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Teaching and research with casebooks

How do you use 80,000 astrological records written in archaic handwriting for teaching and research? As the existing scholarship on the casebooks shows, a case or cases can serve as choice examples about daily life in early modern England, while the collection as a whole informs historical understandings of medical practices, patient experiences, and the shape of knowledge. But finding the right case or cases and knowing how to interpret and contextualise them can be challenging.

The casebooks are, for the most part, on-the-spot records of encounters between astrologers and their clients, often written more like lists than like narratives without differentiating between what the patient said, what the astrologer or someone else observed, and what the astrological chart indicated. This edition databases the details of each case, but our transcription is limited to the formulaic preamble to each case, what we call ‘the question’. Our edition guides readers to cases while representing the nature of the records.

To illustrate the content of the casebooks, we have assembled pages that focus on a day (26 February 1599), individual people (the Egertons, Emilia Lanier), and a page (MS Ashmole 411, f. 96v).

Our blog is intended as a sort of casebooks starter set.

Our XML data is open to anyone who wishes to mine it.

Cite this as: Lauren Kassell, Michael Hawkins, Robert Ralley, and John Young, ‘Teaching and research with casebooks’, A Critical Introduction to the Casebooks of Simon Forman and Richard Napier, 1596–1634,, accessed 14 December 2018.