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One of the constitutive features of practicas, or annual astrological prognostic booklets, is how they identify themselves as a reduced version of some other text. The genre as a whole defines itself as the specific and concrete application of theoretical texts, but practicas also describe themselves as reduced versions of other works. Johannes von Glogau, the first German astrologer whose practicas appeared in print, regularly referred the readers of his Latin prognosticastions to another work for the complete astrological argumentation, usually with a phrase such as Horum omnium cause patent in iudicio maiori. Georg Tannstetter made reference to such a work as late as 1523, but by then most astrologers had switched to referring readers not from a smaller to a larger work, but from a German to a Latin work for the complete astrological reasoning. Interestingly, these longer works with more extensive reasoning do not seem to have been published, and one may wonder if they actually existed. While there are many practicas that were published in both Latin and German translation, the astrological argumentation is usually similar in both. So for their authority, practicas often direct the reader to other texts that are nearly unattainable, if they exist at all.
Even eight-leaf vernacular astrological booklets did not constitute the extreme low end of popular versus learned, however. One of the facsimiles I found this week is VD16 H 3291, an extract from the practica for 1548 of Simon Heuring (see the facsimile here). Looking through VD16, this work appears to be unique, as I don't find any other similar extracts from annual prognostications. Comparing its text to Heuring's complete German practica for 1548 (VD16 H 3290), the extract is clearly based on the complete practica, but the text has been radically shortened. Compare the first sections of each; shared material from the complete practica is underlined, while new or added words in the extract are in bold.
|VD16 H 3290||VD16 H 3291|
|Das Erst Capitel / Von den Planeten so diß 48. Jar regieren und herschen werden.||Von Regierung der Planeten.|
|Auß dem Lauff aller Planetenn / Auch eingang der Sonnenn in die 4. Angel. zeichen / Als da sindt der Wider / Kreps / Wag / unnd Steinbock erlernenn wir / Das in disem 48. Jar abermals Saturnus am geweltigsten sein / Und mit hinwegnemen viler waydlichen leut / Das fürnembst Regiment habenn sol / Mit welchem sehr der gütig Jupiter lauffen / Unnd sein wütenn etwas wirdt miltern wöllenn / Das dieweil er so gar / Nicht allein für sich selbest / Sonder auch auß krafft der grossenn Finsternuß / Darzu der andern Constellation krefftig / Wenig schaffenn / Dieweil der mars das Zaichenn auch darzu thon / Unnd mit Saturno in sterblicher und blutdürstigender art / einreissenn wird / Gott der almechtig wöll ein genediges einsehen haben / das doch nicht so gar grosser unradt / als höhlich zubesorgen / wie und zum teil gantz wol verdient / volge.||In disem Acht und viertzigisten Jar / wird abermals Saturnus / das fürnembst Regiment haben / unnd vil tapffere Leütte hinweg nemen. Unnd wiewol der gütig Jupiter / sein wüten etwas zu miltern begert / So wirdt doch der grimmig Mars / dem Saturno zu hilff / mit sterblicher und blůtdürstiger art / einreyssen.|
It's noteworthy that the extract includes two sections, on human fates and on cities or regions, that do not appear as chapters in Heuring's complete practica. The texts are drawn from his chapter on illness, but are moved to new sections following the section on war. This is exactly where human fates and geographical areas would typically be treated in practicas, for example in those of Johannes Virdung. Heuring's preface, on the other hand, disappears entirely.
From the comparison of the text and other features of just these two editions, we can get a sense of steps that sixteenth-century editors took to adapt texts to less educated and less practiced readers:
- larger type face
- fewer lines of text per page
- smaller text blocks
- clearer distinction between texts and paratexts
- simpler syntax, reduction in dependent clauses
- explicit marking of sentence breaks
- more certainty in statements about the future, less hedging or ambiguity
- switch from numbered chapters to topical sections
- more traditional organization of topics
- reduction of metadiscourse