Himmelsglobus – BSB Cod.icon. 186

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek


In 1571, the Münchner Hofbibliothek (Munich Court Library), the predecessor of today’s Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library), moved from the “Alter Hof” (Old Court) into the upper floor of the Antiquarium in the Residenz (Residence). Duke Albrecht V (1528 – 1579) commissioned a terrestrial and a celestial globe for the decoration of the premises of the library and for the enhancement of its representative character. This pair of globes belongs both scientifically and artistically to the masterworks of their time.

A celestial globe is the depiction of the starry sky that surrounds the earth in the guise of an apparent sphere and in which the positions of stars and planets are indicated by projection of the terrestrial coordinate system. While the spectator on the earth is located inside the putative sphere, the spectator of the globe looks at the starry sky from the outside, where stars and constellations are depicted in mirror image.

The list of stars of the celestial globe is the work of the Jesuit Heinrich Arboreus (d. 1602), who calculated the position of the stars in accordance with the tables of Copernicus for the year 1575. Hans Donauer (d. 1596) executed the painting on both globes, while the two stands were made by the sculptor Hans Aernhofer (d. 1621) and clock maker Ulrich Schniep provided the mechanical works. The celestial globe was completed in 1575, the terrestrial one a year later.

Equator, tropic and polar circle as well as the ecliptic are painted on the globe. Brass nails mark the most important stars, the names of which are inserted in golden letters. 48 constellations are presented. The globe itself has no inscription. A small cartouche south of the sign of Cetus (Whale) shows the ducal coat of arms. Two further empty cartouches were probably intended for didactic poems by Heinrich Arboreus, which include instructions of how to use the globe and which are preserved in a manuscript copy (Clm 543).

In 1943, the globes were taken to Weihenlinden (district of Rosenheim). When they returned the stands were destroyed and incomplete. It was only in 2006 that the legs of the celestial globe, which had been considered lost, were rediscovered in Weihenlinden: at which point it became clear that during restoration the stands had been exchanged. The legs found in Weihenlinden, which support today the celestial globe, once belonged to the terrestrial globe.


Claudia Fabian (Hg.), Kulturkosmos der Renaissance. Die Gründung der Bayerischen Staatsbibliothek (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek. Ausstellungskataloge 79), Wiesbaden 2008, Kat. 14.

Marianne Reuter, Beschreibung der Handschrift Cod.icon. 186, in: BSB-CodIcon Online (Wed Feb 06 19:16:48 CET 2013).