Astrology and Magic

By Rutkin, H. Darrel | Journal for the History of Astronomy, May 2013 | Go to article overview

Astrology and Magic


Rutkin, H. Darrel, Journal for the History of Astronomy


ASTROLOGY AND MAGIC Astrology and Magic from the Medieval Latin and Islamic World to Renaissance Europe: Theories and Approaches. Paola Zambelli (Ashgate, Farnham, 2012). Pp. xii + unpag. (ten essays). £80. ISBN 978-1-4094-2514-4.

An influential student of Eugenio Garin and DeUo Cantimori, Paola Zambelli has devoted huge amounts of scholarly energy to exploring the histories of astrology and magic (among many other subjects) over the long course of her extraordinarily productive career spanning 1955 to the present. This recent volume in the well-known Variorum series comprises ten of her essays published between 1985 and 2008, some newly translated into English. It is divided into four parts. Part 1 ("Astrology and magic as theories") is comprised of three essays. The first, 'Theories on astrology and magic (1348-1586) in recent interpretations", was originally written for the Cambridge history of Renaissance philosophy (1988). On its rejection, however, it was published in Italian in Rinascimento (1987). The "recent" in its title was relevant for its original publication, but is no longer the case. I will discuss it more fully below. The other two essays, on theories of the imagination and its power and on Pietro Pomponazzi's De immortalitate and De incantationibus, are both valuable contributions to knowledge.

Part 2, entitled "Birth, catastrophe, cycles and other astrological themes", includes two informative essays both newly translated for this volume: on Giovanni Pico della Mirandola and cyclical views of history and on theories of spontaneous generation, from the proceedings of a recent conference (2008) at the Institute for Advanced Studies that will not be published. Part 3, "Astrologers and magicians in their historical roles", contains two pieces reprinted from an important collection of essays that Zambelli edited, Astrologi hallucinati: Stars and the end of the world in Luther's time (1986), which examines one of the major non-events of early modern history: the great flood predicted for 1524. She reprints the introduction from the volume, "Astrologers' theories of history", which concerns in part the philosophy of history, and an essay on Luca Gaurico, one of the earliest and most provocative authors who wrote about the impending flood. Focusing on both German and Italian sides of the picture at this tense historical moment, these essays are rich with insight and still well repay reading. …

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