William Lilly’s History of his Life and Times 1602-1681


Introduction and critical annotations by Wade Caves,

Rubedo Press, 2015 www.rubedo.press

Paper – 195 pp.

Price not marked.


This is another anniversary edition, celebrating the 300th anniversary of Lilly's birth. The original was inspired and written in part at the request of Elias Ashmole, Lilly's patron. And Lilly, of course, was the much-celebrated astrologer and author of Christian Astrology. And Christian Astrology was really the first comprehensive textbook on the theory and practice of astrology in English. So of course Lilly is indeed an astrologer to be celebrated. But do we really need yet another version of his biography? That was what I was asking myself when this book arrived, because another very good annotated autobiography came out in the last year or so — one which, in fact, I very much enjoyed.

Well, sometimes we don't know we need something until we see it. For me, that was the case with this book. It is both entertaining and informative. Caves has taken pains to not only replicate the original with accuracy, but also to provide background on the socio-political tone of the times and a great many little details that make the text more understandable for those of us who are not history majors and maybe not even traditional astrologers. There are close to 300 annotations here that both clarify and inform. There is also particular attention to the included charts, which is certainly very useful for students of both traditional and modern astrology. So rather than feeling I was once again going over familiar ground — and sighing —I felt I was discovering fresh new nooks and crannies of a territory previously explored. This book complements previous editions and adds new information. A bonus I particularly appreciated was the foreword by Philip Graves, which gives you a thorough overview, not only of the literature of Renaissance astrology but also an overview of some of the prime proponents in its twentieth-century revival. Should you be left wanting still more, Caves has included a concise bibliography.

…Oh, and apropos of nothing, I love the smaller format of this very well produced book. It's small enough and sturdy enough to travel with, though if you're looking for a quick, easy read, this may not be the best book for bus travel. Why not? Because you may very well get annoyed with having to put it down after 15 minutes because you've gotten to your destination.

Scholarly, but by no means dry, this edition is perfect for anyone who has been meaning to read this book for years. And if haven't been meaning to read it, maybe you should bite the bullet and read it anyway. Lilly is really what I call a cornerstone astrologer. His work laid the foundation upon which we are building. Yes, even those of us who are psychological or evolutionary or otherwise non-traditional and non-horary. And this book will give you most, if not all, of what you need to know.                                                                                             


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