Popular German-language epitome of Bolognese astrologer and chiromancer Bartolommeo della Rocca Cocles's Chiromantie ac physionomie anastasis. Cocles discusses, in 23 short chapters, the fundamentals of physiognomy: the nature of the four principal "complexions" (humors), and how to determine the character of a person by not just facial features, but by the shape and dispositions of various parts of the body. Cocles notes that unlike chiromancy, which requires up-close and personal examination of a subject's palm, the art of physiognomy may be accomplished at a remove: a skilled practitioner can accurately assess character by examining a portrait or sculpture of a subject, or even by dissecting an oral or written description; in this sense Cocles's brand of physiognomy has much in common with the parascience of retrodiagnostics. Most compelling is the last chapter, which is devoted to graphology, or the analysis of handwriting to assess character. Cocles, also an astrologer and seer, got into a great deal of hot water in the late 15th century when he predicted the deaths of numerous powerful personnel at Bolognese court, the House of Bentivoglio, including that of Lord Giovanni II Bentivoglio's son, Ermes. Ermes survived Cocles's prediction that he would die in battle in 1504, and had the astrologer assassinated a few months after the man's book came out. (Ermes would persist for another nine years, finally drowning in a river in retreat from a skirmish in 1513.) Cocles's original text, published in Bologne in 1504, was a 327-page study of the physiognomic arts that fell out of favor after the author's death, but Cocles's teachings were revived in a short epitome by the German presses in 1510, being published by various printers every year through 1518. We have located two copies of our 1516 Knobloch edition in German libraries, and two in American institutions: Harvard and the National Library of Medicine. An English paraphrase of Cocles's epitome, by Thomas Hill, was published by John Wayland in London in 1556.
Strasbourg: Joannes Knobloch, 1516.Quarto, 209 x 144 x 6 mm (binding), 206 x 142 x 3 mm (text block). A8, B4, C4= 16 ff. Mid-20th-c vellum drummed over thin rigid boards. Endpapers of recovered manuscript material, c1850, though now faded and largely illegible. Interior: Title woodcut with old hand-coloring in transparent pink and yellow; title page soiled; 1/2-cm2-bit torn from fore-margin (where an old index tab was located); single wormhole pierces text block in tail margin (not near text); all leaves mended in head margin near gutter (not near text); scattered stains and soiling; paper flaw to tail fore-margin of A7. A modest but complete use-copy.
Provenance: Modern penciled notes to front endpapers (Catalogue 11; 151 [circled]), clipping from an unidentified midcentury French bookseller's catalogue, upon which is penciled the remark "bibl. Himly," perhaps referring to Karl Gustav Himly, the noted Braunschweig-born ophthamologist who committed suicide in Göttingen in 1837, or possibly one of Himly's two sons, Ernst (a Göttingen anatomist) or Friedrich (a Kiel chemist), who died in 1881 and 1885 resp. Our pamphlet was at one time likely a member of a Sammelband: the numeral 2 is inked to head margin of title and, nearby, evidence of an index tab remains.
VD16 C4443; cf. Panzer 702; Weller 988 (noting there is a copy at Luzern KB).