Saturday, 27 March 2021

Christian Astrology 1659 is NOT an edition

 When digitized versions of texts of various sorts became available, I found William Lilly’s Christian Astrology online in a second edition of 1659. I had never heard of this edition; I was well-versed in Lilly’s Autobiography where he never mentioned a second edition being published. I looked at this edition of course and it looked identical and when I checked internally it was identical as far as I could see. Those who have a copy of Christian Astrology 1647 (Regulus edition) will know that there are some pages early in the book that have been mixed up: pages (as printed) 170 and 171 are, in fact, pages 174 and 175. This error is identical in the 1659 edition, where it would have been possible and desirable to correct this. There is also an errata sheet that came with the Regulus facsimile edition of 1985. On checking these errata, they remain uncorrected in the 1659 version. The only apparent difference is that the title page is slightly altered: where the 1647 edition has at the bottom of the page: ‘Printed by Tho. Brudenell for John Partridge and Humph. Blunden, in Blackfriers at the Gate going into  Carter-lane, and in Cornhil, 1647.’, the 1659 copy has: ‘Printed by JOHN MACOCK. 1659.’


It is well known that Lilly was dissatisfied with the 1647 edition; from page 830:


Behold now this Nativity judged, which if thou are courteous, thou hast reason to accept kindly of, being it leads thee to do the like upon any: It had appeared exquisite, but the angry Angell of God visited my house with the Plague, even at that time when I was perfecting the latter part of my Book, and also this Nativity:




My great affliction at present conclusion of this Work, bids thee accept my good will, and passe by my very many imperfections in the preceding Treatises, having advised with no man living in any thing comprehended in all the three Books.


Finitur Die [Mercury] September 8 1647. 5.30, P.M. that very day five weeks my house was first shut up.


Clearly, he would want to revise the book. In our research for ‘Monster of Ingratitude’ regarding John Gadbury’s hatred of William Lilly, Peter Stockinger and I had to read many of Lilly’s almanacs, and we found the following in his almanac for 1656 (Merlini Anglici Ephemeris), he writes this in the penultimate page:


we hear our Introduction unto Astrology [Lilly’s name for Christian Astrology] is reprinting; if it be so, its without our Knowledge, Consent or Owning; we intended, and intend a serious review and enlargement thereof, upon a second Impression, if ever be by our Consent. But the malicious covetousnesse of those who now have a propriety in it, or have acquired the Copy, or others shall reprint it, we not consenting, we then say, the Booke will come forth, very lame, deficient and contrary to our sober intention of amending its former errors; occasioned then by our being shut up of the Plague.


Corner-house over against Strand-bridge,

Octob. 25. 1655.


Finally, he and Henry Coley published a translation of extracts from Bonatti and Cardano as Anima Astrologiae: or a Guide for Astrologers in 1676, just five years before Lilly’s death. In his address, Lilly writes:


We had formerly some thoughts of revising our Introduction to Astrology, now out of print, and to have enriched it for another edition with the choicest aphorisms, both from the writings of the ancients and our own many years experience, but the laboriousness of that work, considering our age and many infirmities, with the discouragements we have already met with from some ungrateful persons, caused us to lay aside (at least for the present) those intentions.


Again, his dissatisfaction with the 1647 edition is made clear, however, it is also clear that at this date there had been no revised edition. Thus, Christian Astrology 1659 is a bootleg copy of that of 1647 and is, therefore, not an edition but an unauthorized reprint.


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