reason to doubt their exact legality; especially as the same news has come to us by other means, and I was a witness of it. On the supposition, then, that all is as it is expressed, and taking into account the calculations and attentions so justified as have been taken, it seems to me that Harrison has found the longitude to be even more exact than has hitherto been imagined, being worthy of the prizes that have been offered on the subject by the Monarchs. As to the fact that repeated chronometers are now to be constructed for the use of the navy and commerce of England, and that it is regular that they should be tried as soon as possible, it would be well for us to have punctual news of their accuracy or the degree to which they have corresponded, for as long as there is no room for considerable alteration in these instruments, they should be procured without any expense, the certainty of longitude being of the greatest importance. It may be that now in the beginning the English do not condescend to share the secret with us; but it is regular that after the next experiences they will not be able to avoid it. The measures that it will be necessary to take are that two or three Spanish watchmakers of those who are known to be applied, go in due time to learn with Harrison himself, trying to please him; for even if it comes to the case that the chronometers are sold to us, this is not enough; it is necessary that there should be someone to keep them clean and current; because in this consists the benefit, and that if it comes to the case that a wheel breaks, there should be someone who knows how to make it again. So that in the pilot's offices there must be one or two people who, together with their own officers, take care of this, and this can only be achieved by sending someone there who can later serve as a teacher to others. As far as their use at sea is concerned, it is reduced to some principles and a very short practice of astronomy that we know very well here; so that in the understanding that all that has been referred to is not in doubt, it will only be necessary to request the communication of the instruments and that our disciples be received by Harrison; on the other hand it seems to me that the English cannot refuse to communicate their discoveries to the other nations, since not being of almost no consequence for war, and only for the conservation of goods and souls, humanity itself dictates the necessity of communicating. May Our Lord keep Y. E. for the many years that the Monarchy needs.-Madrid, April 12, 1765.-Exc. L. M. of Y. E. your most devoted servant, Jorge Juan.-Excmo.

Jorge Juan’s chronicle has numerous points of great interest. But among them stands out the final suggestion to send technicians. They should earn how to build chronometers so Spain wouldelope its own industry.

3.2 The Trading Power: The United Provinces The beginning of the expansion of the Netherlands in the Indian Ocean and the Pacific is due to Jan Huygens van Linschoten, a Dutchman who infiltrated the Portuguese possession of Goa, in India (Chap. 1, Sect. 4.5.2). He published in 1595 and 1596 the Portuguese routes to the East Indies when he returned to Europe. During his stay in this city, he entered the service of his archbishop and with the help of his compatriot Dirck Gerritszoon Pomp, who also worked for the Portuguese and who provided him with valuable information on the route to China and Japan, he got hold of the secret instructions for navigation to the East. Thus, the first Dutch fleet left immediately after the publication of van Linschoten’s texts and would


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

follow the Portuguese route until 1610. Eventually, this incipient and thriving republic (Israel 1995) would supplant the Iberians in the Indian Ocean and the eastern Pacific. Thus, the Dutch made their own space in the Indian Ocean in competition with the Portuguese and sometimes against the Spanish (as was the case of Formosa or Taiwan), after having obtained, as already described, the Iberian charts and navigation secrets. But it was not only in the Indian Ocean, this expansion was part of a wider process. The buoyant republic of the United Provinces, still under nominal Hispanic sovereignty but de facto independent, and its thriving commercial oligarchy were able between 1598 and 1605 to send each year 25 trading ships to West Africa, another 20 to Brazil, 10 more to the East Indies, and 150 to the Caribbean (Kennedy 1987), with extraordinary profits. Dutch success was based on an advanced, open economy that created high value-added products, a financial market and debt repayment that allowed the government to finance itself at much lower interest rates (unlike Spain, which went bankrupt several times), a large and robust merchant fleet (the fluyts), an influx of skilled immigrants (attracted by the religious tolerance) and a highly urbanized society. And, of course, a thriving and versatile science, including a well-developed patent system, which guaranteed recognition and a crematistic return. Willem Janszoon or Jansz arrived on the north coast of Australia in 1606, and without knowing the existence of the Torres Strait, he thought it was an extension of New Guinea. Four years later Hendrick Brouwer found the new direct route to Java from the southern tip of Africa, which considerably reduced the sailing time, being the shortest way. Between 1616 and 1642 the explorations of Dirk Hartoog, Frederick de Houtman, Francois Thijssen, Willen de Vlaming, Pieter Nuyts and Abel Tasman took place, which allowed an almost complete mapping of the coast from the York Peninsula in the north to the island of Tasmania and the west coast of New Zealand. Thus Australia was known on maps as New Netherland until the nineteenth century.

3.3 France and the Academic Impulse After the hegemony of the Hispanic Monarchy and its subsequent decline on the international political scene, the baton was taken, from the second half of the seventeenth century, by another power, France, led by Louis XIV, the Sun King, and his minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert, determined to impose the interests of his country. Convinced of the role of science in economic development and military power,73  Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Minister of Finance and the Navy, established a very cohesive system between the various instruments for scientific and commercial development and his first colonial empire, as discussed in McClellan and Regourd (2000, pp. 31–50). The Jardin du Roi, founded in 1626 by Louis XIII’s physician Guy de La Brosse, came under the control of Colbert at the end of the century. The Compagnie des Indes was created in 1664 from the merger of the Compagnie de 73

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they founded, in 1666, the Academie Royale des Sciences and, in 1667, the Observatoire de Paris,74 which aimed to solve the problem of longitude (Fig. 4.13). Colbert invited a considerable number of European scientists to participate in this new institution, including the aforementioned Christiaan Huygens, Ole Christensen Rømer and Giovanni Domenico Cassini (Cassini I), thus forming what is possibly the first modern pan-European institution, which was provided with abundant economic funds for the purchase of instrumentation, mainly Italian, the best quality at that time. Before his arrival in Paris in 1666, where he would remain until 1681, Christiaan Huygens had identified the nature of Saturn’s rings (in 1655, Fig.  4.14), already sighted by Galileo, who mistook them for circular structures located on both sides of the planet that varied in size, and discovered its first satellite, later named Titan. Huygens also observed a transit of Venus over the Sun’s disk in 1661, which had been predicted by Johannes Kepler in 1631. A further confirmation of the validity of Copernicus’s heliocentric theory (or at least of Brahe’s cosmology) and a vindication of Galileo’s work for which he suffered so much hardship. In addition, he identified surface details on Mars. Huygens, along with Jean-Félix Picard, Adrian Auzout and Jacques Buot, began astronomical observations in January 1667, using a large quadrant, a huge sextant and a sophisticated version of a sundial. After examining the possible ways of determining the linear value of the degree of longitude, both the lunar method and the method relating to the Jovian satellites, they concluded in 1676 that Galileo’s method was the most suitable, especially after Cassini’s work entitled Ephemerides Bononienses mediceorum syderum ex hypothesibus et tabulis, on the ephemerides of the four satellites, which was to be published in 1668, a year before he joined the Observatoire group. Cassini discovered that these objects orbit close to the planet’s equator, and that it has surface structures that allowed him to estimate, in a correct way, its rotation period by using pendulum clocks. On the other hand, they have the enormous advantage of not existing, in practice, temporal differences in the eclipses for observers located in different locations of the Earth (Cotter 1968), since the distances on its surface are negligible compared to the scale of the solar system. The success of Cassini’s procedure, as opposed to the failed system used by Galileo, lay in the fact that in his calculation of the ephemerides of the satellites he took into account the perturbations between them as they orbited around the gas giant.

Chine, the Compagnie d’Orient and Compagnie de Madagascar. This policy was continued under Louis XV, his great-grandson, with the Depôt des Cartes et Plans (1720), the Societe Royale de Medecine (1730), the Academie Royale de Marine (1752) and the Societe Royale d’Agriculture (1761), by which a fully institutionalized technical and mercantilist system was developed. In Great Britain these structures only appeared from the 1780s onwards. 74  According to the Observatory’s own website, its foundation dates from 1667, although Barthalot, in his thesis on the Observatory, states that there are no documents in the State archives relating to the foundation of the Observatory or its early years. Barthalot, 1982, [online], , [accessed: 9 July 2017].


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

Fig. 4.13  King Louis XIV at the Académie Royale des sciences, 1671 Engraving included in Mesure de la terre, by Jean-Félix Picard. Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Rés. S-2)

Cassini also published the first map of Mars and determined the rotation period of Saturn, and added four more satellites to the Saturn cohort: one in 1671, one a year later, and two more in 1684. Together with the Englishman Robert Hooke, he discovered the Great Red Spot around 1665. This immense structure, an anticyclonic vortex twice the size of our planet, continues to fascinate us more than three centuries later. Cassini, well acquainted with Galileo’s work, continued his studies of Jupiter’s satellites in France and published new tables of great precision in 1680. This

3  The Calculation of Longitude and the Implications for Different European Powers


Fig. 4.14  Comparison of the Earth-Moon system, Jupiter and Saturn, by Huygens, 1698 Also included are the respective cohorts of satellites, in an illustration by Cosmostheodoros. Real Instituto y Observatorio de la Armada (Signatura 02117)

deepening of the method of the Jovian satellites led him to initiate a pan-European scientific collaboration to determine the location of numerous cities on the continent. The result of this collaboration was the creation of a polar projection planisphere, on which their precise location was determined. As already indicated, the reference line for calculating latitudes was the equator, while for longitudes the line passing through the island of Hierro was used as the zero meridian, a reference that maintained its pre-eminence in continental Europe until the end of the nineteenth century, when it was replaced, in 1884, by the Greenwich meridian. The Paris meridian also played a significant role in this campaign. In any case, these results were captured in a planisphere of 7.8 m in diameter that was drawn on the floor of the Observatoire de Paris in 1682, of which nothing has been preserved, although a replica of it was printed by his son Jacques Cassini in 1696. The map shows 43 astronomical stations, marked with a star, and located in latitude and longitude (Fig. 4.15).75 The very size of the solar system became measurable from the voyage of Jean Richer to Cayenne in French Guiana, 1672–1673 (Olmsted 1942, pp.  117–128), who, together with Cassini who stayed in France, calculated the parallax of Mars during its opposition, and hence its distance to our planet, among other astronomical observations. Cassini explained in 1683 the origin of the zodiacal light,


 Bibliotheque Nationale de France <>


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

produced by dust particles that concentrate on the Ecliptic, the plane in which the planets orbit, and detected the differential rotation of Jupiter in about 1690. The Jovian method was the basis for the realization of different geodetic campaigns, among them, those carried out by: the aforementioned Richer76 in Cayenne, where he also observed an opposition of Mars; Jean-Mathieu de Chazel in Egypt, and Edmond Halley at the Cape of Good Hope. Several determinations in Thailand (Siam), Madagascar and China were made by Jesuit missionaries. One of the most significant missions was to determine the longitude of America, or more precisely the exact positions of the West Indies (the islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique) and the starting point of the expedition, the island of Gorée (in present-day Senegal).77 The extraordinarily detailed instructions given by Cassini to the engineers Varin, Guillaume de Glos and Jean des Hayes, who left at the end of 1681, allowed them to accumulate, until their return in March 1683, a great deal of knowledge. Although it was an eminently astronomical and geographical mission, it is likely that their most lasting and significant legacy was the determination of the variation of the length of the pendulum that beats seconds, a result that would have extraordinary consequences at cosmological level, affecting the shape of the Earth and in the genesis of the theory of universal gravitation of Isaac Newton, who, curiously, although he was also involved in the resolution of the problem of the longitude, would not be a supporter of this methodology. Parallel to these measurements carried out according to Galileo’s system, there were others based on lunar eclipses, according to the ancient method of Hipparchus, including those carried out by Melchisédech Thévenot, who observed a lunar eclipse in Goa (India), and those that allowed the determination of the position of Quebec,

 O’Connor and Robertson, “Jean Richer”, [online], < Biographies/Richer.html>, [accessed 3 September 2015]. During this first modern scientific expedition, whose initial destination was to be Madagascar, a transit station for trade to India, multiple purely scientific problems were attacked, some of which were questions that had been occupying various scholars since the times of Antiquity (Barrado Navascués, 2021). The mission was suggested by Adrien Auzout, known among other things for promoting the concept of conic orbits for comets, the development of micrometers for telescope lenses and for integrating one into a quadrant to determine latitudes together with Jean Picard. For obscure reasons he did not participate in the final conception, which was approved by minister Colbert and financed entirely by the crown. It is clearly distinguished from others by the care employed in the preparation and by the objectives, to give concrete answers to these problems and not in the collection of botanical or any other curiosities (Olmsted 1942, pp. 117–128). 77  The expedition was initially planned to start in the Canaries, the reference point of longitude with the first meridian on the island of Hierro (Dew 2010, pp. 1–17), in a clear antecedent of the FrenchSpanish scientific collaboration of the following century (the measurement of the degree of longitude during the expedition to Peru by La Condomine, Godin, Jorge Juan and Ulloa, and later during the French Revolution that of Méchain and Delambre). The three-way diplomatic negotiations (France, Spain and Portugal) were coordinated by the all-powerful Colbert, Louis XIV’s finance minister. 76

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Fig. 4.15  Jacques Cassini’s 1696 planisphere Bibliotheque Nationale de France

in 1685, from the observations gathered by Jean des Hayes from Canada and Jean-­ Dominique Cassini, together with Philippe de la Hire, from Paris.78

3.4 The Foundations of the Pax Britannica: The Royal Astronomers Advances in cosmography were not only confined to France. Nathaniel Carpenter published in England in his Geography of 1635, which contains a commentary on the usefulness of the method of lunar distances. Copernican heliocentrism began to  McClellan and Regourd (2000, pp. 31–50); O’Connor and Robertson, “Philippe de La Hire”, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. Regarding Giovanni Domenico Cassini’s name, he acquired French nationality in 1673 and changed his name to Jean-Dominique Cassini. 78


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take hold beyond the English Channel shortly before Galileo’s death. Thus Jeremiah Horrocks observed a transit of Venus in 1639 by using table-calculated and heliocentric ephemerides, and the following year John Wilking published a memoir (A Discourse concerning a New Planet, tending to prove that (its is probable) our Earth is one of the Planets) supporting the new cosmology of the universe, opposing sharply to the reverend Alexander Ross, who had attacked the new interpretation of reality and above all the existence of the antipodes in his Commentum de terrae motu circulari of 1634, based on biblical arguments. Wilkings would go so far as to postulate the possibility of new discoveries and suggest that the Earth was just another planet.79 Forty years after Carpenter’s Geography, the Greenwich Observatory was founded by royal initiative (1675), whose purpose was also to solve the problem of longitude. The Royal Society had been inaugurated during the previous decade (15 July 1662) under the motto “nullius verba”, at the “dictation of no one”, by Charles II, after being reinstated on the English throne, at the behest of Robert Moray. The seed was the so-called Gresham College group, which emerged in 1660 from the scientific activity of the previous two decades. At that time England (and Scotland) had begun to develop a thriving activity in natural philosophy by reputed figures such as, in the field we are concerned with, Robert Boyle, Robert Hooke, Isaac Barrow, Edmond Halley, John Flamsteed, Christopher Wren, William Petty, John Wilkins, John Wallis, John Ray, William Harvey, and Jeremiah Horrocks, among others, largely due to the role of Francis Bacon and the development of induction as part of the scientific method, probably grounded in English empiricism and practicality from the sixteenth century onwards. Here the analogy and relationship with navigation and the new knowledge brought about by the exploration of the world would become clear with the first illustration of Bacon’s ambitious work, his unfinished Instauratio Magna, published as Novum Organum in 1620. The motto was Multi pertransibunt et augebitur scientia.80 Thus, the objective of René Descartes to formulate a rational world based on a mathematical formulation (in his case resting on aprioristic principles) was completed by this group of scholars, collectively known as the “virtuosi”, who would end up executing the great synthesis with empiricism that already characterized Galileo Galilei and that would culminate in Isaac Newton. In this process we should take into account a political factor that has been left aside on many occasions: the English Civil War, the execution of Charles I, King of Scotland and England, and the period of the Commonwealth under Oliver Cromwell, which lasted until shortly after his death in 1658. The legal traditions established at least from the signing of Magna Carta in 1215 by King John, with the limitations on royal power that they implied, religious reform and the sales of religious property (with the revival of economic activity by freeing up many resources) were combined with a process that underpinned constitutional monarchy. Thus, the mechanisms of thought control and scientific speculation were dismantled,

79 80

 For more details on the controversy and its subsequent influence: Echeverria (2015, pp. 237–255).  Taken from Daniel, 12:4, “Many shall pass through it, and knowledge shall increase”.

3  The Calculation of Longitude and the Implications for Different European Powers


favouring economic and cultural development in a country that had traditionally been characterised by its relative economic and demographic poverty, especially in relation to France. As for the Greenwich Observatory, John Flamsteed81 was its first director, appointed in 1675, and his primary mission was the acquisition of astronomical observations to solve the longitude problem: [. . .] to apply himself with the utmost care and diligence to the rectifying of the tables of the Motions of the Heavens and the places of the fixed stars, in order to find out the so-much desired longitude at sea, for perfecting the art of navigation.82

Thus, as the first English astronomer royal, he was charged with “the correct determination of the motion of the heavens, the positions of the stars and the location of longitude in order to perfect the art of navigation”. After more than 35 years since the beginning of the systematic observations, Flamsteed, indefatigable observer and perfectionist, still did not publish his celestial charts. Newton, with a truly peculiar personality, as a member of the Board of Longitude appointed at the time by the English Parliament to find an accurate method of determining position on the high seas, with Halley’s help, got hold of most of Flamsteed‘s records without the latter’s permission –a misappropriation, however laudable the aim. Moreover, when they were published in 1712, Flamsteed did not receive proper credit. In revenge, Flamsteed hoarded as many books as he could of that pirated edition. He was able to get his hands on about three-quarters of Newton and Halley’s production of the celestial catalogue and burned the copies in front of the Royal Greenwich Observatory. This was a clear sign that he disapproved of Newton and Halley’s act and a vindication of his own work. Finally, his monumental work Historiae Coelestis Britannica was published in 1725, six years after his death. Flamsteed’s observations of numerous stars and his star atlas, published posthumously in 1725 and 1729, comprise the first highly accurate stellar catalogue since the advent of the telescope in 1609, greatly improving on Tycho Brahe’s already extraordinary measurements of the late sixteenth century. Among other works of Flamsteed are the precise calculations of the solar eclipses of 1666 and 1668, and the affirmation, in 1681, that comets also orbit around the Sun, from the observations that of a passage very close to the Sun he made in November and December of that year. Sightings that Newton, among others, had considered as corresponding to different objects. Almost contemporaneous with Flamsteed, Edmund Halley observed from St. Helena a transit of Mercury in 1677 over the solar disk. In 1716 he published a paper in which he claimed that this technique, applied to Venus, could be used to accurately measure the Earth-Sun distance, and thus provide the structure of the solar system, and asked the Royal Society in 1716 to observe the following transits

 O’Connor and Robertson, “John Flamsteed”, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 82  Quoted in Mackay (1793, p. 66). 81


4  The Measure of Longitude: From Iberia to Albion

of Venus in 1761 and 1769. However, he did not give due credit to James Gregory,83 inventor of the type of telescope Halley himself used, who in 1663 had proposed the same methodology. But he was not the first either, Aristarchus had already posed this problem and the solution using the Moon as a reference point in the third century BC. Halley was almost as responsible as Isaac Newton for Newton’s publication in 1689 of Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which, among other things, contained the seminal theory of gravity. His role included both funding and insisting that the manuscript be published in full. In 1705 he published Astronomiae Cometicae Synopsis, where he applied Newton’s theory to reconstruct the data of comet sightings since 1300, and realized that the sightings of 1531, 1607 and 1682 could correspond to the same object, predicting its return in 1758, as it happened, thus sanctioning that comets are part of the family of celestial objects orbiting the Sun and providing another success of predictive astronomy based on a heliocentric universe and the works of Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton. He also discovered the proper motion of the stars in 1718, verifying the displacement of three, which might have been an obstacle to the use of the lunar method, except that the angular distances traveled do not vary appreciably over time lapses of a few years. He also stated that the Moon orbits faster and faster around our planet, although in reality it is the Earth that is decelerating. In 1719, after Flamsteed’s death, Halley succeeded him as royal astronomer. He then embarked on a titanic task, continuing the work of his predecessor: the detailed observation of the motion of the Moon, during a complete revolution of its nodes, which is the imaginary line resulting from the intersection of the plane of its orbit with the Ecliptic, with a periodicity of almost twenty years (223 months). In 1731 he announced to the Royal Society that he had made 1500 observations of the Moon, surpassing the combined work of Tycho Brahe, Hevelius, and Flamsteed (Cotter 1968, p. 200). These observations would be of great importance for the purely astronomical determination of longitude although he would not succeed: he tried to use the occultations of the stars by the Moon as a clock to determine longitude, but the small number of sufficiently bright stars and the need for very precise positions would frustrate the attempt. He would also try to use the maximum approximations or appulses, with the same result. James Bradley, who succeeded Halley as royal astronomer, measured the diameter of Venus in 1722 and discovered in 1728 the nutation of the Earth’s axis of rotation (oscillation around precession, itself discovered by Hipparchus in the second century BCE), which contributed to improving the determination of stellar positions. Like his predecessor, he would wait twenty years to make use of data acquired during a complete revolution of the lunar nodes before publishing the result in 1748. More importantly, in 1726, together with Samuel Molyneux,84 he  O’Connor and Robertson, “James Gregory”, [online], < uk/Biographies/Gregory.html>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 84  O’Connor and Robertson, “Samuel Molyneux”, [online], <>, [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 83



found, in an unsuccessful attempt to measure the parallax of the star γ Draconis and hence its distance, an enigmatic phenomenon that they failed to understand. Three years later, when Molyneux died, he would interpret it correctly. This is what would have been Galileo’s holy grail: the first direct proof that the Earth moves. Quite simply, the annual aberration of light. In the process, Bradley also provided a very precise measurement of the speed of light. Finally, the Board of Longitude also received a large number of very diverse proposals for the calculation of longitude. Among them, those of two women, Jane Squire and Elizabeth Johnson, stand out. The latter anonymously, in which astronomical and religious concepts are mixed, although the first case, published under the title A proposal to determine our Longitude85 in 1742 and 1743 and which was rejected, is not without merit.

References Abbott Payson Usher, A history of mechanical inventions, United States of America, McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1929. Allen, P., Philip III and the Pax Hispanica, 1598–1621, The Failure of Grand Strategy, Yale University Press, 2000. Baig y Aleu, M., “Un nuevo documento sobre Guillem Soler y la cuestión de la cartografía mallorquina”, Llul. 24, 2001, pp. 587–603. Balmer, R. T., “The Operation of Sand Clocks and Their Medieval Development”, in Technology and Culture, The Johns Hopkins University Press-Society for the History of Technology, vol. 19, núm. 4, 1978, pp. 615–632. Boorstin, D.  J., Los descubridores. Volumen I: el tiempo y la geografía, traducción de Susana Lijtmaer, Barcelona, Grijalbo-Mondadori, S.A., 1986. Bradley, J. J., “The Longitude of Lisbon, and the Fort of New Yorkm from Wansted and London, Determin’d by Eclipses of the First Satellite of Jupiter”, Phil. Trans. 34, 1726. Brown, L. A., “The Longitude”, in The World of Mathematics, vol. 2, pag. 781, J. R. Newman (ed.), George Allen & Unwin, 1956. Bunbury, E. H., A history of ancient geography among the Greeks and Romans from the earliest ages till the fall of the roman empire, John Murray, Albemarle street, 1879. Bunbury, E. H., A History of Ancient Geography, Dover Publications, New York, 1959. Campbell, E., “Introduction to the history of Cartography”, in Introducció general a la Histária de Ia cartografia. Barcelona, Institut Cartográfic de Catalunya, 1990, pp. 91–137. Colón, C., Relaciones y cartas, Librería de la Viuda de Hernando y C.ª, Madrid,1892. Colón, C., Los cuatro viajes del almirante y su testamento, Espasa Calpe, Colección Austral, 1954. Cotter, C. H., History of Nautical Astronomy, Hollis & Carter, 1968. Crane, N., Mercator. The man who mapped de planet, Henry Holt and company, New York, 2003. Cuesta Domingo, M., “Alonso de Santa Cruz, cartógrafo y fabricante de instrumentos náuticos de la Casa de Contratación”, Revista Complutense de Historia de América, vol. 30, 7–40, 2004. Cuesta Domingo, M.  P., Pedro de Medina in la Ciencia y in la Historia, Fundación Ignacio Larramendi, 2016. de Grijs, R., Time and Time Again: Determination of Longitude at Sea in the seventeenth century , Bristol UK, Institute of Physics Publishing, 2017.

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de Grijs, R., and Vuillermin, D., “Longitudinal Lunacy: Science and Madness in the Eighteenth Century”. Hektoen International. Spring issue, 2019. longitudinal-­lunacy-­science-­and-­madness-­in-­theeighteenth-­century/. de Grijs, R., “A (not so) brief history of lunar distances: Longitude determination at sea before the chronometer”, Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage, 23, 2020a. de Grijs R., “European Longitude Prizes. I.  Longitude Determination in the Spanish Empire”, J. Astron. Hist. Heritage, 23, 46, 2020b. Dew, N., “Scientific travel in the Atlantic world: the French expedition to Gorée and the Antilles, 1681–1683”, British Journal for the History of Science, vol. 43, núm. 1, 2010, pp. 1–17. Die Maculet, R., Armando Alberola Romá, A., La herencia de Jorge Juan: muerte, disputas sucesorias y legado intelectual, Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Alicante, Fundación Jorge Juan, 2002. Dohrn van Rossum, G., L’histoire de l’heure. L’horlogerie et l’organisation moderne du temps, París, Éditions de la Maison des sciences de l’homme, 1997. Domínguez, J., “Coluros, líneas, paralelos y zodíacos: Cervantes y el viaje por la cosmografía in el Quijote”, Cervantes: Bulletin of the Cervantes Society of America, 29.2, 2009, pp. 139–57. Echeverria, V., “Los antípodas de Alexander Ross y John Wilkins: una lectura de la contienda”, Ágora. Estudos Clássicos em Debate 17.1, 2015, pp. 237–255. Esteban Piñeiro, M., “Las academias técnicas in la España del siglo XVI”, Quaderns d’història de l’enginyeria, vol. V, 2002–2003. Esteban Piñeiro, M., “La ciencia de las estrellas”, in en Sánchez Ron J. M. (ed.), La ciencia y El Quijote, Crítica, Barcelona, 2005, pp. 23–34. Farré Olivé, E., “Relojes chinos”, in Ciclo de conferencias. Curso 2006-2007, Publicaciones de la Agrupación Astronómica de Sabadell, núm. 10, octubre 2007, pp. 186–202. Fermor, J. and Steele, J. M., “The design of Babylonian waterclocks: Astronomical and experimental evidence”, in Centaurus, vol. 42, 2000, pp. 210–222. Fernández Navarrete, E., “Memoria sobre las tentativas hechas y premios ofrecidos in España al que resolviere el problema de la longitud la mar”, colección Documentos inéditos para la historia de España, volumen 21, editado por Miguel Salvá y Pedro Sainz de Baranda. Imprenta de la viuda de Calero, 1852. Fernández De Navarrete, M., Colección de los viajes y descubrimientos que hicieron por mar los españoles desde fines del siglo XV, T. I, 2ª edic., Imprenta Nacional, Madrid, 1853. Folch Fornesa, D., “En mundos extraños: la primera visión castellana de Asia Oriental”, in Pacífico: España y la Aventura de la Mar del Sur, 2013, pp. 191–241. Font, N., Historia de les ciencies naturals a Catalunya del segle IX al segle XVIII. 1908 [Edición facsímil, Barcelona, Editorial AltaFulla, 1978]. Forbes, E.G., “The Life and Work of Tobias Mayer”, QJRAS 8, 1967, p. 227. Garnier Morga, J.  M., El pensamiento cosmográfico y náutico in la nueva España del siglo XVI, PhD dissertation, Facultad de Filosofía de la Universidad Panamericana de Ciudad de México, 2018. Humboldt, A., Cosmos. ensayo de una descripción física del mundo, imprenta de Gaspar y Roig, Madrid, 1874. Israel, J., The Dutch Republic: Its Rise, Greatness, and Fall 1477–1806, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1995. Kennedy, P., The Raise and Fall of the Great Powers, Random House, New York, 1987. Landes, D. S., Revolution in time: Clocks and the Making of the Modern World. Harvard University Press, 1983. Lankford, J., “Time and timekeeping instruments”, in History of astronomy: an encyclopedia, Taylor & Francis, 1997. Lester, T., The forth part of the world. The race to the ends of the Earth, and the epic story of the map that gave America its name, Free Press, New York/London, 2009. Lippincott, K., El tiempo a través del tiempo, Barcelona, Grijalbo, 2000.



Llagostera, E., “La medición del tiempo in la antigüedad. El calendario egipcio y sus “herederos”, el Juliano y el Gregoriano”, in Espacio, Tiempo y Forma, Serie II. Historia Antigua, t. 19–20, 2006–2007, pp. 61–76. López Moratalla, T., y Lara Coira, M., “Dos siglos de cálculos del Almanaque Náutico (1792–2002). Primera época”, in Actas VIII Congreso de la Sociedad Española de Historia de las Ciencias y de las Técnicas, Serv. Public. Univ. de la Rioja, 2004, vol. I, p. 420. López Royo, F., Memoria sobre los métodos de hallar la longitud in la mar por las observaciones lunares, Imprenta Real, Madrid, 1798. MacKay, A., The theory and practice of finding the longitude at sea or land, 1793. Markham, C. R., The voyages of William Baffin, 1612–1622, Hakluyt society, 1881. McClellan, J. E. III, Regourd, F., “The Colonial Machine: French Science and Colonization in the Ancient Regime”, siris, second Series, vol. 15, Nature and Empire: Science and the Colonial Enterprise, 2000, pp. 31–50. McIntosh, G. C., The Johannes Ruysch and Martin Waldseemüller World Maps: The Interplay and Merging of Early Sixteenth Century New World Cartogries. Plus Ultra Publishing Company, 2015. McPhail, C., Reconstruction Eratosthenes’ map of the World; a study insource analysis, Master dissertation, University of Otago, Nueva Zelanda, 2011. Mearns, D. L., Parham, D., Frohlich, B., “A Portuguese East Indiaman from the 1502–1503 Fleet of Vasco da Gama off Al Hallaniyah Island, Oman: an interim report”, International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 45 (2), 2016, pp. 331–350. Mearns, D. L., Warnett, J. M., Williams, M. A., “An Early Portuguese Mariner's Astrolabe from the Sodré Wreck-site, Al Hallaniyah, Oman”, The International Journal of Nautical Archaeology, 48.2, 2019, pp. 495–506. Nunes, P.  J. A., Os instrumentos náuticos na obra de Pedro Nunes, Universidade de Lisboa, Faculdade de Letras, 2013. Olmsted, J. W., “The Scientific Expedition of Jean Richer to Cayenne (1672–1673)”, Isis, vol. 34, núm. 2, 1942, pp. 117–128. Ortega Cervigón, J. I., “La medida del tiempo in la Edad Media. El ejemplo de las crónicas cristianas”, Medievalismo, núm. 9, 1999, pp. 9–39. Randles, W. G. L., “Portuguese and Spanish attemps. To mesure longitude in the sixteenth century”, in Bol. Bibli. Univ. Coimbra, vol. 39, 1984, pp.143–160. Rey Pastor, J., La ciencia y la técnica in el descubrimiento de América, Madrid, 1970. Russell, P., Prince Henry, `the Navigator´, Yale University Press, 2000. Serrano Mangas, F., La encrucijada portuguesa. Esplendor y quiebra de la unión ibérica in las Indias de Castilla (1600–1668), Colección Historia, Diputación de Badajoz, 2001. Serrano Mangas, F., “Caminos in el océano”, in Pacífico: España y la Aventura de la Mar del Sur, 2013, pp. 247–293. Stein, S. J., “Esame critico intorno alla scoperta di Vespucci circa la determinazione delle longitudini in mare mediante le distanze lunari”, in Memoria della Società Astronomica Italiana, vol. 21, núm. 4, Roma, 1950, pp. 345–353. Thoren, V. E., “Prosthaphaeresis revisited“, Historia Mathematica. 15 (1), 1988, pp. 32–39. Turner, A. J., The Time Museum, Vol I. Time Measuring Instrument. Part. 3: Water-clocks. Sand-­ glasses. Fire-clocks, Rockford, Illinois, Time Museum, 1984, 184 pp. Selles, M., Instrumentos de navegación. Del Mediterráneo al Pacífico, CSIC, Barcelona, 1994. Sureda, J., Ramon Llull i l'origen de la cartografia mallorquina, Dalmau, R. (ed.), Barcelona, 1969. Venturi, G. B., Memorie e lettere inedite finora o disperse di Galileo Galilei, G. Vicenzi e comp., Modena, 1818. Vernet, J., Estudios sobre historia de la ciencia medieval, Univ. Autónoma de Barcelona, 1979, 508 pp. Vicente Maroto, M. I., “El arte de la navegación in el Siglo de Oro”, Cátedra Jorge Juan. Curso 2000–2001, Victoria Meizoso, J. R. (dir.), Universidade de A Coruña, 2003, pp. 187–230.

Chapter 5

The Shape of the Earth and Geographical Exploration

Times will come as the years go by when the ocean lets go of the barriers of the world and the earth is opened to the fullest extent and Thetis discovers new orbs for us and the ends of the earth no longer be Tule. Seneca, Medea, 375–379.

Abstract The determination of the size of the Earth and its shape, begun in Antiquity, was systematized by the geographers-astronomers of the Académie Royale des sciences in the second half of the seventeenth century, through the use of triangulation and astronomical methods that involved a state policy, the investment of large financial resources and the realization of prolonged expeditions to remote places. Among its fruits were not only the determination of the longitude of the meridian and the first complete cartography of France, but also the establishment of the decimal metric system and the first major international collaborations. In parallel, the process of exploration of the planet extended to the most unknown regions, including the northern and southern territories around the poles, and the interior of Africa. By the end of the nineteenth century, practically the entire surface of the continents had been covered to a greater or lesser extent by Western cartographers and the gaps in the first atlases had been explored. The Greek dream of complete knowledge of the oikouménē had finally been fulfilled.

© The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2023 D. Barrado Navascués, Cosmography in the Age of Discovery and the Scientific Revolution, Historical & Cultural Astronomy,



5  The Shape of the Earth and Geographical Exploration

1 The Size and Shape of the Earth 1.1 The Measure of the Earth Aristotle proposed that the Earth had a measurable size in the fourth century BCE. Both he and Eratosthenes of Cyrene provided specific determinations, in the latter case surprisingly close to the real one. However, the standard size accepted until the end of the Middle Ages would be the one obtained by Posidonius of Apamea or Rhodes, three centuries after the Peripatetic philosopher, when it was assumed and divulged by Claudius Ptolemy already in the second century CE, in the middle of the Roman imperial period. According to Cleomedes, almost at the end of the Empire, Posidonius noticed that the star Canopus, which is not visible from mainland Greece, appears for a few moments in Rhodes, located further south, and rises up to 7.5 degrees above the horizon of Alexandria. These differences are due to the curvature of the planet’s surface and, ultimately, to its radius. Thus, Posidonius used this phenomenon to measure the dimensions of the planet. It is therefore a method similar to that of Eratosthenes, except that the latter used cities on the same meridian. However, the difference in the final result would be remarkable, 180,000 of the rhodium against the 252,000 stadia calculated by Eratosthenes.1 Centuries later, Jean François Fernel made the first modern determination,2 published in his Cosmotheoria of 1528. To do so, he made a chariot journey from Paris to Amiens, practically on the same meridian, and counted the turns made by the wheels to measure both the distance travelled and the value of the degree of the meridian arc, with a result of 57,020 toesas, a French measurement equivalent to 1949 metres, a result very close to the real one. A few years later, Gemma Frisius (Libellus de locorum describendorum ratione, 1533) proposed the method of triangulation following Eratosthenes, for a more accurate assessment and it was Willebrord Snel van Royen,3 better known as Snellius, who put it into practice (Fig. 5.1), publishing a result of 55,020 toisesas in the treatise Eratosthenes Batavus of 1617.4 Richard Norwood in the text Seamaris practice of 1637 included a figure

1  Initially estimated at 240,000 stadia (Cleomedes, De motu circulari, 1.10) and later reduced to 180,000 (Strabon, Geographia, II.2.2). 2  It is possible, however, that Antonio de Nebrija made another one before, which would not be published. 3  O’Connor and Robertson, “Willebrord van Royen Snell”, [online], , [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 4  Before Snellius, at the end of the 16th century, Jerónimo Muñoz (Muñoz, J., Astrologicarum et Geographicarum institutionum libri sex, in Navarro Brotons, V. (ed.), Introducción a la Astronomía y la Geografía, Consell Valencià de Cultura, 2004, 354 pp.) and Tycho Brahe (Brahe, T., Astronomiae instauratae mechanica, Wandsbek, 1598) applied the method of triangulation.

1  The Size and Shape of the Earth


Fig. 5.1  Reconstruction of the triangulation made by Snellius (a) In yellow, the first triangle containing the base of the triangulation (Haga-Leyda); in red the last of the 33 plotted triangles comprising the meridian arc Alcmaria-Berga ad Zomum. Own elaboration. The original diagram was published in Eratosthenes Batavus, de Terrae ambitus vera quantitate, 1617, Bayerische StaatsBiblithek (Hbks/R 30 df). (b) Snelius’ triangulation of the real map

of 57,424 toises, in a measurement that went from London to York.5 Also Giovanni Battista Riccioli, a great antagonist of Galileo Galilei and Copernican heliocentrism, obtained his own estimate. Triangulation is based on a simple trigonometric formula: if the three angles and the distance between two vertices are known, it is possible to calculate the length of the other two sides. By using adjacent triangles any distance can be measured. However, this technique presents several practical problems: the height from which each datum is taken can be different, atmospheric refraction deforms the measurements, and on a spherical surface the angles of a triangle do not measure 180 degrees (moreover, from a practical point of view it is not always possible to take the measurement from the vertex, so it is necessary to introduce a correction, Alder 2002, pp. 22–23). But probably the essential problem was not mathematical, but human.  Lafuente and Mazuecos (1987). This value was used by Isaac Newton during his initial calculations of his Law of Universal Gravitation. Being an excessive estimate with respect to its real value, it almost caused Newton to give up, since it did not allow the derivation of a dependence with the inverse of the square of the distance to balance with the centrifugal force experienced by any body when rotating, as in the case of a slingshot. Fortunately, the results of Jean-Félix Picard would reach the English lands in time, in 1671 (Christianson 1987, Newton, pp. 95 and 103). 5


5  The Shape of the Earth and Geographical Exploration

On the one hand, the harsh conditions that the teams experienced during the geodetic campaigns, with large temperature fluctuations and living and sleeping in the field, often near the tops of mountains, which were the ideal places for the vertices of the triangles. And all this without modern equipment, with inappropriate clothing for freezing winds and persistent rain. On the other hand, the population’s own suspicion, who saw in the scholars royal agents who were generally identified with tax collectors. Christiaan Huygens played an indirect but very significant role in determining the size and shape of the Earth. He lived in Paris from 1666 to 1681, helping to set up the Académie Royale des sciences (see Chap. 4, Sect. 3.3). This institution initiated in 1669 a complex program for the measurement of the Earth’s diameter, by using the method of triangulation. It was to be carried out by Jean-Félix Picard, again from Paris to Amiens, and he published the result, of extraordinary quality, two years later in Mesure de la Terre (Fig. 5.2 shows part of the instrumentation used). The revised value reached 57,060 toises, equivalent to 40035.6 km, a difference of just over 5 km from the average of the planet. Its success was based on two facts: the use of a standard reference measurement forged in iron and a wide starting base (the first distance between two vertices of the starting triangle) of 5663 toises, which minimized errors. Thus, it can be said that the measurement of the degree was a geodetic experiment on which a new science was configured.

Fig. 5.2  Illustration from Mesure de la terre, published by Jean-Félix Picard in 1671 It shows how to use different instrumentation to measure latitude from the positions of stars and angles for the realization of a cartographic triangulation. Bibliothèque nationale de France (Rés. S-2)

1  The Size and Shape of the Earth


Several factors contributed to making cartography an accurate and practical science: the development of new instrumentation, such as the theodolite by Leonard Digges (1571), the scales of Pierre Vernier6 (1631), William Gascoigne’s micrometer (based on Vernier and predating Gascoigne’s death in 1644), and Melchisédech Thévenot’s spirit level (1666); together with the development of the mathematical apparatus necessary for effective triangulation, with contributions by Regiomontanus, Rheticus, John Napier7 (natural logarithms, 1614), Edward Wright, Edmund Gunter, or Henry Brigg (decimal logarithms in 1624 and trigonometric tables of 1631 and 1633, Konvitz 1987, pp. 2–3). The method of triangulation, together with the Jovian method, allowed the development of a much more accurate cartography. Astronomy thus became an eminently applied science, of high geopolitical and economic value, if it was not already so with its application to nautical science.

1.2 The Pendulum and the Measurement of Time: A New Tool Galileo Galilei realized the possibility of measuring time with a pendulum before 1588. In fact, in 1637, close to his death, he worked on pendulum clocks and designed an escapement mechanism, which his son Vicenzo tried to build, although he probably died in 1649 without completing the  device. However, Christiaan Huygens made important improvements and would obtain a patent in 1657 for the pendulum given in The Hague, another one in 1665 granted by Louis XIV in France and a third one in 1674, with which he would enter in conflict with Robert Hooke for the priority in the invention of the spiral spring. Giovanni Battista Riccioli, Marin Mersenne and Huygens himself carried out numerous experiments using the pendulum as an instrument for the measurement of time, but it was the latter who established the firm bases from a theoretical point of view with the publication in 1658 of Horologium and especially in 1673 of Horologium Oscillatorium sive de motu pendulorum, and the construction of clocks that would increase the precision up to 15–5 seconds. Some were used in marine tests to solve the problem of longitude at sea. In addition, the development of the cycloid pendulum, whose period is truly independent of amplitude and of greater stability than the simple pendulum, opened the door to gravimetry: the variation of gravity’s attraction with position, an idea of Robert Hooke. This would have extraordinary consequences in determining the shape of the Earth. Interestingly, the pendulum would be proposed as an essential tool for the definition of the distance standard (see next sections). Thus, the basic unit of distance would be the length of the pendulum that beats 1 second (which swings 86,400 times in a  O’Connor and Robertson, “Pierre Vernier”, [online], , [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 7  O’Connor and Robertson, “John Napier”, [online], , [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 6


5  The Shape of the Earth and Geographical Exploration

day). The initiative started with Isaac Beeckman and Marin Mersenne in the 1620s, but came closer to realization much later, at the end of the Enlightenment (in 1775), with the French minister Anne-Robert-Jacques Turgot and Nicolas de Condorcet.8 However, its universality was immediately questioned because of the flattening of the poles. Thus, it was proposed to define the standard at the 45th parallel, which also did not save the difficulty because of local variations of gravity. Even so, John Riggs Miller, a member of the British parliament, tried to coordinate the British reform of measurements with the continental one by using the pendulum. He persuaded the French minister Talleyrand to determine the necessary longitude at a common point, but unfortunately the attempt to “close” the English Channel Strait did not succeed.9

1.3 Determining the Shape of the Earth and the Law of Gravity Jean Richer made in 1672–1673 a trip to Cayenne (Olmsted 1942, pp. 117–128), coordinated from Paris by Giovanni Domenico Cassini (also known as Cassini I), to determine the solar parallax, the obliquity of the Ecliptic, the astronomical refraction in the tropic and the length of the pendulum that beats exactly 86,400 seconds in a day. For the first time the variation of the longitude of this type of pendulum with latitude was confirmed. That is, the variation of the local effective gravity with position. In Paris his results produced a great interest, mixed with the superficiality of the environment of the aristocratic salons: Amusement to those who do not understand; there was a crowd of ladies in the salon of Madame de Chaulnes. Where the learned Huygens, one of our imported scholars, read aloud letters about the expedition to Cayenne, replete with figures, curves, tangents, and triangles. The physicists who were sent last year to those regions with the task of making observations have found that the earth is not a sphere, as hitherto believed, but is flattened on both sides.10

 O’Connor and Robertson, “Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat Condorcet”, [online], , [accessed: 3 September 2015]. 9  In his address to the Commons John Rigg Miller (Speeches, 1790, p. 52) included a poem by Renerus Budelius that appeared in De Monetis of 1591: “Una fides, pondus, mensura, moneta, fit una, // Et flatus illaesus totius orbis erit.” (“One faith, one weight, one length and one coin // Would make the world unite in harmony”). Thus, the desire to standardize has always been present (Alder 2002, pp. 85–89, 240–241). 10  “On s’amuse de tout quand on ne sait à quoi s’en prendre; les dames faisaient foule jeudi chez Madame de Chaulnes, où le savant Huyghens, l’un de nos académiciens importés, lisait des lettres toutes hérissées de chiffrés, de courbes, de tangentes et de triangles, qu’il a reçues de Cayenne. Les physiciens qu’on envoyé l’an dernier dans ce pays pour faire des observations marquent qu’ils ont découvert que la terre n’est pas, ainsi qu’où l’a cru jusqu’ici ronde comme une boule, mais aplatie de deux côtés”. Original in Touchard-Lafosse (1908, pp. 26–27); also quoted in Andriesse (2005, p. 274). 8

1  The Size and Shape of the Earth


During another voyage financed by the Académie Royale des sciences in order to determine the longitudes of the West Indies by the method of Jupiter’s satellites, numerous additional scientific experiments were carried out (Chap. 4, Sect. 3.3). Varin, Glos and des Hayes were in charge of carrying them out during their voyage between the island of Gorée and the Caribbean (expedition already mentioned), and they verified that it was necessary to adjust the dimension of the pendulums so that they beat exactly 1 s: there was thus an effect of latitude. They returned in 1683, in time for Isaac Newton to record this phenomenon in the third volume of his monumental work Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which appeared in 1687. He also was influenced by the observations of Jupiter, whose polar flattening is notorious, made by John Flamsteed and Giovanni Domenico Cassini (Lafuente and Mazuecos 1987). Thus, Newton concluded that the effect measu