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Celestial Map

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Saliba’s map of the cosmos, integrating ancient Pagan and medieval Christian cosmology with Renaissance beliefs and experiences. It presents the universe as a place that is simultaneously ordered and chaotic, spiritual and temporal, familiar and fantastical. Originally published in Italian by Antonio Saliba in 1582, the map was later reissued in Latin by Cornelis de Jode in slightly modified format (lacking one of the nine rings). The De Jode edition shows eight concentric rings, from the inner ring depicting the infernal regions to an encircling ring of fire, populated by demons, phoenixes and salamanders. The fourth ring is a hemispheric map on a north-polar projection, derived from de Jode’s 1593 Hemispheric Ab Aequinoctiali Linea. Within the spandrels are decorative images and text describing solar and lunar eclipses. The diagram is surmounted by a title with flanking hemispheric maps—also on a polar projection—and adorned with the strap-work embellishments characteristic of late-16th century Dutch engraving. Whitfield’s notes that this cosmological chart, which appears so bizarre and unfamiliar, is in fact only mildly unorthodox as a pre-scientific image of the cosmos…. The work’s title promises to display ‘All things which are in the world and in the heavens, for the universal benefit of all who would know the occult secrets of nature…. It is in the eighth circle [the seventh in the Jollain issue] that Saliba’s unorthodoxy and occultism are given freest rein. The appearance in 1577 of a great comet… was, inevitably, interpreted as having prophetic significance. Saliba seems to have regarded this so seriously that the eighth circle is devoted largely to descriptions of comets, their historic appearances and occult significance. The cosmic model of concentric rings was derived from Aristotle and Ptolemy, which in modified forms prevailed until the seventeenth century. The Ptolemaic model comprised nine spheres around the earth: five planets, the sun, the moon, the stars, and the primum mobile…. Saliba’s departure from the classical content of the nine spheres while retaining the structure, is entirely typical of the fluid state of Renaissance science.