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Forman and Napier Casebooks

When any man or woman cometh unto thee for himselfe, or for any that is sick or diseased, whether they bring the state of the sick or noe, it is not materiall, you shall following our Practice and Experience demand of the commer these Questions following …"

Simon Forman, ‘The Astrologicalle Judgmentes of phisick and other Questions’, Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 363, f. 2r


The astrologer-physicians Simon Forman and Richard Napier recorded 80,000 consultations between 1596 and 1634. This is one of the largest surviving sets of medical records in history.

The records were produced during the consultation, which typically took place at the physician’s house. A ‘querent’ (the patient or someone asking on the patient’s behalf, with or without permission) posed a question, either in person or by message, usually about a medical matter. The physician recorded the question, the time at which it was asked or received, details of the patient (such as name, age, address, occupation), and, where relevant, the course of their affliction to date. Below this he produced an astrological chart for the moment at which the question was asked, then noted his interpretation, further information obtained in the course of the consultation, or recommended treatments.



Some of the physicians’ patients consulted them regularly; most appear only a few times, and many are family or friends of other patients and querents. The casebooks document the concerns of 60,000 people in a world of medical pluralism. They also chronicle the lives of the physicians.

The original manuscripts are part of the Ashmole Collection, held in the Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford. In the late seventeenth century, Elias Ashmole collected the manuscripts, had them bound into 64 volumes and donated them to the University of Oxford. They were part of the founding collection of the Ashmolean Museum before being moved to the Bodleian Library in the nineteenth century.

Forman’s and Napier’s casebooks are presented here as part of a collaboration between the Cambridge University Digital Library and the Casebooks Project. The Casebooks Project is working, in partnership with the Bodleian Library, to provide an open-access web-based edition of Forman’s and Napier’s records. A team of editors is transcribing, categorising and linking information about patients, their households and networks and the questions they asked. 48,500 cases are currently live.


The Casebooks Project is based in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science and supported by funding from the Wellcome Trust. The move to CUDL is supported by the Isaac Newton Trust and the Institutional Strategic Support Fund.