April 15, 2003

Theatrum Cometicum

From an on-line exhibition at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, come the following images, drawn from a coloured copy of Stanislaus Lubinetski’s 1667 treatise Theatrum Cometicum.

First of five coloured illustrations from the 'Theatrum Cometicum'.

Lubinetski’s book compiled European accounts of the comets of 1664 and 1665, and provided a general history of cometary phenomena. Counter to the widespread belief that comets were ill-omens, Lubinetski (variously spelled Lubieniecki, Lubienetz, Lubienitzky, etc.) contended that their appearance portended good events as often as evil ones.

Second of five coloured illustrations from the 'Theatrum Cometicum'.

Samuel Pepys wrote of his frustrated endeavours to see the 1664 comet:

Mighty talke there is of this Comet that is seen a’nights; and the King and Queene did sit up last night to see it, and did, it seems. And to-night I thought to have done so too; but it is cloudy, and so no stars appear. But I will endeavour it. - Dec. 17th
My Lord Sandwich this day writes me word that he hath seen (at Portsmouth) the Comet, and says it is the most extraordinary thing that ever he saw. - Dec 21st
Third of five coloured illustrations from the 'Theatrum Cometicum'.

Pepys finally caught a disappointing glimpse of the Comet larger and duller than any other star on the 24th, the day after a young Isaac Newton recorded his first sight of it in his notebook: a Comet whose rays were round her, yet her tayle extended it selfe a little towards east.

Fourth of five coloured illustrations from the 'Theatrum Cometicum'.

The only comet I ever saw was the inelegantly-named Hale-Bopp, which I first caught sight of from the north-facing terrace of my apartment on via di Tor Sapienza on the evening of March 27th 1997. Here are some extracts from my Giornale Vecchio, written that night:

…I’ve been experiencing dreams & seeing images of places elsewhere, maritime places, cool & breezy, distant but present & bright. It’s not a homesick feeling exactly… but almost a lure ‘come away’ I’m trying to tell myself perhaps… I’ve seen the comet! just like predicted, there it was after dusk, to the north-west, tail facing up & to the right, hazy blob at the head… It sounds like there’s a houseful of rejoicing Catholics downstairs. But then it is nearly Easter & they’re probably very devout.
Fifth coloured illustration from the 'Theatrum Cometicum'.
Posted by misteraitch at April 15, 2003 12:49 PM | TrackBack