December 6th, 1860 Frances wrote to Caroline Dent: "I have been enabled in the last fortnight to explain every one of the figures in the Dendera Zodiac and Planisphere, over which I had been puzzling in vain for the last thirty years. . . . I am now quite encouraged by this remarkable proof that my faculties are not injured, on the contrary, though for a much shorter time can I exercise them--two hours and it used to be six, but I am thankful, and have long prayed to do much in a little time."
Frances' copy of the planisphere was given to her by William Hone, and lately mounted for her on calico by a young American friend. She would be sending a tracing of the planisphere to the printer Rivington as a lithograph frontispiece or map for her life's work, Mazzaroth: The Constellations.
In a letter dated September 8, 1859, we learn that Frances Rolleston made the decision that many modern writers make:
After long delays in the attempt to find a publisher who would help with expenses, I have resolved, at a considerable pecuniary sacrifice, to print for myself.
The book in question is The Book of Canticles, or, Song of Solomon, according to the English Version, Revised and Explained from the Original Hebrew. It is only 20 pages long with an additional 12 pages for the "Metrical Version of the Canticles to which is added, Psalm XLV."
One might wonder why Frances should make a financial sacrifice for such a small book. She explains in the September 8 letter:
I believe it to be a Missionary service. I have long been made to feel that the translations of the Canticles gave a handle to infidels, and pain to lovers of the Bible. I knew the original was open to no such objections, and though some spiritually minded Christians have found edification in this book, the majority of Christians have passed it over in 'reverential forbearance.' One minister said to another in my hearing, "She has made it what can be read aloud." Only one verse of my translation meets with hesitation from the great Hebraists to whom I have submitted the work, the eighth verse of the sixth chapter; I enclose you a paper concerning it, and would be very glad for your opinion. I have no "authority" for my translation except the Hebrew text lying before me, with the change of one point, an easy corruption.
In a later letter Frances speaks of her hope that this translation of the Canticles will be an evidence of her expertise with Hebrew, thus adding credence to her great work, Mazzaroth: The Constellations.
March 6th, 1862
I have been low all day, feeling loss of memory and dulness of brain—but look at the weather! I hope it is only that.
There's nothing new about mood being affected by weather. Frances Rolleston felt it, as attested to by this letter. But her next line showed that her mood did not depend on the weather:
I look at my "3 Parts" with thankfulness—done so far.
She referred here to her book, Mazzaroth: the Constellations, which after many years of preparation was ready for publication. Thankfulness was her attitude. Thankfulness does not depend on weather or mood. It is a choice. FR made it a continual choice and a permanent attitude.
February 27, 1833
I am much amused with your humility about asking a question which no one can answer. No one knows when, or why, these signs were invented.
Frances is deep into research on the signs of the zodiac and names of the stars and constellations. As yet, she has not determined when they were invented and named. That will come later. Meanwhile, she answers her young friend's question in this way:
Sir Isaac Newton thought perhaps the ancient Chiron, if indeed he ever existed and was only a good horseman and not a fabulous monster, might invent them; but Josephus says they were on the stones of the High Priest's breastplate centuries before the Trojan War, and many learned Jewish writer have said that they were borne on the standards of the tribes of Israel.
I have now before me an ancient Rabbinical commentary on the blessing of Jacob, referring most of it to '"King Messiah;" and other Rabbins identify the Bull to Joseph, and the Lion to Judah; the Serpent or Scorpion to Dan, and a Wolf to Benjamin, rest also on ancient Hebrew authorities.
Is it only simple curiosity that spurs her on in her research? No, it is something richer. Her letter continues:
This inquiry has led me to such glorious testimonies of the faith of the ancient Jewish Church in the Divinity and Mediatorial Office of the Blessed Redeemer, that I am fully repaid for years of labour. I find that they attributed all, and even more, of the prophecies to Him, than we have ever done, and their views of "King Messiah" are magnificent.
December 13, 1862
"I am troubled to-night with a review of Max Müller, 'On the Science of Language,' greatly admiring his views, which in the first place deny that God gave language to Adam, which every one who believes the Bible to be the Word of God must admit."
The development of human language held particular interest for FR because of her unshakable trust in the accuracy of the Bible, and because of how her theory of the original names of the stars and constellations depended on it. This theory was the purpose of her book Mazzaroth. She based the original reason for naming the stars and their figures upon the root meanings of their names.
FR's evidence for all languages springing from one was the explanations for names given to children that are preserved in Genesis. For example, Eve's words at the birth of Cain, her first son: "I have gotten a man"--Cain coming from the root to get.
Believing the account in the scriptures that human beings all spoke the same language until God confused their language and dispersed them from the Tower of Babel , and finding in the Hebrew scriptures evidence that the first language was very like Hebrew, FR was disturbed with current efforts to discredit the Bible's account. She wrote to a friend:
"Beware the delusions of the German school, Müller and Bunsen the most recent of them just now, but there will soon be more springing up like mushrooms, and, like mushrooms, often poisonous."
December 6, 1860
"I have been able in the last fortnight to explain every one of the figures in the Dendera Zodiac and Planisphere, over which I had been puzzling in vain for the last thirty years."
In her younger years, Frances Rolleston had collected piles of information to support her theory that the ancient starry signs and constellations illustrated God's plan of salvation through the God-man Jesus. Now in her seventies and eighties she was organizing that material for publication.
Since she considered this—her book Mazzaroth—to be the major work of her life, it must have been frustrating not to be able to work out the meanings of the zodiac figures from the Temple of Dendera in Egypt. Before the planisphere was removed and brought to France, a drawing of it had circulated, and FR's friend and neighbor, William Hone, had given her a print of it.
FR had worked with planispheres of Greek and Indian origin, and others, but this one had taken 30 years of scrutiny. How triumphant FR must have felt when she told her friend Caroline Dent that she could now explain every one of its figures. A less diligent person might have given up long before.