William Lilly on Theft and Beinecke MS 558

During research for my upcoming book on the Lunar Mansions, I came across Beinecke MS 558. The manuscript is held in the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, the rare book library and literary archive of the Yale University Library in New Haven, Connecticut. It comprises 89 pages consisting of multiple texts on parchment and paper and is written by five hands. It contains several diagrams, and an astrolabe with volvelles, pictured below:

The principle collector of MS 558 was Thomas Butler from Harlow in Essex. Natal charts of Thomas Stalon, born 1500; Jhon Butler, born 1524; Thomas Buttler, born 1528; and Ales Buttler, born 1532 are displayed.

Contemporary astrologers quoted include Johann Stöffler (1452 – 1531) and Leonard Digges (c. 1515 – c. 1559). Earlier sources quoted are Almansor, Messahala, Haly Abenragel and Zael.

Included in the manuscript is a chapter on theft, with the title “To knowe the thefe that hath stolen”

In the left margin on p2v, is a handwritten note by a later hand (17th C?) reading “Lilly pag 331”

This refers to page 331 in William Lilly’s Christian Astrology. The picture below shows the relevant page.

William Lilly, Christian Astrology, Regulus 1985, p331

Christian Astrology was published in 1647, approximately 100 years after Beinecke MS 558 was compiled. It shows that treasured manuscripts were passed on for generations. They were still used and annotated long after the publication of printed material had become commonplace.

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