Incunabula and the Keio University Library Collection


Alfonso X of Castile, Tabulae astronomicae (Venice: Johannes Hamman, 31 October 1492)

Tabulae astronomicae. Ed: Johannes Lucilius Santritter: With additions by Augustinus Moravus. Add: Johannes Lucilius Santritter: Canones in tabulas Alphonsi

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Alfonso X (1221-84), known as 'el Sabio' ('the Wise One'), was the son of Ferdinand III, whose brilliant achievements during the Reconquista won for him the title 'el Santo', conferred upon him by the Roman Catholic Church after his death. Alfonso X attempted to follow his father's path to glory, but his military career ended in failure.

During the time Alfonso X was alive there was no emperor on the throne of the Holy Roman Empire. Alfonso attempted to use his lineage to further his claim to the throne, drawing on the fact that his mother was a grandchild of Emperor Frederick I; however, his plan failed decidedly owing to the vehement resistance of the Roman Pope. This was one of many similar failures. Alfonso's first son, the Crown Prince of Castile, died young in 1275, and when his second son, Sancho IV, claimed the throne for himself, civil war ensued. In the end, Alfonso lost this war and was exiled to Seville, where he died in 1284 at the age of 64.

Although he was not successful in his military affairs, Alfonso X is famous for his achievements in the fields of law and art. As a historian, he compiled A Great and General History, which encompasses stories of the Old Testament from the Creation to the death of Moses. Moreover, he enthusiastically worked on the first comprehensive history of the Iberian Peninsula, whose history had only barely been recognized within the context of Roman and Visigothic rule. This chronicle was eventually completed by his son, Sancho IV.

Alfonso's father, Ferdinand III, had arranged for the Visigothic and Roman legal codes to be translated into the vernacular; basing on these, Alfonso X was able to contribute significantly towards providing his kingdom with a code of laws and a consistent judicial system. In particular, 'The Seven-Part Code', compiled under his supervision, was to become the basis for the legal system in modern Spain.

Additionally, Alfonso is known as having been a patron of learning and the arts. He even composed poetry, and 'Cantigas de Santa Maria' ('Songs to the Virgin Mary') is a celebrated collection of songs compiled by him. He is also credited with having encouraged the widespread use of the Castilian language. His works include books on medicine, herbs, astrology, and games. As an acknowledgement of the wide range of his intellectual endeavours, Alfonso was called 'el Sabio' ('the Wise One').

The present book is one of his significant works in the field of astrology, known as the 'Alfonsine Tables', in which Alfonso completed the unfinished work of Ptolemy. It was printed by Johannes Hamman, who started his business in 1482, together with a printer from Cologne, and published about ninety books. Many of Hamman's books were printed with the financial support of another printer, Octavianus Scotus (d. 1498), and the printer's device used by Hamman is somewhat similar to that of Scotus.

The Keio copy keeps the original binding, in which an 11th-century manuscript has been used as the binding waste. On sig. A4r is written ''T. Helius Victor Fanestris', probably by a 16th-century hand. The owner of this autograph (Tito Aelio Vittori of Fano) seems to have been well versed in astrology, for he has not only noted numerous citations from Ptolemy, Capella, Pliny and others, but he has also made textual corrections. Thus the Keio copy is an interesting example of an astronomical book that was actually in use in the 16th century.



Alphonsus, Rex Castellae
Place of Publication
Johannes Hamman


Date of Publication

Contemporary binding using 11th-century rubricated vellum leaves, in Italian Carolingian script, over boards, vellum flyleaves of the same period; rebacked in later vellum.

Bibliographical Notes

114 leaves; heavily annotated by contemporary hands; a number of woodcut initials (sometimes space left blank).

Goff A535, H 869*, BMC V 424, GW 1258, PP99IJL 012, IJL2 016
Acquisition Year

T. Helius Vitor Fanestris (Tito Aerio Vittori of Fano, signature, in a contemporary hand).