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Doctor Francis Skaryna and the Heavens: Astrology in the Life of a Sixteenth-Century Book-Printer

Astrology constituted a significant part of medieval and Renaissance culture and Weltanschauung. Yet it is a curious fact that astrology still holds such a neglected role in the research on Doctor Francis Skaryna’s life and professional activities. Far from filling this lacuna the article aims at elucidating the sources of astrological knowledge for the sixteenth-century Belarusian publisher. The thorough study of Francis Skaryna’s literary and iconographical legacy reveals his dependence on popular astronomical and astrological treatises of his time. It is particularly suggested that the use of the image of the sun charged with the crescent sun in the engravings in the Rus’ian Bible might have been influenced by a similar symbol in the German calendar of Johannes Regiomontanus, printed in Zürich in 1508. Much more evident, however, is the impact of the almanac of Johannes Stöffler on Francis Skaryna’s Paschaliae, especially for the year 1524. It is also likely that the choice of a date for embarking upon the Rus’ian Bible might have been consciously calculated by Francis Skaryna: according to the almanac of Stöffler, the sixth of August 1517, due to spectacular conjunctions of celestial bodies on this day, was regarded as beneficial for human endeavors.