MANUAL FOR ASTROLOGERS
Venice, Johannes Baptista Sessa, [about 1503]
4to. 20 unnumbered ll., a-e4. Large Gothic letter. Printer’s woodcut device to t-p and last, 79 ¼-page or smaller woodcuts of astrological diagrams, zodiac and personified planets, decorated initials. Marginal foxing in places. A very good, well-margined copy in early vellum, recased, label of Helmut N. Friedländer to front pastedown.
Very good, wide-margined copy of the third edition of this important and handsomely illustrated astrological work. Albumasar (or Abū Maʻshar, 787-886) was a Persian philosopher and astrologer at the Abbasid court in Baghdad. His reputation in the Islamic world grew thanks to his introductory manuals for astrologers like ‘Kitāb al-nukat’, first translated into Latin in the C12 and first printed as ‘Flores astrologiae’ in Venice and Augsburg in 1488. Albumasar’s eclectic theories were influenced by Aristotelianism as understood not through translations from the Greek but through the mediation of the Sabei of Harran (Bezza I, 96), an obscure religious sect inspired by Judaism and Hermeticism. Addressing the reader with a very informal ‘you’, ‘Flores astrologiae’ teaches how to calculate the horoscope of a year, month or day starting from the position of the sun, moon and planets at the beginning of the timespan under scrutiny. The influence of each planet in different zodiac signs is explained at length, whether they might bring prosperity or paucity, war or peace, plague, earthquakes or floods. Albumasar also lists the fixed stars to be used to calculate horoscopes of people and events. The handsome woodcuts functioned as learning aids; for instance, the zodiac signs are repeated to remark on combinations of signs and planets. In medieval Europe, whether in ms. or print, his influential works were considered eminent instances of the judicial astronomy condemned by the Church (Cantamessa I, 142). A remarkably fresh witness to the fundamental importance of astrology in the culture of medieval and early modern Europe.
ISTC ia00358000; Catamessa I, 142; Caillet I, 155; Wellcome I, 152 (1488 ed.); Durling 20; Houzeau-Lancaster I/1, 3819. Not in Osler or Duveen.