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The Astrologer's Tables

Lauren Kassell reveals how the casebooks, diaries and diagrams of the late-16th-century astrologer Simon Forman provide a unique perspective on a period when the study of the stars began to embrace modern science.

An engraving of Simon Forman, from an original c. 1590. Image: Getty / Hulton
An engraving of Simon Forman, from an original c. 1590. Image: Getty / Hulton

On a September evening 400 years ago, Jean Forman, the wife of the astrologer, Simon, teased him over supper. Could he tell which of them would die first, she asked, mocking his art and his age. He was 58, she 30 years his junior. His reply was simple. She would bury him within a week. This was a Thursday. On Friday nothing happened. On Saturday nothing happened. By Wednesday the astrologer’s skill was happily in question. But on Thursday, as Forman set off by boat from Lambeth to the City – presumably to visit clients, attend to business or see friends – he fell down, shouted ‘An impost, an impost’ and died.

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