CONTROVERSIAL TREATISE ON ORIENTAL ASTROLOGY

Curiositez inouyes, sur la sculpture talismanique des persans. Horoscope des patriarches. Et lecture des estoilles.

(Paris), n.p., 1637.

£2,950

8vo. pp. (xvi), 315, (i) and two folding plates. a8, A-T8 V6. Roman letter, some Italic and Hebrew. Woodcut initials, typographical headpieces, grotesque woodcut tail-pieces, small woodcut diagrams and tables in text, two large folding woodcut star charts inserted at end, autograph of “Carl Aurivillius, Upsala, 1762”, his shelf mark above. Light age yellowing, marginal wine stain to lower outer corner of quires D and E, small tear restored in S2. A very good, well margined copy, lower margins untrimmed in contemporary limp vellum, old stain to edge of lower cover.

A rare clandestine edition of an important and influential work on Oriental Talismans, Hebrew, Egyptian and Arabic Astrology, the Kabbalah and star reading, including two beautiful folding celestial charts depicting the constellations. One of the theories argues that the stars are arranged in the form of Hebrew letters, which can be read by those with the right knowledge. Gaffarel was a follower of Pico de Mirandola and one of the chief exponents of Christian Kabbalism, and as such came into conflict with Sorbonne and particularly with Mersenne, who unambiguously rejected his work as impious and published ‘De Gaffarello Judicio’ attacking him, though he recognized Gaffarel’s profound knowledge of Kabbalah.

“Jaques Gaffarel was born in Provence in 1601, educated at the Universities of Valence and Paris where he received the degree of Doctor of canon law, became a priest and chaplain of Richelieu, and had a wide knowledge of Oriental languages: Hebrew, Arabic, Syrian and Persian. (This) is Gaffarel’s main work, the first appearance was in Paris 1629 and then it was repeatedly reprinted into the early 18th century and translated into Latin and English. It is divided into three parts, of which the first defends orientals, especially Hebrews, from Christian charges, and the third deals with ancient Hebrew and oriental astrology. The second part, on the talismanic sculpture of the Persians, especially interests us for its close connection with natural magic. He further contends that the astrology of the ancients was neither idolatry nor the cause of idolatry, and accuses Scaliger and others of having misrepresented the astrology of the ancient Hebrews, Egyptians and Arabs. On August 1, 1629, the faculty of theology at Paris condemned Gaffarel’s book as “entirely to be disapproved”, and called its doctrine false, erroneous, scandalous, opposed to Holy Writ, contumelious towards the Church Fathers, and superstitious.” Thorndike.

Gaffarel duly signed a retraction, but couched it in vague and general terms, stating that he was merely recording the opinions collected from the writings of the Arabs and Hebrews. The book enjoyed great success, Descartes read it with interest and Pierre Gassendi defended it. Richelieu made Gaffarel his librarian and he travelled extensively, first to Italy, where he met Campanella, then to Greece and Asia in search of rare books.

A most appropriate provenance: Carl Aurivillius was professor of oriental languages at Uppsala, Swedish linguist, translator and orientalist (1717-1786). He wrote several dissertations of profound scholarship on subjects connected with biblical and oriental literature, of which thirty were published by J. D. Michaelis. Aurivillius studied at Uppsala, then at Paris, Leiden and Halle, where he became friends with great contemporary Orientalists, such as Michaelis, Fourmont and Albert Schulten. He was part of Gustav III’s Biblical Commission, and helped translate almost the entire Old Testament into Swedish. A very good copy of this work, with the two folding plates in excellent condition.

BM STC Fr. C17 p. 214, no. 59. Cantamessa, vol, I, 1671, Thorndike, History of Magic & Experimental Science vol. VII, pp. 304-6. Caillet 4293 (first edition). Houzeau & Lancaster vol. I, 5127. Duveen p. 235 (1650 edition only).

L1321

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