Catalogus imperatorum, regum ac principum qui astrologicam artem amarunt.

Antwerp, Christopher Plantin, 1580.


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. pp. 109 (i). Roman letter, with Italic, little Greek. Woodcut printer’s device on t-p and an initial hand-coloured, printed horoscope diagram to F8 verso. T-p slightly browned and dusty, upper edge cut a bit short. A good, clean copy in C19 quarter red paper over marbled boards, a.e.r., upper hinge starting, upper joint and corners rubbed.

Scarce first edition of this fascinating astrological work. Heinrich Rantzau (1526-98) was a German astrologer acquainted with Brahe, and Governor of Schleswig-Holstein. ‘Catalogus’ is ‘a handbook of contemporary knowledge concerning the astrological aspects of politics’ (‘History’, 153). The first section lists princes, kings, emperors and great men—ancient, biblical, medieval and contemporary—who favoured and used the art of astrology, e.g., Berosus, Democritus, Caesar, Charlemagne, the Turkish emperor Mehmed II, Frederick II, King of Naples (for promoting the translation of astrological texts from Arabic into Latin), and Pope Paul III. This is followed by a list of ‘mirabiles praedictiones’ by astrologers, which allegedly came true: e.g., the death of Aeschylus, Hippocrates’s prediction of the plague, the prophecy to Agrippina that her son Nero would kill her, and the prophecy Gauricus made to Henry of Navarre, with the inclusion of lesser known figures, like the physician-astrologer Moibanus, who predicted his wife’s death. The following section is a disquisition of climacteric years, hebdomatic (7 years) or enneatic (9 years) periods into which human life can be subdivided. They mark turning points, beginning from year 7; the most dangerous being the 63rd year, i.e., the conjuncture of the hebdomatic and enneatic. 

Rantzovius interprets through the climacteric theory the death years of biblical, ancient and more recent figures, including kings (e.g., Henry VIII), aristocrats, popes and great personalities like Erasmus, Agricola, Copernicus, Petrarch, Savonarola, the painter Lucas Cranach, Saxo-Ferrato, Durer, Johann Hess, Thomas Linacre, Sebastian Munster, Luther, Philippe de Comines, and Hieronymus Frobenius ‘typographus Basiliensis’. An illustration, after a horoscope by Conrad Dasypodius, foresees Rantzovius’s sudden death after the age of 50.

Cantamessa 6555; Caillet III 9144 (‘très rare’); Graesse VI, 124; Adams R144; Thorndike V, 162, 222 and VI pp.135-6; Houzeau-Lancaster 4942. E. Voegelin et al., History of Political Ideas (London, 1998), vol.5.


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