The First Edition of Indagine's Work on Palmistry

Indagine (Rosenbach), Johannes ab. Introductiones apotelesmaticae elegantes, in chyromantiam, physiognomiam, astrologiam naturalem, complexiones hominum, naturas planetarum [...].

Strasbourg, Johann Schott for the author, 1522.

Small folio (190 x 258 mm). "30" (but: 32), "48" (but: 40), (1) ff., final blank f. With large woodcut portrait of Indagine by Hans Baldung Grien on title page, full-page armorial woodcut on final page, and 111 woodcuts throughout the text. Also, two large woodcut initials: 9-line G and 8-line S, the latter designed by Hans Weiditz (cf. A. F. Johnson, Decorative initial letters, XLI). Early 20th century quarter leather over grey boards, spine titled in gilt.


Extremely rare first edition of this important, profusely illustrated Renaissance work on the three occult sciences: astrology, physiognomy and chiromancy. Also called palmistry, chiromancy is the art of reading character and divination of the future by interpretation of the lines and undulations on the palm of the hand. Medieval palmistry was pressed into service by the witch-hunters; after a period of disrepute, it flourished again in the Renaissance, and a block-book on the subject was published as early as ca. 1480. Johannes Indagine (ca. 1467-1537, also known as Johannes Rosenbach, or von Hagen), a Carthusian Prior, was perhaps the most highly regarded German chiromancer of the sixteenth century and "an extremely learned man in many fields" (Gettings, An Illustrated History of Palmistry, p. 177). It is unknown where he gained his considerable knowledge of the natural sciences, namely of astronomy (to which he contributed the invention of two instruments) and chiromancy. He advised the Elector Albrecht von Brandenburg, Archbishop of Mainz, and it might have been Indagine's horoscopes which in 1519 caused the adjournment of the election of Charles V.

The present work was banned by the Inquisition, having been placed on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum under the decree of Pope Paul IV in 1559 (cf. Thorndike). "Possevin holds that this was on account of the author's astrology, but the other astrologers are all in Class 2. Indagine was placed in Class 1 for his letter to O. Brunfels, published at the end of the volume (which had undoubtedly come to attention in Rome): for this, the author was considered a Lutheran" (Reusch). Illustrated throughout with woodcuts by several artists, including the splendid portrait of the author and his coat of arms, both by Hans Baldung Grien, 11 pairs of physiognomic heads (the pair on fol. 5r also by Grien) and 26 (some repeated) mythological designs representing the signs of the Zodiac attributed to Hans Wechtlin, as well as 37 chiromantic hands (one of fingers only) and 27 numerous astrological diagrams. The work had a great effect on the study of chiromancy and is quoted down to our own day, marking the first beginnings of the fully-fledged astrological chiromancy which was to develop steadily over the next century and a half.

A good, clean copy with remains of six thumb indexes which mark the various parts. Includes the frequently missing two-leaf dedication to Archbishop Albrecht after the title, as well as the final blank; leaf 6 of the first part misbound before the text as usual. Rebound around 1900, trimmed rather closely, with an old catalogue description of this copy (erroneously describing it as incomplete) mounted on the front pastedown: in fact, no index or "blank 4th leaf" are missing (cf. the digitized BSB copy). Of great rarity.


VD 16, R 3108. Adams I 88. BM-STC German 429. Ritter 1264. Schmidt 68. Muller II, p. 82, no. 103. Chrisman, Strasbourg Imprints, S15.2.3. Sabattini 282. BNHCat I 23. Zinner 1180. Osler 3049. Oldenbourg (Baldung Grien) L 203. Mende (Baldung Grien) 458-460. Reusch I, 280, note 6. Cf. Caillet 5388-9 (only editions of 1556 and later); Thorndike V, 65-66,175-176; Hollstein, Baldun Grien, n. 263; Zinner 157, 414 f., 433. H. Röttinger, Jahrb. der Kunstslgg. des Ah. Kaiserhauses Wien 27, 1907-1909 (attribution of the illustrations to Hans Wechtlin); Durling, 2531ff. (only editions of 1531 and later).

Art.-Nr.: BN#46129 Schlagwörter: ,