The chained library at Hereford Cathedral
Cathedral schools were the forerunners of universities, and the main centres of education in twelfth-century England. Hereford Cathedral School was particularly well-known for its interest in astrology. This often comes as a surprise to people, since the current stance of the Catholic Church is to condemn astrology, but in the twelfth century astrology was promoted by bishops and kings, and became part of the curriculum of universities, founded a few decades later.
The Islamic world had embraced astrology in the eighth century, which saw a huge translation movement of Greek, Persian, and Indian texts into Arabic. In the twelfth century, scholars from Christian Europe discovered these texts and translated them into Latin. These were the texts that Roger of Hereford used, and he compiled them into a textbook for his students. His textbook, Judicial Astrology, was therefore the first astrology textbook produced in England, and it focused on the principles of horary astrology.
Roger wrote his book in the 1170s, and over the next few centuries it was copied and distributed across Europe. There are 22 manuscripts still in existence, now in various university and city libraries. Chris Mitchell studied these for his PhD, and has transcribed and translated the text into English for the first time. His book, England’s First Astrology Book, gives a full translation of Roger’s text, with a commentary and plenty of worked examples. This book will make an excellent addition to any astrologer’s collection, and gives you the chance to try out these techniques yourself!
Download the prelude to England’s First Astrology Book.
Note: the prelude PDF sample above has pages in colour. The printed paperback version of the book is in black and white, and only the Kindle version has colour images.
Teacher and students
Bodleian Laud Misc 409 f.3v