Astrolearn astrology library progress report
– No. 5: 27th August 2015
As announced in the previous report four weeks ago, I was diverted by unexpected developments at that stage. Specifically, I was called away on family business to England at very short notice. But I returned to Sweden two days ago, on August 25th, and have reopened the Astrolearn shop since then.
Although I’ve been abroad, progress on developing and cataloguing the astrology library has not ground to a complete standstill.
During my stay in England, I purchased a small lot of mid-20th century French books that included an additional French astrological almanac title for the year 1939 (now filed under “Almanach de Gabriel Trarieux d’Egmont” in the French Almanacs section of the Bibliography Index page), as well as a book by Dom Néroman on the prophecies of Nostradamus (1933), and a copy of the clothbound edition (limited to 300 signed copies) of “Les Secrets du Zodiaque (Cours d’Astrologie Scientifique)” by Henry-J. Gouchon and Robert Dax (1933), which previously I had only in the contemporaneous softcover edition (also signed and limited, but to 400 copies).
Further, and perhaps more excitingly, I have been in negotiations for the past month with the owner of a lot of eleven of the twelve issues published of L. H. Weston’s short-lived 1908 astrological journal “The Astrolite”. It got a mention in the periodicals section of F. Leigh Gardner’s “Bibliotheca Astrologica” (1911), but has become rare today, and surprisingly so in public libraries, although I would expect that some of the longer-established institutional astrological libraries, e.g. the A.F.A. library, would hold copies, and possibly complete bound sets.
My private collection has only been under development in the 20 years that I have been a committed student of astrology, thus since 1995; and I only commenced collecting the truly antiquarian material in 2004. Consequently, I previously lacked any issues of The Astrolite.
I had to pay a very significant fixed price ($260) to secure the lot, somewhat above my personal estimate of its fair free-market value today, which I had rated as $220 based on $20 per issue, as that would be typical for issues of other rare American astrological magazines of its age (later ones are mostly worth considerably less than that); but in the end I felt that it was worth paying the extra $40 the seller asked in order to obtain this valuable piece of American astrological heritage, since opportunities are likely to be few and far between; and even the final agreed price of $260 was considerably beneath the seller’s own initial expectations. Sometimes, collecting is an art of compromise between what you, the collector, estimate something to be worth, and what the seller believes it to be worth; and if you can’t compromise, you risk missing out altogether. I have no doubt that the seller in this case, a most courteous character, was acting conscientiously in setting a high price, to ensure that the lot would find the buyer that most truly appreciated its historical importance and would look after it the best. And that is what I have every intention of doing.
Weston, though not a particularly celebrated astrologer in his own right (his only books were fairly short pamphlets on the fixed stars and on the hypothetical planet “Vulcan”), was a close associate of the much more famous Llewellyn George; and it was Weston’s by-all-accounts impressive private library of older astrological literature that provided much significant learning material for George as the latter developed his own extensive corpus of modern astrological writings in the 1900s, 1910s and beyond.
We can reasonably expect the contents of “The Astrolite” to be at least somewhat informed by Weston’s studies of the material in his own library. Provided that it gets here safely, I look forward to scanning it for inclusion on a future DVD dedicated to the development of early 20th century American astrological literature.
A further purchase that I am looking forward to, but which is not here yet, comes from France. It is – or should be – a small paperback book with a charming coloured pictorial cover from 1897, by French astrologer Eugène Jacob, who used the pen-name Ély Star. And it is called “L’Astrologie, ou l’Art de Voir l’Avenir”. This will supplement three other astrological titles (two of them in multiple editions) by the same author, provided that it arrives safely in due course (touch wood).
I’ve also lately updated the Journal for the History of Astronomy page (under English journals in the Bibliography Index page) to include the recently-received issues published in 2014 and the first half of 2015. Unfortunately, owing to the new publisher Sage’s policy of not keeping any back-issues from before the previous year, I’m unable for the time being to obtain the issues from 2011, 2012 and 2013, during which years my subscription lapsed because I felt I could not afford to keep it up during exceptionally hard personal economic times. If anyone reading this has back-issues from these years in good condition for sale, I’d be glad to hear from you.
It was moving to read Michael Hoskin’s last editorial at the end of 2014 as he prepared to hand over the reins to James Evans. Hoskin had been editing the journal since its inception in early 1970. That’s 45 years of service. And he was not an unusually young man to be the editor of a scientific journal when he began. In his final editorial, he admits to being ‘well into his 80s’. That’s dedication.
So why is the Journal for the History of Astronomy even relevant to the study of astrology, you may well ask? The fact is that it is a real gold-mine of scholarly articles on all manner of old texts relating to astronomy in the broadest sense, including also astrology and archaeoastronomy. It is not exactly cheap and is something of an indulgence in the context of a collection on astrology; but having come this far, with an almost complete set of back-issues gathered, I feel I owe it to those who may inherit the use of my collection after me to keep up collecting for as long as the archive remains in my hands, and for as long as it remains within my reach to do so.
I don’t even subscribe to every astrological journal available new today, by any means, but the J.H.A. is a journal of really high quality, and retains my interest as a result, especially in the context of a collection that is dedicated to the history of astrology more than to matters of ephemeral current interest.
Today, I have had a lot of work to do on recording and printing fresh copies of a few Astrolearn discs. Tomorrow or on Saturday, I must post them. Thereafter, I should be back to work where I left off with developing the books section of the bibliography in the background. It is just a Word file for now; and it’s likely to take a good month yet before that Word file is satisfactorily developed and I’m ready to begin uploading the material from A-Z by author.
This series of progress reports should now resume its previous weekly service.
Thank you for your continuing interest,