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‘Your astronomers and ours differ exceedingly’: the controversy over the ‘new star’ of 1572 in the light of a newly discovered text by Thomas Digges

  • STEPHEN PUMFREY (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

This article presents evidence that an anonymous publication of 1573, a Letter sent by a gentleman of England [concerning …] the myraculous starre nowe shyning, was written by Thomas Digges, England's first Copernican. It tells the story of how it arose out of research commissioned by Elizabeth I's privy counsellors in response to the conventional argument of Jean Gosselin, librarian to Henri III of France, that the star was a comet which presaged wars. The text is significant because it seems to contain the observations and opinions that Digges held before he completed his other astronomical treatise, the groundbreaking Alae seu scalae mathematicae. It also casts some light on the development of Digges's radical and puritan views about the star, Copernican astronomy, the infinity of the universe and a belief that the ‘latter days’ of the world had arrived.

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1 See Thoren Victor E., The Lord of Uraniborg: A Biography of Tycho Brahe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, p. 55.

2 Green D.W.E., ‘Astrometry of the 1572 Supernova (B Cassiopeiae)’, Astronomische Nachrichten (2004) 325, pp. 689701. The distance of the new star from κ Cassiopeiae ranged from Thaddeus Hagesius's 1° 24′ through Digges's value of 1° 28.5′ to Tycho Brahe's 1° 31′.

3 As Thoren, op. cit. (1), p. 57, has pointed out, Brahe, Digges and others developed several radical explanations of the star but none was unorthodox enough to suggest that the intrinsic brightness of the star had changed.

4 For the most complete collection of contemporary opinions on the new object, see Tycho Brahe, Opera Omnia (ed. John Louis Emil Dreyer), Copenhagen: Hauniae, 1913–16, vols. 1–3, Astronomiae Instauratae Progymnasmatum. For the most complete discussion in the secondary literature see Hellman C. Doris, The Comet of 1577: Its Place in the History of Astronomy, New York: Columbia University Press, 1944. For a discussion which examines contemporary meanings of ‘star’ and ‘comet’ in this context see Methuen Charlotte, ‘“This Comet or New Star”: theology and the interpretation of the nova of 1572’, Perspectives on Science (1997) 5, pp. 499509.

5 I.G.D.V. (J.Gosselin), La declaration d'un comete ou estoille prodigieuse, laquelle a commence a nous apparoistre a Paris, en la partie Septentrionale du ciel, au mois de Novembre dernier, en l'an present 1572. & se monstre encores auiourd'huy. Avecques un discours des principaux effects des Cometes, tant en Francois qu'en vers Latins: extraicts des plus notables Autheurs qui en ont escrit, Paris: Pierre L'Huillier, 1572.

6 Jacques Halbronn, Catalogue alphabétique des textes astrologiques français, available at http://cura.free.fr/docum/10catAB.html, last visited 16 January 2009. This online catalogue states that the identification was made by Rod Hoyer. It is presumably in his augmentations of Boaistuau Pierre, de Tesserant Claude, de Belle-Forest François, Hoyer Rod and Sorbin Arnaud, Histoires Prodigieuses les plus Memorables qui ayent esté Observées, depuis la Nativité de Jesus Christ, Jusques à nostre Siecle: Extraictes de Plusieurs Fameux Autheurs, Grecz, & Latins, Sacrez & Prophanes, Anvers: Chez G. Ianssens, 1594. I have not managed to find it in any of the copies and editions I have inspected.

7 (Gosselin), op. cit. (5), sig. A2v. One must remember that in this period words like the English star and the French estoille could refer, as did the Latin astrum, to any body in the heavens, whether it was a fixed star, a planet (a wandering star) or an extraordinary comet.

8 Johnston Stephen, ‘Digges, Thomas (c.1546–1595)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004, online edn, January 2008, available at www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/7639, accessed 23 January 2009.

9 If we take the figures for distances often used in Digges's time, deriving from al-Farghānī, the distance from the Earth to the stars is 65,357,500 miles. See Van Helden Albert, Measuring the Universe: Cosmic Dimensions from Aristarchus to Halley, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1985. See especially pp. 30–35. However, in his father Leonard Digges's Prognostication Everlastinge of Right Good Effect the distance from the Earth to the stars adds up to a mere 358,463 miles – and a half. It is to this text, in 1576, that Thomas famously appended his Copernican treatise A Perfit Description of the Caelestiall Orbes, though he did not alter his father's figures for the distances computed for the Ptolemaic model of the universe. See the edition published by Thomas Digges of Leonard Digges, A Prognostication Everlastinge of Right Good Effect, London: T. Marsh, 1576 edition, f. 17v. This is another point I owe to David Riley.

10 For Brahe's parallax observations see Gingerich Owen and Voelkel James R., ‘Tycho Brahe's Copernican campaign’, Journal for the History of Astronomy (1998) 25, pp. 134.

11 Digges Thomas, Alae seu scalae mathematicae, London: T. Marsh, 1573, sig. A4v–sig. Br: ‘non probabilis solummodo argumentis sed firmissimus fortasse Apodixibus’.

12 Robert Goulding, ‘Wings (or Stairs) to the heavens: the parallactic treatises of John Dee and Thomas Digges’, in Stephen Clucas (ed.), John Dee: Interdisciplinary Studies in English Renaissance Thought, Dordrecht: Springer, 2006, pp. 41–64.

13 I am grateful to an anonymous referee for these cautionary points.

14 They form some of the very few marginalia recorded by Gingerich in Digges's copy. See Owen Gingerich, An Annotated Census of Copernicus, De Revolutionibus (Nuremberg, 1543 and Basel, 1566), Leiden: Brill, 2002.

15 Digges, op. cit. (11), sig. A2, ‘quemadmodum a Copernici traduntur (Typographi erroribus emendatis)’, and ‘si ante Orbis Dissolutionem, Potentissimi Iussu, rursum recesserit’. The Alae discusses at length the use of a large astronomical radius. As an anonymous referee informed me, such an instrument was ideal for measuring the distances.

16 Digges, op. cit. (11), sig. A2r: ‘Sed plura de huius stellae historia scribere non decrevi, quia eximius vir Iohannes Dee (quum in reliqua philosophia admirandus, tum harum scientiarum peritissimus, quem tanquam mihi Parentem alterum Mathematicum veneror …) hanc sibi tractandam assumpserit materiam [et] … brevi prodeat, nihil dubito.’ In the event, his presumption that Dee would bring his work to the press was misplaced: Dee turned out to be a notorious non-publisher.

17 Anon. [Thomas Digges?], A Letter sent by a Gentleman of England, to his frende, contayning a confutacion of a French mans errors, in the report of the myraculous starre nowe shyning. Anno Domini. 1573. The Lambeth Palace Library classmark is (ZZ) 1572.1.04. It is reproduced in Early English Books Online, stable url http://gateway.proquest.com/openurl?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2003&res_id=xri:eebo&rft_id=xri:eebo:image:26242.

18 Anon., op. cit. (17), sig. A3r/p. 1. The first page has the signature mark A3, but there is no other pagination. Given this lack and the brevity of the tract, in these notes and the transcript I refer to sig. A3 as p. 1, and the subsequent pages as pp. 2–10.

19 Misopseudolugos is a typographical error for ‘Misopseudologos’. The etymology is explored below.

20 Halbronn, op. cit. (6).

21 Thoren, op. cit. (1), p. 56.

22 Regiomontanus Johannes, De cometae magnitudine, longitudineque ac de loco eius vero, problemata XVI, Nuremberg, 1531; Hellman C. Doris, ‘The rôle of measurement in the downfall of a system: some examples from sixteenth century comet and nova observations’, Vistas in Astronomy (1967) 9, pp. 4352, p. 45.

23 Digges had a bigger reason.

24 Thoren, op. cit. (1), p. 63.

25 Thoren, op. cit. (1), p. 70.

26 See Bibliothèque nationale de France (B.N.F.), Les directeurs de la Bibliothèque royale, maitres de la Librairie, gardes de la Bibliothèque du roi et commis à la garde de la Bibliothèque du roi, 1522–1719, Paris: Bibliothèque nationale de France, 2007, p. 8. I have not come across any other reference to this work.

27 (Gosselin), op. cit. (5), sig. A4.

28 The system of publishing books with royal privilege had developed during Gosselin's stewardship of the royal library, and he had used it to increase significantly the number of volumes. See B.N.F., op. cit. (26), p. 8.

29 Gosselin J., Historia imaginum caelestium nostro seculo accommodata, Paris: Apud Aegidium Beys, 1577: ‘stellam novam vidimus maiorem stellis primae magnitudinis, & coelo Lunae altiorem: quae perpetuo stetit prope stellam quartae magnitudinis quae est in dorso & in cingulo Cassiopeae. Ab hac autem stella parum distabat nova versus humeros Cephei vergens. Illam vero novam stellam observavimus, a die decimosexto Novembris anni millesemi quingentesimi septuagesimi secundi: usque in diem decimumoctavum Februarii, anni millesimi quingentesimi septuagesimi quarti: quo die, Henricus Rex Poloniae, Cracoviam ingressus est. A quo die amplius non apparuit nobis ea nova stella maxime apogea facta quae inter Cepheum & Cassiopeam ita erat sita, ut hoc diagramma sequens commonstrat.’ See pp. 10–13. Quotation from p. 11. Illustration forms p. 12, and is reproduced with this article. I thank an anonymous referee for alerting me to the existence of this sole illustration in the work, which can easily be missed. There is one significant difference. An ‘N’ has been removed from SEPTENTRION[…], to leave the Latin form SEPTENTRIO suggesting that the plate has been recycled from an original French work, presumably I.G.D.V.’s Declaration, op. cit. (5). The Historia would have benefited if Cassiopeia had not been the sole constellation to merit an illustration. Note also that Gosselin wrote here that he observed the star from 16 November, while the Declaration, sig. A2r, declared that it was 15 November.

30 (Gosselin), op. cit. (5), sig. A2r. Ils ‘peuvent clairement cognoistre & iuger, que ledit Comete est à la fin de Pisces du premier mobil, à l'endroit du vingtneufiesme degré d'i-celuy’.

31 (Gosselin), op. cit. (5), sig. A2v: ‘ladicte nouvelle estoille, faict paralaxe & divers aspects au ciel, comme estant plus pres de la terre, que ne sont les estoilles fixes qui sont sont en la huictiesme sphere.’

32 Note that Gosselin's recorded parallax is in the region of, or a little under, 1°. Gosselin did not comment, but this put it at or just above the sphere of the Moon.

33 Archer Ian W., ‘Smith, Sir Thomas (1513–1577)’, ODNB, Oxford, 2004, online edn, January 2008, www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/25906, accessed 23 January 2009./ See Strype John, The Life of the Learned Sir Thomas Smith, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1820, pp. 118, 156–165, 279.

34 Smith served several periods in Paris. According to Strype, in Smith's letter to Walsingham of January 1572/3 (discussed in detail below) Smith asked him to buy and send a medical text and also ‘a case of mathematical instruments, directing him to the place where they were sold, that is, at the palace in Paris’. Strype, op. cit. (33), p. 161.

35 Smith refers to Admiral de Coligny, the respected military leader of the Huguenots, who suffered an attempted assassination at the wedding of Henry of Navarre and Marguerite de Valois, and was murdered two days later at the start of the general massacre of 24 August 1572.

36 Astraea was the classical deity who stood for virginity and justice. Elizabeth I was often identified with her. Smith seems to raising the possibility of English support for the Huguenots. See Yates Frances A., ‘Queen Elizabeth as Astraea’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes (1947) 10, pp. 2782. See especially pp. 56–75.

37 I am extremely grateful to Stephen Johnston for informing me about and providing his transcription of this and Smith's other letter below. The modernization of the English and orthography is mine. Key parts of them were effectively reproduced and commented on by Strype, op. cit. (33), pp. 162–163. The original text reads as follows:

‘I am suer you haue heard of, and I think haue sene, the new faier starre or comete, but wthout beard or tayle, wch hath aperid now this iij wekes here, on the back side of the chayer of Cassiepeia, and on the edge of lactea via/whose bignes, is betwixt the bignes of Jupiter and Venus, and kepes to my aparaunce (who haue no instrumentes to observe it, and becawse of this cold weather also dare not the precise ordre of the fixed starrs/Such a one never haue I observed nor red of/I pray yow let me know, what your wise men of fraunce do iudge vpon it / I know thei will not think that it is the Admiralls sowle, As the romaines did of the comete next apering after the mordre of Julius Ceasar, that it was his sowle /

Yt may be Astrea, now peaking out a far of in the north to se what revenge shalbe done vpon so miche innocent bloud shed in ffraunce at a mariage banket, and rere suppers after it/Yt wold do me good yet tunderstand what your astronomors, and heaven gasers there do iudge of it/Yf I were not so mich ocupied as I am, I wold torne vp all my old bokes, but I wold say som what of it my self, and ges by chaunce even as wisely as they, though I wold not publish it but to my freendes / ffor foly the more it is kept in the better /

Me thinkes I here yow say, what a mischief meaneth he to write to me of new starres & astronomors, & tells me nothing of my comyng home / Sr if I should tell yow eny thing herof de die et tempore, I should but ges as Astronomors do.’

Smith to Walsingham, BL Cottonian MS Vespasian F, ff. 224–225. Quotation from f. 224v.

38 National Archives (TNA) SP12/90/12. The letter is dated 11 December 1572.

39 ‘I thank yow for the notes which yow sent of the Comet or new starre / But in the placyng of yt, yor astromers and owres differs excedyngly. youres ther places it in the 29. of pisces / and owres in 7 degre of taurus. So they vary an hole signe & 8 degrees. Your printid booke goes vpon it Suspenso pede / yf eny hath more boldely written of it in print / I pray yow let me se it / oure men do not deny but that he riseth wth that degre of pisces / or the furst [?] of ♈. but it is one thyng to rise wth a degre of the Zodiac & to stand in a place or section of the Zodiac /. And or men do fyend hym far above the mone / & aboue the height of the sphere of Venus / Then can it not be a temporary Comet / (Except now thyngs above the mone do rise and die / wch was never belevid before). but either a new star made / or an old starre new seene /.’ Smith to Walsingham, 13 January 1572/3. BL Cottonian MS Vespasian F, f. 258r. Once again I am indebted to Stephen Johnston, and the modernization is mine.

40 Suspenso pede – very cautiously. This might refer to Gosselin's refusal to give anything other than conventional astrological predictions of a general drought.

41 Thoren, op. cit. (1), p. 57, made this point more generally in his biography of Tycho.

42 See Goulding, op. cit. (12), pp. 52–53 and n. 44.

43 Digges Leonard, An Arithmeticall Militare Treatise named Stratioticos, London: Henrie Bynneman, 1579, sig. A3r–sig. A4r. I thank an anonymous referee for this point.

44 Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 1.

45 Anon., op. cit. (17), pp. 2–4. An anonymous referee has observed that, both in the diagram in the Alae and (more significantly) in the diagram in the Letter, the new star does not appear to be located with a longitude of c.9° between the two specified stars. I am not competent to comment, except to note that the diagram in the Letter is much rougher and that the new star appears to be higher up the seat and to have a slightly greater longitude.

46 Smith to Walsingham. See n. 39 above; Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 4.

47 See, for example, Rose Paul Lawrence, ‘Erasmians and mathematicians at Cambridge in the early sixteenth century’, Sixteenth Century Journal (1977) 8, pp. 4759. See especially pp. 54–55.

48 de Matulind Antonius (tr. von Brunswicke Fredericke), Right Excellent Treatise of Astronomy with a Prognostication, London: Thomas Marsh, 1556; Feild John, Ephemeris anni. 1557. currentis iuxta Copernici et Reinhaldi canones fideliter per Ioannem Feild Anglum, supputata ac examinata ad meredianum Londinensem qui occidentalior esse indicatur a Reinhaldo quam sit Regij Montis, per horam. 1. Scr. 50. Adiecta est etiam breuis quaedam epistola Ioannis Dee, qua vulgares istos ephemeridum fictores merito reprehendit. Tabella denìq[ue], pro coelesti themate erigendo iuxta modum vulgariter rationalem dictum, per eundem Ioannem Feild confecta, Londinensis poli altitundini inseruiens exactissime, London: Thomas Marsh, 1556.

49 Arber Edward (ed.), A Transcript of the Registers of the Company of Stationers of London, 1554–1640 A.D., 5 vols., privately printed, 1875–94, vol. 5, p. 87.

50 Tredwell Katherine A., ‘The Melanchthon circle's English epicycle’, Centaurus (2006) 48, pp. 2331.

51 Plato had written of winged versus base and wingless souls. Melanchthon commented, ‘those souls from which the wings [alae] have departed wander on the ground and seek impure pleasures from terrestrial things; for they do not see the most beautiful light of celestial things. Although Plato interpreted the wings as the heroic impulses of the mind, these impulses alone do not bear the mind upwards: indeed skills are necessary to sustain those impulses. Arithmetic and geometry are, therefore, the wings of the human mind … Raised to heaven by their might, you will be able to illuminate with your eyes the natural universe of things, to perceive the distances and measurements of the greatest bodies, to see the fateful conjunctions of the stars, in short to perceive the causes of the greatest things which happen in this human existence.’ Quoted in Methuen Charlotte, ‘The role of the heavens in the thought of Philip Melanchthon’, Journal of the History of Ideas (1996) 57, pp. 385403, see pp. 393–394. See also Kusukawa Sachiko, The Transformation of Natural Philosophy: The Case of Philip Melanchthon, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 138139.

52 Tredwell, op. cit. (50).

53 Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 2. The quotation from Palingenius means ‘Cassiopeia is made bright by thirteen stars’.

54 Palingenius Marcellus, The firste thre bokes of the most christia[n] poet Marcellus Palingenius, called the Zodyake of lyfe: newly translated out of latin into English by Barnabe Googe, London: John Tyndall for Rafe Newberye, 1560; idem, Marcelli Palingenii Stellati poetæ doctissimi Zodiacus vitæ, hoc est, De hominis vita, studio, ac noribus optime instituendis, libri XII cum indice locupletissimo, London, 1569.

55 Palingenius Marcellus (tr. Googe B.), The zodiake of life written by the godly and zealous poet Marcellus Pallingenius stellatus [sic], ; wherein are conteyned twelue bookes disclosing the haynous crymes [and] wicked vices of our corrupt nature: and plainlye declaring the pleasaunt and perfit pathway vnto eternall lyfe., London, 1563, ‘Epistle Dedicatorie’, unpaginated.

56 Moore-Smith G.C., Gabriel Harvey's Marginalia, Stratford-upon-Avon: Shakespeare Head Press, 1913, p. 161. Palingenius, op. cit. (55), p. 323. The relevant lines are: ‘And if they voyd of dwellers be, / or any there doth dwell, / My Muse I would be glad to knowe, / wherefore I pray thee tell. / All starres are not of bygnesse like, / for many lesse there be, / And in such sort, as comprehend / no man may them we see: … / … Some do in compasse farre excede / both seas, and earth, and all, / And bygger are their shining globes / though they do seeme so small: / Bycause so farre from vs they be. / For euery thing besyde, / The farther it is from our eyes, / the lesse in syght is spyed, / And doth deceiue the lookers on.’

57 Thomas Digges, op. cit. (9), sigs. M1–M2.

58 I Timothy 4:1–2 (King James Bible). The Vulgate has ‘loquentium mendacium’.

59 Tredwell, op. cit. (50); Hooykaas Reijer, ‘Thomas Digges’ Puritanism’, Archives internationale d'histoire des sciences (1955) 8, pp. 145159.

60 Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 10.

61 Digges Thomas, Pantometria, London: Henrie Bynneman, 1571, ‘Preface to the reader’.

62 Digges, op. cit. (11), sig. A4.

63 See Blamires Harry, A Short History of English Literature, 2nd edn, London: Methuen, 1985, p. 32.

64 See I Timothy 3:3, 8; and Titus 1:7, 11. Quotation from the Geneva Bible.

65 See Tredwell, op. cit. (50), p. 24; Philipp Melanchthon, Orations on Philosophy and Education (ed. Sachiko Kusukawa, tr. Christine F. Salazar), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Quotations from pp. 99, 107–108, 151.

66 See Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 8. Digges states that he knew this proverb from Erasmus's ‘Apothegmata’. This was the Adagiorum Collectanea, the fruit of Erasmus's humanist scholarship, first published in Paris in 1500, but thereafter in many fuller editions and translations. See Desiderius Erasmus, The Adages of Erasmus, ed. W. Watson Barker, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2001, I vi 16, pp. 94–95; Leonard and Digges Thomas, A Prognostication Everlasting of Right Good Effect, London, 1576, The Addition. A Short Discourse Touchinge the Variation of the Compasse. Erasmus wrote ultra where Pliny had originally written supra.

67 L. and T. Digges, op. cit. (66). Use of the word ultra rather than Pliny's supra is an indication that the source is Erasmus.

68 Gingerich, op. cit. (14), p. 215. Digges owned the 1566 edition. Among his few annotations were numbers added to the Cassiopeia star catalogue.

69 Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 1.

70 Anon., op. cit. (17), pp. 3–4.

71 Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 4.

72 Alrucuba (although an Arabic name sometimes used for a star in Cancer) is apparently a typographical error for Alrucaba, the Arabic name used in the Alphonsine Tables and later works for the Pole Star. See Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 5.

73 Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 5.

74 Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 7.

75 Justinus, Epitome of the Philippic History of Pompeius Trogus, Book 37, Section 2.

76 Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 8.

77 Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 6.

78 Goulding, op. cit. (12), p. 49.

79 Digges, op. cit. (9), f. 17v.

80 Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 9.

81 Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 2.

82 Digges, op. cit. (9), ‘A Perfit Description’, sig. M, ‘To the Reader’.

83 Digges, op. cit. (9), sig. M1.

84 Digges, op. cit. (9), sig. M3.

85 I am not especially interested, as were some nineteenth- and twentieth-century historians, in collecting early and heroic English adherents to ‘the truth’. Overenthusiastic claims, and consequent misreadings, once led to John Dee, John Feild and earlier still Robert Recorde being read as early adopters of heliocentrism in England. More sophisticated history of astronomy has, in any case, exposed the weakness of the evidence for these claims.

86 Goulding, op. cit. (12), p. 59.

87 Arber, op. cit. (49), vol. 5, p. 87.

88 Some confusion still remains as to whether stationers used new- or old-style dating. At the time calendar reforms meant that states were moving the start of the year from 25 March, the Feast of the Annunciation of Christ, to 1 January, the start of the old Roman civil year. By 1572 countries such as Denmark and France had made the change. In England the legal year still began on 25 March and was used for formal and letter-writing purposes, while a calendar year beginning on 1 January was increasingly used in other spheres. Confusion over the year only existed for dates between 1 January and 24 March. It is, however, during these months of either 1573 or 1574 new style that Digges and Dee were finishing and publishing their works. It was possible, then, that Digges and Dee signed off their works in February–March 1574 new style. Indeed, it seems to have misled Strype, op. cit. (33), p. 161, when he inferred, from a dated letter, that Walsingham sent Smith a case of French mathematical instruments in January 1572, when the exchange was actually that conducted in January 1573 concerning the new star. Edgerton William L., ‘The calendar year in sixteenth-century printing’, Journal of English and Germanic Philology (1960) 59, pp. 439449, concluded from his thorough study that ‘sixteenth-century printers customarily used the calendar year rather than the legal year’, except for specialized classes of work that included official and some learned literature such as law books.

89 I thank Stephen Johnston for this point, made in a private communication.

90 Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 4.

91 See Anon., op. cit. (17), p. 8; and n. 66 above.

92 Digges, op. cit. (11), sig. K4r–K4v: ‘si temporis brevitas & alia mea paterentur negotia. Sed violenter hoc tempore abductus sum, & vi quasi abstractus, ab his Caelestium contemplationibus, per nonnullas inferiores humanas causas: Ut Fortunae etiam bonis interea consulerem, adeoque coactus immutature librum claudere, & manu tollere de Tabula … [p]osthac tamen compositis & superatis Mundanum rerum & Fortunae impedimentis: Rursum favente Deo ad placissimos nostros Mathematicos recurremus fontes.’ Digges may have been alluding to litigation he was involved in for some time, as well as more official commitments.

93 Digges presented the Alae to Burghley as a ‘Monumentum’, to Burghley's skill in mathematics and liberality because ‘through your fruitful rays (like the rays of the Sun) you alone have made my mind, which was rather sterile, fertile again’. See Digges, op. cit. (9), sig. A4. For astronomy and patronage see Robert S. Westman, ‘Proof, poetics, and patronage: Copernicus's preface to De Revolutionibus’, in David Lindberg and Robert S. Westman (eds.), Reappraisals of the Scientific Revolution, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990, pp. 167–206; Pumfrey Stephen and Dawbarn Frances, ‘Science and patronage in England, 1570–1625: a preliminary study’, History of Science (2004) 42, pp. 137188; Biagioli Mario, Galileo, Courtier: The Practice of Science in the Culture of Absolutism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991; Thoren, op. cit. (1).

94 Digges, op. cit. (11), Dedication (unpaginated): ‘satis, a divino illo, ingenii plusquam humani Copernico correcta, pleneque reformata sit:’.

95 British Library, Lansdowne MS 19/30. Printed in Orchard Halliwell J. (ed.), A Collection of Letters Illustrative of the Progress of Science in England, London: R. and J.E. Taylor, 1841, pp. 67.

96 Digges, op. cit. (43), ‘Preface’.

97 Digges, op. cit. (11), sig. Br: ‘absque ulla Icarii lapsus formidine, altissima et remotissima Coeli Theatra tranare’.

98 Reproduced as Figure 1.

This article has expanded since I first wrote up my Digges's authorship of the Letter in 2005, and I have accumulated several debts since then. First I want to acknowledge the contribution of David Riley, who was doing doctoral research on Thomas Digges under my supervision at the time. David endorsed my suspicion and told me of the significance of the Letter’s mention of Palingenius and of the parable of Apelles. He also did some important checking of the archives and of an earlier draft. I am extremely grateful to Dr Stephen Johnston of the Museum of the History of Science, University of Oxford. As the world expert on Digges, Stephen has shared his expertise generously, confirming or modifying aspects of earlier drafts. Crucially, he also alerted me to the diplomatic correspondence of Sir Thomas Smith. The article has also been improved greatly by the extensive suggestions of two anonymous referees. I am grateful to Dr Frances Dawbarn for deciding to include the Letter in her bibliography of works for our inspection. Finally, I thank Patrick Latour, librarian of the Bibliothèque Mazarine, Paris, for making available jpeg images of La declaration.

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