Cloth $52.00 ISBN: 9780226099743 Published January 2007
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The Birthday Book


The Birthday Book


Edited and Translated by Holt N. Parker
120 pages | 9 line drawings | 5 x 7 | © 2007
Cloth $52.00 ISBN: 9780226099743 Published January 2007
E-book $10.00 to $52.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226099774 Published September 2008

Nearly 2,000 years ago, the Roman scholar Censorinus bestowed upon his best friend a charming birthday present: The Birthday Book, which appears here in its long-awaited first English translation. Laying out everything he knew about birthdays, the book starts simply, but by the conclusion of this brief yet brilliant gem, Censorinus has sketched a glorious vision of a universe ruled by harmony and order, where the microcosm of the child in the womb corresponds to the macrocosm of the planets. Alternately serious and playful, Censorinus touches on music, history, astronomy, astrology, and every aspect of time as it was understood in third-century Rome. He also provides ancient answers to perennial questions: Why does the day begin at midnight? Where did Leap Year come from? Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

Embodying the proverbial gift that keeps on giving, The Birthday Book has long been treasured by scientists, poets, and scholars, and Holt Parker’s graceful and lively new translation—accompanied by an illuminating introduction and detailed notes—is itself a present for Latinists, historians of science, and anyone looking for an unusual birthday gift.

Translator's Preface
1 Happy Birthday
2 How to Honor the Genius of the Birthday
3 What is the Spirit of the Birthday?
4 Seed and Conception
5 Pregnancy
6 The Fetus
7 Growth in the Womb
8 The Origins of Astrology
9 The Teachings of the Pythagoreans
10 Harmony and Music
11 Harmony in the Womb
12 Harmony in the Mind and Body
13 Harmony in the Universe
14 Crisis Years and the Length of Life
15 The Praise of Caerellius
16 Time and Eternity
17 Ages and Centuries. The Roman Secular Games
18 The Great Year
19 The Year
20 The Calendar
21 The History of the World
22 Months
23 Days
24 Hours


Review Quotes
David Wray, University of Chicago

“It was already incredible enough that English-language readers would have to wait until the twenty-first century for a complete translation of a book by an author so important to the history of science that he has a crater on the moon named after him. But it was just as incredible that, after the long wait, Censorinus would have the good fortune to fall into the hands of Holt Parker, whose crisp rendering of the original Latin is ingenious and lovingly accurate.”

Joseph Pucci, Brown University
“Holt Parker has succeeded in spades with this translation. It will appeal not only to scholars of history, literature, and the history of science, but also to anyone interested in the details of Roman life, attitudes, and perspectives on the world.”
Thomas Jones | London Review of Books
"In The Birthday Book, Censorinus distils the wisdom of several strains of philosophy, extracting whatever seems to have any bearing on births, days and birthdays: theories of the origin of the human species, the formation of the individual foetus, the principles of astrology, the ages of man, the nature of time, eons, centuries, years, months, days and hours. . . . Parker’s useful notes expand on Censorinus’ references and fill in the gaps."
Benjamin Stevens | Bryn Mawr Classical Review
"A great achievement, not to say an astonishing one: this translation, the first translation of Censorinus into English, is both exacting and elegant. . . . It would make a natural addition to courses on ancient culture, history, or science. . . . The book itself is charming. . . . It would make a lovely gift."
Karl Galinsky | Times Higher Education Supplement
"Among birthday gifts, even of the quirkily unique kind, the treatise De die natali by the 3rd-century AD writer Censorinus still must be among the top ten for both idiosyncrasy and learning—a feat that even landed its author a place on the moon, where a crater is named after him. . . . Holt Parker and the University of Chicago Press have entered into the spirit of this enterprise nicely. The book is produced handsomely in small format, and the text is interspersed with some helpful diagrams and illustrations. In addition, there is a useful glossary and notes that do not smother. Most important, Parker well catches the various moods of [The Birthday Book]."
Journal of Classical Teaching
"Very good fun. . . . Full of gloriously pointless information and with useful notes attached, it makes perfect bed-time reading that will relieve you of any postmodern intellectual anxieties that you may be feeling."
Robert Hannah | Aestimatio
"As anyine who has worked on matters calendrical in the Greek and Roman worlds will know, the Birthday Book is a mine of information. . . . More people should certainly find Censorinus valuable and this excellent translation will assist in the wider dissemination of the text."
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