The book of Paranatellonta in Reginensis Vat. Lat. 1283 fol 1-8v.
This is the first and likely the most important part of the selection of Spanish Medieval texts collected in the manuscript known as Reginensis Vat. Lat. 1283, written in the court of Alphonse the Wise around 1280.
The illuminated book was discovered by Aby Warburg in the Vatican Library in Rome in 1911 while the art historian was organizing his famous lecture on Schifanoia frescoes at the International Congress of Art.
The book is acephalous and incomplete, so Aries, Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces are missing. Every sign is illustrated with a picture, a wheel with the zodiacal sign in the centre, surrounded by the thirty images rising with the corresponding degrees of that sign and their description .
The images rising with the zodiacal degrees clearly derive from fixed stars and constellations. Some are very easy to recognize, for example Pleiades are rising exactly with the 6th degree of Taurus as in Firmicus’ Mathesis, Argo Navis is rising with Cancer, the flowing river Eridanus with Gemini, the Spike in Virgo, and we can easily find in the text well known constellations like Ara, Sagitta and so on.
The theory of moirogenesis is not Medieval in origin, but it is well known since antiquity and in fact it is mentioned by Firmicus Maternus in the eighth book of Mathesis in a simpler version than the one we know from Teucer fragments and Liber Hermetis.
Other relevant quotes can be found in Proclus’ Commentary to Plato’s Republic and in Censorinus. Proclus in fact writes: “Degrees rising with the horoscope contain all the virtue of generation, so for example they produce some births proper to the priesthood and others that are dishonoured. ”
But almost 200 years before, Censorinus could state in De Die Natali: “These points are thirty for every sign: i.e. three hundred sixty for the whole circle. Greeks call them Moira, without every doubt because this is the name of Goddesses of Fate, and so our fate depends on these points, and the fact of being born under one or another it’s the most important factor.”
During the Middle Ages this astrological technique is also present in Liber de las formas et de las ymagenes (Escorial ms. h.1.16), written between the 1277 and 1279 at the same court of Alphonse, and in Pietro d’Abano’s Astrolabium Planum.
While there are several differences between these two books in the description of the fate in store for those born with a certain zodiacal degree rising, the images given in the Spanish manuscript are very similar to the ones depicted in Pietro d’Abano’s book.
I was not able to find any relationship between Abano and the unknown author of these pages, but according Aby Warburg, the Spanish manuscript Reg. 1283 was the source for Abano’s work, but the art historian does not explain how Abano could know about it.
More precisely, Fritz Saxl thinks that the images listed in Astrolabium Planum – but I think we can say the same for this Spanish text, if Aby Warburg is right and the Book of Paranatellonta is the source for the Italian book- come directly from Albumasar’s chapter about images rising with 36 facies in Liber VI or from the curious illustrated version of the Great Introduction known as Liber Astrologiae and ascribed to Fendulus. In fact Liber Astrologiae was just a book of images for adults, as it is extracted from Hermann of Carinthia Latin translation of Albumasar book.