James Wilson wrote his Dictionary of Astrology in 1819. Based in large measure on a close study of the works of Ptolemy and Placidus (among many others), it is a quirky, highly personal view of the ancient science. It has been acclaimed the finest of all astrological dictionaries. Wilson’s goal was to force the student to think about some of the basic assumptions in astrology.
In the Preface, he writes:
If I had any motive more prominent than the rest (beyond promoting the cause of truth, which, I trust, will always be the principal) for publishing this work, it was a desire to injure those harpies who gather together scarce books of science, and hide them from the perusal of mankind, merely for the sake of gain, which, after all, can be but trifling: men like these are the enemies of knowledge, and ought to be severely punished in every civilized nation. This treatise will render most of their hoards comparatively useless, for I have been careful to insert the substance of all they contain relating to astrology, whether true or false, adding occasionally some remarks of my own to distinguish the latter as far as I am able, that every student may be enabled to found his own conviction on his own experience.
Rather than the short, arid articles typical of specialized dictionaries, Wilson offers extensive entries on (Primary) Directions, Faces, Figures, Forms of the Body, Horary Astrology, Marriage, Part of Fortune, Weather, the judgment of Revolutions, Progressions, Ingresses, Riches, Promittors, as well as many more.
A few years after this book, the author published his translation of Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos, one of only a handful of men to have done so.
The Dictionary of Astrology is a book of surprises. It will repay study.
In Astrological Pioneers of America, Holden and Hughes say this (from page 232):
[James Wilson was] an English astrologer best known today for his Dictionary of Astrology, an excellent work, but one which displays the author's sometimes vitriolic comments on matters with which he disagreed. He was evidently fond of Horary Astrology, and his treatment of that topic is really a small treatise embedded within his dictionary. Dr. L.D. Broughton [late 19th century American astrologer] has this to say of him: Wilson's Dictionary of Astrology is a remarkably good work for a student to have... Mr. James Wilson was a splendid writer on Astrology, and very scientific."