Skip to main content


For May we are, in essence, featuring two books of the month: Gabriel Powel’s De adiaphoris theses theologicæ ac scholasticæ, printed in London by Robert Barker in 1606, and a manuscript leaf from the Tables of Toulouse, dated to the 15th century.

Powel’s book is a work on adiaphora, or religious indifferentism. Robert Barker was a successful printer in London who co-printed the second edition of Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations in 1598-1600 and as king’s printer, the King James Bible in 1611. Powel (or Powell) was a Calvinist and chaplain to the bishop of London, Richard Vaughan. He was baptised in 1576, the son of David Powel (1549-1598) and died in 1611. In this work he examines the idea that “monarchs might enjoy direct authority over Church discipline” and was “an answer to William Bradshaw’s puritan analysis of adiaphora”. Powel wrote over twenty theological works, many of which were anti-papal and anti-Puritan polemics; he considered Catholicism an “idolatrous and even heathenish religion” and Puritans as “factious brethren”. The library has one other work by Powel, A consideration of the Papists reasons of state and religion, for toleration of poperie in England, printed in Oxford in 1604.

The book was most likely part of Robert Ashley’s bequest of 1641, but there is no direct evidence of his ownership present in the book- no underlining, marginalia or marks of numbering. Ashley was interested in questions of religion, and owned a large number of works on Calvinism, Catholicism, Islam, Judaism and Protestantism, many of which would have been considered controversial and/or seditious works during the late 16th, early 17th century.

What makes this work particularly interesting is the fact that it is bound in a parchment manuscript leaf. It was common practice during this time to bind a book in a manuscript ‘scrap’- binders and printers commonly tore up old manuscripts to use in their bindings. Fragments of illuminated manuscripts are commonly found in the spines, end-leaves and press-board bindings of early modern books.

Dr. Bernard R. Goldstein, University Professor Emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh, via the Royal Astronomical Society Librarian, very kindly identified the fragment as a leaf “from the Tables of Toulouse for caput draconis, the head of the dragon, i.e., the lunar ascending node. Line 1 is the radix 2s 26;24,32° or 86 degrees 24 minutes and 32 seconds: this is the position in longitude (measured along the ecliptic) for the epoch, March 1, 1 AD. The succeeding entries represent the motion of the lunar ascending node in ‘collected years’ at 24-year intervals. The final column displays the motion of the lunar ascending node in years from 1 to 24. This table was described and transcribed by E. Poulle, "Un témoin de l'astronomie latine du XIIIe siècle, Les tables de Toulouse," in Comprendre et maîtriser la nature au moyen âge: Mélanges d'histoire des sciences offerts à Guy Beaujouan (Geneva, 1994)."

The Tables of Toulouse were astronomical tables used to calculate eclipses and motions of the planets, based on the theories of Ptolemy, which placed the earth at the centre of the universe. These tabular calculations were superseded by the mid-16th century, when it became acknowledged that the earth in fact revolved around the sun. Such astronomical tables were calculated for various European cities during the 12th and 13th centuries, most notably Toledo, which were used as the basis to calculate tables for other cities such as Pisa, London and, in this case, Toulouse. The Tables of Toulouse were known to have been used by Parisian astronomers as well, most likely due to the “proximity of the meridians of Toulouse and Paris”. The full leaf is on display here, as is the title page to the work by Powel.

A scanned, searcheable copy of the book is available on the right-hand side of this page, OCR prepared by Rescribe, Ltd.

- Renae Satterley (, Acting Keeper of the Library, May 2016