Rensberger’s Hypothetical Library

In my first article about Rensberger’s Astronomia Teutsch I mentioned that, unlike William Lilly, Rensberger would not reveal a lot about the sources he had available to him when he was writing his book. But after closer inspection of his work I have found a number of astrologers mentioned whose works he obviously was familiar with. Based on this information I wanted to create a hypothetical library Rensberger could have owned. It is of great interest to me to find out how the tradition was preserved over the centuries, or, in other words, through which channels the astrological knowledge was flowing into the West. I set out to reconstruct Rensberger’s library, purely based on the hints he gives us in his book. I can not tell if he used any early editions or had some astrological treasures stacked up in his library. Nevertheless what I tried to do was to create a library of books available at Rensberger’s lifetime, up to the publishing date of his Astronomia Teutsch in 1569. If possible I tried to supply him with the latest editions published close to the place where his book was published, Augsburg. In his Christian Astrology William Lilly enables us to have a virtual look at his bookshelves. This is fortunate because both, he and Rensberger, were pioneers translating astrology into their own language. This means that both of them could read the same or similar source material in Latin. Therefore we can postulate that they were drawing on similar material which is helpful in some ways.

I will begin with Claudius Ptolemy, who is mentioned frequently. He wrote an important astrological work, Quadripartite, which was published many times. In our case I would suggest that Rensberger had the edition from1549, which was printed in Nürnberg, on his bookshelf. Lilly owned the 1551 edition, printed in Basel, Switzerland. Rensberger mentions as well the book Centiloqium. He notes that some people say Ptolemy was not the author of this work; nevertheless he uses it as a source. Wüstenfeld claims in his book Die Übersetzung Arabischer Werke in das Lateinische, (the translation of Arab works into Latin), Göttingen 1877, “Ptolmaei Centiloquion is the book Librorum suorum fructus ad Syrum […] with the original in Escurial, one with a Persian comment in the Bodleian Library and another one in Leiden. The Latin translation generally appears with a comment by Ali ben Rudhwan”.

Another name that can be found in Rensberger’s book is Hermes. In the chapter dealing with the correspondences between Planets and parts of the human body Ptolemy’s and Hermes’ views are compared. If he quotes from Hermetis Centum aphorismorum liber in Nicolaus Pruckner’s edition of Firmicus Maternus, Johannes Hervagius, Basel 1551, or from his De revolutionibus nativitatum in Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos edition by Heinrich Petri, Basel 1559 is not clear to me at the moment. Further research will hopefully clarify this.

Another astrologer mentioned by Rensberger is Proclus Diadochus. He quotes him in the chapter on Solar and Lunar eclipses.  William Lilly has it in his bibliography under: Proclus – In Quadripartitum Ptolomei, folio, Basiliae, 1559.
Holden talks about a Latin edition by Leo Allatius, Leiden, 1635, but I found an earlier one: Proclus Diadochus, Paraphrasis in quatuor Ptolemi libros de siderum effectionibus. Cum prfatione Philippi Melanchthonis, 1554. A copy of this was supposedly in Dr. John Dee’s library.

The next famous astrologer, mentioned by Rensberger in connection with eclipses, is Guido Bonatus. I picked two editions here which could have been on our astrologer’s shelf. The first one is Tractatus astronomie, edited by Johannes Angelus, Augsburg, published by Erhard Ratdolt, 1491, the second one by Jakob Kundig, Basel, 1550, which Lilly owned as well. Bonatus is mentioned again, together with Hali, in connection with the great conjunction. We know that Bonatti held Hali in high esteem, which explains why Rensberger mentioned them together. Hali, as he is referred to, was really called Ali Abū al-Hasan ibn Abī al-Rijāl or Haly Abenragel or Albohazen Haly; his work Preclarissimus liber completus in judiciis astrorum, or Libri de judiciis astrorum (Kitāb al-bāri’ fī akhām an-nujūm) was first published by Erhard Ratdolt de Augusta in 1485 but I would go with the Basel edition by Heinrich Petri from 1551. Unfortunately it would take until 1571 for the edition to appear, which Lilly claims to be the only non defective one, sadly too late for our purposes here.

The astrologer Rensberger quotes more than anyone else is the famous Albumasar. His opus De magnis conjunctionibus which was published by Erhard Ratdolt, 1489, in Augsburg is the latest edition I know of. William Lilly owned this edition and so must have Rensberger.

Next to be mentioned in the text is Alcabitius. His book Astronomie judiciarie principia tractans cum Ioannis Saxonii commentario was printed by Guillaume Huyon for Barthelemy Trot, 1523 in Lyon. Rensberger quotes him in a chapter about the conjunctions between Saturn, Jupiter and Mars. In the same chapter he mentions another famous astrologer, Valentinus Naibod, who was a contemporary astrologer. His work with the title Enarratio elementorum astrologiae was published by Arnold Birckmann, 1560 in Cologne. Lilly calls it Ennaratio in Alcabitum, which gives an indication why these two men are mentioned together in Astronomia Teutsch.

Further on another famous Arab astrologer, Masha’allah, is quoted in Astronomia Teutsch. I would guess that Rensberger owned a copy of Opera Messahallica (De significationibus planetarum in nativitate, Liber receptionis, De revolutionibus annorum mundi, Epistola in rebus eclipsis, De cogitatione). This edition was published by Joachim Heller in Nuremberg, 1549.

Lucam Gauricum is another contemporary astrologer mentioned by Rensberger. His work Tractatus astrologiae judiciariae de nativitatibus virorum & mulierum was published by Johannes Petreius in Nuremberg in 1540 and will probably have found its way on the bookshelf of our astrologer.

The last person to be found in Rensberger’s textbook is not so much an astrologer as a mathematician and astronomer. It is the famous Johannes Müller, also known as Regiomontanus or Iohannis de Monte Regio. His work Tabulae directionum profectionum quetam was published in Augsburg in 1490 and in Tübingen by Ulrich Morhart in 1559. His house tables became fast the new standard.


8 comments on “Rensberger’s Hypothetical Library

  1. gjiada says:

    Very interesting post.
    Astrologers had a very standard library, as we have now.
    And yes, surely Rensberger knew that Centiloquium was not Ptolemy’s work, it was an Italian:) Pontano that firstly mentioned this in the second half of 1400. Cardano did the rest…
    I will come back soon here, it’s very beautiful place

    • Dear Margherita
      thank you for your interest.
      Centiloquium was not Ptolemy’s work and Wuestenfeld, whose book I mentioned in the posting, explains that in the title “Centiloquium Bereni interprete Joanne Hispalensi” (Latin translation 1136) the abbreviation was wrongly taken to mean Ptolemy.
      He also mentions another version translated from an original in the Escurial with the title Centiloquium Hermetis. The author is unknown but the translation of the Arabic title is “Aphorismi Mercurii Babylonici”. It was included in a collection “Julii Firmici Astronomicur Libri VIII”, Basiliae 1551. A later version was called Astrologia aphoristica, Ulmae 1674.
      Interesting, your Pontano connection…….

  2. gjiada says:

    Well, Pontano published an important version of Centiloquium several times reprinted- it could be easily be present in the library of Rensberger. He underlined the incongruity with Ptolemy work.
    Then Cardano in his major work- the comment to Tetrabiblos, wrote in his lapidary way: “quod,
    etiam iudicio Haly, Centiloquium sit Hermetis et non Ptolemaei”

    In this we are not lucky as your author, we miss many books we should read, at least some of them I would read.

    • You are absolutely right there, Margherita. How many books are sadly lost for ever.
      By the way Melanchthon, who translated Tetrabiblos straight from the Greek, added Pontano’s version of Centiloquy to it. This edition was published in Basel, Switzerland, in 1553.
      PS: have just spotted an edition I did not know of. Published by Johannes Petreius, Nuremberg, 1535; now sold at Krown & Spellman, USA, for,……..wait for it……..£ 12609.84

      Book Description: Johannes Petreius, Nuremberg: 1535., 1535. 4to. 2 vols in 1. 6,alpha-pi 4 [pi4 blank, present]; a-2f4. [12], 59ff=118,[2]; [8],84ff=168,[48]p. Contemp. vellum over boards, rebacked with old spine laid-on, label gilt (rubbed);a.e.g., t.p. soiled, small wormhole in blank inner margin of first three leaves; wormtrack in blank margin of last three leaves; wormtrack in last text leaf affecting a few letters; one old marginal notation in Greek; occ. light spots and minor edge stain but a very good copy with ample margins. Editio Princeps. First Greek/Latin edition. The first edition of the Greek text of Ptolemy’s ‘Tetrabiblos’ or Quadripartium (consisting of four books) and the of the ‘Karpos’ (Centiloquium– a collection of 100 astrological aphorisms erroneously attributed to Ptolemy. [The Karpos has been attributed to Ahmad ben Yusuf al-Misri (835-912). See: Sholomo Sela’s Abraham Ibn Ezra and the Rise of Hebrew Science,2003; p321-2)]. These are followed by the first edition of Joachim Camerarius’ Latin translation of the first two books and of passages from the third and fourth of the Tetrabiblos, and by Giovanni Pontano’s Latin version of the Karpos. Next come seven pages of annotations by Camerarius on the first two books of the Tetrabiblos, Matteo Guarimberto’s ‘Opusculum de Radiis et Aspectibus Planetarum’, Ludovicus De Rigius’ ‘Aphorismi Astrologici’, and, finally, Camerarius’ complete translation of the third and fourth books of the Tetrabiblos.

      • gjiada says:

        £ 12609.84 ??

        In every case my Latin is awful, but I’m trying to improve it. I have a long wish list of texts I want to read…

  3. Yes, this is 13613 Euro!

    May be you let me see your list at some point – I would be very interested.

  4. gjiada says:

    It’s a simple list, in every case.
    I would read – in English, if in Italian it is not possible- Cardano comment to tetrabiblos and Aly Ibn Ridwan comment.

    I found both in the net, but they are in Latin – and so sometimes I understand, and sometimes not. Moreover Ali comment is scanned in an awful way…

    But you know better than me, everybody read Ali comment…

    • Thank you for telling me, Margherita.
      I will keep it and mind and tell you if I find something.

      Personally I would like to find Ali ibn Ridwan’s “Tractatus de Cometarum Significationibus per XII Signa Zodiacii”, Nuernberg, 1563, as I am strongly interested in comets.

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