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TRACTAT DE PRENOSTICATION: ASTRO-NUMEROLOGY IN LATE MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN CATALUÑA John Scott Lucas Institute for Social and International Studies, Barcelona Portland State University The Tractât de prenostication de la vida natural dels hòmens, a late fifteenth century Catalan incunable, demonstrates the influence ofastronumerology in the Iberian Peninsula. Catalogued simply as a "rarísimo impreso catalán" and a "texto astrológico" (Pere Bohigas 1961), the incunable was subsequently forgotten as one of many fragmentary popular works on astrology. As is often the case with the occult sciences , the archives fail to describe the material adequately or completely . Missing is a thorough description ofthe content and an analysis of its importance in the wider context of the occult sciences in late medieval and early modern Cataluña. The present analysis locates the text linguistically, geographically, and historically as originating in Eastern Cataluña during the fifteenth century. It further demonstrates that the text is composed of two stylistically and thematically different sections, the first of which confirms the influence in Cataluña of Indian , Arabic and Greek sources ofprognostication not previously known to exist or poorly documented in the region. A look at the second section reveals a justification for the practice of astrology suggestive in both form and function of the emerging influence of Italian humanism in Cataluña at the close of the fifteenth century. The Tractat lacks any ofthe usual discussion ofthe casting ofhoroscopes or the signs of the zodiac, although it does contain vocabulary and imagery typically associated with such astrological texts. This symbolism misled Bohigas to categorize the Tractat incorrectly as an astrological treatise. Because the text seemed, at first glance, so similar to other astrological treatises ofthe period, Bohigas failed to explore the La corónica 31.1 (Fall, 2002): 55-67 56John Scott LucasLa coránica 31.1, 2002 content of the text thoroughly or to place it in its proper context making it easy for his readers to overlook the importance of this incunable (1961; 1965a; 1965b). What the Tractat does provide is clear evidence ofastro-numerology, one branch of the occult sciences, in the Iberian Peninsula. The use of numerology coupled with astrological symbolism exemplifies medieval syncretism, the tendency to pull together various strands of philosophy into one system. The second section of the Tractat contains a defense of astrology and, as such, foreshadows the Renaissance view of astrological magic as natural science. In a typically medieval treatment of the matter, Saint Isidore reminds us that prognostication, associated with magic, constitutes clear evidence of demonic influence (Etymologiae 8.9.31). In stark contrast, scholars of the Italian Renaissance came close to conflating magic and natural science so that any attempt to influence the natural world constituted a use of "magic" (Eugenio Garin 1984: 199-201). Particularly noteworthy is the way in which the Tractat subverts a sermon by Pope Gregory the Great against astrology, wielding it instead as ajustification for astrological magic in a Christian context. When considered against the wider panorama of divinatory arts available in fifteenth-century Cataluña, the Tractat stands out as a rara avis for a number of reasons. There are virtually no other witnesses of astro-numerology in Catalan, although evidence from other European languages suggests that this form of prognostication enjoyed great popularity in the medieval and early Renaissance periods.1 The text draws on additional ancient sources whose influence has not been well attested in Cataluña (see below). The defense of astrology in the second section, though brief, provides a unique expression of the revalorization of the occult sciences already underway in Renaissance Italy. The Biblioteca de Catalunya in Barcelona houses the only known copy of the Tractat, which bears the call number Esp. 6-8°.2 The catalogue of incunables at the Biblioteca Colombina in Seville (7: 48) lists 1 For a general discussion of astrology, see Jim S. Tester (1987) and for the occult varieties including onomancy and astro-numerology see Richard Kieckhefer (1989) and William Eamon ( 1 994). Lynn Thorndike's massive encyclopedia remains the best treatment of specific texts (1923-58). - Catalan bibliophile Santiago Espona i Brunet (1888-1958) bequeathed the work to the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1947-4261
Print ISSN
0193-3892
Pages
pp. 55-67
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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