Ptolemy Ptolémée


2nd Century A.D. - IIe siècle après J.C.

Iconography of Ptolemy's Portrait
Iconographie du portrait de Ptolémée

1477 Caxton

Literary Portrait

The references to Ptolemy by late medieval English writers like Caxton also are interesting.

For example, William Caxton's encyclopedia, The dictes or sayengis of the philosophres (1477), stated:

"Tholome was a ryght wyseman and wele vnderstanden & in xpecyall in iiij scyencis that is to wytte geometrye/musike aritmetrik & astrologie/and he made many good bokis amonge the whiche one is called Almageste the whiche is of astrologye."**

This was the sole reference to the Almagest, the rest of the section being devoted to cliches of ethical advice that "Ptolemy" supposedly said. If one asks why Ptolemy the astronomer was giving philosophical advice, the answer is that he was confused with King Ptolemy of the Egyptian Legiae Dynasty.

In Caxton's printing of the Mirror of the World, Ptolemy was described as a:

"kynge moche subtil in Astronomye . . . a kynge of Egipte . . . [who] composed and made plente of right fair volumes and bookes, and many dyuerse in instrumentes by whiche was founde appertly all the gretnes of therthe, and the heyghte of the firmament, and how the sterres make their cours both by nyght & by daye." ***



Anna Marie Roos, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, History Department, University of Minnesota Duluth.


** Caxton, William, The Dictes and Sayings of the Philosophers: A Facsimile Reproduction of the First Book Printed in England by William Caxton in 1477, London, Elliot Stock, New York, J.W. Boulton, 1877, 102-3.
*** Caxton, William, ed. Oliver H. Prior, Caxton's Mirrour of the World, London, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trbner & Co., Ltd. (Early English Text Society, Extra Series, cx), 1913, 150.
mise à jour le 7 janvier 2001

Ptolemy Ptolémée


web Robert DEROME