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Foote, Daniel - Astrology in Mid-sixteenth Century Prussia: A Handwritten Horoscope Inscription From the Private Library of Simon Loytz

Foote, Daniel - Astrology in Mid-sixteenth Century Prussia: A Handwritten Horoscope Inscription From the Private Library of Simon Loytz

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Published by: Daniel Foote on May 03, 2012
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 Astrology in Mid-sixteenth Century Prussia: A Handwritten Horoscope InscriptionFrom the Private Library of Simon LoytzDaniel FooteHistory 4903
Dr. D’Andrea
 May 2, 2012
 
Foote 2
Horoscopes and astrology during and after the Protestant Reformation have been studied invarious ways: astrology as a part of popular belief among an anonymous population,
1
contemporaryliterature concerning the topic,
2
the stance on astrology taken by the Catholic Church and the variousProtestant confessions,
3
horoscopes and astrology among the higher estates of society,
4
and the nature of astrology as scientific knowledge progressed throughout this period.
5
The focus of most of these types of 
studies has been on ‘high profile’ individuals: popes, kings, leaders of the dif 
ferent protestant movements,and intellectuals known in their time or through later attention. These types of studies thus either developgeneralities or showcase the highest status individuals. The present study seeks to start with a short,private record of a birth and its astrological situation and then paint a picture of the biographical, cultural,political, and religious context in which the inscription was made. It begins with an artifact, a clue, asingle evidentiary exhibit, a documented performance of astrology. Who were the performers, what wastheir stage, and what script were they following?This particular story begins with the historical holdings of the Elbing Municipal Library(
 Biblioteka Elbląska im. Cypriana Norwida
). One of the feature collections of this library is that of 195
1
 
Francis B. Brevart, “The German Volkskalendar of the Fifteenth Century”.
Speculum
63, No. 2 (Apr.,1988): 312-342.
2
 
Curt F. Bühler, “Sixteenth
-Century Prognostications: Libri Impressi cum Notis Manuscriptis--
Part II”
 Isis
.33, No. 5 (Mar., 1942): 609-620.
3
 
For example, Jonathan Green. “The First Copernican Astrologer: Andreas Aurifaber’s Practica for 1541,”
 Journal for the history of Astronomy
41 (2010): 157-
165; Claudia Brosseder. “The Writing in the Wittenberg Sky:
Astrology in Sixteenth-
Century Germany,”
 Journal of the History of Ideas
66, No. 4 (Oct., 2005): 557-576; J. R.
Christianson, “Copernicus and the Lutherans,”
The Sixteenth Century Journal
4, no. 2. (Oct., 1973): 1-10.; JürgenG. H. Hoppmann.
 Astrologie der Reformationszeit: Faust, Luther, Melanchthon und die Sternendeuterei
. (Berlin:
Zerling, 1998); Charlotte Methuen, “The Role of the Heavens in the Thought of Philip Melanchthon,”
 Journal of the History of Ideas
57, No. 3 (Jul., 1996): 385-
403; Robert S. Westman, “The
Melanchthon Circle, Rheticus, and the
Wittenberg Interpretation of the Copernican Theory,”
 Isis
66, no. 2 (Jun., 1975): 164-193.
4
cf. John Robert Christianson,
On Tycho’s Island: Tycho Brahe, Science, and Culture in the Sixteenth
Century
, 62,64,84,89,103
,257; Monica Azzolini, “The political uses of astrology: predicting the illness and death of  princes, kings and popes in the Italian Renaissance,”
Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and  Biomedical Sciences
41 (2010): 135-145.
5
For an in-depth study of the progress of Copernicanism see Westman, Robert S. The CopernicanQuestion: Prognostication, Skepticism, and Celestial Order. University of California Press, Berkeley: 2011. Forastrology fully based on heliocentrism, see Brackenridge, J. Bruce
and Mary Ann Rossi. “Johannes Kepler’s on the
More Certain Fundamentals of Astrology Prague 1601. Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society Vol.123, no. 2 (Apr. 27, 1979): 85-116. http://www.jstor.org/stable/986232. (accessed January 20, 2012).
 
Foote 3
printed Bibles from the 15
th
to 18
th
centuries.
6
Much of the holdings of the municipal library werepreviously the holdings of the Elbing Gymnasium, founded in 1535, and whose library originated fromdonated private libraries.
7
One such private library was that of Stephan and Simon Loytz, inherited byHeinrich Loytz who donated most of the library to the Elbing Gymnasium in 1660.
8
Among the 400 or sopieces that are still extant and identifiable as originating in the Loytz library is a 1543 Latin bible inparaphrase format [Figure 1]. In addition to
the clear “ex libris” inscribed on the title page [Figure 2],
there is an inscription on the facing page, in the same hand, which records a birth, the godparents, and thebasic astrological positions at the time of birth [Figure 3]. The titlepage of the book translates as follows:
The most holy Books of theOld and New Testament, from the holy Hebrew Language and Greek sources,also by consulting interpreters of true faith,translated into Latin language.You may learn the authors and the total composition of this work  from the foreword enclosed.From the Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans:"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patienceand comfort of the scriptures might have hope." (Rom 15:4) In Zurich printed, C. Froschover 1543
9
 
6
 
Elżbieta Lewandowska, “Biblie w zbiorach Biblioteki Elbląskiej (XV
-XVIII w.) [Bibles in theCollections of the Elbing Library (15
th
-18
th
 
centuries)],” Biblioteka Elbląska im. Cypriana Norwida,
http://historia.bibliotekaelblaska.pl/artykul/1212. A partial list, with links to high quality scans of works in whole orin part, is found at http://dlibra.bibliotekaelblaska.pl/dlibra/publication/1392.
7
 
Helena Dutkiewicz, “Prywatne zbiory i biblioteki elblążan ( XVI
-XVII w.) [Private collections andlibraries in E
lbing],” Biblioteka Elbląska im. Cypriana Norwida, http://historia.bibliotekaelblaska.pl/artykul/2857.
 
8
 
ibid.
 
9
Much thanks to Jochen Frankl, Facebook correspondence, April 23 2010.

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