[Currents headergraphic]

July 5, 1999

Exhibit celebrates discovery of rare manuscript

by Alan Ritch

An exhibit currently on display at McHenry Library, and a July 22 reception, celebrate the rediscovery and global distribution of one of the University Library's most important treasures. The treasure was discovered in December 1998, when Anthony Misch, a Lick Observatory astronomer, was searching in the University Library's Lick Archives for documents on solar eclipse expeditions. He noticed a manuscript leaf between two dusty pieces of glass, held in a simple wooden frame. Fortunately, Tony can read German and recognize and decipher old script. His eyes were caught by the date "Anno 1586" and the phrase "von Keplers Hand."

[Photo of poster for Kepler exhibit]
An exhibit at McHenry Library explains the context of the Kepler manuscript

Misch's uncle, the eminent antiquarian, Bernard Rosenthal, made it possible for McHenry Library staff to send a copy of the manuscript to Klaus Mecklenburg, of the Berlin firm of J. A Stargardt, for swift authentication.

His report confirmed that Misch had indeed found a horoscope by Johannes Kepler, one of the fathers of modern astronomy. The discovery was covered by television, radio, newspapers, and journals, in a dozen languages, including Portuguese, Polish, Hungarian, and Japanese. The manuscript's importance was magnified by its dissemination on the internet. Raul Saavedra, a computer scientist at Tulane University analyzed the text and "published" his findings, on the Web of course. Carolyn Reynolds, professional astrologer, interpreted the horoscope of Kepler's subject, an Austrian nobleman named Hans Hannibal Hütter von Hüttershoffen, and speculated on his fate.

Several "contexts" are revealed and explored: "The Meaning of the Manuscript," in the two upright cases, displays large copies of the horoscope, describes its importance, traces its provenance, and interprets its contents. Two cases of items from the Shane Archive show, respectively, the context of the discovery in a drawer of framed pictures and the labor-intensive creation of descriptive records necessary to organize an archive and make its contents visible. "The Manuscript in the Media" displays more than 50 articles about the discovery. A Web station is bookmarked to show many related sites, including Raul Saavedra's interpretation and the Online Archive of California, to which the Shane Archive database will soon be added.

The remaining four cases display other facets of the story: "Astrology as Protoscience" looks at the pivotal period when great astronomers like Kepler were casting horoscopes; "Astrology in Academia" uses a sampler from the University Library to reflect on a wide variety of scholarly approaches to the topic; "The Art of Astrology" shows the stars and planets in the visual imagery of the Renaissance; and "Astrology in Renaissance Literature" shows "starry" literary references, including sonnets and plays by Kepler's English contemporary, Shakespeare.

The exhibit runs through the month of August in McHenry Library. There will be a reception in the exhibit area, sponsored by the Friends of the UCSC Library, on Thursday, July 22, at 4 p.m. The reception is free and open to the public. Librarian Alan Ritch and Anthony Misch will both speak. The exhibit is open for viewing during regular library hours. For more information, call (831) 459-4000.

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