MOLITOR, Ulricus


De laniis et phitonicis mulieribus.

Constance, [Basel, Michael Furter] 1489 [ie. about 1495].


4to. 30 unnumbered leaves. a–c⁸, d⁶. Gothic letter. Capital spaces, seven fine full page woodcut illustrations within double ruled border, manuscript medical? recipe in early C16th hand on blank verso of last, another note in the same hand on recto of c8, ‘Millot de Sombernon’ in near contemporary hand at head of blank verso of last, ‘vendu 21 r mac-carthy’at head of front fly, C19th printed shelf label on pastedown, Guy Bechtel’s bookplate below with his motto ‘in carcere meo liber.’ Very light age yellowing, the very rare minor spot or mark. A fine well margined copy, crisp and clean in lovely C18th French green morocco, in the style of Derome, covers bordered with a triple gilt rule, fleurons gilt to corners, flat spine with repeated gilt fleurons within double gilt border, red morocco label gilt, edges and inner dentelles gilt, all edges gilt, joints very expertly (invisibly) restored.

A beautiful copy of this exceptionally rare and important text, the first and most important illustrated work on witches and a work that has defined the image of witches to this day. The ‘De Lamiis,’ was first published in 1489 with the same series of iconic woodcuts. It is one of the earliest printed works on witchcraft, and contains the first ever illustrations of witches. This, probably the first Basel edition, is beautifully printed in a fine gothic letter in thirty-two lines and very finely illustrated with seven stunning woodcuts depicting witches and their activities. The first depicts two witches around a large pot, one throwing in a cockerel the other preparing to throw in a snake, the resulting brew creating a storm. The other blocks represent a lycanthropic scene of a wizard mounted on a wolf, the devil disguised as a bourgeois man corrupting a woman, the ensorcellment of a man by a witch firing a spell, witches transformed into animals flying on brooms, and a group of three witches around a table.

The book is written in the form of a dialogue between the author and the dedicatee, the Archduke Sigismund of Austria, who doubts the existence of witches. At a time when complete theories about witchcraft were yet to be established, the author defended belief in the powers of the Devil and his ability to trick the human mind. The woodcut depicting three witches together, eating and drinking beneath a tree, is typical of the format of the work. The title on the previous page to this woodcut reads “An super lupum vel baculum unctum ad convivia veniant et mutuo comedant et bibant et sibi mutuo loquantur ac se invicem agnoscant.” “Can [witches] come to feasts on a wolf or an anointed stick, eat drink, speak together and recognize one another?” The women are not doing anything other than eating but the image has become deeply anchored in the popular imagination, as it was used and referred to again and again in imagery and literature throughout the centuries, not least in Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth.’

“The first tract on witches to be illustrated, 1489 – 94, was written by the lawyer Ulrich Molitor from Constance in 1484. He actually argues against the persecution of witches because he was sceptical of the value of confessions under torture. He did, however, believe that they were heretics and should be punished with death. In the illustrations, the witches are not characterised by any special dress or undress, implying that all women were capable of being witches. They look like ordinary housewives except in the ‘Flight to the witches’ Sabbath, when they are changed into animal shapes. Although the text speaks of the witches’ evil activities being a figment of their imagination, delusions inspired by the devil, the illustrations portray the effects of their malignant and harmful magical spells as real enough, e.g. a witch shooting at a man who tries to jump away, or witches making a brew, using a rooster and a serpent as ingredients, whilst hailstones come crashing down from the sky. Molitor certainly believed in the reality of their sexual intercourse with the devil.” ‘Picturing women in late Medieval and Renaissance art’ by Christa Grössinger.

“With the appearance of Ulrich Molitor’s ‘On Witches’ in 1488 – 89, the arguments of the Malleus were repeated in the literary format of a conversation among Molitor, Duke Sigismund of the Tyrol, and Sigismund’s minister Conrad Schatz, with a suite of seven remarkable woodcuts that for the first time offered related pictorial images of witches’ activities without any identifying physical or costume features attributed to witches – that is, some of the illustrations seem to depict ordinary women doing ordinary things.” Witchcraft in Europe, 400 – 1700. Alan Charles Kors, Edward Peters.

Several of the incunable editions of this book, including the first, have the date 10 January 1489 on the colophon. ISTC and GW date this edition to around 1495, though it is clearly earlier than Fairfax Murray (German, volume II, no. 289) also ascribed to Basel, Amerbach or Furter, which contains identical but broken versions of the same woodcuts, which Fairfax Murray dates to 1490.

Brunet cites this copy from the library of Reagh Mac-Carthy, the great Irish bibliophile (who found refuge in France, near Toulouse) in his sale of 1815 (I no. 1678). Justin ‘Reagh’ Mac-Carthy himself bought some of the major collections of the C18th, such as the library of Giradot de Prefond, and founded one of the richest personal libraries ever assembled, which included over eight hundred volumes of works printed on vellum. He also seems to have profited from the naïvety of the Librarian of Albi, Jean-François Massol, who was proud to have ‘swapped’ several precious medieval manuscripts with him for more ‘useful’ works such as Buffons’ 8vo. ‘Histoire Naturelle.’ The sale of his books at Paris in 1815 was one of the greatest of that century.

This copy then passed to the library of the Marquis of Germigny (sold 1939, no 13). In Mac-Carthy’s sale the work is recorded as being bound with the ‘Tractatus Utilissimus artis memorative’ by Matheoli Perusini (1498). This work was probably removed at some stage when the binding was restored. (As this work was only seven leaves, its removal did not affect the spine.) Its last owner was the great Scholar, author and bibliographer Guy Bechtel, author of the ‘Catalogue des Gothiques Francais 1476 – 1560.’ We have found no record of the early sixteenth century owner, ‘Millot de Sombernon.’

A lovely copy of a hugely important text with a very beautiful and most influential set of woodcuts, and most distinguished provenance.

Goff M798. (two copies only) Pell Ms 8166 (8095). GW M25157. ISTC im00798000. Brunet III, 1815 (citing this copy). Caillet, III, n°7630 (other editions). Fairfax Murray Ger., vol II no. 289 (another later edition with the same cuts).


Print This Item Print This Item

SUAREZ, Francisco


Opus de virtute et statu religionis.

Venice, Bernardo Giunta and Giovan Battista Ciotti, 1609.


Folio, pp. (88), 776. Predominantly Roman letter, little Italic. Decorated initials, title in red and black with large printer’s device showing personifications of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany surrounded by the cities of Siena, Lucca, Pisa and curiously Perugia; title slightly stained, tiny marginal wormholes in places, a few pages lightly browned or foxed, light dampstains to final gatherings. A good copy in contemporary plain vellum; skilfully repaired and rebacked, later endpapers.

Rare second edition, accurately revised and expanded after the editio princeps just published in Coimbra. Francisco Suárez (1548-1617), named by contemporaries ‘Doctor Eximius’, was a pious and highly respected theologian. He entered the Society of Jesus at Salamanca, where he read philosophy and theology and was ordained priest in 1572. He taught these two subjects all over the Iberian peninsula, including the leading universities of Alcalá de Henares, Salamanca and Coimbra, as well as, for a short period, in Rome. His fame was so great that Gregory XIII attended his first lecture in Rome, while Paul V invited him to refute the errors of King James I and stay at his side in the papal court. However, Philip II, then king of Spain and Portugal, sent him to the University of Coimbra to give further prestige to that ancient and glorious institution. It is also said that, when Suárez visited the University of Barcelona, the professors went out to greet him holding the insignia of their faculties. He was among the most eminent thinkers of the Second Scholasticism, alongside Domingo de Soto and Roberto Bellarmino.

De virtute et statu religionis, written under the auspices of Paul V, tackles the notion of true religion and deviations from it, including magic, simony and pagan cults. The second book is devoted to superstition, focusing on occult beliefs, witchcraft, demonology and the punishments for such practices. As usual, his argument is very clear and in-depth, bearing witness to his exceptional knowledge of the Classics, the Church’s Fathers and the heretical as well as ecclesiastical writers. This is an invaluable source for the students of the Catholic Church’s policy towards magical thought.

‘[Suárez] worked in a great variety of fields, including metaphysics, natural theology, philosophy of mind, philosophy of action, ethics, political philosophy, and law. In all these areas he made contributions the influences of which are so widespread and commonplace that they sometimes escape notice. Still, it is noteworthy that figures as distinct from one another in place, time, and philosophical orientation as Leibniz, Grotius, Pufendorf, Schopenhauer, and Heidegger, all found reason to cite him as a source of inspiration and influence.’ Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy.

Rare. Only two copies recorded in the US (Columbia and Penn University).

Not BM STC 17th It., Cantamessa, Thorndyke or Calliet. Camerini, II, 502:96; Sommervogel, VII, 1670:9; Palau, VI, 550.


Print This Item Print This Item



Dell’elixir Vitae

Naples, Secondino Roncagliolo, 1624.


FIRST EDITION. Folio. pp. (xii) 182 + 19 full-page engraved plates depicting distillation equipment and techniques (on ink splashed on blank verso). Roman and Italic letter, woodcut initials throughout, head- and tail-pieces, title page in architectural engraving surrounded by cherubs and two figures of alchemists. Title page dusty, light age yellowing, occasional foxing, worm trails to rear endpapers, contemporary vellum over boards, spine with a few worm holes, marbled edges.

Very rare first edition of Fra Donato’s treatise on distillation, with beautiful illustrations of alchemical equipment and experiments in progress (perhaps by the author himself), including a description of his pursuit of the elixir vitae, thought to grant eternal youth and immortality, illustrated in serial plates. The work also demonstrates how to produce different varieties of alcohol as well as olive oil. The first three chapters discuss the elixir or life, but the longer fourth book details the ingredients and processes by which it can be made. The work also discusses the merits of distilling trees, herbs, spices, fruits, and the uses of each essence, as well as its chemical properties. Occasionally, the distillation of animal and mineral essences is described. In this way the work fits its seventeenth century setting: not just uncovering alchemical secrets, it also offers the results of practical experiments with a wide range of materials. The beautiful and highly detailed plates are present here in very fine and clear impression.

Fra Donato d’Eremita was a Dominican from Rocca d’Evandro, in Caserta. He was an apothecary of some repute at the monastery of Santa Caterina, and a peripheral figure in the Accademia dei Lincei, as he counted among his friends Giambattista della Porta, Ferrante Imperato, and Nicola Stiglioa. His name turns up in correspondence with the Academy, and Johannes Faber describes visiting him while passing through Naples collecting plant and seed specimens for his patron Prince Cesi. ‘The author of the kingdom’s first published pharmacopoeia, the protophysician Quinzio Buongiovanni, insisted that apothecaries be prohibited from preparing “compositions with simples” without having been inspected first by one of the guild officials and the protophysician. For this reason, Buongiovanni was present when the head apothecary of the Dominican monastery of Santa Caterina a Formello in Naples, Fra Donato D’Eremita, prepared his famous “elixir vitae”. But then again, Buongiovanni may have been invited by d’Eremita, along with other dignitaries  (Giambattista della Porta and Nicola Stigliola), to launch his product as part of a publicity stunt’ (Gentilecore cit. infr.).

The work is dedicated to Ferdinand II de’ Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany, whose arms are engraved on the title page. Known for his passion for science and his vast collection of scientific instruments, Ferdinand’s own alchemical and scientific experiments are registered in the archives for the Academy of the Cimento, founded by his younger brother Leopoldo. Doubtlessly Ferdinand would have been fascinated by d’Eeremita’s experiments in immortality. (cf. Acton).

Not in BM STC It. C17. Wellcome I 2069; Krivatsy 3672. “His substantial treatise on the Elixir of Life shows he was thoroughly conversant with alchemical processes and practices. The fact that this striking book has escaped the researches of most of the bibliographers must be due to its rarity.” Duveen p. 176. Gentilcore, Healers and healing in early modern Italy, pp 41-42. Harold Acton, The Last Medici, 38. Not in Caillet, Ferguson,  Thorndike, etc.


Print This Item Print This Item

FEYERABEND, Sigmund (ed.)


Theatrum Diabolorum.

Frankfurt, Peter Schmidt, 1575.


Large folio, ff. (6), 568, (12). Black and Roman letter; black-and-red title, some decorated initials; large printer devices on title and colophon (oval border and personification of respectively demoniac Vices and Fame); few light browned pages, margins occasionally foxed. A very good copy in elegant contemporary German brown calf over thick-wooden bevelled boards; blind-stamped in black, double fillet, with four rolls of portrait medallions, interlacing flowers and glyphs and floral central panel; remains of clasps; a bit rubbed, some leather lost on front lower board, chipped corners and spine; red edges with early title inscription, early shelf mark gilt on spine; on title, contemporary ex libris of Arnold III, Count of Bentheim-Tecklenburg-Steinfurt-Limburg; on front pastedown, early eighteenth-century engraved bookplate of Ambrosius Franz of Virmont-Bretzenheim.

Second expanded edition of this very influential encyclopaedia of diabolical literature in the Protestant world, first published in 1569. It is a curious assemblage of Lutheran demonological essays, gathered by Sigmund Feyerabend (1528-1590), the renowned publisher and bookseller of Frankfurt. Each of the essays deals with a particular form assumed by the Devil, whose number is calculated as no less than 2,665,866,746,664 by one of the authors. Some of the most peculiar demons are: the dance-devil (book VII); the devils of hunting, drinking and wedlock (books IX-XI); the pantaloons devil (book XVII); the gambling and the courtiers’ devil (books XVIII-XIX). This second edition comprises four additional treatises, focusing on the devils of the Sabbath, oath, concerns and melancholy.

This volume was first owned by Arnold III of Bentheim-Tecklenburg-Steinfurt-Limburg (1554-1606). A powerful German nobleman, he was the son of Countess Anna of Tecklenburg-Schwerin, the first evangelical ruler in Westphalia. Following the religious education provided by his mother, he studied Protestant theology, law and politics in Strasbourg in the early 1570s. Arnold ruled peacefully over a vast number of territories, acquired through inheritance and marriage. Between 1588 and 1593, he introduced Calvin and Zwingli’s doctrines in his territories. Some decades later, the book entered the library of Ambrosius Franz (1682/1684-1744), Count of Virmont and president of the Imperial Chamber Court. It is very likely that he acquired this copy when the Bentheim-Tecklenburg-Steinfurt duchy was given to him by his wife. The bookplate was attached certainly after 1734, the year in which Bretzenheim fell under Franz’s control. The distinctive symbol of the city (a pretzel) appears in the central shield.

Not in BM STC Ger., Adams, Brunet, or Graesse. VD 16, F 905; Grimm, Teufelbücher, B 2; Hayn, VII, 617.


Print This Item Print This Item

LEMNIUS, Levin (translated by J. Gohory)

Les Occultes Merveilles et Secretz de Nature, avec plusieurs enseignemens des choses divers.

Paris, Gailiot du Pré, 1574.


8vo., ff. (i) 212 (xx). Roman letter, side notes and quotations in Italic. Woodcut printer’s device on title, contemporary autograph “Grisson” beneath. Woodcut initials and decorations. Occasional contemporary marginal annotations. Light paper yellowing. Very good copy in contemporary vellum, 19C book plates on paste down.

Lemnius (1505-1568) studied medicine at Louvain under Dodoens, Gessner, and Vesalius and practised for over forty years in his home town of Zelande with great success. This work, translated by Jacques Gohory, was designed as much for the amusement of the reader as for his education, and contains a mass of information, partly real, partly fantastic, taken from ancient Greek, Hebrew, Arab, and Latin sources, and presented and commented on in rather haphazard fashion. “Bits of medical and natural lore are thrown together hit-or-miss,” but not without importance “since it was often cited by subsequent learned authors, and since the numerous editions and translations of it show that it was well suited to the tastes of the time.” (Thorndike).

Despite his interest in the occult and belief in the importance of the influence that the stars and moon exert on the person, Lemnius remained pragmatic, always insisting on the importance of treating the patient with what remedies were available rather than relying on astronomy. Of the many diverse and interesting subjects the book deals with, such as the effects of human saliva, or whether it is better to sleep with one’s mouth open or closed, one most referred to is the subject of vines, wine and drunks. White wine should be drunk before red, vinegar is useful in times of plague, the wines of the Poitou make you quarrelsome whereas the wines of the Rhine make you amorous, and when inebriated, you must not sleep in the moon rays. Translations of books dealing with the occult sciences are rare (an English translation of this work did not appear until 1650).

BM STC Fr. 16C p.262. Brunet III 972. Graesse IV 159. Not in Adams. French edition not in Cantamessa. Not in Honeyman. Thorndike V 393/4. Simon II 403.


Print This Item Print This Item


De Natura et effectionibus Daemonum

Leipzig, Johannes Steinman, typiis Voegelianis, 1576


8vo. pp. [lxiv], 159, [i]. Italic letter, preface in Roman some Greek. Small woodcut device on title of Christ above the Ark of the Covenant, three woodcut figures in text, contemporary autograph of ‘G. Baucynet’ on title. Light age yellowing, rare marginal spot or mark. A very good copy in contemporary vellum, recased.

Rare edition of this translation by Adrien Turnebe of Plutarch’s two works on the oracles, ‘De defectu oraculorum’ and ‘De Figura El, consecrata delphis’, prefaced with a lengthy and important essay by Camerarius. There is no Greek text to complement Turnebe’s translation, but Camerarius includes Turnebe’s annotations and explanations, drawn from other Greek authors, who discuss methods of divination, oracles and astrology. Camerarius’ lengthy preface is important as he not only comments on Plutarch’s text on oracles and prophecy but extends the discussion into contemporary concern over witches and witch-craft. “Joachim Camerarius was a Lutheran scholar of high reputation, who died in 1574. He seems to have had much interest in these matters (demonology and witchcraft). Graesse (p.14) gives as his a book “De Natura et Affectionibus Daemonorum” Libri II Lipsiae, 1576, though this is rather a translation of Plutarch’s book of that name by Turnebus, with an introduction by Camerarius (Graesse, p. 46). … Camerarius says he was led to consider the subject (of witchcraft) by a talk with Albinus, who related the horrible deeds of witches of which he had heard in a recent journey towards the Rhine…. Besides this were accounts by Albinus from many places of these unfortunate women punished with atrocious penalties. .. His essay (the preface) is largely devoted to classic times, but he has full faith in all that is attributed to witches and he says: ‘Tanta est enim exemplorum hujas generis copia ut ejus toti pluminarum chartarum libri compleri hi quidem possent sed enumerari illa non possent’ Introd. to de Defectu Oraculorum….. Camerarius was consulted in 1571 by William IV of Hesse Cassel about some women arrested for jugglers tricks on a boy. Camerarius opposed the use of torture in such cases and also the water ordeal which Wilhelm was disposed to employ, as he was sure they would sink, and warned him against the cruelty of witch burning and the prosecutions by which the innocent were obliged to confess.” Henry Charles Lea. ‘Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft’. Plutarch’s two works on the Oracles and prophecy touch on a wide range of subjects including some astronomy, geometry and some interesting bits of information about Britain and the East.

Guillaume Baucynet was a doctor from Orleans who wrote a number of medical treatises, some of which were controversial, particularly his ‘Notationes in apologiam et censuram scholae medicorum Parisiensium’ which defended, against the Faculte de Paris, spagyric methods, a form of alchemical practice involving the production of herbal remedies using alchemical procedures.

BM STC Ger. p. 706. Caillet III 8763. Graesse p. 46. Not in Cantamessa.


Print This Item Print This Item

HOWARD, Henry, Earl of Northampton


A defensative against the poyson of supposed prophecies.

London, W. Jaggard, 1620.


Folio in 4s. ff. (viii), 151 (i). Roman and italic letter. Title page slightly shaved at f-e, title within white interlaced strap work border on a black crible background (Mckerrow and Ferguson 249). Decorative headpieces, historiated and floreated initials throughout in two sizes. Slight water staining to first two gatherings. Inner leaves slightly spotted. An interesting and attractive copy in contemporary speckled calf, covers with blind ruled outer borders. Spine in seven compartments, remains of paper label. Upper joint cracked at head.

Reputedly the most learned man of his time and a skilled architect and generous benefactor, Northampton (1540-1614), took an active part in political business at court, often out of favour. He was twice arrested for heresy and treasonable correspondence with the Scottish Queen. After his release he retired to St. Albans where he spent a year writing “A defensative”. This work is a learned attack on judicial astrology, dedicated to Walsingham and perhaps suggested by the astrological exploits of Richard Harvey, writer of “An astrological discourse upon the the great and notable conjunction of two superior planets, 1583”. Soon after its publication the book was accused of “seeming heresies and treason” and Howard was sent to the Fleet for several months.

This edition printed six years after his death is described on the title page as newly revised and is divided into thirty six chapters. Northampton dispels the authority of dreams, oracles, revelations, invocations of spirits “or any other kind of pretended knowledge whatsoever, which have been causes of great disorder in the common wealth, especially among the simple and unlearned people”. He has little time for astrology, the zodiac, planetary powers or fortune telling, one wonders what he would make of our modern day infatuation with all things new-age. Northampton was known as a wit and counted amongst his friends, Bacon, who recorded some of his remarks in his “Apophegms”, and George Chapman who inscribed a sonnet to him which was printed before his translation of Homer in 1614.

STC 13859. Lowndes IV 1703. Not in Pforzheimer, Caillet or Grolier.


Print This Item Print This Item



Les Propheties.

Lyon, Pierre Rigaud, n.d. (1604).


8vo. Two parts in one, pp. 125 (iii): 78 (ii), with both blanks. Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut printer’s device on both titles, floriated woodcut initials and woodcut headpieces. Light age browning (poor quality paper), minor marginal water-staining in places. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum.

Charming popular edition of the prophecies of Nostradamus, printed by Pierre Rigaud, a deliberate copy of the earliest editions, printed at Lyon by the same family, here without date. Later editions by Rigaud were printed with false earlier dates; it is one of the earliest editions of the first revival of interest in Nostradamus, in the early C17th. The first part contains the famous dedication to his son, and the second his dedication to Henry II.

The work was originally published in three parts, the first containing 353 poems. The second part was printed in 1557 and added 289 further prophecies; the third and final part of 300 new poems was printed in 1558, posthumously, as part of the ‘works’ published by Pierre Rigaud Sr. These poems, or rhymed quatrains, were grouped into nine sets of 100 and one of 42, called “Centuries.” Nostradamus claimed each prediction was based upon his astrological reading of particular events, though it is evident that a great deal of the work is copied from earlier Latin authors such as Livy, Plutarch, and other classical historians, and many are taken directly from Richard Roussat’s ‘Livre de l’estat et mutations des temps’ (1549 – 1550). The ‘Mirabilis Liber’ of 1522, which contained a wide range of prophecies by such authors as Pseudo-Methodius, the Tiburtine Sibyl, Joachim of Fiore, Savonarola, and others, was also a well used source.

His considerable initial success was based on the fact that he was one of the first to re-paraphrase these prophecies in French. Further material was gleaned from the ‘De honesta disciplina’ of 1504 by Petrus Crinitus, which included extracts from Michael Psellos’ ‘De daemonibus,’ and the ‘De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum,’ a book on Chaldean and Assyrian magic by Iamblichus, a fourth-century Neo-Platonist. Most of the quatrains deal with disasters, such as plagues, earthquakes, wars, floods, invasions, murders, droughts, and battles—all undated and based on foreshadowings by the ‘Mirabilis Liber.’

The work was remarkably popular and has been reprinted over two hundred times since its first appearance. Popular modern interpretations of the quatrains have shown them to predict the French Revolution, Napoleon, Hitler, the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and even the death of Princess Diana and the events of 9/11. An important contemporary theme was the fear of an impending invasion of Europe by Muslim forces, headed by the expected Antichrist, directly reflecting the Ottoman invasions of the Balkans. The work was published within the context of a general fear of an imminent apocalypse. A rare and charming popular edition.

Not in BM STC Fr. C16th. Merland “Répertoire des livres imprimés en France au XVIIe siècle.” Lyon VI, p. 215, Pierre I Rigaud, 49. Caillet 8068. Not in Cantamessa.


Print This Item Print This Item

VALERIANUS, Joannes Pierius


De fulminum significationibus.

Rome, Antonio Blado, n.d. [not before 1 August 1517].


FIRST EDITION, 8vo., 36 unnumbered ll. A-I4. Italic letter, neat small underlinings and marginal markings in red, full page cosmographical printed diagram. A few ll. a bit age yellowed, a fine, well margined copy, in English crushed blue morocco gilt, thistle border and spine gilt, contrasting gilt pattern à la doublure, pink watered silk liners over vellum e.p.s, joints rubbed. Bookplates of Sir John Thorold, Syston Park on pastedowns.

The first book printed by Blado, in his signature Italic (its one or two predecessors were in old fashioned Gothic) and the first edition of this uncommon cosmographical/astrological text. Valerianus (1477-1558) from a poor noble family studied at Venice under Valla and Lascarius before being taken up by Pope Leo X and entrusted with the education of his nephews. He continued in the service of the Medici until the late 1530’s when he returned to study and write. This is Valerianus’ first published work. Dedicated to Giulio de’ Medici, the present work ‘on the meaning of storms’, discusses both their scientific causes and their influence as portents on human affairs, including a particularly interesting account of the cosmography of the Etruscans, as well as Roman soothsayers whose purpose was to interpret thunder and lightning as omens. For example he tells the story of the lightning which struck the gates of Florence, interpreted as auguring the election of one of its citizens to the Pontificate. Valerianus also produced a popular and successful edition of the Sphaera of Sacrobosco.

Antonio Blado, official printer to the Papacy from 1535 to 1567, and one of the greatest printers of 16th century Italy, acquired in 1537 the celebrated Italic type of the calligrapher Lodovico Arrighi, used here by him ten years earlier. It is one of the most elegant and famous typefaces of all time and interesting to compare with the Aldine developed in Venice at roughly the same time. Apart from its beauty it is clear, simple and easy to read.

All 16th century printing on vellum is rare, and in the field of science, almost unknown. “Sir John Heyford Thorold (1773-1831) was a truly great collector. From 1828 until his death, he built up in an incredibly short time a beautiful collection of incunables and Aldines”, deRicci p 160. Thence to the incomparable scientific library of Robert B. Honeyman (sale May 1981).

Not in BM. STC It. Brunet, V 1042. Riccardi I, 2 570. Van Praet (Nat) Vol III 5:6 and (Royale) vol VI 124:5. (same single copy on vellum). Bernoni 1:1. Not in Houzeau and Lancaster or Cantamessa. Honeyman VII 3019 (this copy).


Print This Item Print This Item


Opus mathematicum octo libros compiectens, unnumeris prpemodum figuris idealibus manuum et physiognomiae…

Cologne, apud Joannem Bickmannum & Wernerum Richwinum, 1562.


FIRST EDITION. folio, [xii], 624, [vi] : *⁶, A-Z⁴, Aa-Zz⁴, AA-ZZ⁴, aa-kk⁴, (lacking kk4 blank). Italic letter. Woodcut printers device of Abraham about to sacrifice his son, large woodcut portrait of the author on verso of title, repeated on verso of last, 1713 small woodcuts illustrating hands for palmistry, seven small cuts of allegories of the planets, repeated, 41 cuts of human physiognomies,76 astrological tables, and one full page table, fine floriated initials. C19th book-plate on pastedown, autograph of ‘T. Chardin’ Paris 1872’ beneath, title page with faded illegible autograph dated 1689, another of ‘Jo. Michael Bernhols? 8 April 1788’. Light age yellowing, occasional minor marginal light dampstaining, rust spots and thumb-mark. A very good copy in an excellent contemporary Wittenberg binding by Thomas Kruger, in blind-stamped pigskin over boards, covers triple blind ruled to a panel design with blind floral roll surrounding panels, outer panel of small blind-stamped scenes of the Annunciation, Nativity, Crucifixion etc, central panel on upper cover with large blind-stamped panel of the crucifixion within architectural frame incorporating inscriptions in Latin and Hebrew from Psalm 62, signed Thomas Kruger, initials L.B.A. above, the date 1562 below, lower cover with a large central panel of Christ resurrected conquering Satan and Sin, within architectural frame incorporating inscriptions in Latin and Hebrew from Hosea 13, unsigned, spine with blind ruled raised bands, a.e.r., covers slightly rubbed and scratched.

First edition of one of the most complete and profusely illustrated surveys of 16th century chiromancy, astrology, physiognomy and divination in general, by the teacher, astrologer, mathematician and musician Jean Taisnier who was conversant with both the sciences and the occult arts, subjects interconnected in the academic mind of the day. After his education at a Jesuit school he worked as a tutor at the court of Emperor Charles V from 1530 to 1550, and traveled extensively with the court in Spain, Germany, the Netherlands, and accompanied the Emperor to Tunis. Taisnier also taught at the universities of Rome, Bologna and Padua and later taught mathematics in Palermo and Ferrara. After the death of Charles V he retired to Cologne where he obtained the office of master of music in the Electoral chapel and where he wrote his present magnum opus. This work is divided into eight chapters though is really three works; the first and largest deals with chiromancy, the second with physiognomy and the third with astrology. The first part dedicated to chiromancy was probably the most heavily illustrated and analytical work of its kind in its time, dealing with every aspect of the art. “He reproduces many of the traditional marks and signs in these diagrams, including those indicative of riches and inheritances as well as the many signs indicating the manner of death. Taisnier did however, approach the study of the hand from a very astrological perspective and was keen to perceive the two studies in relation to one another. He spends some time considering the significance and meaning of the planets and carefully allocates the planets to the various parts of the hand. Jupiter, Saturn, Apollo and Mercury have dominion of the digital mounts, …, and Venus and the Moon rule the thenar and hypothenar areas of the palm respectively” Christopher Jones. Taisnier has been widely criticized for having entirely plagiarized the work from that of Barthélemy Cocles, of Bologna, ‘Physiognomoniae et Chiromantiae Compendium’, Strasburg 1534. Taisnier also allegedly copied the treatise of physiognomy from this work and illustrated it from another source.

“Despite this fact that Taisnier shamelessly utilized and rehearsed earlier writings, his combination of interest in occult art or pseudo-sciences with technology, measurement, something of mathematical method, and a yearning for new discovery through physical experiment, represents his own choice and selection and makes him of some significance in the history of magic and experimental science. Even if the personal observations and opinions with which his works are strewn are not always his own or to be accepted at their face value, they at least indicate that he chose to make this show of personal authority, experience and experimentation rather than merely cite others or comment upon an accepted text.” Thorndike V p.581.

The finely worked contemporary binding was made in Wittemberg by Thomas Kruger, his name appears in full on the crucifixion panel on the upper cover. The blind-stamped panels are very detailed and finely worked. “Thomas Kruger occurs in the lists of members of the Wittenberg binders guild until his death in 1591” Goldscmidt page 67, see also page 320. See M M Foot, The Henry Davis Gift, vol II, p. for another binding by Thomas Kruger also reproduced in the British library catalogue shelfmark Davis692. The work was bound in the same year as its publication and is doubtless its original binding.

BM STC Ger. C16th p. 848. Cantamessa II 4398. Caillet III 10524. (The edn. of 1583). Thorndike V p.580-588. Adams T 69. Houzeau-Lancaster 4885. Graesse VI 122. Wellcome I 6213.


Print This Item Print This Item