Chiromancy and German Academic Orthodoxy

Johannes Praetorius (1630-1680) published his 'Ludicrum Chiromanticum' in 1659, this volume being an edited compendium of earlier chiromantic works by scholars such as Goclenius, Indagine, Pompeius and Robert Fludd. Texts included here are the 'Aphorisma Chiromantica' of Goclenius, an early version of the 'Praecepta Chiromantia' of Nicola Pompeius and the chiromancy of Fludd found in the second volume of his 'Utriusque Cosmi Historia' of 1619 (this treatise by Fludd seems to be the first to suggest timing the vitality line with the use of a protractor!). The book also includes an anonymous treatise of the Summa Chiromantia type, sections on physiognomy and metoposcopy and one of the first chirological bibliographies. Praetorius authored at least three other works of his own on the study of hands, one of which was a special study on the significance of the thumb. But what is most notable about him is that he was at one time Professor of Philosophy at Leipzig University where chiromancy and astrology were still taught as part of the official curriculum.

A second, though earlier, lecturer at the University of Leipzig who is known to have written on chiromancy is Magnus Hundt the Elder. Hundt wrote a major treatise on the study of man entitled 'Antropologium de Hominis', published in 1501. This is primarily an astrological text but it includes a section on physiognomy and a short treatise on chiromancy.

The work by Johann Elsholtz (1623-1688) 'Anthropometria', although primarily a work for painters and sculptors and students of medicine, in considering the anatomy of the body also includes some physiognomy and an astrological chiromancy. The section on the arms and hands cites the Frenchman Johannes Taisnier and quotes the few remarks about the hands made by Aristotle.  Elsholtz includes one diagram of the hand with astrological associations within his work. Interestingly, he gives the Sun rulership of the life line, the Moon to the head line, Venus to the heart line, Mercury to the fate line and Saturn, Jupiter and Mars to the rascettes!

Ingeber produced a work on chiromancy, physiognomy and metoposcopy in 1692 and C Schultz and P Engelbrecht composed a dissertation asserting the truth of chiromancy, printed at Regensburg in 1691. Johann Horst (1617-1685) gives a bibliography of works on physiognomy and chiromancy in his 'Physica Hippocratea' published at Frankfurt in 1682 and two works by Johann Hoping 'Institutiones Chiromanticae' and 'Chiromantica Harmonica' were published in 1674 and 1681 respectively.

Other academic support for the study of chiromancy in Germany in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries can be seen from the writings of authors who were associated with Wittenberg University. Johann Sperling was a Professor at Wittenberg circa 1645-1670 and in his writings pronounces favourably on chiromancy, on the proviso that it is studied in conjunction with physiognomy and astrology. Frenzel also had his dissertation on chiromancy published at Wittenberg in 1663.

However, the proof that chiromancy was on the syllabus at Wittenberg comes from the writings of Nicholas Pompeius, for Pompeius was a professor of elementary mathematics at Wittenberg and gave lectures on chiromancy around 1653. The notes from these lectures are themselves still extant and, after finding their way into Praetorius' 'Ludicrum Chiromanticum', were printed in book form with additional woodcut illustrations by one of his students some seventeen years later. Two works on chiromancy from Pompeius have come down to us today, 'Figurae Chiromanticae' and 'Precepta Chiromantica' both of which seem to have been first published in Hamburg in 1682. Just as in Italy we saw that chiromancy found favour with the ecclesiastical authorities of the day so, from the evidence of Leipzig and Wittenberg Universities, we can see that in Germany, chiromancy was also respected in the highest intellectual and academic circles.


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