My book Scientific Cosmology and International Orders starts in the 16th century, when European cosmology was dominated by medieval Aristotelian concepts. This image is a late-13th century depiction of four elements: earth, air, water, and fire. The ontological precept here was all things could be decomposed into various compositions of these "properties." 


The image is drawn from a text, The Properties of Things that was published continuously in Europe from the 13th to the 15th century. 

Bartholomaeus Anglicus. Le Proprietaire des Choses (The Properties of Things). Lyons: Johannes Siber, 1486. Rosenwald Collection, Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress. Available at:

AuthorBentley Allan