Haly Abenragel –
Which printed editions best?
– March 23-24, 2008

I am wondering if anyone reading this knows which are the best, most useful, or otherwise worthwhile editions of Haly Abenragel for study and reference purposes, apart from the scan of the Renaissance Latin translation available for free download at the Warburg Institute.

So far as I can gather from the limited information on the Internet, there are at least three modern printed editions of Abenragel doing the rounds on the new and second-hand market, although one of these is in two parts printed some fifty years apart from each other, and one of the others is out of print and unobtainable used.

As far as I can work out so far, the critical edition of the first five books of the medieval Castillan translation from the original Arabic, which in manuscript form was the source material for the later Renaissance Latin translation found at the Warburg Institute website, was published in 1954 in an edition by Gerold Hilty (as praisefully documented by James Holden in ‘A History of Horoscopic Astrology), with the remaining three books also edited by Hilty being printed in a complementary edition some fifty-one years later in 2005, with additional comments by a new generation of editors to supplement those left behind by Hilty (who perhaps may by then have been deceased – though if the 1954 edition was prepared when he was in his 20s or 30s, he might conceivably still be alive today).

The 2005 edition with Books 6-8 only is still available new at a moderate price, but the 1954 edition of Books 1-5 is only available second-hand, with decent copies commanding prices well over £100 each (though as if to further confuse matters, there appear to be two versions of the 1954 edition around, one with 58 prefatory and 272 main text pages, costing over £100 in good condition, and one with only 28 prefatory and 56 main text pages, which is very much cheaper, but presumably incomplete), so this could make for an expensive combination.

And since surviving manuscripts of the medieval Castillan translation do not include Books 6-8 at all, I can only presume that the 2005 edition of these books was prepared from the Renaissance Latin translation as found at the Warburg Institute website, but whether the 2005 edition is a critical edition of these books in Latin or a retrospective translation back into Castillan (whether medieval or modern) I frankly do not yet know!

Secondly, in 1960 there appears to have been a translation from presumably chiefly the Castillan version into modern Spanish by Spain’s great translator of traditional astrological texts Demetrio Santos (who as far as I can gather is now in his 80s but still very much alive). This translation was published that year by a company called Indigo, who recently reprinted it 37 years later in 1997. However, I cannot gather whether either printing is a translation of the full eight books of Abenragel including the last three that survived only in the Latin translation from the medieval Castillan, or just the first five as were made available from the surviving medieval Castillan manuscript(s) in 1954.

Thirdly and finally, there appears to have been a rendition not into modern Spanish but into modern Castillan in eight very expensive softcover volumes (one per book, with list prices reported by a Spanish bookselling website to be at around 100 Euros per volume, making 800 Euros in total for the set) printed by a company called Gracentro. It looks like a very serious production, no doubt replete with scholarly commentaries, but unfortunately also appears to be out of print already, just a few years after it was produced:


Does anyone have any experience with any of these editions? For reasons of scholarship I am inclined to favour the 1954 / 2005 Hilty edition in two volumes for my personal collection, however for reasons of ease of reading I’m leaning towards the Demetrio Santos translation, presuming that it has all eight books in modern Spanish and that the translation is accurate and useful by today’s standards of understanding of Arabic astrological texts.

I expect Ben Dykes will eventually be working on the first English translation in any case, but in the meantime would like to know if any of the other editions are worth investing in!


In post-script to my first post, I have found evidence (in Spanish) on the Internet that the story behind the supposed loss of the Castillan edition of books 6-8 of El libro conplido… by Haly Abenragel may be more complex than Holden’s account in ‘A History of Horoscopic Astrology’ led me to believe, with large parts of these books having been rediscovered by Hilty as manuscripts predating the Renaissance Latin translation since the printing of his critical edition of Books I-V, and these manuscripts forming the basis of his critical edition in 2005 of Books VI-VIII, as opposed to the later Latin translation being relied on!

Also it is now apparent to me from the discovery from library records of the publication of a Festschrift for his sixtieth birthday in 1987 that Gerold Hilty was born in or around 1927, which would have made him a mere 27 years old at the time of the publication of his critical edition of Abenragel Books I-V in 1954! Therefore it is strongly possible that he is alive and well today at the age of eighty or eighty-one, and I wish to apologise for at first having presumed this unlikely, my presumption having been based on the fact that critical editions of astrological texts have usually been prepared by scholars of more senior age than Hilty’s in 1954.

I have discovered that he resumed work on Abenragel in his retirement from academic life, and was personally instrumental in bringing his edition of the last three books to print in 2005, but did not manage to persuade the publisher of his 1954 edition to accept this project; it is perhaps (and I merely deductively speculate) for reasons of his original publisher lacking interest but retaining rights that the first five books of his edition were not reissued together with the last three.

Share to:

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.