The transmission of Arab and Persian astrology took place from as early as the middle of the 12th century. John of Seville, to name only one of the early scholars dedicated to support the survival of original source material, translated the works of famous astrologers like Alkindi, Albumasar, Messahala or Thebit ibn Qurra straight from the Arabic into Latin. Nevertheless it should take until the 16th century before the first astrological works were printed and published in the vernacular. Stöffler and Pflaum published their Almanach Teutsch in 1510 and Regiomontanus published his Kalendarius Teutsch Maister Joannis Küngspergers in 1512.
But these were only almanacs and calendars, including prognostications for the coming year. It took another 40 years before one of the earliest astrological textbooks in German, Astronomia Teutsch Astronomei, was printed. The book was published in Frankfurt am Main in 1545 by Enriaco Jakob zu Bath.
Although the name of the author is unknown, he tells us about the source material used to produce this volume.
“and although/about this astronomy/some books have appeared in print before/but nearly none (according to my humble opinion) has led so far and explained so much in German/than this which my very good friend/Hans Orth von Bacharach/lover of astronomy/in a very old handwritten book/for the good of all Germans/has sent me [presumably Enriaco Jakob, the printer and publisher of this work]/wherein you will find much/about comets/and other things which have never been printed in German before […]”
One part of the book gives a detailed description of the “36 heavenly images or pictures in heaven”. These are to be found in the eighth sphere of heaven. The theory of the celestial spheres can be traced as far back as to the theories of Anaximander and Plato. Later on Ptolemy refined the theory of the spheres and in the Middle Ages Christian and Muslim philosophers modified the system to include an outermost region, the empyrean, or dwelling place of God. The idea of the celestial spheres continued to have a great influence on the imagination of may scholars and famous authors like Chaucer or Dante.
In the following I provide a partial translation of the chapter On the Nine Spheres of Heaven, from Astronomia Teutsch Astronomei, 1545:
On the Nine Spheres of Heaven
Above the firmament is the ninth heaven or sphere/in the same heaven are God and God’s angels/and all souls who are just/This ninth heaven is called Empirium/that is the fiery heaven/because it is a secret place of mighty power/and it is hidden from the people on earth/[it is] the throne upon which deity is sitting/a heaven of the uppermost trinity called Thronus/or the highest chair/he is a true Emperor/and a King of all kings/and a Master of all rulers/and in this ninth heaven there is no star and no planet/because this heaven is adorned with the highest Light of the brightness of God/and it is adorned in a way/that nobody may talk or write about it.
The eighth sphere is called the firmament of heaven/and therein are all the stars according to their order/and the stars are equal to the twelve signs of heaven/and it is said about these same stars that they are in the order of the xxxvi pictures in heaven/which is called firmament/and this is turned around more mightily than all the other wheels of movement/and out of this fast rotation comes such mighty heat/that the stars and the air have too much heat in them caused by the heat and warmth/and therefore has God/who is the highest artificer above it/put another heaven/which is called crystal heaven/and this heaven has the shape and form of pure water/and frozen ice/stronger than a crystal/and the cold of this crystal heaven withstands the warmth of the fiery heat/[and] a wheel is turning there/and God has set the firmament amidst the waters/and separates the waters from the waters/and it should not be understood that the crystal heaven is a heaven in itself/otherwise there would be ten spheres/but there are only nine. […]
The full translation of this chapter can be found in my published work A German Stargazer’s Book of Astrology. Find out more, HERE
[See as well the related web log entry Athanasius Kircher on the Celestial Spheres]