Josefina Rodriguez Arribas

title.none: Lucas, Astrology and Numerology (Josefina Rodriguez Arribas)

identifier.other: baj9928.0601.018 06.01.18

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Josefina Rodriguez Arribas, Harvard University,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2006

identifier.citation: Lucas, John Scott. Astrology and Numerology in Medieval and Early Modern Catalonia: The Tractat de la vida natural dels homens. Series: The Medieval and Early Modern Iberian World, vol. 18. Leiden: Brill, 2003. Pp. xxxiii, 207. $115.00 90-04-13242-2. ISBN: .

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 06.01.18

Lucas, John Scott. Astrology and Numerology in Medieval and Early Modern Catalonia: The Tractat de la vida natural dels homens. Series: The Medieval and Early Modern Iberian World, vol. 18. Leiden: Brill, 2003. Pp. xxxiii, 207. $115.00 90-04-13242-2. ISBN: .

Reviewed by:

Josefina Rodriguez Arribas
Harvard University

J.S. Lucas has made a thorough edition and study of this anonymous Catalan text of the late fifteenth century on popular astrology, extant intact in one only incunabulum. This study is preceded by a historical introduction by David J. Viera, where he makes the pertinent observation that the Middle Ages in general, and the medieval Catalan tradition in particular, did not clearly separate between sciences (astronomy) and pseudo-sciences (astrology and alchemy), as the writings of Arnau de Vilanova, Ramon Llull, and Francesc Eiximenis, and the activity of the astrologers in the court of Pere the Ceremonious and his sons prove.

In the first chapter of the three that constitute the study preceding the edition of the Catalan text and the English translation, Lucas considers the ambiguous position of the medieval Church vis-à-vis astrology, and the differences established by such authors as Isidore of Seville and John of Salisbury between scientific or natural and superstitious astrology and astronomy. The author points out that the Tractat de prenostication appears on the border between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when magic begins to approach science and the interest in experiments as a way of knowledge appears. This magical tradition is evident in the two sections of the Tractat. The first and the most superstitious deals with astro-numerology, while the second anticipates the scientific magic of the Renaissance. Lucas also details the interest in prognostication in Catalonia during the fifteenth century and the Middle Ages in general, and the Arabic influence that this kind of work reflects. He concludes that magical and prognostic arts were in Catalonia much more common than has been supposed.

The second chapter is a survey of the Catalan literature about prognostication and its genres. Lucas discusses the suitability of Mean's classification for Middle English prognostic material for the case of the Catalan prognostic corpus and proposes a new classification: astrology and astrological magic, geomancy, numerology and astro- numerology, and gematria. Astro-numerology is the method of prognostication best represented in the Tractat, and seems to refer to Greco-Roman sources, mainly Pythagorean and Hermetic, enriched with Arabic traditions.

The third chapter concerns with Lucas' edition of the incunabulum in the Biblioteca Colombina in Seville. The author has found that there existed another copy of this text in Barcelona that now is missing. It seems that this lost copy was a different edition of the work, as can be deduced from the incipit and explicit of both sections of the missing copy, which are reproduced in the registrum of books of the the Biblioteca Colombina. An analysis of the astrological sources of the Tractatproves that Ptolemy is the main source mentioned, although in both sections of the work there are inconsistencies with the Ptolemaic system in relation to the planets, which suggests a second source. The work presents two peculiar traits. It describes individuals according to the twelve zodiacal signs but differentiating by gender; and at the end of the prediction for each sign of the zodiac, a brief warning reminds that the person must pray to or serve a specific saint, although this last feature seems to have been appended. While the first section of the work deals with calculations to find out the natal sign according to the numbers of the letters of one's name and the prognostications for each zodiacal sign calculated in this way, the second section proves that the positions of the star at birth determine the number of letters in one's name. Consequently, the arguments involved in both sections of the work confirm each other. Elements of the learnt astrology practiced by the Arabic astronomers can be found in the text as the division of the zodiacal signs in signes drets and signes postrats. In the Tractat, astrology is justified by way of the misinterpretation of a passage of the Gregorian homily, where St. Gregory condemned all forms of prognostication. The Tractat interprets St. Gregory's words in the opposite sense, to support that astrology does not disagree with Christian theology ("Lo home no va al aster mes lo aster va al infant nat"). Several biblical citations are referred to in the Tractat in proof of this argument. Lucas concludes his introduction with a linguistic study of the Catalan text, in which he highlights the presence in the text of archaisms, colloquial dialect features, and learnt rhetorical and stylistic devices that prove the late and not yet integrated influence of Italian Humanism. The absence of a colophon in the Tractatmakes it difficult to know the provenance of the incunabulum. Lucas questions Bohigas's theory that the Tractatbelongs to a collection of incunabula produced by Heinrich Mayer in Toulouse about 1484-1494, because the arguments in this direction are not conclusive. Further study of early printers and archival evidence is required to confirm the origin of the Tractat.

Lucas' critical edition of the Tractatsuppresses editorial marks and uses modern punctuation and accent marks to make reading of the Old Catalan text easier and avoid confusion. In this way the text is accessible to a wider group of scholars. The Catalan text is accompanied by detailed footnotes mainly explaining linguistic features, but also concepts and sources. The English translation also has some footnotes and is side by side with the original text, which is always very useful. The apparatus criticus is appended to the critical edition and translation. Two appendices complete Lucas' book: a paleographic transcription of the original text, and a facsimile reproduction of the original. His study finishes with a glossary of Catalan terms in the Tractatand their translation in English with an etymological commentary.

This complete edition must interest scholars in the field of medieval astrology and magic, and they will find in it a detailed analysis of the astrological and magic sources available in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries in Spain, as well as a description of the popular astrological beliefs. Scholars in the field of Catalan history and language will value the critical edition and linguistic study of the text as careful and complete. Lucas has succeeded with his edition in pointing out the importance and diffusion of popular astrology in medieval Catalan culture.