January 29th, 2013
There is a nice little exhibition on astrology and medicine at College of Physicians of Philadelphia (CPP): “Under the Influence of The Heavens: Astrology in Medicine in the 15th and 16th Centuries.” They selected about a dozen books from their rich and often unexplored collection of early printed books. One case displays some incunabula ranging from relatively well known books.
One of the earlier books in the exhibit is the 1496 edition of Marsilio Ficino’s De vita libri tres, replete with annotations:
Another early text is Giovanni Abiosi’s defense of astrology (for some of Abiosi’s other works, see here):
A couple of these later books have elaborate volvelles—sort of paper instruments with moveable wheels that allowed a reader to carry out various operations.
These few books don’t begin to scratch the surface of the medico-astrological books at the CPP. Fortunately, many of the early works, at least through the sixteenth century, were identified by Alexandra Waleko, a recent history major Haverford College who interned at the CPP a couple summers ago, thanks to support from the Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities at Haverford.
After spending a semester in Granada studying abroad and conducting research in the archives for her thesis, she returned and spent the summer digging through the collection at the CPP looking for early books on astrology and medicine. These provided much of the foundation for her interesting thesis on how astrology served the political agenda of King Alfonso X.
If you are in Philadelphia you should stop by the CPP and look at the exhibit.