SCARCE ASTROLOGY AND PHYSIOGNOMY
BENINCASA, Rutilio. Almanacco perpetuo.
Napoli, per il Betrano, 1639. [with]
RUBEIS, Dominicus de. Tabulae physiognomicae.
Venice, apud Gasparem Corradicium, 1639.
FIRST EDITION of second. 8vo, 2 works in 1, first in 4 parts, separate t-ps (second dated 1638, fourth 1636), pp. (xvi) 448 (xvi); (xvi) 144. Roman letter, little Italic. First t-p and following two sections in red and black, woodcut vignettes to t-ps and last ll., 162 exquisite small woodcuts (some repeated) of planet personifications, zodiac, astronomical diagrams, moon phases and physiognomy, decorated initials and ornaments. Slight yellowing, couple of small paper flaws at edges, one long clean tear repaired with minor dislocation, another repaired to lower outer blank corner of Bb4, couple of tiny worm trails, fore-edge of second work shaved just touching imprint in a few places, verso of last lightly foxed. Very good, clean copies in C17 French mottled calf, marbled eps, raised bands, spine gilt, gilt-lettered red morocco label, a.e.r., corners a bit bumped, joints cracked but firm, minor loss at head and foot of spine. ‘C’ inked to ffep verso.
Scarce Italian astrological and physiognomic works. Born near Cosenza, the astrologer Rutilio Benincasa (1555-1626) has remained a mysterious figure, suspended between folklore and witchcraft. Written in the 1580s and first published in 1593, ‘Almanacco perpetuo’ was enormously influential—‘by far the most complete, and the most “astrological”, almanacs of those times […] it is probable that copies of the oldest editions may have almost entirely disappeared’ (Cantamessa 785). This edition, adorned with 162 small, charming woodcuts, was revised and updated by the Neapolitan printer Ottavio Beltrano. (In the letter to the reader, he also advertises his latest publications, including ‘Introduttione all’Astrologia’ and ‘Diario Napoletano’.) Riccardi and Cantamessa suggest that Beltrano was the author of the most interesting sections, if not of the entire almanac, in its 1636 to 1653 editions. The first and second parts include a calendar with saints’ days and the zodiac, a ‘lunario perpetuo’, the sun’s movements, a ‘discorso’ on the nature and virtues of planets, an introduction to astrology, how to determine the best times for hunting, cultivation, purgation and medical treatments, climacteric tables, a perpetual prognostic, the generation of weather phenomena, and a list of eclipses. The third comprises an account of worldwide ‘mirabilia’, a collection of wise statements, a section on the zodiac and one on the kings of Naples. The fourth is devoted to physiognomy, with a discussion of body parts and face moles, and a collection of medical remedies from Tommaso Tomai’s ‘Giardino del mondo’. Dedicated to Cardinal Richelieu, ‘Tabulae physiognomicae’, here in its first edition, was written by the obscure Domenico de’ Rossi. Following the Renaissance physiognomic tradition, drawn from Aristotle, it provides compact, detailed diagrams which tell a person’s character from his appearance by associating specific body parts to behavioural traits (e.g., a round chin signifies effeminate; beard in a woman points to deceit and luxury). A fascinating sammelband of scarce editions.
I: No copies recorded in the US. Only three recorded overall, one at the BL. Riccardi I/1, 114; Bibl. Magica 192 (1681 ed.); Houzeau-Lancaster 14200; Cantamessa (mentioned in n.785).
II: Only UCSF, NLM and Stanford copies recorded in the US. Not in Brunet or BL STC C17 It. Not in Durling, Wellcome or Osler.