A digital edition of Simon Forman’s & Richard Napier’s medical records 1596–1634
Forman wrote a series of books to instruct novice astrologers in his methods. These guides to astrology, and the related guides to geomancy, are a perfect source for historians to understand the ways in which the casebooks were constructed. They were never printed. Copies survive along with the rest of Forman’s manuscripts, and there is some evidence that they circulated in this format. The most substantial of these guides is ‘The astrologicalle judgmentes of phisick and other questions’, for which Napier drafted a preface, ‘A treatise touching the Defenc of Astrologie’, one (incomplete) version of which is already available on this site. Work is in progress to include further edited material from these manuscripts.
Forman was building on a long tradition of astrological manuals, some devoted in part or in full to astrological medicine. Most of these were large Latin treatises, circulating in printed editions. A handful of English books was printed in Elizabethan London, more often translations from the French than freshly authored texts. Forman’s astrological guides were the most substantial English manuals of this sort until William Lilly’s Christian Astrology was published in 1647.
This preface, written to accompany one of Forman’s guides to astrology and entitled ‘A treatise touching the Defenc of Astrologie’, exists in two copies: an autograph draft covered in additions and deletions, which has since been divided between two manuscripts in the Ashmole collection and lacks some pages; and a neat transcription in two hands that ends midway through. It is uncertain whether Napier ever completed the work, and neither it, nor the work by Forman which it was to accompany, was ever published. (See Lauren Kassell, Medicine and Magic in Elizabethan London (2005), pp. 60–65 and 68–70, on Napier’s treatise and its relation to Forman’s guide.) Even using both of these versions of the text it is impossible to reconstruct the entire preface. The neat copy is currently available; Napier’s draft will appear here in due course.
Document last modified: 1 June 2012
Cite this as: "Guides to astrology", Casebooks Project (http://www.magicandmedicine.hps.cam.ac.uk/on-astrological-medicine/guides-to-astrology/)