Phaenomena of Aratus


The Phaenomena of Aratus is a co-publication of the Janus Press and Plowboy Press. This third-century work by the Greek poet Aratus describes the constellations and other natural phenomena. It details their uses in forecasting the changing seasons and weather for farmers and sailors.

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The Work

Aratus was born in Soli in present day Turkey in about 315 BCE. Educated in Athens, he eventually made his way to the Macedonian court where it is believed he wrote the Phaenomena. It describes in verse the constellations, their rotation in the night sky throughout the year, various other natural signs, and their uses as a calendar and weather forecasting tool for farmers and sailors. For Aratus these sky signs, from the constellation Ursa Major to the smallest mouse tossing straw with it’s paws, represent a gift from Zeus to guide human endeavor if only we would take notice.

The Phaenomena was enormously popular in it’s time and afterwards. It inspired many translations, some with a liberal dose of revisions and additions, as well as many commentaries starting in at least the second century BCE. This edition of the Phaenomena features a verse translation from the Greek by Stanley Lombardo and a new commentary for the modern reader by Mark Breen, senior meteorologist and director of the planetarium at the Fairbanks Museum and Planetarium in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.

The Edition

The book is housed in a maple and birchwood slipcase with a lasercut label on the spine. The cloth-bound chemise is lined with Durer’s 1515 celestial maps. The binding is long-stitch with pulp-painted covers by Katie MacGregor. There is a 24 page pamphlet of Stanley Lombardo’s original introduction and notes in a pocket inside the front cover. The book is printed letterpress on Barcham Green Boxley by Andrew Miller-Brown. The frontispiece is Durer’s northern celestial map. There are 28 illustrations of the constellations from Caspar Vopel’s 1534 woodcuts and eight full page original digital prints of weather by Claire Van Vliet based on her pulp paintings as well as other smaller images throughout the commentary of the last half of the book. The edition is 74 pages, 9.5in by 11.5in, limited to 120 numbered copies. 2022