Saint Bede the Venerable, Saint Isidore of Sevilla, Saint Abbo of Fleury. Cosmography, Walters MS W73. 1100s.
Created in 12th century England, this manuscript was intended to be a scientific textbook for monks, designed as a compendium of cosmographical knowledge. The complex diagrams that accompany the texts help to illustrate this knowledge, and include visualizations of the heavens and earth, seasons, winds, tides, and the zodiac, as well as demonstrations of how these things relate to man. Most of the diagrams are rotae, or wheel-shaped schemata, favored throughout the Middle Ages for the presentation of scientific and cosmological ideas. Moreover, the circle, considered the most perfect shape and a symbol of God, was seen as conveying the cyclical nature of time and the Creation as well as the logic, order, and harmony of the created universe.
(Ezekiel 1:1-30) ‘Also out of the midst thereof came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance; they had the likeness of a man. […] As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle. Thus were their faces: and their wings were stretched upward; two wings of every one were joined one to another, and two covered their bodies.’
Nicolaus de Lyra super Bibliam, Italy ca. 1402.
Manchester, John Rylands University Library, Latin MS 30, fol. 123v