Candida Pagan

Primum Mobile

Candida Pagan

Primum Mobile



Edition Size







Artist Book


8 × 6 × 0.25 in

$ 1,600.00


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The University of the Witwatersrand, Wits Art Museum (WAM), Jack Ginsberg Centre for Book Arts

Primum Mobile contains screen-prints of line drawings, handwritten notes, and definitions. Sources of inspiration are Walters MS73, Byrhtferth’s Diagram, the Ptolemaic, Tychonic, and Copernican solar system models found in Astronomia Nova, by Johannas Kepler, constellations in Sidereus Nuncius, by Galileo Galilei, and imagery from 20th Century astronomy guidebooks. As in related artist’s book Nebula, imagery comes apart as pages of the book are turned and come back together as the viewer looks to the verso of each page. One element of an image is printed on each page. Each line drawing is accompanied by a related term, with notes and poetic definitions regarding the term. The text is interspersed throughout the drawing it accompanies. As one pages or flips through the book, illustrations are simultaneously deconstructed and reconstructed, text is visible but not always legible. The book serves as a reflection on how information evolves.

Screenprint on polyester film with double fan binding wrapped at spine. Variable edition of 8.

Etymologies, by Isidore of Seville (560-636CE), “contains a compendium of much of the essential learning of the ancient Greco-Roman and early Christian worlds”[1]. Book XIII of Etymologies addresses the “Circles of Heaven” and begins with, “Our dwelling place is divided into zones according to the circles of the sky…”[2]

The concept of a geocentric solar system held fast centuries until Copernicus published De Revolutionibus orbium coelestium in 1543, proposing the heliocentric model we believe in today[3]. What steps are necessary to change the way we understand the universe? Is it possible to backtrack? Certainly, missteps have been made in the process of defining a cosmology, the Earth is not the center of the universe, but the visual representations of misunderstanding are often providing entry into alternative modes of thinking.

Schematics of the paths of celestial bodies supplement informational texts from the beginning of cosmological study. How have these visual aids developed and worked to promote the spread of knowledge and the sharing of information? In both Nebula and Primum Mobile, the optical qualities of the material serve an important role in how the books are experienced. Looking through a single layer, a page seems clear, but accumulated pages become translucent and then nearly opaque. While reading the books, one looks into a strange mirror-like surface and is able to see that something exists but what is it is, is unclear. As the viewer pages through the book, under-layers become more visible, but beginning pages become obscured. New information replaces the old.

[1] Stephen A. Barney, “Introduction”, The etymologies of Isidore of Seville. (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 3.
[2] Barney, XIII, V. 7-ix, 273.
[3] Owen Gingerich, The Book Nobody Read: Chasing the Revolutions of Nicolaus Copernicus (New York: Walker & Company, 2004), 2.