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.


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