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Last updated: 2008-09-08


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Dějiny věd a techniky, No. 2, Vol. XLI (2008)


DVT 082, 65
Table of Lunar Equations in Paulerinus’ Latin Encyclopedy and its Comparison with Almagest, Toletan and Alfonsine Tables
Tabulka ekvací Měsíce z latinské encyklopedie Pavla Žídka a její srovnání s Almagestem, Toledskými a Alfonsinskými tabulkami
Petr Hadrava – Alena Hadravová

A table of lunar equations is included together with other astronomical tables in the encyclopedy Liber viginti arcium written around 1460 by the Czech scholar M. Pavel Žídek (Paulerinus). To clarify its relation with previous tables, numerical values of these tables were subjected to mathematical analysis and residual errors with respect to Ptolemy’s underlying model were studied. To demonstrate wider contexts, Ptolemy’s theory and the method of its use are reviewed through the translation of relevant passages from the Almagest and Canons to Alfonsine tables by John of Saxony and by the corresponding formulae. It is shown that the Ptolemy’s approximate method of calculation differs from his precise model of lunar equations for about 1′ at maximum (cf. Fig. 2). However, numerical errors in the table in Almagest can cause final errors that are several times higher. While errors in equatio argumenti e0 were decreased in the Toletan and Alfonsine tables, the truncation of data on minuta proportionalis increase the error again. It shows that, con- trary to the suggestion by van Brummelen (1994), the errors in the tables prepared by Ptolemy or his followers are not a consequence of an ingenious analysis of the requirements for precision of individual quantities, but rather a result of rounding in the procedure of calculation. It is found, that Žídek’s tables are an extract from the Alfonsine tables with a significant number of the scribe’s mistakes.

Key words:
history of astronomy • medieval Latin manuscripts • astronomical tables • lunar theory

DVT 082, 85
Thaddaeus Hagecius’ Metoposcopical Aphorisms
Metoposkopické aforismy Tadeáše Hájka
Josef Smolka – Martin Šolc

The authors try to review, critically summarize and enlarge the knowledge about different editions of Hagecius’ metoposcopical writing. In the first part of the paper, the date of Hagecius’ doctorhood in Bologna, the date of his journey to H. Cardano and relationship of the famous scholar to young Thaddaeus are newly clarified. The next part enriches our knowledge about the role of an unknown personality of Proxenus in the French translation of the book. The third part brings a detailed comparison of the first and second Latin edition. A brief description and evaluation of a newly discovered German translation forms the content of the last part.

Key words:
Hagecius • Renaissance astronomy and astrology • medicine • physiognomy

DVT 082, 103
Story of the Imperial Chymicus Wenzel Seiler in the Light of Documents of the Archive of Town Brno
Die Geschichte des kaiserlichen Hof-Chymicus Wenzel Seiler im Lichte von Dokumenten des Mährischen Archivs Brünn
Rudolf Werner Soukup – Jaromír Hladík

Hitherto unknown documents from the Moravian archive Brno throw light on the story of the imperial chymicus Wenzel Seiler (1648–1681). Twenty letters, written by several authors in German, Italian, and Latin from the Moravian Archive in Brno (Fasc. 44 / 137, G minus 7, source: monastery St. Thomas in Brno) enable us to reconstruct some episodes in Wenzel Seiler’s life. These documents cover the time from Seiler’s flight from the cloister St. Thomas in Brno in December 1671 up to September 1673, when Seiler performed transmutational experiments in the presence of Emperor Leopold I in Vienna and applied for discharge from the Augustinian order. Today, a more-or-less satisfying curriculum vitae of this well-known alchemist can be issued.
In his booklet on Wenzel Seiler, Johann Joachim Becher (Magnalia Naturae, 1680) reported that after his escape from the monastery, Seiler was taken directly from Brno to Castle Feldsberg (Valtice) by coach. Without a doubt “Prince Charles of Lichtenstein” (i.e. Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein 1611–1684) was “a great favourer of chymistry.” However, a letter – written by a spy of the Augustinian cloister – tells us that Wenzel Seiler first visited his mother in Jarmeritz (Jaroměřice nad Rokytnou) and then travelled to castle Altenburg. From the beginning, Emperor Leopold I was acquainted with Seiler’s case. The prior of the monastery was obliged to hand over Wenzel’s belongings “ex mandato caesaris.” Not only did chamberlain Count Franz Ernst von Paar intervene, but the president of the chamber Count Georg Ludwig von Sinzendorf played an important part as well.
In March 1672 the renegade monk together with his comrade Ernst Preihauser was at the court of Valtice. In a letter from Valtice (March 29th 1672) written by Joseph Luckini, a secretary of prince Karl Eusebius von Liechtenstein, the prelate of the monastery was asked to authorize Wenzel Seiler’s arrest. The first attempt failed, since both alchemists quickly got to Vienna. Some days later Wenzel and Ernst were captured at Hartberg in Styria by Luckini, as they continued their pilgrimage to Rome. Since Luckini was corrupt, both alchemists were able to get free again. During the following months both “fratres chemicorum” performed transmutations at the Viennese residences of Count Franz Ernst von Schlick and Count Franz Ernst von Paar. Count Paar succeeded in getting a imperial residence permit for Wenzel Seiler in Lower Austria.
After a second serious incident at the beginning of July 1672, Wenzel Seiler lost most of his mysterious powder. Count Paar, accused of having stolen the powder, died suddenly and unexpectedly. From this time forward, Count Frantz Augustin von Waldstein (Wallenstein, † 1684) supervised all of Seiler’s experiments, performed at first in a laboratory at the estate of Laxemburg and later in the laboratory of the late Erzherzog Leopold Wilhelm († 1663) at the Imperial Court of Vienna. In 1674 Wenzel moved to a new laboratory at a bastion called “Wasserkunstbastei.” Some alchemical medals remind us of the pretend transmutations: Coins embossed in 1675 (reported for the last time in 1890) seem to be lost. The great medal of 1677 already ranks upon the show-pieces of the “Kunsthistorische Museum Vienna.” In 1679 Wenzel Seiler – in those days supreme master of the mint at Kutná Hora in Bohemia – coined a medal, which can be seen today at the Münzkabinett Dresden (Nr. 3916).
In June 1677 the Austrian ambassador at the court of King Charles II, Karl Ferdinand Count Waldstein (Wallenstein 1634–1702), brother of the above-mentioned Count Frantz Augustin von Waldstein, gave a full acount on Wenzel Seiler to Robert Boyle, who was very interested in every detail concerning Seiler’s transmutational powder.
One year before Seiler died in his laboratory, Johann Joachim Becher rumoured that the devil already had Seiler’s soul as well as Seiler’s body in his clutches. Anyway, the unexpected career of Wenzel Seiler allows us to draw a genre-painting of the attitude at the court of Leopold I towards an alchemy of illusion and allusion.

© M. Barvík 2008