Gadbury, John (1627–1704)
John Gadbury, British astrologer and associate of astrologer
William Lilly, was born on New Year’s Day of 1627 in Wheatley,
Oxon, England, the son of a farmer. As a youth he was apprenticed
to a tailor, but in his late teens was sent to Oxford by
his mother’s father, Sir John Curson. After completing his
studies, he married (1645) and, settling in Oxford, studied astrology
with Dr. Nicolas Fiske. He published his first book on
astrology in 1652. Two years later, with Timothy Gadbury
(possibly a brother), he published a book of astrological charts
of the kind needed to erect a horoscope. His primary text, the
Doctrine of Nativities, appeared in 1659. This latter book surveyed
natal astrology and supplied the set of tables from which
charts could be prepared. With this book alone, the practicing
astrologer could build a chart and offer a basic interpretation.
As a young man Gadbury made the acquaintance of William
Lilly (25 years Gadbury’s senior). Lilly appears to have been favorably
impressed and wrote the introduction to one of Gadbury’s
books. However, they found themselves on opposite
sides of the major political factions of the era, Gadbury favoring
Oliver Cromwell, and Lilly supporting the king. However,
in 1658, a series of events were initiated that led to a bitter
break. In his 1658 Almanac, Lilly paid some compliments to
Charles X, the king of Sweden, and predicted a long reign. In
response, the next year Charles sent Lilly a gold chain. For reasons
not altogether clear, Gadbury responded with a predicton
that Charles’ reign would be quite short. The king died the
next year.
The hostile and competitive feeling between the two astrologers
broke into the open again in 1675 when Lilly published
some observations on the astrological sign Scorpio, emphasizing
its negative traits. Gadbury took the publication personally
as he had Scorpio rising in his chart. He attacked Lilly in his
next book, Obsequim Rationabile (1675). Over the next several
years, Lilly’s supporters periodically attacked Gadbury and
Lilly noted that Gadbury had responded by acting in the very
manner typical of a Scorpio. The hard feelings continued even
after Lilly’s death in 1681. As late as 1693, John Partridge continued
the attack in The Black Life of John Gadbury.
Apart from his lengthy battles with Lilly, Gadbury is most remembered
for his Collectio Geniturarum, his astrological commentary
on the lives of 150 famous, most notable contemporaries.
Three centuries later, it provides a unique glimpse into
the seventeenth century, though there are some notable errors
in several birthdates.
After a long and productive life, Gadbury died in March of
Gadbury, John. Collectio Geniturarum. London James Cottrel,
———. Genethlialogia, or the Doctrine of Nativities. London,
———. Obsequim Rationabile. London, 1675.
Holden, James H., and Robert A. Hughes. Astrological Pioneers
of America. Tempe, Ariz. American Federation of Astrologers,
McCaffery, Ellen. Astrology Its History and Influence in the
Western World. New York Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1942.
Parker, Derek. Familiar to All William Lilly and Astrology in the
Seventeenth Century. London Jonathan Cape, 1975.