List of the most expensive pre-1800 astrology books for sale
– May 18, 2007
Thought it might be fun and stimulating to bibliographical learning, as a diversion from the auction theme, to look at the most expensive rare astrology books available at fixed prices on the used book network by author and title. I have based this on an Abebooks search, which may conceivably omit some important astrological titles that have not been listed with the keywords I’ve used because there is not enough space in the search bar for every variation on the word ‘astrology’ in every popular language to be included, and Abebooks does not accept asterisk-suffixed abbreviations as catch-alls! Also some apparently spurious search results and results for books which make only oblique or passing reference to astrology in a small section of a much larger, more general work have been omitted, and likewise purely astronomical almanacs and tables even if prepared by astronomers who were also astrologers, and general tomes of time-specific prophecies which may have had some astrological basis but it is doubtful how much from the descriptions given.
I have restricted the list in the first instance to the forty most expensive books (or individual copies thereof) meeting the aforementioned criteria, which turns out to include all books offered for $3500 or more at the present time:
1. Johannes Angelus ‘Astrolabium’ 1488 – $45000 from Phillip J. Pirages Rare Books, OR, USA
2. Leopoldus dux Austriae ‘Compilatio de astrorum scientia Decem continens tractatus’ 1489 – EUR 24000 from Libreria de Bilbao, Bizka, Spain
3. Albumasar (sic) ‘Introductorium in astronomiam’ 1489 – $30000 from Heritage Book Shop, Los Angeles, CA, USA
4. Cauis Julius Hyginus ‘Poeticon astronomicon’ 1485 – £12000 from Hunesdorff Rare Books, London, England, UK
5. Robert Fludd ‘Utriusque Cosmi Maioris scilicet et Minoris Metaphysica. Physica Atque Technica Historia In duo Volumina secundum Cosmi differentiam divisa’ (appears to be a broader philosophical work on the relationship between cosmic macrocosm and human-level microcosm but still very relevant to astrological traditions!) 1617-1624 – $17500 from Krown and Spellman, Culver City, CA, USA
6. Nicolas Bonfons ‘Le Grand Calendrier et compost des Bergiers’ 1589 – EUR 12000 from Librairie Bernard Forgeot, Paris, France
7= Albumasar (sic) ‘Flores Astrologiae’ 1500 – EUR 11000 from Libreria Antiquaria Perini, Verona, Italy
7= Lucio Bellanti ‘De Astrologica Veritate. Et in disputationes Ioannis Pici adversus astrologos disputationes’ 1498 – EUR 11000 from Libreria Antiquaria Perini, Verona, Italy
9. Paracelsus ‘Astronomia Magna: Oder Die gantze Philosophia sagax der grossen und kleinen Welt’ (appears to be Paracelsus’s equivalent of Fludd’s grand philosophical work above linking macrocosm to microcosm) 1571 – $15000 from Krown and Spellman, Culver City, CA, USA
10. Ptolemaeus ‘Liber Quadripartitus Ptolemaei Id Est Quattuor Tractatu’ 1484 – EUR 10000 from Libreria Antiquaria Perini, Verona, Italy
11. Regiomontanus (Johannes Muller) ‘Des Weitberumten M. Johannen Kunigspersgers, Naturlicher Kunst et Astronomei kurtzer begriff, Von naturlichem influss der gestirrn, Planeten und Zeychen Von Complexionen new und volmon von vier Elementen’ 1528 – EUR 9375 from Libreria Antiquaria Comellas, Barcelona, Spain
12. Firmin de Beauval ‘Opusculum repertorii pronosticon in Mutatione Aeris’ bound with Hippocrates ‘Libellus de Medicorum Astrologia’ 1485 – $12500 from Jonathan A Hill, Bookseller Inc., New York, NY, USA (NB: Although this consists of two works bound together, they are both astrological so the combined volume is worthy of inclusion here!)
13. Yves de Paris ‘Astrologiae Nova Methodus’ 1654 (bound with two other works but still worthy of inclusion here) – £6000 from Simon Finch Rare Books, London, England, UK
14. Robert Turner and Cyprianus Leovitz (Leovitius) ‘Ars notoria: the notory art of Solomon, shewing the cabalistical key of magical operations, the liberal sciences, divine revelation, and the art of memory. Whereunto is added An astrological catechism, fully demonstrating the art of judicial astrology’ (the second of these works is the astrological work by Leovitius, translated into English by Turner) – 58000 Danish Kroner (currently $10816) from H.E.R.M.E.S. Antiquarian, Copenhagen, Denmark
15. Johannes Ab Indagine ‘Introductiones apotelesmaticae elegantes, in Chyromantiam, Physionomiam, Astrologiam naturalem, complexiones hominum, Naturas planetarum’ 1556 (bound with a short work by Tadeas Hajek) – EUR 7350 from Hugues de Latude, Gardouch, France
16. Bonatus de Forlivio, Guido ‘Decem Tractatus Astronomie’ 1506 – $10000 from Heritage Book Shop, Inc., Los Angeles, CA, USA
17. P. Godard ‘Manuel astronomic, ou introduction aux jugemens astrologiques, contenant un abregé succinct, positif & familier, tant des ephemerides pour le reste de ce present siècle, que des régles, observations, sentences, & pronostications qui en dépendent; pour servir, tant à la medecine, agriculture, & navigation, qu’aux horoscopes; sans neanmoins déroger au liberal arbitre, ny aux decrets de l’eglise catholique. Auquel est ajouté un petit traité des talismans ou figures astrales, & de la poudre & de l’encre de sympathie. Le tout recueilly de plusieurs excellens auteurs, tant anciens que modernes’ 1678 – EUR 7000 from Antiquariaat FORUM BV, t’Goy-Houten, UT, Netherlands
18. (Various authors) – Bound Volume Containing 23 Almanacs for the year 1678 (this very volume was sold at auction in late 2006, evidently to a bookdealer, the auction having been featured in the ‘Notable Rare Astrological Book Auctions’ strand; the dealer appears to be asking for about double the very high hammer price he paid for it at the auction to a collector; I expect it will one day realise that price or close to it, even if it takes some years to sell) 1677 – $9239.10 from Michael Laird Rare Books, Brooklyn, NY, USA
19. Marsilio Ficino ‘De Vita Libri Tres’ 1489 – $7500 from Krown and Spellman Booksellers, Culver City, CA, USA
20. Tobias Beutel ‘Arboretum Mathematicum, Darinnen zu befinden: Himmels-Figuren und Geburts- Stunden, Hoher Häupter, Auch außgerechnete Finsternüße, Sonnen- Mond- und Sternen-Uhren, Astrologia, Themata und richtig calculierte Longitudines & Latitudines Der Städte des Churfürstenthums Sachsen’ 1667-9 – EUR 5280 from Hamburger Antiquariat Keip GmbH, Hamburg, Germany (appears to be a mathematical work geared chiefly towards astrological, as opposed to astronomical, calculations, but I must admit my German isn’t up to scratch)
21. Johann M. Praetorius (pseud. for Hans Schultze, 1630-1680) ‘Reformata Astrologica Cometica, Das ist: Eine verblümte Vermählung, des höchsten Himmels mit der untersten Erden-Kugel’ 1665 – EUR 4500 from Antiquaariat FORUM BV, t’Goy-Houten, UT, Netherlands
22. Firmin de Beauval ‘Firmini repertorium de mutatione aeris, tam via astrologica, quam metheorologica, pristino nitori restitutum, per Philippum Iollainum Blereium, cum scholiis eiusdem’ 1539 – EUR 4250 from Antiquaariat FORUM BV, t’Goy-Houten, UT, Netherlands
23= Robert Fludd ‘Utriusque Cosmi Maioris scilicet et Minoris Metaphysica. Physica Atque Technica Historia In duo Volumina secundum Cosmi differentiam divisa. Tractatus Secundus. De Naturae Simia seu Technica macrocosmi historia, in partes undecim divisa. Editio secunda. ‘ (appears to be the second edition of only the second volume of the two-volume work appearing higher in this list at a much costlier price) 1624 – $5500 from Krown and Spellman, Culver City, CA, USA
23= Joannes Jovius Pontanus ‘Opera Omnia Soluta Oratione Composita [with] De Asiratione, Charon, Antonius, Actius, Aegidius, Asinus, De Sermone, Belli… [with] Centum Ptolemaei Sententiae Ad Syrum Fratem A Pontano E Graeco In Latinum Tralatae, Atque Expositae. Eiusdem Pontani Libri XIIII. De Reb. Coeslestibus. Liber Etiam De Luna Imperfectus’ (Three volumes filled with works by Pontanus including some astrological ones) 1518-19 – $5500 from Krown and Spellman, Culver City, CA, USA
25= Firmicus Maternus, Julius; Claudius Ptolemaeus; Hermes Trismegistus; Muhammad ibn Jabir Battani; Muhammad ibn ‘Umr ibn al Farkhan, Abu Bakr, al Tabari; Sahl ibn Bishr, Abu ‘Uthman; Maslamah al-Majriti; Yahya ibn Abi Mansur, al Ma’muni; Marcus Manilius; Otto Brunfels ‘Astronomicon Libri VIII, per Nicolaum Prucknerum Astrologum nuper ab innumeris mendis vindicati. His Accesserunt. Claudius Ptoemaei… Quadripartitum vocant, Lib. IIII. De inerrantium stellarum significationibus, Lib I. Centiloquium eiusdem. Ex Arabibus Et Chaldaeis. Hermetis vetustissimi Astrologi centum Aphoris. Lib. I. Betham Centiloquium. Eiusdem de Horis Planetarum Liber alius. Almanzoris Astrologi Propositiones ad Saracenorum regem. Zahelis Arabis de Electionibus Lib. i. Messahalah de ratione Circuli & Stellarum, & qualiter in hoc seculo operentur, Lib. 1. Omar de Nativitatibus Lib. III. Marci Manilii Poetae dsertissimi Astronomicon Lib V. Postremo Othonis Brunfelsii de Diffinitionibus & terminis Astrologiae liber…’ 1551 – $5000 from Krown and Spellman, Culver City, CA, USA
25= Robert Fludd ‘Utriusque Comi Majoris Scilicet Et Minoris Metaphysica, Physica atque Technica Historia etc.] Tomus Secundus De Supernaturali, Naturali, Praeternaturali Et Contranaturali Microcosmi historia… [With] Tomi Secundi Tractatus Primi, Sectio Secunda, De technica Microcosmi historia, in Portiones VII. divisa.’ (appears to be another partial edition of the first work, containing the second tome, but bound with part of another work also by Fludd) 1619 – $5000 from Krown and Spellman, Culver City, CA, USA
27. Gaius Julius Hyginus ‘Fabularum liber [.] antehac nunquam excusus. Eiusdem Poeticon astronomicon libri quatuor’ 1535 (appears to be a later edition of the same work listed at No. 4 above, together with another work by the same author) – EUR 3500 from Antiquariat Inlibris, Vienna, Austria
28. Giovanni Pico della Mirandola ‘Omnia Opera. Joannis Pici Mirandulae vita per Joannem Franciscum principis Galeotti Pici Filium… Heptaplus de opere Sex dierum genesos. Deprecatoria ad Deum elegiaco carme. Apologia tredecim quaestionum. Tractatus de ente & uno cum obiectionibus quibusdam & responsionibus. Oratio quaedam elegantissima. Epistolae plures… Testimonia eius vitae & doctrinae. Disputationum advesus Astrologos libri duodecim. Caecilii Cypriani episcopi Carthagineses de ligno crucis carmen. Hoc in volumine scibunt Epistolas hi viri clarissimi…’ 1519 – $4750 from Krown and Spellman Booksellers, Culver City, CA, USA
29. Francisco Iunctino Florentino (sic – ie Guintini) ‘Speculum Astrologiae, quod attinet ad iudiciariam rationem nativitatum atque annuarum revolutionum’ 1575 (ie early, shorter two-volume edition) – EUR 3360 from Hallazgo Libreria, Madrid, Spain
30. Oger Ferrier ‘Des Jugements astronomiques sur les nativitez’ 1550 – EUR 3300 from Librairie Tal, Bordeaux, France
31= Johann Indagine ‘Die Kunst der Chiromantzey uss besehung der hend. Physiognomey uss anblick des menschens. Naturlichen Astrologey noch dem lauff der Son(n)en.Complexion eins yegklichen menschens. Naturlichen ynfluffs der Planeten. Der zwolff zeichen Angesychten. Ettliche Canones zu erkantnuss der menschen kranckheiten’ 1523 – $4500 from Krown and Spellman, Culver City, CA, USA
31= Firmicus Maternus, Julius; Claudius Ptolemaeus; Hermes Trismegistus; Muhammad ibn Jabir Battani; Muhammad ibn ‘Umr ibn al Farkhan, Abu Bakr, al Tabari; Sahl ibn Bishr, Abu ‘Uthman; Maslamah al-Majriti; Yahya ibn Abi Mansur, al Ma’muni; Marcus Manilius; Otto Brunfels. Nicolaus Pruckner, ed. ‘Iulii Firmici Materni… Astronomicon Libri VIII, per Nicolaum Prucknerum Astrologum nuper ab innumeris mendis vindicati. His Accesserunt. Claudius Ptoemaei… Quadripartitum vocant, Lib. IIII. De inerrantium stellarum significationibus, Lib I. Centiloquium eiusdem. Ex Arabibus Et Chaldaeis. Hermetis vetustissimi Astrologi centum Aphoris. Lib. I. Betham Centiloquium. Eiusdem de Horis Planetarum Liber alius. Almanzoris Astrologi Propositiones ad Saracenorum regem. Zahelis Arabis de Electionibus Lib. i. Messahalah de ratione Circuli & Stellarum, & qualiter in hoc seculo operentur, Lib. 1. Omar de Nativitatibus Lib. III. Marci Manilii Poetae dsertissimi Astronomicon Lib V. Postremo Othonis Brunfelsii de Diffinitionibus & terminis Astrologiae liber…’ 1551 (another copy of the great compilation of astrological texts listed at a higher price in better condition by the same bookseller higher up in this list) – $4500 from Krown and Spellman, Culver City, CA, USA
31= Joannes Jovius Pontanus ‘Centum Ptolemaei Sententiae Ad Syrum Fratem A Pontano E Graeco In Latinum Tralatae, Atque Expositae. Eiusdem Pontani Libri XIIII. De Reb. Coeslestibus. Liber Etiam De Luna Imperfectus’ (appears to be a shorter compilation of works by Pontanus than the one listed higher up in the prices, this one containing only astrological works) 1519 – $4500 from Krown and Spellman, Culver City, CA, USA
31= James Gaffarel ‘Unheard-of Curiosities: Concerning the Talismanical Sculpture of the Persians; The Horoscope of the Patriarkes; and the Reading of the Stars’ 1650 – $4500 from Older Ways, Boston, MA, USA
35. Johannes Indagine ‘Introduction de chiromance; Prognostiques de la chiromance touchant les lieux des sept planètes; Physiognomie faicte par le regard des membre de l’homme; Définition des Faces des signes, et quelle chose fait le Soleil en une chacune maison à ceux qui naissent; Reigles et canons touchant les maladies et en quelle manière on peut secourir aux malades par l’aspect et regard des signes; Astrologie naturelle; Livre qui monstre à cognoistre les Planettes des horoscopes & des signes ascendans, selon les quatre complexions; Physiognomie naturelle; Theorique de Chiromancie’ (ie many works by Indagine, mostly astrological and physiognomic, translated into French and bound together in two volumes) 1549 – $4113.80 from Wierus Occult Antiquarian, New York, NY, USA
36. Ioannis Indagine (sic) ‘Introductiones apotelesmaticae elegantes, in Chyromantiam, Physionomiam, Astrologiam naturalem, Complexiones hominum, Naturas Planetarum’ 1582 – EUR 2900 from Libreria Antiquaria Perini, Verona, Italy
37. Giovanni Gioviano Pontano ‘Centum Ptolomaei sententiae ad Syrum fratrem à Pontano è graeco in latinum tralatae, atque expositae Eiusdem Pontani libri XIIII de reb. coelestibus. Liber etiam de luna imperfectus’ (another copy of this book) 1519 – EUR 2800 from ALFEA Rare Books, Milano, Italy
38. Claude Dariot ‘A Briefe And Most Easie Introduction to the Astrological Judgement of the Starres. Whereby the diligent Reader with easie laboure may give a certen, true, and determinate Judgement to any Question demanded, upon the naturall caufes thereof. Written by the most famous Phisition Claudius Dariot: and Translated by F[abian]. W[ither]. And lately rennued, and in some places augmented and amended by G. C. Gentl. Whereunto is annexed a most necessarie Table for the finding out of the Planetarie and unequalle hours, under the Latitude of 52 Gr. 30 Mi. exactly calculated by the sayde F.W. Also hereunto is added a briefe Treatise of Mathematicall Phisicke, entreating very exactly and compendiously of the Natures and Qualities of all diseases…’ 1598 – $3850 from Tavistock Books, Alameda, CA, USA
39. Hermes Trismegistus ‘Pymander, De Potestate Et Sapienta Dei [and] Asclepius, De Voluntate Dei’ [and] Iamblichus, ‘De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum, Chaldeorum, et Assyriorum’ [and] Proclus, ‘In Platonicum Alcibiadem, De Anima & Daemone [and] De Sacrifio & Magia’ (ie a huge compilation of works from the Hermetic Corpus, works by Iamblichus, and works by Proclus, bound together in one volume, those by the latter authors presumed non-astrological but the Hermetic works are reputed to be highly relevant to the ancient philosophy of astrology) 1532 – $3750 from Phillip J. Pirages Rare Books, McMinnville, OR, USA
40. Gaius Julius Hyginus ‘Augusti Liberti Fabularum Liber, Ad Omnium Poetarum Lectionum Mire Necessarius, & Antehac Nunquam Denuo Excusus. Eiusdem Poeticon Astronomicon Libri Quatuor…’ (yet another copy!) 1535 – $3740 from Family Album, Kinzers, PA, USA
It could be interesting to check this list on an annual basis to see what has sold or otherwise been removed from the market or changed in price.
It’s also interesting to note that none of the astrological books on the market at fixed price is as expensive as the price fetched at the recent Christie’s auction for a first edition of Johann Schoner’s ‘De iudiciis nativitatum libri tres’.
And very interesting indeed that the top three books were all published in 1488 or 1489, showing that the oldest books are the most desired by collectors regardless of scarcity!
Further copies of some of the most expensive works listed here, by Leopoldus, Yves de Paris and Robert Fludd, are at the time of writing coming up for auction in the next month (see auction strand for details).
A significant number of other works of astrological importance that are not currently available from any dealer have sold for prices well within the range covered by this list in the past seven months.
I would like to firmly predict that the two copies of compilations in Latin of classic ancient and early medieval astrology texts including works by Firmicus Maternus, Manilius, Zahel and others, both currently listed by Krown and Spellman, will sell before too long, and that their value will increase very substantially in the future. For what they contain, they appear to be underpriced compared to some of the other works listed here.
Finally, it is curious that of some of the supposedly most valuable books there are as many as three unsold copies in some form or other on the marketplace.
All comments and observations welcome!
It’s also interesting that only three of the Top-40-priced volumes are in the English language – and two of these are translations of works by French authors: Dariot and Gaffarel, the other being the bound volume of 23 astrological almanacs for 1678, ie not really a unitary book at all by design.
One that slipped past the Abebooks search but I remembered as being available from Krown and Spellman, which deserves to be inserted retrospectively in the list at about No. 22, and which I also think will sell before too long at the price and increase in value quite dramatically because of what it contains, is:
Haly Abenragel, Albohazen [Abu Hasan Ali ibn ar-Rajal]; Guido Bonatus [Bonatti] de Forlivio, & Claudius Ptolomaeus
‘Libri De Judiciis Astrorum, summa cura & Diligenti studio de extrema barbarie vindicati, ac latinitati donati… [bound with:] Bonatus: De Astronomia Tractatus X. Universum quod ad judiciariam rationem Nativiotatum, Aeris, Tempestum, attinet, comprehendentes. Adiectus est Cl. Ptolemaei liber Fructus, cum Commentarius Georgii Trapezunti. 1550-1 – $6000 from Krown and Spellman.
Note that this contains the whole of Bonatti and the whole of Haly Abenragel together in a single volume, yet is priced at only just over half the price of the earlier early 1500s second edition of Bonatti! This would be a sound investment for a collector with a lot of money to spend.
If I have time at a later stage I might be tempted to take the list onward and downward as far as about $1500, but the next few weeks will find me too busy.
– (Update, September 11, 2007:)
The Haly Abenragel volume had apparently sold within three months – gone from Krown and Spellman’s list, gone from Abebooks, gone from all search engines! I wonder if it sold to a Skyscript reader who saw that post? (I’m sure Ben Dykes would have made a fine home for it if nobody else, which is not to say that I have any reason to believe he did, however, especially since he already had access to a copy of this particular edition of the Bonatti text while working on his Bonatti translation!) I believe it will easily be worth $10000 or quite a lot upwards of that within a few years based on the trends observed in the past year alone.
PS: It also appears that all the Top 3 most expensive astrological works on the list from May have been sold or otherwise have been removed from sale.
However, further investigation shows that while it seems that the most expensive two of the three, the works by Johannes Angelus and Leopoldus, have indeed sold, it is also apparent that the Heritage Book Shop, responsible for the copy of Albumasar (sic)’s ‘Introductorium’, which was the third most expensive listed at the time of my brief survey, has removed all its books from its ILAB database and currently does not have a working website. So it may be that the Heritage Book Shop is on holiday or for whatever other reason has (whether temporarily or permanently) removed all its books from sale through the Internet. All the same, I’m left with an impression of a much more dynamic and fast-moving fixed-price market for the highest-value rare antique astrology books than I had previously suspected. I suspect that quite a few collectors out there are treating these books as serious investment propositions, although it’s possible that there are also libraries on the prowl for the rarest books and possessed of the funds to afford them.
PPS (later update): Heritage Book Shop has in fact closed down permanently following the voluntary retirement of one of its two joint owners, who are brothers, at the age of 62. It has been suggested that its massively valuable stocks will mostly be auctioned off. This then could include the Hermann of Corinth translation of Abu Ma’Shar’s ‘Introductorium in Astronomiam’ as well as the 1506 second edition of Bonatti’s ‘Decem Tractatus Astronomie’ that was at No. 16 on the ‘most expensive astrology books’ list in May.
I personally bought a decent copy of Andrea Argoli’s ‘De Diebus Criticis’ 2nd edition (1652) from this shop only last year, and found the member of staff I dealt with, Nat des Marais, to be exceptionally courteous and professional.
Several of the book shop’s employees, including Nat, have moved to work for one of the shop’s regular customers in a new venture called Michael Sharpe Rare Books, found here: