Early Astronomy in the University of Michigan Collections

About This Site

This online exhibit displays material drawn from the University of Michigan collections dealing with the history of early astronomy. It includes manuscripts, printed books, and artifacts illustrating Mesopotamian, Greek, Islamic, and early Modern astronomy together with some material from other collections (the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris, the British Museum in London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York). This digital display is part of the Aratus Project.

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The Aratus Project, of which Francesca Schironi is the Principal Investigator (PI), is sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF). One aspect of this project is to translate all the Greek exegetical material connected with Aratus’ Phaenomena and make it available through an open-access website. The other is the curation of a physical exhibit on astronomy at the University of Michigan Library (January 7 – May 15, 2023), along with an online counterpart.

This website is designed for both outreach and teaching. In particular, Francesca Schironi is developing an undergraduate course in ancient astronomy from Mesopotamia to Islam which will actively use this website. In this course, the use of the website will be combined with visits to the Hatcher Library, the Papyrology Collection, and the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology.

The exhibit is a collaborative project. The part on ancient astronomy has been curated by John Steele (Mesopotamian material as well as Ptolemy’s planetary models) and by Francesca Schironi (Greek and Roman material); Evyn Kropf has curated the Islamic material and Pablo Alvarez has curated the material on early modern astronomy.

The glossary has been developed by Francesca Schironi with the help of Ichiro Ausin, an undergraduate student hired through the University of Michigan’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP), and, for the entries dealing with Islamic material, by Evyn Kropf.

Julia Falkovitch-Khain has built the website. We have benefitted from the artistic consulting of Genesis Gonzales, an undergraduate student who is also working for the Aratus Project. We are grateful to Robert McIntyre and Lauren Havens who provided guidance and facilitated image storage in the Special Collections Research Center Image Bank at the University of Michigan Library.

We would like to thank Brendan Haug, Curator of the Papyrology Collection, and Monica Tsuneishi, Papyrology Collection Manager, for help with the papyrological collection, and Randal Stegmeyer for taking the photographs of papyri and early printed editions displayed here.

Alexander Jones, Leon Levy Director and Professor of the History of the Exact Sciences in Antiquity at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, NYU, has been key for discussing some papyri and helping with some images. Enrico Landi, Professor in the Climate and Space Sciences and Engineering (CLASP) Department, University of Michigan, also offered his expertise in modern astronomy to improve this website. Matteo Milesi, a PhD student in the Classical Studies, has revised the entire website.

Finally, we would like to thank Prof. Dr. Andrea Jördens and the Heidelberg University Institute for Papyrology for allowing us to display the image of PHeid.Inv. G 4144; and Melinda Wallington and the University of Rochester for providing the images of their copy of the second edition of the De Revolutionibus.

The image viewer on a number of website pages was built using Storiiies, a free online storytelling platform developed by Cogapp.