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What questions did they ask?

Forman’s and Napier’s consultations typically began with questions. First the astrologer asked questions about the patient’s name and age. Then the patient or the person asking on her of his behalf, known as the ‘querent’, asked a question about the cause of a disease or another matter. Parents asked about children, husbands asked about wives, and masters asked about servants. Questions were integral to the exchanges between the astrologers and their clients. This edition is structured around these questions.

Forman recorded a limited repertoire of questions from his patients and querents. The majority were about medical topics, with the majority of these some form of ‘What is my disease?’, often abbreviated as ‘diz’. He was asked less often about topics that we have grouped together as ‘personal affairs’ and ‘sex, family and generation’. He was his own best client, posing a rich array of questions about his bodily, financial, romantic, and spiritual concerns.

Forman taught Napier his system, but Napier and his associates tended to record discursive details rather than formulaic questions. Hence Napier’s topics include more granular categories about body parts and symptoms. His cases include proportionally more medical questions, and within these, more questions about diseases of the mind and witchcraft. He, like Forman, consulted the stars on his own behalf, often about topics related to his patients and his medical practice. Only occasionally did Napier’s associates ask questions on their own behalves.

Throughout the casebooks, questions represent the words of patients and querents as mediated by the astrologers. Our edition databases this information in full. We also note whether a case includes a judgment, treatment, payment, or other information. The full text of these classes of information, with a few exceptions, is not included in our edition, but readers can access this content through the manuscripts. Each edited case links to an image of the relevant manuscript page.

To access cases on a particular question (e.g. the general ‘medical’, specific ‘women’s matters’, or even more specific ‘menstrual problems’), select the relevant facets to limit cases in our browse view. Keyword searches can also be used to find questions, but we recommend beginning with a faceted search.

Summary of questions in the casebooks

These questions follow categories in the casebooks, grouped into clusters imposed by the editors. Note that a single case could have multiple questions.

Medical | Sex, family and generation | Personal affairs | Worldly affairs | Unknown

Cite this as: Lauren Kassell, Michael Hawkins, Robert Ralley, and John Young, ‘What questions did they ask?’, A Critical Introduction to the Casebooks of Simon Forman and Richard Napier, 1596–1634,, accessed 14 July 2024.