Booker, John (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

BOOKER, JOHN (1603–1667), astrologer, was born at Manchester 23 March 1602-3, as appears by his nativity among the Ashmolean MSS. He was originally apprenticed to a haberdasher in London, and was subsequently a writing-master at Hadley and clerk to two city magistrates. He must, however, have soon commenced the professional practice of astrology, to which he had been addicted 'from the time he had any understanding,' as the first number of his almanack, the 'Telescopium Uranium,' was published in 1631. He almost immediately obtained great reputation from a prediction of the deaths of Gustavus Adolphus and the elector palatine, founded upon a solar eclipse, and was soon afterwards appointed licenser of mathematical, by which is probably to be understood astrological, books. In 1640 Lilly thought him 'the greatest and most compleat astrologer in the world,' but revised his opinion when Booker, in his capacity of licenser, 'made many impertinent obliterations' in his 'Merlinus Anglicus Junior,' and 'at last licensed it according to his own fancy.' After the publication of Lilly's 'Introduction,' nevertheless, Booker amended beyond measure,' and Lilly allows that he always had 'a curious fancy in judging of thefts.' About the time of his differences with Lilly he had a violent controversy with Sir George Wharton, which occasioned several pamphlets, now of no value. His 'Bloody Irish Almanack,' however, contains some important particulars respecting the Irish rebellion, and he is the author of 'Tractatus Paschalis, or a Discourse concerning the Holy Feast of Easter' (1664). Upon the Restoration we find him petitioning for leave to continue the publication of his almanack, which seems to imply that he had lost his post as licenser. He died on 8 April 1667, after three years' indisposition from dysentery, leaving, says Lilly, the character of 'a very honest man, who abhorred any deceit in the art he practised.' This favourable judgment is confirmed by the internal evidence of his extensive correspondence preserved in the Ashmolean collection. Ashmole bought his books and papers for 140l., and bestowed a gravestone and epitaph upon him, but where he does not say. The 'Dutch Fortune Teller' and 'The History of Dreams,' published under Booker's name after his death, are probably spurious.

[Lilly's History of his Life and Times; Life of Elias Ashmole; Black's Catalogue of the Ashmolean MSS.]

R. G.