Penn Libraries calendar features rare artwork

Penn's Rare Book & Manuscript Library is filled with materials from the medieval and Renaissance eras that most people don’t get to see unless they’re doing research. But now, some of those items are being featured in a unique 2013 wall calendar.

The Penn Libraries’ “Astrology and Labors” calendar showcases rare illustrations from astronomical treatises from the 1400s, culled from the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection of Manuscripts.

Schoenberg (C’53, WG’56) and his wife, Barbara, longtime Penn Libraries benefactors and board members, donated 287 rare manuscripts to Penn in 2011.

“If you’re interested in pursuing things like natural history, astrology or astronomy, or navigation, mathematics...Larry, astutely over the years, built up a very focused collection to illustrate how the medieval mind was thinking and representing that knowledge,” says David McKnight, director of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

One of the manuscripts, “Medical and astronomical miscellany” (Library call number LJS 449), is a compilation of Latin and German text about astronomy and astrology, including resources for determining favorable and unfavorable days.

In the 13-month calendar, covering January 2013 to January 2014, compelling images of the symbols of the zodiac are paired with images depicting a traditional labor corresponding to the season, just as it would have been in a medieval calendar. For the month of December 2013, for example, the calendar shows an image depicting the slaughtering of an ox.

“In a medieval calendar, you’d have typical labors, but [the labors] might vary by region,” says Andrea Gottschalk, the calendar designer and the exhibition designer and coordinator of the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

Most of the manuscripts in the Schoenberg collection cover the scientific and philosophical traditions of the ancient and medieval world. Gottschalk and McKnight worked to select the most beautiful images, aiming to appeal to those who may take astrology seriously or dabble in it just for fun.

 The calendar is available for purchase ($14.99) at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library reading room from Monday to Friday, noon to 4:45 p.m. Calendars can also be purchased online at

Library Astrology