Liber Alchandrei philosophi

Object Details


Liber Alchandrei philosophi


Virgil Master (French, active about 1380 - 1420)




Paris, France (Place created)


about 1405


Tempera colors, gold paint, gold leaf, and ink on parchment in a 16th-century doeskin binding, restored and rebacked in 1946

Object Number:

Ms. 72


Leaf: 39 × 30.5 cm (15 3/8 × 12 in.)

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This manuscript begins with a text by the astronomer Alchandreus, a somewhat mysterious figure who was active sometime before the 900s. He wrote on such topics as the movement of the planets, the signs of the zodiac, and the art of predicting the future. Alchandreus consulted Arabic sources for his writings, and also cited Alexander the Great as an authority on various subjects. The second part of this manuscript contains Boethius's (480-525) texts on mathematics and music, of which few manuscript copies survive. All the texts appear in Latin, the scholastic language of the Middle Ages (the title in Latin is Liber Alchandrei philosophi).

Three miniatures painted by the Virgil Master appear in this manuscript, along with numerous charts and diagrams that illustrate points in the text. Although members of the European courts often commissioned scientific treatises, high-quality illuminated copies like this example are rare. Like other International style artists, the Virgil Master incorporated many elements of courtly life into his miniatures, such as elaborate costume and structures modeled after castle architecture. The artist worked at the court of Jean, duc de Berry, and this manuscript was most likely commissioned by one of the duke's high-ranking officials.

Related Works
Fit for a King: Courtly Manuscripts, 1380-1450 (June 29 to August 29, 2004) (fols. 1v - 2)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), June 29 to September 5, 2004
The Medieval Bookshelf: From Romance to Astronomy (January 24 to April 9, 2006) (fols. 1v -2)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 24 to April 9, 2006
French Manuscript Illumination in the Middle Ages (January 23 to April 15, 2007) (fol. 1v - 2)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), January 23 to April 15, 2007
Rare Finds: Ten Years of Collecting Manuscripts (February 12 to April 20, 2008) (fols. 1v -2)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), February 12 to April 20, 2008
Faces of Power and Piety: Portraiture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (August 12 to October 26, 2008) (fols. 68v - 69)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), August 12 to October 26, 2008
Give and Ye Shall Receive: Gift Giving in the Middle Ages (December 12, 2014 to March 15, 2015) (fols. 1v - 2)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center (Los Angeles), December 12, 2014 to March 15, 2015

Phillipps, Sir Thomas. Catalogus librorum manuscriptorum in Bibliotheca D. Thomæ Phillipps, Bart., A.D. 1837 (Middle Hill, Worcestershire: Impressus Typis Medio-Montanis, 1837-1871), p. 15, no. 1351.

Durrieu, Paul. "Les manuscrits à peintures de la bibliothèque de sir Thomas Phillipps à Cheltenham." Bibliothèque de l'école des chartes 50 (1889), pp. 394, 424, no. xxviii.

Sotheby's, London. Bibliotheca Phillippica: catalogue of a further portion of the renowned library formed by the late Sir Thomas Phillipps. July 1, 1946, p. 11, lot 11, pl. xvi, xvii.

Meiss, Millard. French Painting in the Time of Jean de Berry: The Late Fourteenth Century and the Patronage of the Duke. 2 vols. (New York: Phaidon Publishers Inc., 1967), vol. 1, p. 360.

Meiss, Millard. French Painting in the Time of Jean de Berry: The Limbourgs and Their Contemporaries. 2 vols. (London: George Braziller, Inc., 1974), vol. 1, p. 410.

Korteweg, Anne S. Praal, Ernst & Emotie: De wereld van het Franse middeleeuwse handschrift, exh. cat. (The Hague: Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum; Zwolle: Waanders Uitgevers, 2002), p. 205, no. 26, fig. 46.

Christie's, London. Important Medieval Manuscripts, Early Printed Books and Atlases from the Library of the late Count Oswald Seilern. March 26, 2003, pp. 28-34, lot 8, ill.

Kren, Thomas. French Illuminated Manuscripts in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2007), pp. xix, 53-55, ill.

Juste, David. Les Alchandreana primitifs: Étude sur les plus anciens traités astrologiques latins d'origine arabe (Xe siècle). Brill's Texts and Sources in Intellectual History 2 (Leiden: Brill, 2007), pp. 32, 251n166, 337-338, 393, 402, 408, 412, 425, no. 28, cover ill.

Inglis, Erik. Faces of Power & Piety (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum; London: The British Library, 2008), pp. 46-47, figs. 42-43.

Scott, Margaret. Fashion in the Middle Ages (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011), p. 106, fig. 80.

König, Eberhard. "La question des emprunts aux Belles Heures." In Les Belles Heures du duc de Berry, exh. cat. Hélène Grollemund and Pascal Torres, eds. (Paris: Musée du Louvre, with Somogy éditions d'art, 2012), pp. 409-410, 413n21, fig. 118.

Coleman, Joyce. "Memory and the Illuminated Pedagogy of the Propriétés des Choses." Nottingham Medieval Studies 56 (2012), p. 135.

Education Resources

Education Resource




Looking at Illuminated Manuscripts: A Book of Modern Astronomy

Students examine a medieval manuscript on astronomy and create their own books based on modern discoveries in astronomy.

Visual Arts; Science


Three/Five-Part Lesson