Cover image for Cardano's cosmos : the worlds and works of a Renaissance astrologer
Cardano's cosmos : the worlds and works of a Renaissance astrologer
Grafton, Anthony.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xii, 284 pages : illustrations, facsimiles ; 25 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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B785.C34 G73 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Girolamo Cardano was a Italian doctor, natural philosopher, and mathematician who became a best-selling author in Renaissance Europe. He was also a leading astrologer of his day, whose predictions won him access to some of the most powerful people in 16th century Europe. In this book, the author invites readers to follow this astrologer's extraordinary career and explore the art and discipline of astrology in the hands of a brilliant practitioner.

Author Notes

Anthony Grafton is Dodge Professor of History at Princeton University.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

An ambitious young man from Milan, lifesaving physician, traveler, mathematician, scholar of antiquity, 16th-century academic superstar and victim of the Inquisition, Girolamo Cardano embodied in one life much of what makes the Italian Renaissance fascinating to modern readers. The polymathic and resourceful Grafton (The Footnote), a Renaissance historian at Princeton, places Cardano's life and works at the center of a detailed investigation of Renaissance astrologers, their work, their beliefs, their clients and their impact. Grafton aims "to do justice to both the rationalism and the irrationality of Renaissance astrology," addressing "both its ancient sources and its modern [that is, 16th-century] social role." Seers across Europe pegged 1524 as the date for a second Noah's Flood, causing fears, then jokes, as the date approached. Famous predictors were asked for political counsel--and put themselves in danger by giving it. Cardano's early book of horoscopes made him a celebrity; his arguments with his critics illuminate the everyday impact of the Protestant Reformation. His voluminous writings, Grafton explains, "combined wide astrological interests with obsessively detailed self-revelation." Explaining how European readers regarded astrology and its rival arts, Grafton also relates the often ferociously personal intellectual battles that were fought. A writer of superb perspective and clarity, Grafton aims both at other historians and at lay readers. The latter will have to wade through some abstruse detail but will likely find the varied, informative, sometimes bizarre journey more than worth the effort. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Featuring the life of Girolamo Cardano, a Renaissance Italian mathematician, physician, and astrologer, this book is an in-depth history of Western astrology by way of biography. By detailing the social and political circles in which Cardano traveled, Grafton (history, Princeton Univ.; The Footnote) investigates astrology's influence on 16th-century medical and political thought. As a prominent physician, Cardano often treated patients with a mix of medicine and astrology, insisting he could read a given patient's future and infer the nature of his condition based on physical observation and astrological charts. This makes for fascinating reading. Well researched and scholarly (an extensive bibliography is included), this work will be an excellent addition to academic libraries.--Marija Sanderling, Rochester P.L., NH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Grafton's new work is a major contribution to Renaissance studies. Girolamo Cardano (1501-1576) was among the most famous Italian astrologers of a star-obsessed age. Exploring his life and works while avoiding the daunting technicalities of stellar science, Grafton offers a wonderful introduction to the background, principles, and practice of early modern astrology. For Cardano, as for most of his fellow stargazers and learned contemporaries, the art was inseparable from philosophy, medicine, history, mathematics, and natural magic. Preaching a return to the supposed purity of Ptolemaic science, sparring with rivals, and gaining renown through his contacts and publishers in Protestant Germany, Cardano became best known for his horoscopes of famous figures such as King Edward VI, Martin Luther, and yes, Jesus. Ultimately, as Grafton shows, Cardano's astrology was a highly adaptable instrument for analysis of both world and self; anything but an odd and marginal relic, the astrologer's vision emerges here as a crucial exemplum of Renaissance self-consciousness. Beautifully written, with nice illustrations as well as a full and helpful scholarly apparatus. Highly recommended for upper-division undergraduates and above. R. B. Barnes Davidson College

Table of Contents

Prefacep. xi
1 The Master of Timep. 1
2 The Astrologer's Practicep. 22
3 The Prognosticatorp. 38
4 The Astrologerp. 56
5 Becoming an Authorp. 71
6 Astrologers in Collisionp. 91
7 The Astrologer as Political Counselorp. 109
8 Classical Astrology Restoredp. 127
9 Rival Disciplines Exploredp. 156
10 Cardano on Cardanop. 178
11 The Astrologer as Empiricistp. 199
Notesp. 205
Bibliographyp. 261
Indexp. 281