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It’s all in the stars

The Library’s copy of A Book of Knowledge in three parts… by Samuel Strangehopes was published in London in 1685. Parts the Second and Third are devoted to anatomy, disease and good husbandry, and contain many enlightening and useful tips that may well appear on these pages in weeks to come, but it is with Part the First that we shall concern ourselves today, being as it is ‘a brief introduction to astrology, shewing the nature, qualitie, and effects of the twelve signs, and seven planets; their dominion over bodies, with the fortunes of those calculated, who are born under them, also a delightful wheel of fortune’.

Astrology is of course, as Strangehopes himself declares, ‘an art both useful and lawful, and one of the most noble and profitable arts studied and practiced by mortals’. Where better to begin than with his learned summary of the nature and character of those born under its twelve signs:

Aries is fiery, hot and dry, having a voyce furious, if a woman, few children, sickly, vicious, wanting members, very wrathful, and loving to be commanding, and they are usually in their middle age gross and strong, and most commenly ends lean and weak, it betokens black eyebrows, thick shouldered, a dark complexion, a swarthy countenance, one of a dry body and a middle stature.

Taurus, it doth commonly speak a man born under that sign, one given much to melancholy, of a cold and dry constitution, luxurious, having a loud voice, yet sickly, much commanding, honest, and very religious, very chast, in women it represents one short, but of a strong, well-set nature, and to have a high fore-head, wide nostrils, great mouth, a short and fat neck, black hair, big buttocks, short legs, very slow to anger, but if once angered, hardly ever after friends.

Gemini is hot and moist, sanguine complexion, of a very fair, pleasant and sweet behaviour, in young years lean and weak, ending gross and strong, it represents one of a tall, straight, and well-set body, brown hair, bright and quick eyes, long arms, hands, and legs, a very large breast, well fraught with wisdom and learning, and accompanied with good speech, and excellent language, and profitable discourse.

Cancer is a watry sign which causes those born under it to be cold and moist, and flegmatick, something sickly, if a woman, she shall have many children, it represents commonly one of a low stature bigger in the upper parts, a great belly, but blackish hair.

Leo is fiery hot and dry, and those born under it are usually very cholerick, high voyce, barren, very strong, and exceeding vicious, wrathful, commanding, exceeding cunning but honest: if a woman, religious, and chast, one of a middle stature, lusty body, great head, and eyes, very couragious, broad shouldered, a yellowish or flaxen hair, a person of a generous disposition.

Virgo is cold and dry, melancholy, very fair, but very civil, and sharp, of an equal and good proportion, the body spare, of a brown or dark complexion, great eyes, much hair, and that of a black colour, and they are most commonly all for their own ends.

Libra is airy, hot and moist, of a sanguine complexion, loud voice: if women, few children, fair, obedient, of a good proportion, a well framed body, very straight, a round visage, wel-favoured, light brown hair, very cheerful, and well spoken, red cheeks, a lovely countenance, inclining to tallness and slenderness.

Scorpio is a watry, cold, and moist sign, flegmatick, sickly, but fruitful, vicious, indifferent fair, wrathful, many times crooked, it represents one of a small stature, the body full, and pretty well composed, sad hair, a dark and solid complexion, and countenance, a short neck, men very much reserved in thoughts, words, and actions, very false and deceitful.

Sagittarius is hot, dry, and cholerick, very great, double bodied, the upper part fair, the other beastial, a loud voice; if women, few children, and weak, very ingenious, but exceeding crafty and obedient; it represents a wel-proportioned body, strongly compacted, of stature tall, a hard favoured visage, brown hair, which will be almost off before forty years of age.

Capricornus is earthly, cold and dry, melancholly, sharp and cruel: if women, few children, luxurious, sickly and vicious, crooked body, seldom fair, it represents a body but of little stature, dry and lean, the face also lean and thin, much hair, and that black, the colour wan and pale, small breast and a long neck, disproportioned body and very hard favoured

Aquarius is hot and moist, of a sanguine complexion, a high voyce, sweet conditioned, very loving, and lovely: if women few children, but very fair, obedient, sweet behaviour’d, religious, and honest, chast, yet pleasant, one of a well-shapen body, a middle stature, a fair visage and complexion, bright hair, a clear and amiable colour, a handsome body, lovely and vertuous, and contented in any condition.

Pisces is cold, watry and moist, phlegmatick, vicious, and foul, of a deformed and crooked body, wanting members, meanly fair, obedient, of a body diversly proportioned, also one of a short stature, ill-composed in body and mind; a great face, a pale and wan complexion, thick shouldered, fat and plump in body, short neck’d, and stooping in body and shoulders.