Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Holywood, John

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HOLYWOOD or HALIFAX, JOHN, in Latin Johannes de Sacro Bosco (fl. 1230), mathematician, was probably born at Halifax in Yorkshire. The statements that he was a Scot (Dempster), an Irishman (Stanihurst ap. Ware, Scriptt. Hib.), or a Brabançon are unsupported. Holywood is said to have studied at Oxford, and to have afterwards settled at Paris about 1230. The remainder of his life was spent in Paris, where he died, either in 1244 or 1256, according as we interpret some lines on his tomb in the cloister of the Mathurins.

M. Christi bis C. quarto deno quater anno
De Sacro Bosco discrevit tempora ramus,
Gratia cui dederat nomen divina Johannes:

the later date is more probable. Holywood’s name, in addition to the forms given above, appears also as Holywalde and Holyfax, and in Latin as Sacro Busco and Sacro Busto.

Holywood’s fame rests entirely on his ‘Tractatus de Sphæra’ a little work in four chapters, which treat respectively of the terrestrial globe, of circles great and small, of the rising and setting of the stars, and of the orbits and movements of the planets. It added nothing to Ptolemy and his Arabic commentators, but enjoyed a great renown during the middle ages, and was still studied for eighty years after Barozzi, in 1570, had pointed out its numerous errors. The manuscripts are extremely numerous, and it was the second astronomical work to appear in print. The first edition, which is very rare, appeared at Ferrara in 1472 (4to, pp.24), with the colophon, ‘Sphæra mundi … emendatum per … Petrum bonum Avogarium Ferrariensem. Impressi Andreas hoc opus; cui Francia nomen Tradidit. At civis Ferrariensis ego.’

Twenty-four more editions appeared before 1500, one of which, published at Paris in 1498, with the commentary of Crevelli, sometimes bears the false date 1468. At least forty editions appeared between 1500 and 1647, the date at which the last was published at Leyden. Weiss seems to have mistaken in stating that there was a later edition in 1699 (Biog. Universelle, xxxix. 463). Besides these editions in the original Latin, four versions appeared in Italian, by Mauro, Venice, 1537 and 1550; by A. Brucioli, Venice, 1543; by Dante de Renaldi, Florence, 1571 and 1579; and by Pifferi, Siena, 1604; French translations appeared at Paris in 1546, 1570, and 1584; a German translation by C. Heinfogel appeared at Nuremberg, 1516 and 1519, and Strasburg, 1533; Spanish versions were printed at Seville, 1545, and Madrid, 1650, by Gomez Texada de los Reyes. Among the numerous commentators on the ‘Tractatus de Sphæra’ are Michael Scot, Cecco d’Ascoli, Pierre d’Ailly, Regiomontanus, Jacques Le Febvre d’Etaples, Melanchton, and Clavius.

Holywood’s other works are:

  1. ‘Algorismus,’ or ‘De Arte numerandi,’ printed without date or place [1490?], and at Vienna, 1517, by Hieronymus Vietor; Cracow, 1521 or 1522; and Venice, 1523; also on several occasions with the ‘Sphæra,’ and at Cambridge, 1838, ed. J. O. Halliwell, and in Halliwell’s ‘Rara Mathematica,’ 1841; there is an English translation in Ashmole MS. 396, f. 48, in the Bodleian Library.
  2. ‘De Anni Ratione,’ or ‘De Computo Ecclesiastico,’ printed, Paris [1538?], 1550, 1572, 8vo; Antwerp, 1547, 16mo; 1566, 8vo.
  3. ‘De Astrolabio.’
  4. ‘Breviarium Juris,’ very improbably ascribed to Holywood by Bale.

Several manuscripts of the ‘Sphæra’ and the first two of these minor treatises are described in Black’s ‘Catalogue of the Ashmolean Manuscripts.’

[Bale, vi. 93; Pits, p. 334; Tanner’s Bibl. Brit.-Hib. s. v. ‘Halifax,’ pp. 371¬2; Hist. Litt. de la France, xix. 1¬4; Biographie Universelle; Nouvelle Biog. Gén., art. By M. Hauréau; Wright’s Essays on Archæological Subjects, ii. 68¬71; for the bibliography see Lalande’s Bibl. Astronomique, 1803, Graesse’s Trésor des Livres, vi. 209¬11, and the Cat. of Printed Books in Brit. Mus. Where there are nearly fifty editions of the Sphæra.]

C. L. K.

HOME. [See also Hume.]

HOME or HUME, Sir ALEXANDER (d. 1456), of Home, warden of the marches, was the eldest son of Sir Alexander Home of Dunglass, by Jean, daughter of Sir William Hay of Locharret. His father was killed at the battle of Verneuil on 17 Aug. 1424. The family were relatives and feudatories of the earls of Dunbar and March, but on the forfeiture of that family in 1435 became manorial tenants of the crown. They then succeeded in some degree to the position previously held by their chiefs, and gradually they acquired an authority and influence greater than that formerly wielded by them. Sir Alexander had a charter of part of the barony of Home or Hume, 4 Sept. 1439; of the office of balliary of Coldingham in 1442; of the lands of Lamben in Berwickshire, and the office of sheriff depute of the county of Berwick