CATANEO, M. Girolamo.

Rote perpetue, per le quali si puo con qual numero di due dadi si voglia …

Brescia, Francesco Marchetti all’insegna dell’Ancora [per Lodovico Sabbio], 1562


FIRST and ONLY EDITION. Folio. ff. (2) 29, (1). Roman and Italic letter. Large printer’s woodcut device on title-page, one historiated initial, a few decorative and typographical head- and tail- pieces; armorial woodcut representing three lilies to verso of t-p, 58 full page diagrams for the computation of time. Light age yellowing, t-p a bit dusty, inoffensive oil splash to first ll., minor water stain progressively disappearing to central gatherings, small tear to lower right corner of first fol., worm trail to marginal upper corner of last 3 ll. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum, fore edges slightly sprinkled red, yapp edges, rubbed.

Rare example of this curious mathematical-astronomical treatise by Girolamo Cataneo (d. circa 1584), a mathematician and military architect from Novara (Piedmont) who served Charles V of Spain as a soldier and then worked as a military engineer for many aristocratic families in Northern Italy. He wrote numerous books on fortification but was also interested in astrology and prognostication as a codified means of predicting events by observation of signs.

The book explains a board game based on calendar computations consisting of 58 numerical charts related to the 12 months of the year. With no element of skill or strategy, the game involves the casual extraction by chance of two numbers by the use of two dice, to calculate the Moon phases from 1562 to 1580, specific dates such as Easter and the beginning of the Advent and the Golden number. The work also includes a dedicatory letter to the aristocrat Giovanni Francesco Stella from Brescia and an address to the reader in which Cataneo explains rules and results of the game. The dedicatory epistle highlights the usefulness of the work in relation to cosmography, shortly describing the ancient origins of the “perpetual wheels”, already mentioned by Homer. Interestingly, Cataneo maintains that publication was delayed to avoid criticism, probably expressing his disappointment at scientific censorship in the early modern age.

Only the Henry Ransom Humanities Research Center (Austin TX) and the Smithsonian Institution Libraries (Washington) recorded in the US. Not in Brunet or Graesse.

Adams, C 1022; BM STC It., 158. Houzeau-Lancaster, I, 14193. Not in Cantamessa.

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