Tractatus astrologicus de genethliacorum thematum iudiciis…. Henrik RANTZAU.
Tractatus astrologicus de genethliacorum thematum iudiciis…
Tractatus astrologicus de genethliacorum thematum iudiciis…
Frankfurt, Johann Wechel, 1593

Tractatus astrologicus de genethliacorum thematum iudiciis….

[18.1 x 10.9 cm], (8) ff, 355 pp, (14) ff. plus 2 folding tables (1 double-sided). Printed correction slip pasted onto p. 331. Woodcut vignette on title, numismatic portrait of Rantzau on verso of title, and large woodcut arms on 2. [Bound with]: FROBEN, Georg. Epistolae Consolatoriae, Regum, Principum, Comitum, Baronum, Nobilium, Aliorumque clarissimorum & doctissimorum virorum, Ad Henricum Ranzovium…. Frankfurt, Johann Wechel, 1593. (8) ff, 249 pp, (3) ff. plus 1 folding woodcut plate of a mausoleum. Woodcut vignette on title, numismatic portrait of Rantzau on verso of title, and large woodcut arms on )(2. [And with]: VORST, Johannes. Epistola ...Scripta ad... Henricum Rantzovium. Hamburg, Heinrich Steinbach, 1593. (8) ff, with engraved portrait in text and full-page engraving of mausoleum on final leaf. Bound in contemporary blind-ruled vellum over boards with manuscript title on spine, ties lacking. Mild staining to covers, internally excellent, a very good copy. Scored ex-libris of Johannes (?) of Hamburg, dated 1593.

Fine sammelband of three first edition works, all rare, produced by or for the astrologer and publishing entrepreneur, Heinrich Rantzau. Rantzau’s most important astrological work, the Tractatus astrologicus, is found bound here alongside two typical Ranzovian productions celebrating his father, Johann, and his recently deceased son, Cajus. While the vocation of authorship offered a means of self-aggrandizement to many noble or wealthy men early on in the Early Modern period, Rantzau’s production is somewhat unusual for its radical inconsistency. While he was capable of making intelligent use of cutting-edge observational data, most importantly from the greatest of living astronomers, Tycho, he was shameless in publishing what are no more than paraphrases of his reading (duly attributed) or commissioning others to write laudatory books in favor of him or his family.

The Tractatus astrologicus was Rantzau’s most important astrological work (Arpinati), on the calculation of nativities using contemporary astronomical data. The present work collates observations on selected celestial phenomena, presenting the often contrasting views of the modern luminaries Cardano, Schoener, and Ringelberg, as well as the 9th century Arab astronomer Albohali. Their views are summarized by topic under their names, without comment or criticism, more typical of a set of notes or common place book than a finished treatise.

Rantzau, “Tycho’s friend and intellectual ally” (Thoren, p. 343), enjoyed a healthy interest in astrology and is known to have exchanged information on eg. the comet of 1585 with the famous Danish astronomer. Although we do note any express mention of Tycho, Rantzau’s astrology depends on such recent empirical data as the diameters of Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn; the true conjunctions of the planets; and the movements of the fixed vs ‘erratic’ stars. On p. 327 he provides an example of his own highly favorable nativity, typical of such works. “[Rantzau] must have possessed almost every relevant astrological publication of the sixteenth century, not to speak of manuscripts and numerous scientific instruments… [He] was of the opinion that the only way to lay a solid foundation for astrology was the improvement of its astronomical requirements, i.e. more correct calculations of planetary positions, as he explicitly stated in a letter to Tycho…” (Oestmann, “Tycho Brahe’s Attitude towards Astrology and his Relations to Heinrich Rantzau”).

The two works bound after the Tractatus are representative of a large genre of Rantzau-related literature, often commissioned by the wealthy businessman to celebrate himself and his family. The Epistolae Consolatoriae is devoted to the memory of Johann, Rantzau’s father, and includes an interesting folding woodcut plate of the interior view of a chapel constructed for the occasion by Heinrich. [Aside from the prominent display of crucifixes, unusual in a Protestant mausoleum, the eye is also drawn to a large portrait of Heinrich himself on the wall dated 1591, as well as Heinrich’s and his wife’s own caskets in the foreground, awaiting their use in turn]. The final work, in its extremely rare sole edition, celebrates the life of Kai (Cajus) Rantzau, Heinrich’s son. It includes an engraved portrait of the young nobleman, as well as a more curious full-page engraving on the final leaf of the famous Segeberger Pyramid, another chapel built by Rantzau which survived into the 18th century in its original form.

Heinrich Rantzau (1526-1598) was a celebrated German/Danish humanist and one of the most important patrons of Northern German arts and sciences, including Tycho Brahe – whom he provided with much material and financial support.

* VD16 R 256; F 3050; V 2771. 1): Arpinati, Astrologia III, 6559. Cf Peter Zeeberg, “Heinrich Rantzau (1526-98) and his humanist collaborators”, Kongressbeiträge ‘Germania Latina’; also Günther Oestmann, “Tycho Brahe’s Attitude towards Astrology and his Relations to Heinrich Rantzau”, pp. 84-94 in Tycho Brahe and Prague: Crossroads of European Science (2002).

Price: $3,450.00

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