16th century books

The Theban Alphabet

  • The Origin is unknown, But appeares in the 16th century in The Three Books of Occult Philosophy by Cornelius Agrippa
  • Also called “The Witches Alphabet
  • Agrippa states that an 13thcentury Italian magician attributes the alphabet to Honorius (  Western Roman Emperor )
  • Used today by Pagans, Witches, And Wiccans to write spells and other texts (Like Talismans)
  • It is used to disguise the meaning of a text.
  • Montparnasse: If I could write you poetry I would. But I can't. So here, have this 16th century leather bound handwritten book by a bunch of dead poets instead
  • Jehan: This is so romantic and beautiful. I'm going to show it off to everybody!
  • Montparnasse: Yeah don't do that I stole it from a museum and for some reason they're pretty pissed about it.

Written in the 16th century by Peter Apian (1495-1552), Cosmographia provided instruction in astronomy, geography, cartography, navigation, and instrument-making and was based on the writings of Ptolemy. 

The most surprising feature of the book, given the time as which it was created, is the use of three-dimension, interactive additions to the text that are offered for the reader to use as reference, referred to as volvelle, or the Apian wheel. Star charts like these consist of multiple layers of cut and shaped paper fastened together with string, that can be rotated to find information about stars at different times.  

There is also an exquisitely drawn fold-out map of the various winds, depicted as Gods.

It’s no surprise that this book remained in use for hundreds of years, and continues to be used even today. At Special Collections, you can find the 1553 edition.

-Written by Katharine Pigliacelli, graduate student employee

Apian, Peter. Cosmographia. Antverpiae: Ex officina Arnoldi Coninx, 1584.