Wednesday, 23 July 2008

More on Tadeáš Hájek z Hájku...

Note: this article has now moved to more-on-tadeas-hajek-z-hajku on Cipher Mysteries

I recently posted about Rudolph's physician before Sinapius, Tadeáš Hájek z Hájku: and wondered aloud whether he might have bought / owned / sold / annotated the Voynich Manuscript. It's a good question: the f17r marginalia seems to have been emended to read "mattioli..." (I believe it originally began "melhor"), and Hájek famously translated Mattioli's Herbal.

The first step would be to find some of Hájek's handwriting: with the help of Jan Hurych, I soon found the Manuscriptorium, which is a kind of uber-catalogue of Czech manuscripts. Searching for Hájku yielded 14 unique references, most of which are "Minucý a Pranostika" (i.e. tables and weather predictions) from different years, and which seem likely to be small printed pamphlets (and so probably of no practical use to us here).

However, there are four other documents which might have his handwriting (listed below, each with repository and shelfmark, if anyone happens to be in Prague or Zwickau and wants a challenge, as well as Jan's brief translation of the start of the title). I've asked the manuscript librarians whether Hájek himself is thought to have written any/all of these, and hopefully will get an answer relatively soon...

  • Královská kanonie premonstrátů na Strahově, Praha - Kodex Dobřenského, opus 344.
    1574 "Tabule dlauhosti Dne..." - The table of day's and night's lengths

  • Národní knihovna České republiky - 54 S 91 neúpl.
    1560 "Wayklad Proroctwij ..." - Explanation of Turkish prophecy...

  • Knihovna národního muzea v Praze - 28 E 1O
    1556 "Wypsanij s Wyznamenánijm gedné y druhé Kométy" - The description and explanation of both comets...

  • Zwickau Ratschulbibliothek - 4, 10, 39, přív.
    1580 "O některých předesslých znamenjch Nebeských" - About some heavenly signs in the past . . .
As a nice coincidence, I'm in the middle of reading Owen Gingerich's delightful bibliophilic road-trip book "The Book Nobody Read" and who should pop up on p.172 and p.178 but "Thaddeus Hagecius" (i.e. "Tadeáš Hájek" in Latin). According to a marginal note by Johannes Praetorius in the back of the Beinecke Library's copy of Copernicus' "De Revolutionibus" (the historiographic subject of Gingerich's book), Paul Wittich had passed a "terse list of three errors" in the book on to Hájek. The same list of errors appears in a copy in Debrecen, and in a copy in Edinburgh.

And so Gingerich throws the idea that this particular Edinburgh copy may perhaps have been owned by Hájek up in the air. But all the same, it's only a speculation. Still, I'll ask him if he ever went looking for marginal handwriting by Hájek, you never know...

...but now I've thought of searching Google for "Thaddeus Hagecius" (*d'oh!*), I find that there is a pile of correspondence between Tycho Brahe and Hájek (and a good-sized 2002 article on it here).

And according to this Czech page, the Prague-based Society for the History of Sciences ("DVT" = dějiny věd a techniky) published in 2000 "the first volume of the Czech monographic series Works on History of Technique and Natural Sciences dedicated to significant Renaissance scholar Thaddeus Hagecius (Tadeáš Hájek z Hájku)" (it was the 500th anniversary of his death that year). It seems to be called "Práce z dějin technika a přírodních věd 1", Praha 2000, 180 str: it's not immediately obvious how you'd buy a copy, though... (I'll ask Jan Hurych).

And there's also a 2004 article about his astronomy in this German book.

That's often the way with research: find just the right key, and zero research leads suddenly turns into ten...

1 comment:

Rene Zandbergen said...

Hello Nick,

in your earlier entry about Hajek, you mentioned that he had not yet been brought in connection with the
Voynich MS. Actually, in the book 'The Most Mysterious Manuscript by R. Brumbaugh, on p.137, the
author writes that he was in Prague, consulting the historian Zdenek Horsky about Georg Barschius, and
Dr. Horsky suggested that Brumbaugh ought to consult some writings of Thaddeus Hajek, which might
shed some light on the Voynich MS.
Dr. Horsky died some years ago, but when I was in Prague myself, in 2004, I had the fortune to meet
Dr. Josef Smolka. He had always been a colleague and good friend of Zdenek Horsky, and remembers
how Thaddeus Hajek was Horsky's most favoured study 'object'.

Dr. Smolka himself has pulished about the correspondence of Hajek and Tycho Brahe (a reference you also
cite) and the correspondence between Hajek and Andreas Duditius. Especially the latter correspondence,
he argued, was of a very open and friendly nature, and allows a good insight in events surrounding Hajek at
the time.
According to Dr.Smolka, if Hajek had had access to the MS now known as the Voynich MS, it should
be expected that he would have mentioned it to Duditius, but this is not the case. I have not seen this article,
but it seems well worth finding a copy of it.
I will ask him for a copy, or the location of one, and also where the letters written by Hajek are being
kept. Additionally, whether they are believed to be in Hajek's own hand.

Best wishes, Rene Zandbergen