England, ca. 1590?


Small Quarto (14.7 x 20.2 cm.). Manuscript Latin treatise on Astrological Medicine, fifty-five unnumbered pages, with three horoscopes, and several pages of argumentative diagrams and tables incorporated with the text, written in a fair hand, with no crossings-out, interlinear or marginal additions. Bound in contemporary vellum (England, late C16th), ruled in gilt, with gilt italianate central medallion, decorative gilt corner-pieces incorporating flaming torches, and four gilt-stamped acorns on each cover, remains of ties, slightly creased and soiled. All edges gilt.

To our knowledge the most complete example of a rare treatise on astrological medicine, written in a clear secretarial hand and in an English Renaissance collector’s binding. The title is that of an ancient text by pseudo-Hermes Trismegistus, but this is a different work. The Hermes text, originally Greek, was published in two separate sixteenth-century Latin translations, each printed several times: the present book is not a copy of either, and, although it may borrow content, it is not a new translation.

Iatromathematics is defined in the introduction as “the means of revealing the properties, future instances and particular causes of sickness through contemplation of the stars and sky”. The author gives a warning from Lucretius concerning making calculations on bad scientific principles. He then explains “What to look for in the heavens the illness might be” (the text here followed by tables, referring both to body-parts and afflictions, and signs of the zodiac), “What part of the body might be infirm”, “whether or not the affliction will last”, “Whether or not [the person] will recover”, “Changes in illness, when or why they may happen, and whether they indicate good or bad things”. A study, with three horoscopes, is given of a man who was confined to his bed at 2 p.m. on June 5 1557 and died at 11 p.m. on June 14. Answers to the questions listed above are given for his case.

We were provided with information at the book’s purchase, that it came from the library of Lord Delamere of Vale Royal Abbey, Cheshire. The Cholmondeley family, who had this title, inhabited 11 Vale Royal from 1615 to 1948, and lived elsewhere in Cheshire before this, but the book was possibly made for a member of a different family on account of the gilt acorns to the covers: these could well be heraldic insignia, and acorns do not appear on recorded Cholmondeley armorials. Sixteenth- to seventeenth-century English manuscript culture is increasingly recognised for its liveliness, and the present volume illustrates this. We have found one other variant example of this text, without the introduction or the horoscopes, amongst the Sloane MSS. of the British Library (Sloane MS 1770 fols. 120–130), which are recognised for their importance in medical history. This other example is written in a less clearly legible working hand, from the same period as our manuscript.

This work not in Lynn Thorndike, Pearl Kibre, Catalogue of incipits of Medieval Scientific Writings in Latin (Revised edition, Cambridge, Mass., 1963), nor Neil Ker, A.J. Piper, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries (Oxford 1969–92). Not in Julian Roberts, Andrew G. Watson, John Dee’s Library Catalogue (London 1990). On editions of Hermes Trismegistus see Paolo Lucentini, V. Perrone Compagni, I testi e I codici de Ermete nel Medioevo (Florence 2001). On English manuscripts see the introduction to H. R. Woudhuysen, Sir Philip Sidney and the circulation of manuscripts 1558–1640 (Oxford 1996). On Sloane medical manuscripts see M. A. E. Nickson, ‘Books and Manuscripts’, in Arthur MacGregor, ed., Sir Hans Sloane, Collector, Scientist, Antiquary (London 1994), 263–278, see 269. We are very grateful to Dr Sophie Page of UCL for invaluable advice and bibliography.


HYGINUS. Fabularum liber eiusdem poeticon astronomicon, libri quatuor. Quibus accesserunt similis argumenti. Palaephati de fabulosis narrationibus, liber I. F. Fulgentii placiadis episcopi Carthaginensis mythologiarum, libri III. Eiusdem de vocum antiquarum interpretatione, liber I. Arati phainomenon fragmentum, Germanico caesare interprete. Procli de sphaera libellus, Graece & Latine. Index rerum de fabulosis narrationibus liber I de sphaera de vocum antiquarum interpretatione expositio sermonum antiquorum mythologiarum libri III phaenomena phainomenon fragmentum poetica astronomica poeticarum fabularum explicationes poeticon astronomicon sphaera.

Basel, Apud Joannem Hervagium, 1535.


FIRST EDITION. Folio, pp. [xxiv], 246, [ii], α-γ6 b-d6 e8 f-k6 l4 m-p6 q4 r-x6. Roman letter, a little Italic, the sporadic Greek type. Printer’s device on t-p and verso of final blank leaf. 48 astrological woodcut illustrations and numerous decorated initials. Title page with early autograph (“Presbiteri Georgii…”), partially erased. Printed on thick paper, nice wide margins, some very light browning or spotting. Wrapped with transparent plastic film, bound in C19th quarter orange paper, with boards covered in marbled paper, ms. title to worn spine, upper part of fore-edge with negligible signs of gnawing. Fragile joints, however very clean and complete. A very good copy.

This is the first edition of this famous collection of late antique works on astronomy and mythography. A rare edition, the first to come from Herwagen’s Basel press, which includes a number of the important collections of ancient myths and fables concerning the constellations. Born in Spain, (or Alexandria?), Gaius Julius Hyginus was prefect of the Palatine Library. This Latin author is famous for this collections of some 300 fables, in addition to his ‘poetical astronomy’, which depicts 47 constellations found in Ptolemy’s Almagest alongside tales from their mythological origins. He compiled this present extensive manual around 25 B.C. The Phaenomena of Aratos (fl. 275 A.D.) are of particular importance for their influence on Roman and Renaissance culture. Similarly, Fulgentius’s Mythologicon, a C6th work, had a great influence especially on the iconography of Renaissance art. At the end of the book is Proclus’s (410-85 A.D.) work on the sphere. The woodcut illustrations, in the manner of Weiditz, represent the Planets and the Zodiac.

BM, German Books S. 427. Zinner 1592.








GAURICO, Luca. Prognosticon cuius initium erit vertente…1556-1587.

n.pl. n.d. [1555?]


FIRST EDITION (?), 4to, 10 unnumbered leaves, A-B4C2. Large Italic letter, title within woodcut architectural border with putti and grotesques. Two full-page astrological diagrams (one with an epitaph for Muhammed), final leaf slightly browned (verso blank), extreme inner margin strengthened. A good copy in thick patterned wrappers. Bottom to half spine split along crease.

Born in Giffoni (now Giffoni Valle Piana, near Salerno), Luca Gaurico (1476–1558) was Bishop of Civita Ducale (today Cittàducale, near Rieti), besides being an eminent astronomer and mathematician – the teacher of Scaliger – and the much-admired astrologer to Paul IV, with fulsome dedications to whom the present works begins. It comprises the author’s predictions for the years 1556 to 1587, on war and peace generally and then in particular on the lives of Charles V and his son Philip, Ferdinand, Cosimo de Medici, Henry of France, the Venetian Republic, Ippolito and Ercole and Afonso d’Este – amongst others. with the author’s interest here in the ruling family of Ferrara, one can suppose the book was published in their lands, in and around the city. Of his many works, printed copies of Gaurico’s predictions are by far the rarest. We have found only two copies: one in the Bibliotheque Nationale and the other in the Basel UB Hauptbibliothek, NUC adds none.

Not in BMC/STC It., Adams, Caillet or Houzeau & Lancaster. No copies in ICCU EDIT16, OCLC WorldCat or RLG.


DE INDAGINE, Johannes. Introductiones apotelesmaticae elegantes, in chyromantiam, physiognomiam, astrologiam naturalem, complexiones hominum, naturas planetarum, cum periaxiomatibus de faciebus signorum, et canonibus de aegritudinibus, nusquam ferè simili tractata compendio.

Frakfurt am Main, Cyriacus Jacob, 1551.


8vo, ff. 143, A-R8 S6. Italic letter, a little Roman. Large woodcut vignette with portrait of the author on t-p, historiated initials and numerous half- and full-page illustrations. Printer’s device on recto of last leaf, ms. mathematical calculations on verso. Copiously annotated and underlined by an early hand, mostly in the chiromancy section. First three initial leaves particularly worn and soiled, especially the t-p: corners and margins damaged with paper loss, central area with wormholes affecting the vignette, loss of text and marginalia. Occasional dampstaining and spotting. In contemporary limp wallet vellum, rather worn, lower corner of front cover torn apart, hole on rear cover, visible ties, ink title to spine, little wormed. A complete, interesting copy, beautifully illustrated, despite the poor condition of the t-p.

Rare illustrated Renaissance work on astrology, physiognomy and chiromancy. Chiromancy is the art of reading character and divination of the future by interpretation of the lines and undulations on the palm of the hand. Mediaeval chiromancy was pressed into service by the witch-hunters; after a period of disrepute, it flourished again in the Renaissance. Johannes Indagine (ca. 1467-1537, also known as Johannes Rosenbach, or von Hagen), a Carthusian monk, was perhaps the most highly regarded German chiromancer of the sixteenth century and “an extremely learned man in many fields” (Gettings, An Illustrated History of Palmistry, p. 177). This work was banned by the Inquisition, having been placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum under the decree of Pope Paul IV in 1559 (cf. Thorndike). “Possevin holds that this was on account of the author’s astrology, but the other astrologers are all in Class 2. Indagine was placed in Class 1 for his letter to O. Brunfels, published at the end of the volume (which had undoubtedly come to attention in Rome): for this, the author was considered a Lutheran” (Reusch). Illustrated throughout with woodcuts by several artists, showing physiognomic heads and mythological designs representing the signs of the Zodiac, as well as chiromantic hands and numerous astrological diagrams. The work had a great effect on the study of chiromancy and is quoted down to our own day.