A fortune-telling book, for learned readers

Sturm, Johannes (1559-1650).

De accurata circuli dimensione et quadratura, cum sylvula epigrammatum aenigmatum... Leuven, François Simon, 1633. (bound with:) Idem. Ludus fortunae, ad recreandam societatem Latinis versibus omnibus in contrario sensu Retrogradis exhibitus, & in tres Libros distributus.... Leuven, François Simon, 1635 [but 1633].

Sturm, Johannes (1559-1650) De accurata circuli dimensione et quadratura, cum sylvula epigrammatum aenigmatum... Leuven, François Simon, 1633. (bound with:) Idem. Ludus fortunae, ad recreandam societatem Latinis versibus omnibus in contrario sensu Retrogradis exhibitus, & in tres Libros distributus.... François Simon, 1635 [but 1633].

Two works in one volume, 4° (197x154 mm). I. Collation: ):(4, ):( ):(4, ):( ):( ):(4, A-I4. [24], 72 pages. Roman and Italic type. Woodcut printer's device on the title-page, with the motto 'REBUS IN HUMANIS FORTUNA VOLUBILIS ERRAT' in cartouche. Six-line decorated woodcut initials. II. Collation: A-Z4, Aa4. 192 pages. Roman and Italic type. Woodcut printer's device on the title-page, with 'FORTUNA VOLUBILIS ERRAT', in cartouche. Six-line decorated woodcut initials. Text within pyramid-shaped diagrams on fols. E3v-H1v. Contemporary vellum, over pasteboards, with yapp edges. Running stitches, traces of ties. Smooth spine. A good copy, slightly spotted and browned in places, last quire of the first bound edition is loose.

Provenance: 'I.C.S.I.' (contemporary ownership inscription on the title-page); José Bayolo Pacheco de Amorim (1918-2013; stamp on the title-page, with the printed shelfmark '14009').

The rare first edition of De accurata circuli dimensione et quadratura, an influential contribution by Belgian mathematician Sturm to the controversial topic of squaring the circle, a futile effort which, toward the end of the sixteenth century, had captured the imagination of numerous mathematicians, including Scaliger, Viète, Clavius, and Adrianus van Roomen, Sturmius' predecessor to the chair of mathematics at the University of Louvain.

The second bound work is the first edition of the Ludus fortunae printed in 1633, and presented here in an apparently unrecorded variant of the title-page, with the final number '3' in the date of printing erased, and overprinted with '5'. Whilst this work fits into the tradition of fortune-telling books – whose highest achievement in print is represented in Italy by Lorenzo Spirito (see nos. 42 and 202), and in France by Jean de Meung – the Ludus fortunae distances itself from the legacy of pagan books drawing on biblical figures. The author indeed charges his predecessors with having abused their readers' naivety by combining pagan oracles and characters from Christianity. For this reason Sturmius plays out the Seven Sages of Greece – like Solon of Athens, Cleobulus of Lindos and Chilon of Sparta –, at the end of an itinerary marked by kings and queens from antiquity – including Nestor, Priam, Dido and Cleopatra –, the most renowned European cities – like Antwerp, Leuven and Brussels – and their rivers. Responses were obtained through the roll of two dice, whose twenty-one possible combinations were deemed sufficient, or by the throw of five small bones.

Poggendorf II, 1018 (only the first edition); Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 199.

$ 2.200
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