Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Blagrave, Joseph

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BLAGRAVE, JOSEPH (1610–1682), astrologer, was born in the parish of St. Giles, Reading, in 1610; he was probably a nephew of John Blagrave, the mathematician [q. v.], from whom he appears to have inherited a small estate in Swallowfield, five miles from his native towm. Of his personal history we have no knowledge beyond what is to be gleaned from a perusal of his books. His youthful years were spent in the study of astronomy and astrology, afterwards in philosophy and the practice of physic, upon which he writes: 'Without some knowledge in astronomy one can be no astrologer, and without knowledge in astrology one can be no philosopher and without knowledge both in astrology and philosophy one can be no good physician, the practice of which must be laid upon the five substantial pillars of time, virtue, number, sympathy, and antipathy' (Astrological Practice of Physick, Preface). His first appearance as an author was in a series of: 1. 'Ephemerides, with Rules for Husbandry for the years 1658, 1659, 1660, and 1665,' London, 8vo; no copy of the 'Ephemeris' for 1658 is now preserved to us, as we learn from the volume for 1660 that 'it came into but few hands, by reason of the slackness of the printer before it came forth.' Copies for the years 1659 and 1660 are in the British Museum library, and one for the year 1665 in the Bodleian library at Oxford. The next work ascribed to him, and probably with justice, is (2) 'The Epitome of the Art of Husbandry, by J. B., gent.,' London, 1669, 8vo. That this work is by Blagrave seems to be proved by the fact that it was edited by his nephew, Obadiah Blagrave, a bookseller in St. Paul's Churchyard, who published this and all the subsequent works of his uncle, two of which were posthumous. This was followed by (3) ‘Blagrave’s Astrological Practice of Physick,’ London, 1671, 8vo, already referred to. That it first saw the light in Trinity term for this year is certain; the copies usually met with bear date 1689, being reprints published in Hilary term 1689–90 (cf Clavel, infra). His next was (4) ‘Supplement or Enlargement to Mr. Nich. Culpepper's English Physitian, to which is annexed a new Tract for the Cure of Wounds by Gunshot,’ London, 1674, 8vo. The preface to this work is dated ‘From my house called Copt Hall, upon the seven bridges in Reading.' (5) Blagrave's latest and posthumously published work is his ‘Introduction to Astrology,' in three parts, London, 1682, 8vo. The interest attached to this work is that it contains an engraved portrait of our author at the age of seventy-two years, and is dedicated to his friend Elias Ashmole the antiquary. Lowndes ascribes to Joseph Blagrave ‘Planispherium Catholicum.' This is certainly an error, for the work referred to is a revised version of the ‘Mathematical Jewel' of John Blagrave, edited by J. Palmer, and published in London in 1658, 4to (cf. Granger, i. 274). Another work also ascribed to Blagrave is a manuscript, now lost, ‘A Remonstrance in favour of Antient Learning against the Proud Pretensions of the Moderns, more especially in respect to the Doctrine of the Stars;’ about 1669–70. It was never published; but from the account of it preserved (Biog. Brit. ii. 804) we should infer from its wide range of subjects, and in point of style, that it was superior to anything that could have been produced by Blagrave. His character appears to have been a curious mixture of earnest piety with a profound belief in the virtues of astrology. Of the various cures which he claims to have effected, one of the most curious is that of casting out a dumb devil from a maid at Basingstoke, where we are quaintly informed that, after invoking the name of the Tetragrammaton with that of the blessed Trinity, ‘the devil came forth, but invisible, with a great cry and hideous noise, raising a sudden gust of wind, and so vanished’ (Astrological Practice of Physick, p. 124). The whole story is a curious study in the demonology of the seventeenth century.

[Allibone's Dict. Eng. Literature, 1859, i, 200; Biog. Brit. Lond. 1747, fol.; Clavel‘s Mercurius Librarius, or Cat. of Books from 1668 to 1700, fol. Nos. 6 and 35; Coates's Hist. of Reading, 1802, p. 234; Granger's Biog. Hist. of England, 1775; Lowndes's Bibl. Manual, ed. Bohn, 1864, i. 214; Lysons`s Mag. Brit. i. pt. 2, Berkshire, 1813, fol. p. 545.]

C. H. C.