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9/8/2018 Medieval Geomancy: Annotated Bibliography

Annotated Bibliography
To the best of my knowledge, none of the medieval treatises on geomancy
are available in modern English, nor do I know of any scholarly editions of
the texts, with the two exceptions noted below.

Primary Sources
Burnett, C.S.F. "What is the Experimentarius of Bernardus Silvestris? A
preliminary survey of the material." Archives d'histoire doctrinale et
littéraire du moyen age xliv (1977): 79-125. [Reprinted in Magic and
divination in the Middle Ages. Variorum Collected Studies Series CS557,
1996.]
Includes an edition of the "Experimentarius" of Bernardus Silvestris.
The "Experimentarius" describes a medieval predictive technique
based on geomancy but more arbitrary.

Cattan, Christofe de. La geomancie du seigneur Christofe de Cattan,


gentilhomme genevois ... le tout corrigé et mis en lumière par G. de Préau.
Paris: Gilles Gilles, 1558.
A book-length treatise on geomancy, with examples of geomantic
tableaux cast by Cattan for his acquaintances at the French court. The
text describes the method of casting the points and forming the
figures; discusses the meanings of the figures and their
correspondences with elements, animals, planets, etc.; summarizes the
questions appropriate to each house (with examples); and thoroughly
covers the various ways to interpret the tableau. An English language
edition, The geomancie of Maister Christopher Cattan Gentleman was
published in 1591 and can be found in the Early English Books Online
digital collection.

Fasciculus geomanticus. Verona: 1704.


This compilation of Latin treatises on geomancy includes, among
others, Robert Fludd's Tractatus de geomantia, H. de Pisis' Opus
geomantiae completum in libros tres, and Quaestiones geomantiae
Alfakini, here attributed to Platon de Tivoli but, according to
Charmasson, based on the treatise of Gerard of Cremona.

Means, Laurel. "A translation of Martin of Spain's De Geomancia." In


Popular and Practical Science of Medieval England, ed. Lister M.
Matheson, 61-121. East Lansing: Colleagues Press, 1994.
An edition of a Middle English translation of Martin of Spain's Latin
treatise on geomancy. This is the only medieval geomantic text
available in English.

Turner, Robert, trans. Of geomancy. In Henry Cornelius Agrippa his fourth


book of occult philosophy. London, 1655.
This seventeenth-century English text on geomancy provides a handy
introduction to the practice of geomancy in the English Renaissance.
Unfortunately the attribution to Agrippa is most likely spurious.
Because this edition is available on microfilm and in the Early English
Books Online digital collection, it is the most accessible general text

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9/8/2018 Medieval Geomancy: Annotated Bibliography

on geomancy in our period. The entire text of Of geomancy may be


found at Of Geomancy.

Charmasson, Thérèse. Lectura geomanitae. In Hermes Trismegisti


astrologica et divinatoria. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2001. [Corpus
Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis vol. XCLIV C: Hermes Latinus,
Tomus IV, Pars IV]
Scholarly edition of a late 15th-century text from MS Paris,
Bibliothèque nationale de France, lat. 7349, ff. 130v-138r.

Bertelli, Sandro and Davide Cappi. "Per l'edizione del Libro di geomanzia
(BNCF, Magliabechiano XX 60)" Studi di filologia Italiana LXX (2012):
45-101.
An edition of a vernacular Italian text of the last quarter of the
thirteenth century.

Secondary Sources
Braswell-Means, Laurel. "The popular art of geomancy in the medieval West
and contemporary Asia." Journal of Popular Culture vol. 23 no. 4 (Spring
1990): 131-43.
Briefly discusses both Chinese and Western traditions of geomancy,
and argues that Chinese geomancy survives today because it is a part
of popular culture, while Western geomancy was a "learned" tradition
and therefore died out in the course of the seventeenth century.

Carey, Hilary M. Courting disaster: Astrology at the English court and


university in the later Middle Ages. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.
Carey places medieval astrology solidly in its cultural context. She
discusses the geomantic books owned by Richard II of England and
Charles V of France in her chapter on "Royal Astrology." There are
also plates showing one of the figures ("Letitia") and a page of tabular
text from the geomancy made for Richard II.

Charmasson, Thérèse. Recherches sur une technique divinatoire: la


géomancie dans l'Occident médiéval. Centre de Recherches d'Histoire de et
de Philosophie de la IVe Section de l'École Pratique des Hautes Études, 44.
Geneva: Librarie Droz, 1980.
The essential text for the modern scholar of geomancy. Charmasson
summarizes medieval practice and discusses the various treatises in
detail. Includes a comprehensive list of manuscripts arranged by both
author (or incipit, for anonymous works) and current location.

Charmasson, Thérèse. "Les premiers traités latins de géomancie." Cahiers


de civilisation médiévale vol. 21 (1978), 121-36.
A compact description of medieval geomantic practice as described in
the texts of Gerard of Cremona, Hugh de Santalla, and the anonymous
Estimaverunt Indi.

North, John. Chaucer's Universe. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988.


North's magisterial book on astrology in the work of Chaucer includes
a brief but lucid discussion of geomancy (pp. 234-43) and plates of
two pages from the illuminated geomancy made for Richard II in
1391.

Savage-Smith, Emilie and Marion B. Smith. Islamic geomancy and a


thirteenth-century divinatory device. Studies in Near Eastern Culture and
Society, 1980.
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This short pamphlet describes a medieval Islamic instrument, now in


the British Museum, used for geomancy. The authors summarize the
sources of Islamic geomancy and briefly describe the traditional
method of casting the figures.

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Elizabeth Z. Bennett
ezb@princeton.edu
Copyright Elizabeth Bennett, 1998
Last revised: December 13, 2013

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