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De Sacro Bosco's 'De Sphera' and other tracts

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 0103 MS LAT 15
Held at: University College London
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Full title: De Sacro Bosco's 'De Sphera' and other tracts
Date(s): 14th century
Level of description: Collection (fonds)
Extent: 1 volume containing 33 leaves
Name of creator(s): Sacro Bosco | Johannes | De | d 1244 or 1256 | also known as John of Holywood or Halifax | mathematician and astronomer


Administrative/Biographical history:

Johannes De Sacro Bosco (John of Holywood, or Halifax) was probably born at Halifax, Yorkshire, and is said to have studied at Oxford and to have settled in Paris c1220, spending the remainder of his life there. He was a mathematician and astronomer. He wrote texts on arithmetic, astronomy and cosmography, including 'Algorismus' (a textbook on arithmetic) and 'Tractatus de Sphera', composed c1233 and forming a fundamental medieval text on astronomy, based on Ptolemy and comprising chapters on the terrestrial globe, on circles, on the rising and setting of the stars, and on the orbits and movements of the planets. De Sacro Bosco died either in 1244 or, more likely, in 1256.


Scope and content/abstract:

Fourteenth-century manuscript volume containing Johannes De Sacro Bosco's tract 'De Sphera' (ff 2-10) and other tracts, including mathematical and astrological subjects, among them 'Tractatus algorismi' (ff 11-16). The text is accompanied by diagrams in red or red and black. The volume bears on the back: 'Liber Astro/logic / M.S.' Entries on folio 1r are dated 1340 and (in an inscription of Iacobus Vannis) 1383.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:
Latin. Minuscule hands.

System of arrangement:

Conditions governing access:


Conditions governing reproduction:

Normal copyright restrictions apply.

Finding aids:

Dorothy K Coveney, A Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Library of University College London (London, 1935); N R Ker, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, i (London and Oxford, 1969); handlist at University College London Special Collections.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Folio 1r is inscribed 'A. S. Dawes / March 1782'. The manuscript featured in the Libri sale in 1861 and formed part of the library of John Thomas Graves (1806-1870), mathematician and Professor of Jurisprudence at University College London, whose collection included manuscripts dating from the 15th to the 19th century, relating mainly to mathematics. Formerly Graves 3496. Other pressmarks: 13313; 149.c.3; 16.l.13.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Graves' library was bequeathed to University College London in 1870.

Allied Materials

Related material:

For 'Tractatus algorismi', cf University College London Special Collections MS LAT 4, ff 216-18.

Manuscripts of De Sacro Bosco's 'De Sphera' are numerous and it was first printed at Ferrara in 1472, with 24 more editions before 1500 and numerous subsequent ones, both in the original Latin and in translation, to the modern period (e g The 'Sphere' of Sacrobosco and its Commentators, ed Lynn Thorndike, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1949). There were also several editions of his 'Algorismus'.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Source: Dictionary of National Biography. Compiled by Rachel Kemsley as part of the RSLP AIM25 project.

Rules or conventions:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Date(s) of descriptions:
1999, revised Aug 2001

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