NOSTRADAMUS, Michel de Les Propheties

Lyon, Pierre Rigaud, n.d. [1604]


8vo. Two parts in one. pp. 125 (iii) : 78 (ii) (with both blanks). Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut printer’s device on both titles, floriated woodcut initials and woodcut headpieces. Light age browning and occasional (poor quality paper), minor marginal water-staining in places. A good, entirely unsophisticated copy in contemporary limp vellum.

Charming popular edition of the prophecies of Nostradamus printed by Pierre Rigaud, a deliberate copy of the earliest editions, printed at Lyon by the same family, here without date (later editions by Rigaud were printed with false earlier dates); it is one of the earliest editions of the first revival of interest in Nostradamus, in the early C17th. The first part contains the famous dedication to his son and the second his dedication to Henry II. The work was originally published in three parts, the first containing 353 poems. The second part was printed in 1557 and added 289 further prophecies; the third and final part of 300 new poems was printed in 1558, posthumously, as part of the ‘works’ published by Pierre Rigaud Sr. These poems or rhymed quatrains were grouped into nine sets of 100 and one of 42, called “Centuries”. Nostradamus claimed each prediction was based upon his astrological reading of particular events, though it is evident that a great deal of the work is copied from earlier Latin authors such as Livy, Plutarch, and other classical historians, and many are taken directly from Richard Roussat’s Livre de l’estat et mutations des temps (1549–1550).

The Mirabilis Liber of 1522, which contained a wide range of prophecies by such authors as Pseudo-Methodius, the Tiburtine Sibyl, Joachim of Fiore, Savonarola and others was also a well used source. His considerable initial success was based on the fact that he was one of the first to re-paraphrase these prophecies in French. Further material was gleaned from the De honesta disciplina of 1504 by Petrus Crinitus, which included extracts from Michael Psellos’s De daemonibus, and the De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum, a book on Chaldean and Assyrian magic by Iamblichus, a fourth-century Neo-Platonist. Most of the quatrains deal with disasters, such as plagues, earthquakes, wars, floods, invasions, murders, droughts, and battles—all undated and based on foreshadowings by the Mirabilis Liber. The work was remarkably popular and has been reprinted over two hundred times since its first appearance. Popular modern interpretations of the quatrains have shown them to predict the French Revolution, Napoleon, Hitler, the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and even the death of princess Diana and the events of 9/11. An important contemporary theme was fear of an impending invasion of Europe by Muslim forces, headed by the expected Antichrist, directly reflecting the Ottoman invasions of the Balkans. The work was published within the context of a general fear of an imminent apocalypse. A rare and charming popular edition.

Not in BM STC Fr. C16th. Merland “Répertoire des livres imprimés en France au XVIIe siècle.” Lyon VI, p. 215, Pierre I Rigaud, 49. Caillet 8068. Not in Cantamessa.
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