Right, so we’re talking about f57v, the one with four figures in the centre of four concentric rings of text, two figures looking out, two in. The “magic circle”. See on jasondavies.com here.
Nick Pelling has an excellent analysis here on his site where he wonders if it could be a nocturnal astrolabe, a nighttime astronomy aid.
I´ve slightly modified his theory.
I think it’s a compass sheet, with the four Greek gods of the secondary winds rather than the traditional “north south, east west” orientation.
Why these? Well, first off, because this isn’t an uncommon medieval representation, especially when referring to what we would now refer to as “compass readings” and secondly because the representations fit. The layout of the four name tags are also at the correct angle.
So the people featured are (and I’ve used the Greek gods here):
Wind of the NorthEast Cecias
Wind of the South East Apeliotes
Wind of the NorthWest Choir
Wind of the SouthWest Libis
Libis is a young man who was always depicted with a rudder, or figurehead, of a ship in his hands. So he is the one holding something aloft.
Above is Choir, an old and bearded man, with the disorderly hair.
Opposite is Cecias, Etc….
Why these particular points? Well, they aren’t in direct NSEW orientation – instead, they are off in the quadrants.
What is the orientation of this compass? If we take these representations of Gods as correct, we can then suggest that:
if we look directly between the top and left figures, there are pencil marks in a straight line leading out between the text to the single word above the top circle. Is this word indicating east? It’s not only in the right place – but east was often at the top in medieval maps, because that’s where the sun rose. (North being “at the top” seems to have developed mid 1500’s).
So it fits!
In the centre we have a fairly standard eight point compass rose (pointing to North, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW).
There are four words branching out from the centre equidistant between each figure – this would correspond to North, South, East & West, or similar words such as borealis, septentrionalis, or any of the dozens of ways of indicating the different points of the compass. Let us leave the interpretation of the words for now.
Now, look at the figures.
Two face away from us, and point to either side. So we do not travel in those directions. We follow the directions they are pointing in (anyway but theirs).
The stern looking person (North West) is pointing away, in one direction only. But that person is pointing is both directions, so we carry on to South West, Libis. This figure is not only holding something aloft – it is not pointing with a finger, but instead is beckoning. Are we to head in this direction? Or point our compass in this alignment?
Now, Rene Zandbergen points out that f57v is probably the counterpart of f66r (with the “dead body” marginalia). So let’s take these two pages together. But I don’t see how this helps. :p I mention it in case you have an idea.
Now, Nick Pelling points out that if we take the “paragraph” symbol on the circles to be two distinct glyphs, we have 4 blocks of 17 glyphs > 72. And 72 * 5 is 360º, or one complete circle in degrees.
Now, stars “shift” their position in the nightsky by about one degree every 72 years, and medieval Europe was aware of this fact. A star map made in 1400 would be seriously outdated by 1472.
Is this is an attempt to account for the shift for a more accurate map! Especially important if you’re about to fill out 12 pages of zodiac maps!
Is this page, the first in the astronomy / astrology section, simply an attempt to “update” previous astronomy maps, taking into account the shift of the stars?
So before you use the individual zodiac charts to predict the future, or whatever, you can account for the shift of the stars since your birthdate!
Allowing the astrologer to take a reading of the stars, and get a reading of the stars as they would have been up to a maximum of 72 years ago, which equates to one degree, the smallest easiest measurement available at the time.
Why would this be important?
Well, this page is at the beginning of the “zodiac” section. So the astrologer who wants to use the following astrology charts can adjust the traditional charts in accordance with the real movements of the stars and thus have a much “truer” interpretation of the stars.
Of course, the above is a slight esoteric theory. There is a simpler one, which is that this is a simple astrological medical chart, as was common in Islamic medicine. The doctor would check your zodiac sign against the current stars and, based on a round chart very similar to what we see here, prescribe the dosage or phlebotomy (bloodletting) necessary.
The exact interpretation of the page will have to wait for a translation of the text.
But I think that if we take this page to be a standard astrology chart,with a compass bearing in the centre, allowing the bearer to adjust the following zodiac pages, it’s a step towards understanding the meaning behind the text.