A Description of the Celestial Sphere and the Planets


Spherae coelestis et planetarum descriptio (A description of the celestial sphere and the planets) is the most famous astrological manuscript of the Renaissance. It is made up of 15 full-page miniatures representing the seven planets together with their constellations and representations of their influence on human activities. The rhymed texts that accompany the miniatures function as captions and are in Gothic script. The creator of the illuminations is not easy to recognize, but critics point to similarities with the work of the Milanese artist Cristoforo De Predis (1440‒86). The style of the manuscript and its landscape representations clearly show that it was produced by a workshop in the Lombard area. The astrological sources of the work have not been completely ascertained, but it is certain that the illuminator knew the Tractatus de Sphaera (Treatise on the sphere) by Joannes de Sacro Bosco (also known as John of Holywood, circa 1195‒circa 1256), an astronomer and mathematician of English origins. The presence of the coats of arms of the Sforza and the Visconti families suggest that the manuscript came to the Estense Library as part of the dowry of Anna Sforza (1476‒97), daughter of Galeazzo Maria, duke of Milan, who in 1491 married Alfonso I d’Este, duke of Ferrara, Modena, and Reggio. The edition presented here is a facsimile of the original, made in Modena in 1995.

Date Created

Subject Date

Title in Original Language

Spherae coelestis et planetarum descriptio

Type of Item

Physical Description

16 folios : illuminations ; 24.5 x 17 centimeters


  1. Franca Varallo, “De Predis, Cristoforo,” in Treccani Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani 39 (Rome: Enciclopedia Italiana di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, 1991).

Last updated: May 17, 2017