Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 24 Dec. 1485.
Quarto: 19.2 x 14.2 cm. 30 unnumbered leaves. A-C8, D6 Complete.
FIRST EDITION. The sole 15th century edition.
Bound in recent smooth parchment. Illustrated with one full-paged text woodcut of an equatorium and sixteen schematic astronomical diagrams in the text. The text is in Gothic with two large and numerous smaller white-on-black decorative woodcut initials. A fine, crisp copy on bright paper. First leaf lightly soiled on blank recto and with tiny chip to upper blank corner. Paragraph marks in red throughout.
First edition of "Sefer ha-Moladot", an astrological treatise by the twelfth-century polymath Abraham ben Meir ibn Ezra, printed together with the first edition of “Magistralis compositio astrolabii”, a work on the instrument known as the equitorium, written in 1274 by the Flemish astronomer and astrologer (and instrument-maker) Henricus Bate of Malines (at the request of William Moerbeke.)
This Latin translation of Ibn Ezra’s text (“De Nativitatibus”) was written in 1281 by Bate, probably from a French translation prepared by Hagin le Juif in 1273 at Bate’s request. Ibn Ezra’s text is preceded by Bate’s encomium of the astrolabe and the instrument-maker’s discussion of the equatorium.
Abraham ben Meir ibn Ezra was born at Tudela in Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain), during the Almoravid dynasty. At the age of fifty, in the face of the Almohade onslaughts of 1140, he fled the Iberian peninsula for Italy.
“In the area of science, Abraham Ibn Ezra’s main contribution was the production of a significant scientific corpus whose contents are typical of and faithfully reflect his times. On the one hand, Ibn Ezra's scientific contribution may be understood as the very embodiment of the first stages of what [I] have designated as 'the rise of medieval Hebrew science'. This was a process in which Jewish scholars gradually abandoned the Arabic language and adopted the holy tongue [Hebrew] as a vehicle not limited to religious contents but open also to express secular and scientific ideas. On a broader European stage, Ibn Ezra's scientific output may be understood as one of the multiple expressions of the 'twelfth century scientific renaissance'. It was a cultural process in whose framework the Greek scientific world conception was transferred to scholars in Western Europe, after being adopted, refined and extended by Islamic culture and the Arabic language. In this context, Ibn Ezra's scientific corpus represented an exceptional case: instead of the common Latin model embodied by the scholar coming from the Christian North and daring to penetrate the Iberian Peninsula to initiate a translation enterprise, we have in Ibn Ezra the opposite case of an intellectual imbued with Arabic culture, who abandons al-Andalus, roams around the Christian countries and delivers in his wandering through Italy, France and England, the scientific and cultural luggage that he amassed during his youth in al-Andalus…
“Ibn Ezra planned the composition of his ‘Sefer ha-Moladot’ (‘De Nativitatibus’) as early as 1146… The treatise is concerned with genethlialogical astrology, whose fundamental principle is that the destiny of the newborn is determined by the configuration of the celestial sphere at the instant of birth. ‘Sefer ha-Moladot’ was considered by Ibn Ezra as one of his most important astrological works, as may be learned from the many references to it within the other parts of Ibn Ezra’s scientific corpus. The work deals first with the fundamental problem of determining the criteria to be employed in order choose an ascendant for the nativity, according to which the astrological houses may be calculated. The central part of the treatise is divided into twelve chapters, each of them dealing with one of the twelve astrological houses and the techniques to interpret their astrological characteristics. Ibn Ezra concluded the treatise with a discussion of the so-called tequfat ha-shanim (revolutiones annorum), that is, the calculation of years, or fraction of years, which have passed since the birth of an individual.”(Shlomo Sela, Abraham Ibn Ezra and the rise of medieval Hebrew science, p. 62)
Henricus Bate of Malines:
“Born at Malines on 24 March 1246, Bate studied in Paris, probably as a pupil of Albertus Magnus, becoming master of arts before 1274 and, perhaps, master of theology before 1301. In 1274 he attended the Council of Lyons, at which he met William of Moerbeke. He served as canon of St. Lambert’s church in Liège before 1281 and then also became cantor of the chapter, no doubt with the support of his protector, Gui de Hainaut. He became involved in the disputes over the possession of the episcopal chair following its vacancy in 1291 and accompanied Gui de Hainaut, one of the claimants to the seat, to the pontifical court at Orvieto. There he remained for several months in the summer and autumn of 1292. In 1309 he apparently retired to the company of the Premonstrants of Tongerloo, where he lived out his days. He died some time after January 1310.
“Bate’s works include translations of astrological treatises by Abraham ibn Ezra, the twelfth-century Jewish astronomer; original astronomical and astrological writings; and a philosophical encyclopedia…
“Bate’s equatorium (the instrument described in his “Magistralis compositio astrolabii”) is in the tradition of that of Campanus of Novara (1220-1296). The equatorium is an instrument used to find, in a practical manner and without any of the usual calculations, the longitude of the planets. Campanus’ instrument succeeded in this task, reproducing very faithfully, with brass disks and strands of thread, the geometric resolution of the planetary movements; but it had the inconvenience of multiplying the number of brass disks. Bate devised a single disk to serve as equant for all the planets, each one possessing, moreover, its own epicycle.
“Bate’s astrolabe was not designed to elucidate the mechanism of the daily movement of the celestial vault but to facilitate the rapid acquisition of astrological data. The tympanum extends to the meridional latitude of 38°42′, which permits it to carry the complete circle of the horizon of Malines. Without dwelling on the tracings that are ordinarily found on astrolabes, Bate discusses at length the question of tracing the lines of the celestial houses. of the three different definitions of what constitutes a celestial house he selects two in constructing the two faces of the tympanum: according to the first (to which Bate gives his preference), which makes the twelve houses from six equal divisions of the diurnal semiarc and six equal divisions of the nocturnal semiarc, the lines of the celestial houses coincide with the lines of the unequal hours. According to the other, the celestial houses are the sections of the celestial surface delimited by the twelve equal divisions of the first azimuth of the location and meeting at the two points of intersection of the horizon and the meridian; that division is fixed for the whole length of the year and is shown on the astrolabe by individual circular arcs.”(Emmanuel Poulle)
“Bate… extended the projection on past the tropic of Capricorn to 38 degrees, 42 minutes S in order to include the whole sky above the horizon as seen at Malines (vital for calculating the risings of stars and planets for horoscopes). His ‘uses’ relate exclusively to the planets.”(Machado, p. 25).
Goff A7; HC 21*; Klebs 4.1; Essling 319; Sander 3; Redgr 46; Pell 16; CIBN A-3; Hillard 1; Zehnacker 1; Polain(B) 1; IGI 5; IBP 2; Sajó-Soltész 2; IDL 2471; IBE 3; IBPort 258; Mendes 178; Sallander 1530; Madsen 1; Voull(Trier) 1888; Voull(B) 3804; Schmitt I 3793,5; Sack(Freiburg) 1; Hubay(Augsburg) 5; Günt(L) 3608; Mittler-Kind 15; Walsh 1837, 1838; Rhodes(Oxford Colleges) 2; Bod-inc A-002; Sheppard 3700; Pr 4407; BMC V 291; GW 113