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Miscellany from the British Library...

Hi everyone,

(1) "The Art of the Alchemists", C A Burland, 1967, was mentioned a while back as having a few pages on John Dee and Edward Kelly in Prague: so I checked it out for myself.

According to this, "[i]t was revealed to Kelly that the red powder had been hidden by Saint Dunstan and so had remained intact for some six centuries before Kelly's discovery."

Burland describes Kelly as a "trance medium of considerable power": and notes that later, it wasn't Rudolph that Kelly fell out of favour with: rather, that "denunciations of the papal authorities led to Kelly's detention."

From what I saw, it's a fascinating book, but the lack of connection between the text and the large bibliography made it frustrating for me... the above information could have come from anywhere, and it left me wanting MORE. :-(

(2) I also checked out Simon de Phares, to see what his list of 127 "usual suspects" looked like. The full text is in the first volume of the 2-volume "Le Recueil des Plus Celebres Astrologues de Simon de Phares", ed. Jean-Patrice Boudet, 1999: it's (unsurprisingly) in French, with extensive footnotes correlating not only each of the astrologers with actual people where they existed, but also making predictions about who he might have been thinking about in the vast majority of cases that appear to be completely fictitious. :-/

De Phares garbles names arbitrarily, gets dates (even centuries!) wrong, assigns skills (astrological and otherwise) arbitrarily, and generally gives a strong impression of a shotgun methodology - sometimes he hits a real target, sometimes he doesn't, but he causes a mess regardless. :_/

Because of the arbitrariness of all this, Boudet's references necessarily have to jump all round Europe (and all round the Middle Ages), so these are actually quite interesting. The pick of the bunch:-

D. Jacquart "Theory, Everyday Practice, and Three Fifteenth Century Physicians", Osiris, 2nd Series, 1990, pp 140-160.

D.P. Lockwood, "Ugo Benzi: Medieval Philosopher and physician 1376-1439", Chicago, 1951.

Another interesting person to read about might well be Martin Bylica of Olkusz (1433-1493).

An interesting thread running through the notes was to do with a "fameuse controversie sur le choix des jours favourable a la saignee et a l'administration des purgatifs qui devaient etre indiques sur l'almanach de l'annee 1437".

In the VMS, I've been thinking for a while whether - on the "astrology" pages - there was a link between star-colour (red/yellow) and menstruation, similarly to the Factory egg-timer (FAC7). However, reading this made me realise that blood-letting, purges and surgery were other things that astrologers would be asked to predict the most auspicious time to do - in fact, I believe that a number of French astrologers still do this.

The VMS' "astrology" pages might then encode not only information about male/female conception, but also about blood-letting (red/yellow stars?) purges (legs open/together) and surgery (hand in front of stomach/behind stomach?).

I'm not saying I understand the correlations yet, but this is definitely an aspect of the link between astrology and medicine we should be aware of.

Further reading indicated from Boudet:-

T. Charmasson. "L'etablissement d'un almanach medical pout l'annee 1437", comptes-rendus du 99o Congres national des societes savante (Besancon, 1974), section des sciences, fasc. V, Paris 1976, pp. 217-234.

Also: Biblioteque National lat 7427, numero 21 is "un parfait exempl, pour l'annee 1470 de ce type d'almanach medical".

(3) I finally got round to reading Paul Saenger's article "Benito Arias Montano and the evolving notion of locus in sixteenth century printed books" (from "Word & Image", Vol 17, Issue 1, 2001) that Edward Tenner recommended.

This confirmed a lot of what I suspected - essentially, inter-textual references were essentially unknown (apart from one extraordinary one noted by Eric Reiter - though didn't follow that up), and intra-textual references normally referred to quire numbers.

Foliation was used round about 900-1000CE, but fell out of use again. Tables of contents only really started happening once incunabula began being produced - they're extremely rare before 1460. The first significant use of pagination was 1499, for the paginated Aldine copy of Niccolo Perotti's "Cornucopiae linguae latinae".

Rolewinck (1474) used punctus before/after a folio number to indicate recto/verso. Matthew Parker first used the term "folio" in 1566, BTW.

As for line-numbering, or row-labelling: "[O]nly in a very few fifteenth-century medieval Latin manuscripts did scribes make such reference points graphic by writing equally spaced letters of the alphabet in the margins".

Erasmus, while editing the drafts of his books, would refer to page and line number (sometimes counting up or down a page).

Essentially, Saenger's thesis is that (later in the sixteenth century) the Church needed to produce a list of passages that needed to be removed from books (before that, they'd just burn it), which is basically what Benito Arias Montano compiled: but to do this, Monatno needed to develop better mental tools for rigorous editing, which was (ultimately) his legacy.

A further paper on this is "The Impact of the Early Printed Page on the Reading of the Bible", in "The Bible as Book: The First Printed Editions", ed Saenger & Van Kempen, London , 1999, pp. 31-41.

Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....