67 ASTROLOGICAL CHARTS
Libelli duo. Vnus, de supplemento Almanach. Alter, de Restitutione temporum & motuum coeslestium. Item Geniturae LXVII, insignes casibus & fortuna, cum expositione.
Nuremberg, apud Io. Petreium, 1543.
FIRST EDITION. 4to. ff  A-Z4, aa-cc4, 2d6. (lacking final blank). Roman letter, some Greek. Fine woodcut portrait of the author within roundel on title, white on black historiated initials in various sizes, woodcut tables, small woodcut diagrams and 67 astrological charts, occasional early underlings and marginal notes. Minor restorations to upper and lower margins of title, just touching a few letters, and lower margin of first few ll, worm trail expertly restored in lower blank margin, blank lower outer corner of last leaf restored, title page slightly dusty, the odd thumb mark. A good copy in slightly later vellum over boards.
Rare first edition of Cardano’s work on the fundamentals of astronomy for astrologers and the determination of the correct length of the solar, tropical, and sidereal years, followed by an extraordinary section of 67 horoscopes, chiefly of famous people. ‘Sometime around 1540, the Nuremberg publisher Johann Petreius approached Giralamo Cardano to prepare a new edition of two astrological treatises by the Italian polymath. The first of these tracts ‘De supplemento almanach’, called for greater sophistication in the use of planetary ephemerides by teaching practitioners to inspect the heavens for themselves. Its complement entitled ‘De temporum et motum erraticarum restitione’, focused on the observational correction of planetary parameters. Cardano was out of his depth in accomplishing this last goal, but the new German editions of these works brought him great fame anyway. This success derived in no small part from his decision to append a series of remarkable genitures to his booklet.
By 1543, a sizeable collection of 67 birth charts had begun to dwarf the original content of the ‘libelli duo’. Cardano’s German horoscope collection benefited strongly from two local developments: on the one hand, a preoccupation with the collecting of celebrity genitures in the volatile diplomatic context of the Holy Roman Empire; on the other, Philip Melanchthon’s promotion of astrology as a key component of Lutherian higher education.’ ‘Horoscopes and public spheres’: essays on the history of astrology edited by Günther Oestmann. The work is dedicated to Cardano’s Milanese friend and Patron, Filippo Archinto. The nativities or horoscopes are very curious. Among them are the horoscopes, each with a lengthy exposition, of Petrarch, Luther, Cicero, Erasmus, Dürer, Vesalius, Charles V, Francois I, Fazio Cardano, Archinto and his other patrons, and even his own. He also, interestingly, includes horoscopes of the towns of Venice, Bologna and Florence from the date of their establishment.
‘Cardano wrote more than 200 works on medicine, mathematics, physics, philosophy, religion, and music. His was the universal mentality to which no branch of learning was inaccessible. Even his earliest works show the characteristics of his highly unstable personality: encyclopedic learning, powerful intellect combined with childlike credulity, unconquerable fears and delusions of grandeur. In 1570 Cardano was imprisoned by the Inquisition. He was accused of heresy, particularly for having cast the horoscope of Christ and having attributed the events of his life to the influence of the stars. After a few months in prison, having been forced to recant and to abandon teaching, Cardano went to Rome, where he succeeded in obtaining the favor of Pope Pius V, who gave him a lifetime annuity’ (DSB).
Cardano admitted he was no saint, describing himself in his autobiography as ‘hot tempered, single minded, given to women, cunning, crafty, sarcastic, diligent, impertinent, sad, treacherous, magician, sorcerer, miserable, hateful, lascivious, obscene, lying, obsequious, and fond of the prattle of old men.’ He predicted the exact date of his death, and to be certain that he was correct, on the day in question, he abstained from nourishment to help matters along in a kind of gentle suicide.
A good copy of a rare and fascinating work.
BM STC Ger. C16th p.181. IA. 132.048. Caillet 2013 “édition rarissime”. Durling 857. Houzeau & Lancaster 4826 “les horoscopes et biographies forment la partie la plus curieuse de l’ouvrage”. Cantamessa I 828 “Il Libelli duo e opera importante, che dimonstrata la profonda conoscenza dell’astrologia da parte di Cardano”. Riccardi I 1 250 “raro”.