On Alfred Pearce’s ‘Text Book of Astrology’ Volume 2 (1889)
– 21st August 2008
This was originally a short note posted in Facebook in the summer of 2008; I have added in the relevant parts of a further, more detailed posting on the differences between the editions of Pearce’s book, originally posted to the Skyscript forum in the summer of 2010.
From the Facebook note:
Among my registered friends on Facebook, Maurice McCann is undoubtedly among the best informed about my serious interest in collecting and researching old books on astrology. The history of the discipline is one in which they are internationally acknowledged experts.
I’m sure Maurice won’t mind my relating briefly here the anecdote of how I came into personal acquaintance with him, whereas previously I knew him only as the respected author of a number of books. The two of us were bidding in mutual competition for a rare two-volume work by the 19th century British astrologer Alfred Pearce, called simply the ‘Text-Book of Astrology’, on ebay, around March 2006. The first volume was published in 1879; the second in 1889, both by a publishing house called Cousins. The full two-volume set has never been reprinted since, and although a one-volume second edition that appeared in 1911 has been reprinted several times, it is a truncated version of the original work, losing, as Maurice has documented on his website, at least one hundred pages of content on two particular areas of astrological practice known as horary and electional astrology, that originally appeared in the Volume 2 of the first edition.
When I surmised against whom I was bidding for this set two and a half years ago, I decided that it was probably more important to Maurice than to me to procure the work in a timely fashion, so when the price had risen to $300 I withdrew from bidding and he purchased it.
Rare books are, by their nature, uncommon on sale. But I did not at that stage know just how infrequently a copy of this particular work would come up for sale again anywhere in the world. I’ve been keeping a watch for it ever since, and managed to obtain an original Volume 1 in the summer of 2006, but it has taken another two whole years for a single copy of Volume 2 to appear. I should count myself fortunate that I signed in to check my wants matches on Abebooks.com that day and bought it before someone else did. Rare books in demand often sell within a few hours of their being listed, provided that the price was reasonable, and in this case it was.
I’m still glad I let Maurice buy the other set! I have great admiration for him as a researcher and historical critic, and I knew it would be going to an excellent home.
At some point I’m going to have to make a good PDF file of the original two-volume work and get it reprinted. It should surely be preferable to the AFA’s reprints (1970; 2006) of the reduced 1911 edition, to which the access of most people with an interest in the subject is limited.
From the Skyscript posting:
On the bibliographical side of considerations, there have been two distinct editions of this text-book, of which the second has been through four variant printings by major publishers.
The book as recently republished by the American Federation of Astrologers in 2006 was the fourth printing of the second edition, a direct reprint of the early AFA printing of 1970, but with the addition of a dust jacket.
The 1970 AFA impression was in effect the third printing of the second edition, and bears a close physical resemblance to the original printing of the second edition, which was published by Mackie in 1911. They are both bound in brown cloth with gilt to the spines, in my copies at least, though I cannot be entirely sure that the binding on my 1911 copy is original since it is a lot fresher than the contents and might be a later copy or replacement.
Regardless, it is notable that the binding on the 1970 printing is also about an inch taller and half an inch broader than that on the 1911 printing.
Internally, however, the 1970 printing is an exact facsimile of the 1911 one, except for the publisher name having been changed.
There was also a second printing of the second edition by yet another publisher, the National Astrological Library, some time around the 1950s. I have seen this for sale second-hand a number of times, but steered clear of it because it was clearly of inferior construction and durability, consisting basically of the splitting of the 1911 edition’s contents into two softcover volumes, examples of which I have seen photographed have not aged well.
All three out-of-print impressions of the second edition are fairly scarce, but since the recent AFA reprint of 2006 the second-hand supply of the 1970 printing seems to have increased somewhat and come down in price accordingly. At one time, all printings were almost unobtainable on the used book market.
This brings us finally back to the first edition and how it differed from the second, which is the only one to have been printed in the past century.
The first edition appeared in only a single official printing, but in two separate volumes. The first volume appeared in 1879 and was subtitled ‘Genethlialogy’. The second volume was announced, and orders for it were being taken, as early as 1880, during the life of Pearce’s journal ‘Urania’; but it only finally saw the light of day in print in 1889, ten years after the first volume. It is subtitled ‘Mundane Astrology, Astro-Meteorology, Medical Astrology, Elections, and Horary Astrology’. Both volumes were published by Cousins and Co., London. The first volume runs to 286 pages plus a preface and index, and the second runs to 411 pages plus a preface and advertisements. Thus their combined length is about 697 pages, excluding the two prefaces.
Yet the length of the second edition published by Mackie in 1911, also within Pearce’s life-time, is a mere 484 pages plus preface. And this was the source of all later printings, including the present AFA printing of 2006. So where did those extra 213 pages go?
Maurice McCann at one time had an excellent list of literary sources on horary and electional astrology up at his web-site which gave a large part of the answer. But let’s be even more precise here and attempt a direct comparison of the first and second editions, chapter by chapter.
Where nothing has changed I shall make no comment. I shall note only the salient differences, in outline.
Firstly, it is as well to note that the internal structure of ‘Books’ and ‘Chapters’ has altered between the editions. Whereas in the first edition, Volume 1, on Genethlialogy, was divided into four ‘Books’, each of several chapters, in the second edition, Genethlialogy itself becomes ‘Book 1’ and runs to forty-one chapters. Overall, the main text of the Genethlialogy books of the first edition runs to 239 pages (being followed by the lengthy appendix) while that of the Genethlialogy book of the second edition runs to 257 pages (followed by a very short appendix). So the traffic has not been all one-way here. As I shall go on to show, cuts have been made in places and additions in others between the two editions in the Genethlialogy part of Pearce’s overall work.
- 1. Substantial selective cuts are made from Book 1 Chapters 1 and 2 of the volume on Genethlialogy.
- 2. Book 1 Chapter III from the first edition, entitled ‘Planetary Influence’, has been axed for the second edition.
- 3. Book 1 Chapter IX from the first edition, ‘Calculation of Nativities’, has been substantially reworked in places, part-shortened and part-lengthened.
- 4. Book II Chapters IX and X from the first edition, on Uranus and Neptune, have both been substantially lengthened for the second edition.
- 5. Book III Chapter I from the first edition, ‘On Forming a General Judgment on a Nativity’, has been substantially shortened for the second edition, and also renamed ‘On the Import of the Nativity’.
- 6. Book III Chapter V from the first edition, ‘The Quality of Employment’, has been renamed ‘On the Vocation’ for the second edition, with a page of anecdotal material added.
- 7.Book III Chapter VI from the first ediiton, ‘Marriage’, has been expanded with the addition of a further page of case studies in the second edition.
- 8. Book III Chapter VII from the first edition, ‘Children’, has been extended by more than a whole page for the second edition.
- 9. Book IV Chapter I from the first edition, ‘On Primary Directions’, has been slightly expanded for the second edition.
- 10. Book IV Chapter II from the first edition, ‘Examples of Rules for Working Mundane Directions’, has been reduced by a couple of pages in the second edition.
- 11. Book IV Chapter III from the first edition, ‘On Rapt Aspects’, has been axed for the second edition.
- 12. Book IV Chapter IV from the first edition, ‘Zodiacal Directions’, has been reduced for the second edition, with the omission of the section ‘To Direct the Moon by Converse Motion in the Zodiac’.
- 13. Book IV Chapter V from the first edition, ‘Examples of Rules for Computing Zodiacal Directions’, has been reduced by a couple of pages for the second edition.
- 14. Book IV Chapter VI from the first edition, ‘On Equating Arcs of Direction’, has been slightly expanded in the second edition.
- 15. Book IV Chapter VII from the first edition, ‘On Rectifying a Nativity’, has been slightly expanded in the second edition.
- 16. For the second edition, a whole new Chapter, Chapter XXXVI, ‘On Solar Revolutions’, has been introduced, replacing a mere paragraph or two of Book IV Chapter VIII in the first edition.
- 17. Book IV Chapter VIII from the first edition, ‘On Secondary Directions, Transits, etc.’, which ran to 12 pages, has been split into three separate chapters for the second edition: ‘On Secondary Directions’ (Chapter XXXVII); ‘On Lunations, Eclipses, and Progresses’ (Chapter XXXVIII), and ‘On Transits’ (Chapter XXXIX).
- 18. For the second edition, a whole new chapter, ‘On the Practical Uses of Astrology’, has been added (Chapter XLI).
Next we come to the original Volume II of Pearce’s work, running to 384 pages of main text before the tables. This must be compared with the remainder of the second edition covering the same territory, which consists of just pp. 265-443 inclusive, so only 178 pages. Clearly, this is where the major cuts must have been made, with a reduction of over half the original text of the volume, or 206 pages to be precise. So what was lost between the editions, apart from some of the tables at the back?
- 1. Book I (Mundane Astrology) Chapter III of the first edition, ‘On the New Moon of the Year’, had just one paragraph halved in length for the second edition.
- 2. Book I Chapter V of the first edition, ‘On the Presignification of the Planet Saturn When Lord of the Year’, has had its section on ‘the presignification of Saturn according to the house or division of the heavens in which this great planet happens to be accidentally located, whether it be lord of the year or not’ altogether chopped for the second edition.
- 3. The same holds true for the following chapters on Jupiter and Mars, and the later chapters on Venus and Mercury. The only concession to the house placement information is made in the chapter on the Sun, which is found between those on Mars and Venus: Book IV Chapter VIII in the first edition; Book II Chapter VIII in the second edition.
- 4. Book I Chapter XIV of the first edition, ‘On the Presignification of the Planets, According to their Positions at Eclipses of the Sun and Moon’, has been halved in size from eight to four pages for the second edition.
- 5. Book I Chapter XV of the first edition, ‘Examples of Predictions Made from Recent Eclipses of the Sun and Moon, Solar Ingresses, and Transits of the Planets’, has had its last study, on the total eclipse of the Moon at Cairo, October 4th, 1884, axed.
- 6. Book I Chapter XVI of the first edition, ‘Mutual Conjunctions of the Major Planets’, has been reduced by four pages from 11 to 7 between editions.
- 7. Book I Chapter XVIII of the first edition, ‘On Forecasting Peace or War’, running to three pages, has been axed completely for the second edition.
- 8. Book I Chapter XIX of the first edition, ‘On the Prediction of Good or Bad Seasons, and Changes in Weather’, has also been axed for the second edition.
- 9. Book II (Astro-Meteorology) Chapter I of the first edition, ‘Introduction’, has been reduced from eight pages to five for the second edition.
- 10. Book II Chapter II of the first edition, ‘The Sun’, has been reduced from eight pages to two (a reduction of three-quarters of its material) for the second edition.
- 11. Book II Chapter III of the first edition, ‘The Moon’, has been reduced from eleven pages to three (also a reduction of three-quarters) for the second edition.
- 12. Book II Chapter IV of the first edition, ‘The Planet Jupiter’, has been reduced from seven pages to two for the second edition.
- 13. Book II Chapter V of the first edition, ‘The Planet Saturn’, has been reduced from five pages to two and a half for the second edition.
- 14. Book II Chapter VI of the first edition, ‘The Planet Mars’, has been reduced from four pages to one and a half for the second edition.
- 15. Book II Chapter VII of the first edition, ‘The Planet Venus’, has been reduced from four pages to one and a half for the second edition.
- 16. Book II Chapter VIII of the first edition, ‘The Planet Mercury’, has been reduced from four pages to one and a half for the second edition.
- 17. Book II Chapter IX of the first edition, ‘The Planet Uranus’, has been reduced from nearly three pages to one and a half for the second edition.
- 18. Book II Chapter X of the first edition, ‘The Planet Neptune’, has been reduced from three and a half pages to one page for the second edition.
- 19. Book II Chapter XI of the first edition, ‘The Mutual Conjunctions and Oppositions of the Planets’, has been reduced from thirteen and a half pages to three pages for the second edition.
- 20. Book II Chapter XII of the first edition, ‘Rain, Snow, Hail, and Atmospheric Electricity’, running to eleven pages, has been axed for the second edition.
- 21. Book II Chapter XIII of the first edition, ‘The Law of Storms’, running to ten pages, has been axed for the second edition.
- 22. Book II Chapter XIV of the first edition, ‘Earthquakes and Volcanic Eruptions’, has been reduced from eighteen pages to eleven pages for the second edition.
- 23. Book II Chapter XV of the first edition, ‘Meteors’, running to five and a half pages, has been axed for the second edition.
- 24. Book II Chapter XVI of the first edition, ‘How to Forecast the Variations of Weather’, running to five and a half pages, has been axed for the second edition.
- 25. Book III (Medical Astrology) Chapter I of the first edition, ‘Introduction’, running to three pages, has been axed for the second edition.
- 26. Book III Chapters II (‘Epidemics and Planetary Influence’), III (‘Influenza’), IV (‘Cholera’), V (‘The Plague’), VI (‘Typhoid Fever’), and VII (‘Measles, Scarlatina and Smallpox’), collectively spanning 34 pages in the first edition, have been edited down into a single chapter bearing the name of the original Chapter II, ‘Epidemics and Planetary Influence’, running to just 15 pages, for the second edition.
- [NB: bizarrely, there is no Book III Chapter VIII in the first edition although the pagination is continuous, while Chapter IX, ‘Crisis in Disease’, has survived the chop between editions.]
- 27. Book III Chapters X (‘The Diagnosis of Disease’) and XI (‘The Prognosis of Disease’), collectively spanning 18 pages in the first edition, have been combined into a single chapter called ‘Diagnosis and Prognosis of Disease’, condensed down to a mere six pages, in the second edition, a reduction of two thirds of the original material.
- 28. Book III Chapter XII (‘Therapeutics and Astrology’) has been reduced only slightly between editions, from seven pages (spread over eight) to six.
- 29. Book IV (On Elections) Chapter I, ‘Introduction’, has been increased in length between editions, from 1½ pages to 2½.
- 30. Book IV Chapter II, ‘On Lunar Influences and Elections’, has been axed between editions.
- 31. Book IV Chapter III, ‘Elections for Affairs Appertaining to the First Six Houses’, has been reduced from nine pages to five pages between editions.
- 32. Book IV Chapter IV, ‘Elections Relating to the Last Six Houses’, has been reduced from seven pages to five pages between editions.
- 33. Book IV Chapters V, ‘The Planetary Dignities’, and VI, ‘On “The Part of Fortune”‘, running to about eleven pages spread across twelve in the first edition, have been compressed into a single chapter called ‘The Planetary Dignities’ of just eight pages for the second edition.
- 34. Book V, ‘Horary Astrology’, comprising pp. 339-384 of Volume II of the first edition, has been entirely (and infamously) axed for the second edition.
For anyone who didn’t already appreciate it, the reason why Maurice McCann always referred to the first edition of Pearce’s Text-Book in his list of sources on horary and electional astrology should now be apparent. As a matter of fact, I first encountered Maurice when we were both bidding on a first edition set of Pearce’s Text-Book on eBay early in 2006. The bidding reached $300. When I realised who was bidding against me, I desisted from further participation in the auction. I judged that he was more worthy of these books than I was, in view of his technical expertise in and long history of study of the subject matter. I know I made the right decision. It took a few years for me to find other copies, piecemeal (first a Volume I that needed complete rebinding; then eventually a Volume II), but I think where the study of historical astrology is concerned, it is important for the rare material to go where it is going to be put to the best use first.
Clearly, though, it is not only horary and electional that suffered from the cuts between editions, with the sections on mundane and astro-meteorology and medical astrology also being very heavily cut. At the risk of anachronism, it is hard not to judge that Pearce’s Text-Book was ‘dumbed down’ between editions, with most of the basic material from the original Volume I surviving (except for the Rapt Aspects chapter being lost, and a few other minor cuts), coverage of Uranus and Neptune being expanded, and most of the more specialised contents of the original Volume II being heavily truncated between editions.
Just this summer, for the first time since that auction back in 2006, another first edition of Pearce’s Text-Book (both volumes) appeared on eBay. I bought it, which means I now have a spare set to sell or exchange on to a worthy destination in due course. Since I was discussing the work with Robert Hand last month and he expressed great interest, I might offer it to him first, but should he decline, it would be open to any worthy destinee among the general membership of Skyscript.
It seems highly likely that a print-on-demand reprint of the first edition will eventually appear. But until then, the original printings from 1879 and 1889 are the only source. Incidentally, I noticed in an issue of ‘Coming Events’ from 1899 that both volumes of the first edition were already then described as ‘very scarce’.
Personally I believe a worthy project could be the preparation of a critical edition of Pearce’s Text-Book, centered on the full first edition, but with all the additional material added for the second edition also included, and the losses highlighted.
My abiding impression from the details I’ve given in my first post in this strand is that the main reasons for the cuts in the second edition were publisher-driven by a directive to compress what had been an extensive two-volume work into a single volume. Every part of the original Volume II was radically reduced for the second edition, with astro-meteorology and mundane, both subjects dear to Pearce, taking very savage cuts, while poor old horary was completely eliminated. At least, as Pearce acknowledges, it survived in the second edition of the Science of the Stars. I think that one way of looking at his statement would be simply that it was a rather contrived excuse for the publisher-directive-driven decision to cut horary out of the second edition. Faced with a choice between eliminating horary or making still deeper cuts to the other parts of the volume, he probably thought it was the lesser of various evils!
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