Ptolemaeus Arabus et Latinus

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Work B.17

Archanum magni Dei de reductione geomancie ad orbem

A text of geomancy translated by Bernard of Gordon, professor of medicine at the University of Montpellier, on 22 December 1295. According to the full title, this text was revealed by God to Ptolemy ‘the king of the Arabs’. At the same time, it is clear from the first chapter that the text was written by a Christian author (cf. ‘per Christum dominum nostrum’ and the mention of Paul the Apostle, MS Paris, BnF, lat. 15353, f. 87r) and in Spain, apparently for a king of Castile (cf. ‘Queritur de nomine et vita et statu et regno et tota disposicione regis Castelle usque ad finem vite sue’, ibid.). This seems to be confirmed by a compilation of astrological interrogations, in which the Archanum magni Dei is reported to have been composed at the request of the king of Castile: ‘Scire debes quod ad preces serenissimi atque illustrissimi principis regis Castelle atque totius Andaluzie fuit factus quidam novus tractatus pratice iudicialis astronomie per astrologos tunc existentes et fuit intitulatus Archanum magnum Dei. Nam per illum tractatum possunt agnosci exquisite prescientia, preterita et futura in omni eo quod radicaliter potest procedere a voluntate hominis in tantum quantum se potest extendere virtus orbis’ (MS Montreal, McGill University, Bibliotheca Osleriana, 7513, s. XV, f. 2r-149v: 5r-5v; this compilation is also found in MSS Naples, BN, VIII C 45, s. XV, f. 199r-326r, and Vatican, BAV, Barb. lat. 227, s. XV, f. 1r-114v). Demaitre, 44, assumed that Bernard of Gordon translated the text from Provençal because ‘there is no evidence that he was familiar with any other language’, but Spanish cannot be ruled out.

Text ‘(Paris, BnF, lat. 15353) Incipit archanum magni Dei revelatum Tholomeo regi Arabum de reductione geomancie ad orbem. Per hoc presens opus possunt cognosci exquisite presentia, preterita et future in omni eo quod vult homo in tantum quantum se potest extendere virtus orbis. Modus autem operandi in hac sacra scientia — et alie sunt fallaces. Explicit. Honor virtus est gloria potestas… Translatio magistri Bernardi de Gordonio phisici regnante Bonifacio papa et Adulpho electo in imperatorem et Philippo rege Francie filio quondam Philippi regis Francie et Iacobo rege Maioricarum et Berengario episcopo Magalonensi et Audoardo rege Anglorum et anno XIIIo lecture nostre in phisica in Montepessulano et anno domini MoCCo nonag<inta> quinto die Iovis ante Natale.’

Bibl. P. Meyer, ‘Traités en vers provençaux sur l’astrologie et la géomancie’, Romania 26 (1897), 225-275: 246 and 251-252; L. Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science, II, New York, 1923, 120; L. Thorndike, ‘Alfodhol and Almadel: Hitherto Unnoted Mediaeval Books of Magic in Florentine Manuscripts’, Speculum 2 (1927), 326-331: 329-330; F. J. Carmody, Arabic Astronomical and Astrological Sciences in Latin Translation. A Critical Bibliography, Berkeley-Los Angeles, 1956, 20 (no. 24); T. Charmasson, Recherches sur une technique divinatoire: la géomancie dans l’Occident médiéval, Genève-Paris, 1980, 217-220 and 290; A. Alonso Guardo, Los pronósticos médicos en la medicina medieval: el Tractatus de crisi et de diebus creticis de Bernardo de Gordonio, Valladolid, 2003, 22-23; L. E. Demaitre, Doctor Bernard de Gordon: Professor and Practictioner, Toronto, 1980, 43-46; D. Jacquart, ‘Bernard de Gordon et l’astrologie’, Centaurus 45 (2003), 151-158: 152.

Modern ed. Excerpts (beginning and end) edited by Meyer, 251-252.