Friday, January 18, 2013

I suspect that Georg Tannstetter and George Transtecter are not the same person

But that doesn't mean that I think George Transtecter is a real person.

This week, released digital editions of several French prognostic pamphlets printed in Geneva, including translations of the Practica auf Europa of Paracelsus, the practicas for 1533 of Anton Brelochs and for 1523 of Johannes Stabius, a practica for 1508 by "Haly Nyvord," and another for 1513 by "George Transtecter."

Now I don't believe for a minute that "George Transtecter" is supposed to be anything else except the name of Georg Tannstetter, a prominent Viennese astrologer who published practicas for 1505-1525, especially since the name "George Transtecter" (or even just "Transtecter") is found nowhere else. This doesn't appear to be a case of slight variants resulting in two authorial names (see "Separated at birth" I and II), however. The problem is that Tannstetter's practica for 1513, available in facsimile, is already known, and it differs in fundamental ways from Transtecter's. Tannstetter selected Mars and Venus as the ruling planets for the year, while Transtecter chose Saturn and the Sun. Tannstetter refers to the authority of Ptolemy and Hippocrates, while Transtecter also refers to the Arabic astronomers Albumasar and Haly. The arrangement of chapters and topics are entirely different. Tannstetter predicts adverse fortune and terror for those ruled by Mercury, while Transtecter predicts good fortune and luxury for the same people. Tannstetter's prognostication for lands and cities is broadly concerned with central Europe and mentions Vienna by name - where Tannstetter lived and worked - while Transtecter's prognostication is cast for Louvain and included the fortunes of France, England, Scotland, Brabant, and Flanders, and the cities of Louvain, Brussels, Antwerp, and Ghent.

What I suspect is going on here is that someone else's prognostication was published under Tannstetter's name, or a name close enough to profit from Tannstetter's renown, and perhaps imitating his style as well. Contemporary astrologers including Lucas Gauricus, Johannes Virdung, and, a decade later, Tannstetter himself complained of their names being falsely attached to others' prognostications. That seems to be the case here as well.

I could be convinced otherwise. The two practicas are not entirely lacking in similarity. Perhaps Tannstetter was asked to write a prognostication for Louvain, and the difference in latitude between Vienna and Louvain led to different predictions for the same groups of people. But for now, I remain very suspicious of "George Transtecter."

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