The Phaenomena by Aratus of Soli
Printed by Aldus Manutius, Venice, 1499
Acc #: 214.13.5, James Logie Memorial Collection
From the collection of Professor DA Kidd
Aratus of Soli was a Greek poet of the 3rd century BC. His famous poem Phaenomena discusses the appearances of the constellations, their movements across the sky, and the signs of seasonal change by which weather could be forecast. Written around 275 BC, this didactic epic poem draws on the writing of earlier poets and astronomers such as Hesiod and Eudoxus.
The main theme developed throughout Phaenomena is a concern with practical instruction for everyday life, offering useful instruction for the likes of sailors and farmers. For example, Aratus offers his own version of the red sky at night omen:
If he [the sun] plunges cloudless into the western water, and the clouds standing near him are red when he sets and after he is gone, you certainly need not fear it will rain tomorrow, or even during the night.
A leading printer and publisher of the Venetian High Renaissance, Aldus Manutius introduced a number of innovations to the world of publishing. His publications concentrated on high quality volumes of Greek literature and philosophy, for which he created new forms of Greek and Latin cursive type for printing. Amongst the new printing techniques he employed were the use of italics and the production of smaller pocket or octavo editions of texts.