Why were masters of the occult respected but witches burnt?

It has long been acknowledged that alchemy, however bizarre its premises, is the fore-runner of modern chemistry, compelling a figure as rational as Sir Isaac Newton. Other aspects of Renaissance thought are harder to assimilate. In his study of five crucial figures of the 15th and 16th centuries, Anthony Grafton aims to demonstrate that astrology, angelology and conjuration were, if not central to the era’s world view, at least hard to extricate from its more respectable concerns. His first subject, Faust, is little more than a sideshow, but significant in establishing the magus as a not entirely respectable figure, from which ignominy Grafton seeks to rescue him. The four who

Heavenly beauty: Doppelmayr’s Atlas Coelestis

It seems something of a disservice to a work of this seriousness to say how beautiful it is, but that is what will first strike the reader. Open this book and if you can prise yourself away from its wonderful marbled end papers, with their swirls and drifts of deepest blue, brilliant flashes of rusty orange, rivulets of ochre, inky spheres and floating masses of fiery red, you will find yourself taken back to the Enlightenment world of Johann Gabriel Doppelmayr’s Celestial Atlas and an age in which Europe’s polymaths were as interested in the discoveries of science as they were in the literary and artistic culture of the day.

The best podcasts to be enjoyed at 4 a.m.

Now that all of the billionaires are going into space, the night sky holds a special new kind of allure. We see a little twinkle in the distance and we can think to ourselves, there they are, out there, far away, away from us. It’s not clear whether Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk spent their childhoods looking up at the stars, fantasising fervently about joining them at some future date, or if they are now just bored. But perhaps their sense of identification and belonging in the vast night sky can be understood in another way. Humans have always told stories about the stars, and many of these myths could