Sunday, 7 December 2008

Christian Astrology

There are now many versions of this book which illustrates its continuing importance, but I count myself as fortunate for owning two of the relatively few facsimile copies published by Regulus in 1985. I still cannot use a modern print version, it's just not the same.

For those of you who feel the same way, or who have not had the opportunity to see anything other than a modern version, here is a link to the 1659 edition on line. It is large and so takes some time to download, but you might feel it's worth it.


  1. As a publisher/editor of Lilly's Christian Astrology, I have to take you to task for posting the 1659 edition without explanation.

    Rob Hand supplied me with a pdf version of the 1659 edition. I found it to be a word-for-word copy of the 1647 edition.

    The problem was the introductory notes, the closing notes, and various remarks in the 1647 Book 3 were topical. Specifically, they refer to a short-lived plague of August, 1647, which forced Lilly to flee London & which killed two of his servants.

    While the text of the book was finished on September 8 (date, page 830), the Epistle Dedicatory is dated 16 August. To the Reader, which follows immediately after, is dated 21 August.

    In the text itself, the first sign of distress comes at the end of page 741, where he gives the date & time of completion: 7:25 pm, August 14, 1647 (OS). This was two days before he suddenly writes an introduction, pgs. A3 et seq., and a week before he completes the To the Reader.

    But there were already problems in the text. Page 666, the "Bucker" of a ship, a star that Lilly placed at 28 Cancer, seems to be Markeb, which, per Robson, is currently at 29 Virgo.

    Experts on primary directions (which I am not) tell me the table of Lunar Oblique Descentions, given on pgs. 744-6, are incorrect, as well as all primaries marked, "cum latitudine".

    Modern calculation of several of the Merchant's solar returns do not match Lilly's own calculations. This is a surprise, as the many charts in Book 2 are virtually error-free. His ascendant for 1645 cannot be made to put the sun in the 9th. The 1649 return cannot be duplicated. For 1654, Lilly places the moon in the 5th. It's on the ascendant.

    And there is the very sad note on pg. 830.

    All of this is repeated, verbatim, in the 1659 edition. Lilly would certainly have corrected the mistakes, at the very least, had he anything to do with that edition. Which led me to the conclusion that it was unauthorized.

    I am of the opinion Book 3 needs an editor in order to be of any use, in part because of the errors in the text, in part because charts are no longer calculated as Lilly calculated, and in part as fixed star positions are now 5 1/2 degrees advanced, and it is not clear to a casual reader exactly which stars Lilly refers to. For that, you need all manner of references.

    Since I am blowing my own horn, you might have a look at how I reset Book 3. You can see a pdf excerpt here:

    I have the greatest respect for your work. I hope you find these notes of interest.

    David R. Roell

  2. Dear David

    Thank you for taking the time to comment.

    Whilst the 1659 edition reports that it is "corrected and amended" it simply amounts to the errata of the 1647 edition. For example, on page 735 in the penultimate paragraph, you will see "...unto which I must adde the time from Noon in the Table of houses for 53. degrees of latitude;..." The errata list of 1647 noted that "adhering to Sun in 6 Libra" was missing and this has been included in the 1659 edition. In that sense it cannot be "a word-for-word copy".

    I really don't understand what needs to be explained, it's an alternative for the Regulus facsimile and that's the reason I posted the link. In fact, it's not as good as the facsimile because it's not as 'clean' and impossible to print for most.

    Regarding the Fixed Stars: The Bright Star in the Bucker of the Ship is actually Foramen. There are a number of errors in this list. In the 80s, someone wrote an article about the Fixed Stars and referred to these errors, Eric Morse I think, and he wrote a book about the fixed stars. It might be worth looking to see what he had to say about it.

    I have corrected the positions to 1990 for my students and provided the modern names.

    Lunar oblique descensions: The page numbers you've given are incorrect, these pages are actually unnumbered but run from page 774-6. As I point out below, unless these are to be recalculated using contemporary methods, and even then I don't see the point, there is little to be gained.

    Unauthorised version: I doubt very much that it is unauthorised, and here I think there would have been some evidence from Lilly himself had this been the case. This
    was his major work and extremely popular, an unauthorised version would not have gone unnoticed.

    To be brief and hoping that I understand your complaint correctly, I believe that this is simply a reprint with the listed errata corrected. You might have noticed that the incorrect pagination at page 174, etc. was replicated which implies that this was not a new edition in the fullest sense. Thus Lilly may not have been given the opportunity to correct or add.

    Book III: I think that you have a point, but we use all three books not for their mathematical accuracy or whether they conform to modern computer standards, but for the astrology. All three books are of the greatest value in that regard and in my view need no editor.

    In my opinion, recalculating old charts using methods other than the original is a mistake. Also a mistake is assuming that the algorithms
    used by programmers are correct - is there some definitive point of absolute correctness in astrology? Lilly explains very well the contemporary attitude to calculation in Book I, it's interesting. So, unless it is an obvious transcription error or typo, it's probably better to leave things alone.

    I don't see the point of trying to judge a chart retrospectively when it isn't the same chart. Which chart would be right? The one calculated at the time and judged by the astrologer, or that calculated 'correctly' by software and not judged? It also raises fascinating philosophical and mystical questions about the nature of astrology.

    I have a much more cut and dried approach: it's either a transcription or it's a different book. There's nothing wrong with commentaries of course, as long as it's made clear that they hold the commentators' opinions. The reason that I am quite firm about this is that I know how difficult it is to maintain objectivity and historical context and have seen numerous errors when they are lacking.

    As mentioned above, for the benefit of THC students, I have recalculated the Fixed Star positions and given their modern names with a few exceptions. The references I used were Ptolemy (obviously) and Robson. It isn't difficult to do, just time consuming.

    Your re-type: it looks very nice and very much in the style I used for "Annus Tenebrosus" and "Starry Messenger" which I retyped and annotated some years ago.


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