Astronomy in medieval Latin manuscripts and old prints.
I. Magister Cristannus de Prachaticz

Grant No. 405/97/0824 supported by Grant Agency of the Czech Republic in the years 1997-99.

Principal Investigator: Alena Hadravova
Institute for Classical Studies, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic,
Na Florenci 3, 11000 Praha 1, Czech Republic

Co-investigator:Petr Hadrava
Astronomical Institute, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic,
251 65 Ondrejov, Czech Republic

Short characteristics of the project from the grant proposal:

The goal of the proposed project is a study of the medieval Latin astronomical manuscripts and old prints especially of the Czech origin and making them accessible in the form of editions with critical apparatus. In some cases we plan to add translation and also their interpretation and explicatory comments from the point of view of both the European context of that time and the present knowledge of the astronomy. The project thus has to map the area of history of science which has not practically a representation in our country now. The first contribution to this general intention deals with astronomical works of Magister Cristannus de Prachaticz.

Basic facts about Cristannus de Prachaticz:

Cristannus was born after 1360 in the town Prachatice in south Bohemia. In 1388 he became a bachelor of the Charles University in Prague. In 1393 Cristannus obtained a benefice at the church of St. Stephen in the New Town of Prague and later at St. Michael in the Old Town. Later he was several times the rector of the University (in 1405, 1412-13, 1434 and 1437) and in thirties also the administrator of the lower consistory. He died in 1439. Cristannus is well known first of all due to his medical treatises in Latin and also in Czech. He wrote computus and algorismus, he dealt also with botanics etc. Cristannus is renowned by his theological and political activity, too. He was one of the first Calixtins. Just for him John Hus, his younger friend connected with him also by their birthplace, rewrote in 1398 philosophical treatises of John Viklef. Cristannus refused to announce the interdict on John Hus in his church and he introduced very early the communion in both kinds. He visited John Hus in the jail of the council at Constance. Later Cristannus became supporter of the moderate wing of Calixtins.

Cristannus' astronomical work, by a tradition ever assumed as his major achievement, was supposed to be completely lost in older literature. P. Spunar listed several types of Cristannus' astronomical texts in his 'Repertorium auctorum Bohemorum provectum idearum post universitatem Pragensem conditam illustrans'. Tom. I. (Studia Copernicana XXV, Wratislaviae etc., Ossolineum 1985).

Description of the results:

It was found by a revision of the known Cristannus' texts, that apart of a small Latin/Czech treatise saved in the National Library, Praha, Krizovnici XXII A 2 (Cim D 93), fol. 283r-287v (Hadravova A., Cerna A., Homolkova M., Hadrava P.: `The Reply of Magister Cristannus of Prachatice to the Prophecy of Magister Iohannes Parisiensis'. Listy filologicke 123, 2000, pp. 42-53) and some astronomical notices in his medical treatises, all his astronomical writings reduce to two treatises 'On the Composition' and 'On the Use of the Astrolabe', which, however, were very influential in late Middle Ages. The treatise 'On the Composition of the Astrolabe' (De composicione astrolabii) has this inc.: "Quamvis de astrolabii composicione tam modernorum quam veterum dicta habentur pulcherrima ..."; inc. of the second treatise 'On the Use of the Astrolabe' (De usu astrolabii) is: "Quia plurimi ob nimiam quandoque accurtacionem ...". Cristannus' treatises were even the first printed text (as anonymous or wrongly attributed to other authors, cf. below) on this topic. It was also found that the manuscript O.1 (1585) of the Metropolitan Capitular Library in Praha known as 'Cristannus' Astrolabe' is neither Cristannus' work nor an astrolabe, but a summary of astronomical knowledge taught in the Charles University. However, a short reference contained there gives an independent evidence that Cristannus really wrote the treatise on the astrolabe.

In the framework of the project the first critical edition of both Latin treatises on the astrolabe has been prepared. The autographs of the treatises are not known. The texts were copyied during all the 15th century and also in the first half of the 16th century. As we found (with the help of the colleagues from abroad), Cristannus' treatises are preserved in over 80 mss. in the libraries all over the world. At about 40 of them were at our disposal. The edition of 'The Composition' is based on 8 manuscripts (e.g. from Heiligenkreuz, Rostock, Firenze, Praha, Wien, Kalocsa) and 1 incunabulum ('Roberti Anglici, viri astrologia prestantissimi, De astrolabio canones incipiunt'. Perugia, Petrus Petri, Johannes Conradi et Friedrich Ebert, 1477-1479. Copy: Milano, Biblioteca Trivulziana, Triv. Inc. C 127). The edition of 'The Use' is based on 15 manuscripts (Praha, Rostock, Wien, Oxford, Krakow, Kalocsa, Firenze, Berlin, Paris, Geneve), 1 incunabulum ('Roberti Anglici, viri astrologia prestantissimi, De astrolabio canones incipiunt'. Perugia, Petrus Petri, Johannes Conradi et Friedrich Ebert, 1477-1479. Copy: Milano, Biblioteca Trivulziana, Triv. Inc. C 127) and 2 old prints ('Astrolabii, quo primi mobilis motus deprehenduntur canones'. Venetiis, Paganinus de Paganinis, about 1497-1498 (1494 ?). Copy: Nelahozeves, Roudnice VII Ad 63; 'Astrolabii, quo primi mobilis motus deprehenduntur canones'. /This work is often attributed to Prosdocimus de Beldomandi in the literature/. Venetiis, Petrus Liechtenstein, 1521. Copy: Krakow, BJ, Inc. 2696b). The Latin edition (with full critical apparatus), Czech translation with comments etc. and English summary was published (with support by grant No. E 9062101 from the Grant Agency of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic) in 2001: Kristan z Prachatic: Stavba a Uziti astrolabu, Filosofia, Praha (ISBN 80-7007-148-6) The French version of the edition should be published by the Societe Internationale de l'Astrolabe in the series 'Astrolabica' in Paris.

The detailed knowledge of the text in its many manuscripts and printed copies enables to solve the puzzle of its authorship as well as to follow its further spreading in the Europe. The text corresponds to the group RA denoted by P. Kunitzsch in his 'Glossar der arabischen Fachausdrucke ...', Gottingen 1982. Following the preface to the first incunabulum (Perugia 1477-1479) of this treatise, he ascribed it to Robertus Anglicus together with three other and much simpler texts. However, it is worth to notice that there is no RA-text older than from the 15th century. A. Favaro ascribed another edition of the text (Venice 1512?, 1521) to Prosdocimo de Beldomandi from Padua (i.e. Cristannus' younger contemporary - cf. the review prepared by Giancarlo Truffa) following Myszkowski's hand-written remark on the copy from Krakow and according to its identity with the manuscript from Firenze, which is, however, anonymous, unlike other, really Prosdocimo's treatises in the same convolut. Some of the oldest manuscripts (Rostock, Kalocsa ...) state explicitly that they are copies of the Cristannus' treatise written and read at the Prague University in 1407. The stemma of the manuscripts spreaded in the Europe (basicaly in agreement with the routs of the 'peregrinacio academica' between the Central-European universities) shows their dependence on this oldest group. But the main argument is, that even in the late and distant copies (including the above mentioned old prints) are the references to Prague and the 'old Czech time' - despite in some of them interpolated or replaced by names of other locations, for which, however, the argumentation in the text was not valid.

An impressive explanation, why the Cristannus' authorship of the treatises was ignored and almost forgotten yields the manuscript from Kalocsa: '... utilitates astrolabii nove satis valentes Magistri Cristanni de Brachadicz, heretici perfidissimi pronunc, licet in composicione sive edicione earundem fuerit Cristianus ...' (... new and quite good use of the astrolabe by Magister Cristannus de Prachaticz, now the most perfidious heretic, however in writing of this treatise he was a Christian...). Cristannus as a leading person of the heretic Prague University was a 'persona non grata'. However, Ulyxes Lanciarinus, the editor of the first edition at Perugia, explains the choice just of this treatise by a paraphrase of the Cristannus' preface: '... confitebitur ... priorum canones ... id genus ordinis claritate doctrineque prestantia facile precellere' (... this way of the arrangement easily surpasses all previous rules by the clarity and excellence of the doctrine ...).

An important redaction of the Cristannus' treatise is that written by M. Iohannes von Gmunden in Wien, who corrected some Cristannus' mistakes and added some more passages, despite the Cristannus' basis is still obvious there (like in Iohannes von Gmunden's edition of Wallingford's Albion). For a comparison, an edition based on two Iohannes von Gmunden's manuscripts will be added to the present edition.

Some passages extracted from Cristannus' 'Use of the astrolabe' were used also by M. Paulerinus (Paul of Prague) in his famous encyclopaedia 'Liber viginti arcium' (Krakow, BJ 257).

See also article LF CXX, 1997, 1-2, 60-78(Latin Terminology of the Treatise on Astrolabe by Magister Cristannus de Prachaticz)
and the subsequent grant on Iohannes Andreae called Sindel

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Petr Hadrava,
Astronomical Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic,
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Czech Republic,
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