It is difficult to distinguish between astronomy and astrology in
the Middle Ages, so I shall not even try. In all these WEMSKs, I
have a problem holding myself in and keeping them within manageable
size. For starters, keep in mind:
a. Lynn Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science, 8
vols. (NY: ColumbiaUP, 1923-58). For us, it's the first 3 vols.
You can find almost anything; it functions almost as an
encyclopedia. 1954-59). Various printings. Not very systematic,
but check it every time
b. Another goodie: Pierre Duhem, Le systeme du monde, 10 vols.
c. I should have mentioned first our old medtextler: Stephen C.
McCluskey, Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval Europe
(Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998). We used to discuss all kinds of
astronomy and astrology, so remember the archives. Make sure to
look at his bibliography (pp. 209-228).
1. For a good introduction to astronomy:
a. Fred Hoyle, Astronomy (London: Crescent Books, 1962).
b. To keep around for looking things up: Encylopedia of Astronomy
and Astrophysics, ed. Robert A. Meyers (San Diego, CA: Academic,
1989. Hard reading. Signed articles by experts. Bibliography.
c. Somewhat less formidable: Larousse Encyclopedia of Astronomy,
ed. Lucien Rudaux and G. de Vaucouleurs, transl. Michael Guest and
John B. Sidgwick (NY: Prometheus, 1959).
2, For astrology:
a. Margaret E. Hone, D. F. Astrol. S., The Modern Textbook of
Astrology, rev. ed. (London: L. N. Fowler, 1955). This is the most
b. Louis MacNeice, Astrology (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1964.
c. William Lilly, Astrology (Hollywood: Newcastle, 1972). A reprint
of Lilly's Introduction, 1647. Not bad to page through.
d. For fun and easy reading: Robert Eisler, The Royal Art of
Astrology (London: H. Joseph, 1946. Good bibliography.
3. For early and medieval:
a. Franz Boll, Carl Bezold, Wilhelm Gundel, Sternglaube und
Sterndeutung, 6. durchgesehene Auflage, mit einem bibl. Anhang von
Hans Georg Gundel (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft,
1974). Three of the greats. Disorganized, but great to read
b. Wilhelm Knappich, Geschichte der Astrologie, 2d ed.
(Klostermann, 1988), with new bibliography.
c. Jim Tester, A History of Western Astronomy (NY:Ballentine Books,
1987). Has a large discussion (pp. 98-203) on astrology in "The
Latin Middle Ages".
d. Isabelle Draelants, Eclipses, cometes, autres phenomenes
celestes et tremblements de terre au Moyen Age: enquete sur six
siecles d'historiographie medievale dans les limites de la Belgique
actuelle, 600-1200 (Louvain-la-Neuve: Presses universitaires de
Louvain, UCL, 1995). Good, but note the limites.
e. Edward Grant, Planets, Stars, and Orbs: The Medieval Cosmos,
1200-1687 (Cambridge: CUP, 1996).
f. John David North, Stars, Minds, and Fate: Essays in Ancient and
Medieval Cosmology (London: Hambledon, 1989).
4. For bibliography: Ernst Zinner, Geschichte und Bibliographie der
astronomischen Literatur in Deutschland zur Zeit der Renaissance
(Leipzig: Hiersemann, 1941).
5. There were a number of astronomical tables and the like in the
Middle Ages, the most famous being those of Alfonso el Sabio.
a. For a survey: Benno van Dalen, "Ancient and Mediaeval
Astronomical Tables: Mathematical Structure and Parameter Values"
(Diss. Utrecht, 1993).
b. E. S. Kennedy, A Survey of Islamic Astronomical Tables, Trans.
Amer. Phil. Soc., 46, (Philadelphia, 1956).
c. For Alfonso: Las tablas de los movimientos de los cuerpos
celestiales : del Iluxtrisimo Rey don Alonso de Castilla seguidas
de su Additio: traduccion castellana anonima de los Canones de Juan
de Sajonia, estudio y edicion de Jose Martinez Gazquez (Murcia:
Secretariado de Publicaciones, Universidad de Murcia, 1989).
6. Each tradition has its own surveys, for example:
a. Edward S. Kennedy, Astronomy and Astrology in the Medieval
Islamic World (Brookfield, VT: Ashgate, 1998). Good read.
b. Emmanuel A. Paschos and P. Sotiroudis, The Schemata of the
Stars: Byzantine Astronomy (River Edge, NJ: World Scientific,
c. Theodor Otto Wedel, The Medieval Attitude Toward Astrology,
Particularly in England (Hamden, CN: Archon, 1968; rept. of his
1920 book, which was his dissertation ad Yale, 1918).
d. Paul Kunitzsch, Mittelalterliche astronomisch-astrologische
Glossare mit arabischen Fachausdruecken. Bayrische Akademie der
Wissenschaften (Munich, 1977), Heft 5. It is not a survey, but it
does offer some nice texts and a point of departure.
e. Georg-Karl Bauer, Sternkunde und Sterndeutung der Deutschen im
9.-14. Jahrhundert, unter Ausschluss der reinen Fachwissenschaft.
Germanische Studien 186 (NY: Kraus Reprint, 1967; orig. 1967).
7. For iconography:
a. Fritz Saxl, Catalogue of astrological and mythological
illuminated manuscripts of the Latin Middle Ages (London,
1953), in multiple volumes, with many plates.
b. For the influence of stars on parts of the body, etc.: Helmut
Rehder's article on the subject: "Planetenkinder: Some Problems of
Character Portrayal in Literature," The Graduate Journal
(publication of the Graduate School of the University of Texas) 8
(1968), 69-97. It is not the best article ever written, nor even
the best he wrote, but it has good illustrations, and you
can learn about `Saturnische Holzbloecke' (saturnine blockheads),
`Marsbrueder', `Venusnarren' (fools of Venus), and `Mondkaelber'
(moon calves, for those who read Morgenstern).
8. Not only individual traditions, but also individual authors and
works get treatment, for example, e pluribus:
a. J. D. North, Chaucer's Universe (Oxford: Clarendon, 1988).
b. Richard Kay, Dante's Christian Astrology (Philadelphia:
University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994). Plus the latest: Alison
Cornish, Reading Dante's Stars (New Haven: Yale UP, 2000).
c. Wilhelm Deinert, Ritter und Kosmos im Parzival. Muenchener Texte
und Untersuchungen zur deutschen Literatur des Mittelalters 2
(Munich: Beck, 1960).
9. I should point out that you can keep up quite well in this field
through l'Annee philologique, which is now available on CD-ROM,
which makes it easily searchable. Three `new' terms to search
under, there and on the web, are: archaeoastronomy,
astroarcheology, and Ethnoastronomy; see the article by Elizabeth
Chesley Baity, "Archaeoastronomy and Ethnoastronomy so Far,"
Current Anthropology 14 (October 1973), 389-449, with commentary by
a number of authorities and a great bibliography.
10. For authors such as Paul Kunitzsch, Martin P. Nilsson, and Otto
Neugebauer, it is well to search on their names. It is delightful
reading through, for example: O. Neugebauer, Astronomy and History.
Selected Essays (Berlin: Springer, 1983), by the author of The
Exact Sciences in Antiquity. I have failed to mention Bouche-
Leclercq, L'astrologie grecque (1891, rpt. 1963), and Saturn and
Melancholy, a great book, or Kunitzsch's The Arabs and the Stars.
And one of my favorites: Alfraedhi islenzk, of which I have posted
the table of contents on Medtextl (search the archives). I should
mention, at least, Thomas Oswald Cockayne's Leechdoms, Wortcunning
and Starcraft of Early England (London: Longman, 1864-66), if for
the title alone. I have passed over Wilhelm Gundel's delightful
Astrologumena, but you shouldn't. Anyway, with the above you should be able
to get along fairly well.
I thought we needed an appendix, on doing those things with the computer:
Astronomy and Astrology on the Computer
When you get into astronomy/astrology, you are going to want to
find out where the planets were with reference to a particular
point on a particular day. We will discuss calendar programs and
how they will help you later. Combining the calendar program with
planetary programs and a good atlas can be of enormous aid.
a. What I used to do was to take Bryant Tuckerman, Planetary,
Lunar, and Solar Positions, 601 BC to AD 1649, 2 vols. (American
Philosophical Society, 1962-64) to hand, lookup the date and do my
interpolations. Since I am math impaired (can count to two, but
that's it), I was happy to see:
b. Peter Duffett-Smith, Practical Astronomy with your Calculator,
2d ed. (Cambridge U Press, 1979). This worked sort of, but it was
great when the computer began to come in. I could use:
c. Eric Burgess, Celestial BASIC. Astronomy on your Computer
(Berkeley: Sybex, 1982). Though practically no one uses BASIC any
more, this will give you your algorithms, so you can do it in PERL,
if you wish to eschew programming; VisualBasic would be great.
d. It was not long, since it is easy to do well-known formulas on
the computer, until we began to have programs which would do it all
for you and display the night sky from any point on earth at almost
any point in time. You could see the Munich sky as Wolfram may
have seen it on the 11th of Nov., 1206, at 11 PM. There are many
of these. My favorite commercial product, now out of business, was
Dance of the Planets. Juris told us about a shareware product,
SkyMap: "Displays a map of the sky as seen from _any point_ on the Earth for
_any date_ between 4000 BC and 8000 AD! Plus you can get details about any
object displayed on the map. You can even draw a horizon map showing your
own local horizon. Can be gotten from
This means, of course, that it's available from SimTel.
e. There are more programs than one can mention. An easy way to
find some of them is to look at: The PC-SIG Encyclopedia of
Shareware, 4th ed. (Sunnyvale, CA: PC-SIG, Inc., 1991), s.v.
"Astrology and Fortune Telling," "Astronomy and Space Exploration."
Just some examples: The first, and still one of the best, which I
use over and over, is Planets (PC-SIG 298). It follows the book by
Duffett-Smith and plots everything, even giving you a sky-view.
The next in time is Moonbeam (538), also a good program. DeepSpace 3-D
(866, 867) even gives you a "3 dimensional" view. Silicon Sky is a
planisphere; it offers you a view of the sky in any direction, at any time
and place. Its PC-SIG number is 1103. Skyclock (1614) is an ephemeris (you
astrology freaks will recognize the word), good also for calendar (later)
work. For the same purpose there is also Astrosoft Ephemeris (692-93). The
most ambitious of all is Night Sky (1796, 1797, 2139, 2140).
f. Some commercials, from my review of 1993: SuperStar, Celestial
Basic, Dance of the Planets, SkyWatch, Starware Sky Mapper,
Astrocalc, LodeStar Plus.
g. In the review mentioned, I pointed out: Andromeda Software, Inc
-- Scientific / Astronomy Software Catalog -- Andromeda Software,
Inc. -- P.O. Box 605 -- Amherst, NY 14226-0605 -- Fax:
716-691-6731. I hope they still exist.
h. And Charlie wrote: Mary Wack gave me a brochure from a Berkeley company
that offers scale models of historical astronomical instruments, including
astrolabes and armillary spheres. Their address is Greene's Workshop, 1215
Fourth St., Berkeley, CA 94710; phone 415-524-1109.
i. Let me point out that there are many, many resources on the
internet. We used to discuss astrology and astronomy on Celtic-l
and Astrol-l, and: The first dissertation put on internet was:
"Astrology and Judaism in Late Antiquity," by Lester J. Ness (Miami
U diss., 1990). You could retrieve it through ftp to
Directory: /pub/religion/ as the files:
j. The field we are discussing is "archaeoastronomy" and
"astroarcheology", so look these up with your browser.
Stephen C. McCluskey, _Astronomies and Cultures in Early Medieval
Europe_ Cambridge U. Press 1998. A remarkably good book.
Also, Chauncey Wood, _Chaucer and the Country of the Stars_ Princeton,
1970 ( 1975 ?)
And of course your old friend, whose scholarship I admire so much, W.
Curry, _Chaucer and the Medieval Sciences_.
I'm presuming that you're
also including David Lindberg's History of
Medieval Science. He gave a lecture here in Fort Collins (at CSU) some
months ago on the Galileo debacle
I always seem to forget something. Please add this to WEMSK8
Oliver Montenbruck and Thomas Pfleger, Astronomy on the Personal Computer,
transl. (from the German) Storm Dunlop, 3d ed. (NY: Springer, 1997). W. 1
computer disk (3 1/2 in.).