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Briefly, the article as it stands (as edited both by myself and by others) is simply factual, in that it reports the known facts about Nostradamus as established by the recent, reputable Sources cited in the appropriate sections at the end, as required by Wikipedia. These sources in turn can be checked by anybody who cares to read and study them, and their individual credentials checked by referring to the others' bibliographical and textual cross-references to them, and/or by contacting the others directly (so far as I know, only the seminal Brind'Amour is dead), and/or by visiting the academic forums listed under External Links (mainly to check which papers by them have been accepted or which works commented on) and/or, if necessary, by contacting the Director of the Maison de Nostradamus at Salon-de-Provence, who keeps a careful, independent, watching brief on all research. By and large, the sources listed all agree with each other on the main facts, though there is naturally some small disagreement 'at the edges'. Wilson and Lemesurier, for example, deduce from the somewhat ambiguous evidence that Nostradamus may not have been a qualified doctor, while Brind'Amour and Gruber, on the same evidence, deduce that he probably was (which is why the article reflects both possibilities). Similarly, while Brind'Amour, Gruber, Prévost and Lemesurier all demonstrate that Nostradamus projected events decribed in ancient historical texts into the future as 'prophecies', the last two have gone into the subject much more deeply, and consequently tend to emphasise this aspect more.
To some, however, these facts may seem 'skeptical', in that they demolish much that has been believed about Nostradamus in the past on the basis of the various myths and Old Wives' Tales that have been freely circulated by popular commentators, and especially by recent English-language ones. Naturally, this can cause affront and distress to some, since few of us like to have our cherished beliefs and assumptions challenged, however innocently derived. Nevertheless, it needs to be pointed out that the associated 'debunking' (as perceived by the 'believers') is actually of the commentators, rather than of Nostradamus himself (the two are often confused!). Regarding Nostradamus himself, the current article is (as it should be) entirely neutral (i.e. it doesn't say that Nostradamus's Prophecies were either true or false, nor claim that he himself was either a genuine seer or a genuine fake). If anybody can point out anything in it that isn't neutral, I shall of course be more than happy to do my bit to correct it.
Thus, if either the 'believers' or the 'skeptics' wish to criticise the article, it needs to be on the basis that the 'facts' that it adduces are not justified by the cited sources, and not merely that it offends their preconceptions or contradicts what is popularly believed. --PL 10:46, 7 January 2006 (UTC)
(purely for your amusement, of course!) of expressions commonly used by those wanting to impress without actually doing the work (based on various sources going way back...):
I am a scholar - I have read a book or two
I am an expert - I have read a book or two and so think I know it all
I agree with Admin/Jimmy Wales - I am attempting to pull rank
I am twice as old as you are - I am attempting to pull age
I am a Wikipedian - I am using Wikipedia to 'sell' my own views
The recent research is unreliable - I haven't read most of the recent research, and wouldn't be able to understand any of it that isn't in English anyway
The recent research is unreliable about astrology - I haven't the faintest idea which of the recent research deals with astrology
You are unversed in judicial astrology - I am determined to impose my version of astrology on the article, come what may
There is plenty of reliable biographical information - I won't/can't tell you which biographical information is reliable, let alone contemporary
Original Nostradamus texts - corrupt 19th-century reprints, with their spelling modernised
Nostradamus's original words - English words that I have quoted from somebody else's copyright translations
I have never plagiarised anything in my life - When I use a word... it means just what I choose it to mean [Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking-Glass]
I don't need to translate the texts myself - I don't know enough French to translate the texts myself
You should read the original texts - I should read the original texts, but can't, because they're in 16th-century French
I am replying at some length - I need to disguise my ignorance by laying down a good, thick smokescreen
Stop passing my words under the microscope - People as important as I am can't be bothered with mere Wikipedia rules
You are nasty/rude/hostile - Please don't ask me questions that I can't answer
Primary sources - secondary sources quoting hearsay
Secondary sources - hearsay
Reliable biographical information - hearsay about hearsay
Encyclopedic - what I want to believe
Narrow - based exclusively on the facts
Balanced - reflecting my POV
POV - facts that I don't like
NPOV - my POV
You - I (by psychological projection)
More delights to come...
And before you complain (it's only a spoof, remember?)... if it doesn't apply to you, you have nothing to complain about! --PL 11:18, 7 January 2006 (UTC)
(all reprinted reviews are quoted from the archives of the newsgroup alt.prophecies.nostradamus – except for Hogue's, which is reprinted from Amazon, and Reading's, which isn't)
Since Leoni and Ovason are frequently mentioned on the Nostradamus Talk page, here are the main facts about their work:
Edgar Leoni's Nostradamus: Life and Literature of 1961, republished as Nostradamus and His Prophecies in 1982, was a magnificent and comprehensive compendium for its day, nearly half-a-century ago though that now is. But, partly because of that early date, Leoni himself has to admit on his page 115 to having seen neither the original 1555 edition, nor the 1557 edition, nor the 1558 edition, which were the three original ones, nor even the 1568 edition, which was posthumous. As he himself admits on his page 116, he has therefore had to use only Bareste's [inaccurate] 1840 reprint of the 1555 edition and of Chevillot's 1611 edition, together with Le Pelletier's 1867 reprint of the infamous 'Pierre Rigaud' editions, which investigations have since shown to be antedated forgeries dating from the 17th century and later (see the main modern bibliographies by Benazra  and Chomarat & Laroche  on this subject). On the same page he even admits to having changed the spelling (!!). His biographical information about Nostradamus's early life, meanwhile, is entirely unsourced. He is usually mentioned by the listed Sources, therefore, merely as a bibliographical courtesy.
David Ovason's The Secrets of Nostradamus of 1997 (later published as The Nostradamus Code) certainly manages to get a lot of the facts right, though no other reputable scholar seems to attach any significance to his 'green language' theory (French: langue verte, 'slang') which, far from being 'used by Nostradamus', looks suspiciously like Ovason twisting Nostradamus's language to make it say what he wants it to say. This is all the more suspicious for the fact that Ovason also mainly relies on the corrupt Dutch edition of 1668 (produced in response to the Great Fire of London, and so just a century too late!) for the texts on which he bases it, and has evidently never heard of the original edition of 1555 (in either copy). Thus, for the famous verse I.35, which was said much later (1614) to have predicted the death of King Henri II, the original 1555 French edition has:
whereas Ovason reprints instead the 1668 Amsterdam edition's:
where the word classes ('fleets'/'armies') has evidently been deliberately altered by the Dutch editor to playes ('wounds') to make the verse appear to predict the event (a by-now all-too-familiar procedure, alas, as further exemplied under Nostradamus in popular culture). Much the same goes for VIII.4, I.42, X.72 and a range of other verses, while their 'translations', surprisingly for a man who has lived in France, sometimes fail to fit what the French actually says. To the best of my knowledge, consequently, he is not mentioned by any of the listed Sources at all.
It is for these reasons that Leoni and Ovason currently do not figure as Sources for the main article.
Cheetham's The Prophecies of Nostradamus (Corgi, 1973) – partly based, reportedly much to his annoyance, on Leoni – was something of a pioneering venture, in that it made available to the general public for the first time for centuries a fairly reliable reprint of the 1568 edition of Nostradamus's Propheties (minus its Preface and its dedicatory Letter to Henri II). Apart from that, though, it was stuffed from cover to cover with historical, etymological and linguistic errors, as well as being rather credulous about the seer. Much the same applied to her later The Final Prophecies of Nostradamus (Futura, 1989), which was basically just a re-hash of the earlier work, though with even more errors. Her The Further Prophecies of Nostradamus (Corgi, 1985) filled in some of the gaps left by the other two.
As Randi not unreasonably puts it in his The Mask of Nostradamus (Prometheus, 1993, pp.143-4), 'Some "authorities", such as Erika Cheetham, are not discussed here because their work is not thoroughly enough researched... Her books on Nostradamus are among the most widely available and read today, but she cannot be taken seriously. Any critical treatment of her work would take an enitre volume just to correct errors.'
For obvious reasons, then, her books do not qualify for the Nostradamus Source-list, especially as the original 1568 text is now available directly online via the article's External Links.
The prophecies in this book are mainly quoted directly from Erika Cheetham (!) - then amplified with the aid of Dolores's psychic regresssion subjects, who are allegedly in touch with 'Nostradamus'.
Unfortunately, though, whoever this character is often doesn't remember having written the verse under consideration, or even know what it is about. In the case of IV.27, for example (Bk 2), he even fails to recognise four prominent landmarks around his own birthplace of St-Rémy (including the well-known rock-spur known locally as 'la Pyramide') and starts blithely prattling on about Egypt...!
I can't help wondering whether he isn't in reality Michel Nostradamus le Jeune, a well-known imposter of the time...
Curiously, though, while this 'Nostradamus' character is clearly a figment of their imaginations, they do sometimes seem to be in direct touch with a possible scenario for the future...
But if you want information about Nostradamus, Dolores Cannon's books are, I'm afraid, the last place you are likely to find any!
To my knowledge, this is the only way-out coffee-table book on Nostradamus published in English so far this year (1998) - so possibly things are looking up!
Jordan has a theory - and an interesting one. Rightly pointing out that it is difficult to interpret Nostradamus's prophecies until you have worked out their dates, he proposes that these are to be determined not by the Century-numbers, but by the quatrain-numbers. Low numbered quatrains refer to earlier events, high numbered ones to later events, with the verses spaced at roughly six-year intervals.
This means, of course, that quatrains numbered 65 to 72/3 in each Century are the ones that refer to our own era...
Well, it is, as I say, an interesting theory - though Jordan does not hesitate to suggest that, by contrast, those few dates actually mentioned by Nostradamus are (with the one exception of 1999) deliberate 'blinds' (as they would have to be, since several of them conflict with the above).
Mind you, he does not hesitate to suggest that Nostradamus does not really mean many of the actual places he mentions, either...
The trouble is that all this is based on extremely shaky foundations. It seems perfectly obvious from Jordan's text, after all, that he has not seen any of the enormous amount of original French research published since 1980 - or indeed, if you except Fontbrune, possibly any original French research at all. Or so, as I say, it seems...
Indeed, in view of his carefully-phrased hints that no specialised knowledge is necessary for interpreting Nostradamus, that the latter rarely used the so-called 'ablative absolute' construction, and that a pocket French-English dictionary can suffice, one wonders whether his French is really up to reading it in the first place...
As for his texts, while he claims that they are taken from the 1568 edition, his very list of contents makes it evident that his source is actually the 1605 edition or later - and the words he quotes show it to be either a corrupt or badly copied version even of this unreliable source.
Thus, to pinpoint just a few of the more obvious errors:
1. It is not true that Nostradamus had 'only a basic working knowledge of Latin and Greek': he was clearly used to working and thinking in the former particularly, whose literature he knew intimately.
2. His original name was not 'Notredame'.
3. There is no 'paucity of information about his family'.
4, His siblings were not 'all male'.
5. His mother is not known to have been 'of Jewish stock'.
6. He didn't have a known brother 'named César'.
7. He was not educated by his 'maternal grandfather'.
8. He is not 'known to have subscribed ... to Copernican theories'.
9. He was not 'sent to the University of Montpellier' in 1522.
10. There is no record of his having 'obtained his baccalauréat there in 1525'.
11. The Plague was not known as 'le charbon': meaning 'the carbuncle' (and carbuncles are red, not black, which is why they are named after glowing coals!). The term is known to have been used to refer only to a disease of sheep.
12. Nostradamus did not refuse to use bleeding as a treatment: in his Traité he specifically admits to using it.
13. It is not true that no record has survived of the name of his first wife - which was apparently Henriette d'Encausse!
14. He attended the court in Paris in 1555, not 1556.
15. He writes nothing about a 'key to the code' in his Preface to César.
16. There is no indication that 'Nostradamus proposed to divide the work into twelve parts'.
17. It is not true that the Preface was not intended for general publication: it was published - in 1555!
18. He does not site quatrain X.72 specifically in France.
19. Scaliger was not (as in the film) called 'Scalinger'.
... and so on, and so on...
Nor, of course, is it true that we have only scanty knowledge of the original editions. All except one of them have been re published quite recently. And quite how Jordan can have Nostradamus illuminated by the comet of 1556 while writing his first prophecies in 1554 with his brass telescope by his side (first invented in around 1609) is just a little difficult to envisage...
Mind you, I have to confess that one or two of his errors he seems to have got from me, who in turn had originally taken them on trust from Cheetham....!
With such shaky foundations, it is no wonder that Jordan manages to read more or less what he likes into the 100 or so selected verses that he manages to consider out of the original 942 in his efforts to back up his theory. Napoleon, Hitler, Challenger, Diana - it is all there. But this is hardly enough to establish the theory's validity - especially as it is all too obvious that he is constantly adjusting the meanings and suggested applications of the words to fit the desired result - a piece of linguistic sleight-of-hand at which he is almost as good as Hogue.
All of which is a pity, since this slim book is beautifully designed and illustrated - even if the design is possibly a little obtrusive and the illustrations mostly pretty tangential - and Jordan has obviously devoted a great deal of sheer hard work and careful thought to elaborating his distinctly original thesis.
If only people would use the materials that are readily available!
But then I myself was not aware of many of them when I likewise first wrote on the subject. Like, him, I was foolishly relying largely on Cheetham - so I suppose it is perfectly legitimate for Jordan to level his own criticisms at my proposed interpretations (as he indeed does!!).
What's the French for 'hoist with your own petard', I wonder?
This is still regarded today as the authoritative, pioneering book on Nostradamus, his family and their origins. Written by a psychiatrist at the Clinique Van Gogh (formerly the priory of St-Paul-de-Mausole, only a few hundred yards from Nostradamus's birthplace at St-Rémy-de-Provence), it represents the fruit of his life-long researches into the local archives and into the links between Nostradamus's writings and the local area.
It thus deserves an automatic place in any Source-list.
In this seminal work Dupèbe reprints 51 pieces of Nostradamus's Latin correspondence, transcribed from copies apparently made by his secretary Chavigny, along with French translations. It thus throws fascinating light on Nostradamus's attitudes to what was going on around him, as well as including the raw data from the horoscopes that he prepared for his astrological clients. It does not include the accompanying astrological charts themselves, though, which are reproduced by Robert Amadou in his dossier L'Astrologie de Nostradamus (ARRC, 1992). Nevertheless, it has to be included in any Source list.
This book (in French) by the late Professor of Ancient Studies at the University of Ottawa, who had unparallelled access to the original sources and archives, is universally regarded by Nostradamus scholars as the seminal work on Nostradamus, his influences, his works, their sources, their early commentators and their contemporary critics. Assiduously and comprehensively researched, it boasts copious footnotes, an appendix containing lengthy textual extracts, a thorough bibliography and an index, but majors on Nostradamus's astrology, which it analyses in extreme, computer-assisted detail with reference to known contemporary practice. It is clearly basic to any Source list.
Brind'Amour's last, uncompleted work represents a thorough study of the first instalment of Nostradamus's Propheties published in 1555, in the Vienna copy, with variants from later editions. It analyses the vocabulary and syntax of each verse and offers a paraphrase and notes on its likely sources (where known), as well as performing a similar service for its Preface to Cesar. It thus deserves an honoured place in any Source-list.
Book Review: 'The Nostradamus Code' by Ottavio Cesare Ramotti, translated by Tami Calliope (Destiny Books, 1998: ISBN 0-89281-666-X) - I love the ISBN! ;)
Well folks, I've got the book at last! Or rather the Italian translation of it. Actually, it might have been marginally easier to understand had they left it in Italian, since I find the translation almost impenetrable. (If only people would stop kidding themselves that their command of foreign languages is so good that they can actually translate into them!)
So what does it say? Well, Ramotti has already written at least one other book on Nostradamus (Le Chiavi de Nostradamus - 'The Keys of Nostradamus'), as yet unpublished in English. He seems to be some kind of computer whizz-kid and cryptology freak who used to work with the Italian police. His former book used cryptology to place the quatrains in order and then 'decode' them.
First of all, he places the quatrains in cumulative order on a series of graphs corresponding to the 1st, 2nd and 3rd integer of the resulting verse-numbers, then draws on top of the graphs (apparently arbitrarily) the letter 'N' (for 'Nostradamus', of course!!), and finally deduces from the result the correct sequence of verses.
With me so far? No? OK, well, that's not too surprising...
Next, he takes the famous Turin inscription (see The Nostradamus Encyclopedia, p.31) that reads:
(shades of Rennes-le Château!)
Taking this as some kind of Cabbalistic text that warns specifically against anagrammatisation, he now takes the '1566' (or, in the earlier verses, '1555') to be an indication that, 'Bible-Code'-like, you have to count first one letter along, then five, then six, then six again, and so on...
With me still? No? Well, don't worry...
So he does. And - would you credit it, folks?! - it turns out (once you have shuffled it a bit) to be IN ITALIAN!! (I mean - what else?!!)
And what is more, it turns out to back up Ramotti's previous decoding to the hilt.
But that's not the half of it. Ramotti now presents samples from a series of 80 or so strangely modern-looking paintings (some of them in colour) corresponding to the celebrated list of popes by the Irish bishop St Malachy (whom the text, true to form, calls 'Saint Malachia'), and claims that they were done by ... you've guessed it... none other than our old friend Nostradamus (to whom, equally true to form, it gives the Christian name 'Michele', as well as a natal geography which, thanks largely to the translation, bears little relation to reality!).
Now, Nostradamus is not known to have been a painter, even though his son César was. Moreover, the figures in the paintings - or rather emblems - are all in medieval, not 16th century dress. Indeed, Ramotti himself admits that the originals were by one 'Anito Efesio', re-copied in 1343. His whole thesis that these are Nostradamus's re-workings is based on one of a number of attached notes which he himself points out can't have been written earlier than 1689, and which reads: Vaticinia Michaelis Nostradami De Futuri Christi Vicarii Ad Cesarem Filium. D.I.A.Interprete (bad Latin for: 'Prophecies of Michel Nostradamus Concerning the Future Vicars of Christ To His Son Cesar. Abbot D(ominus) I(oachim) being the Interpreter')
So a later, obscure cleric had a particular bee in his bonnet! So what?
Well, I could go on. I could tell you about Nostradamus's mother - who was apparently called Renata - and her celebrated esotericist grandather. I could tell you about the visit of Pope Carlo IX to Michele Nostradamus in St Rémy (he means, of course, King Charles IX). I could tell you about the quatrains which are badly translated into English from the only slightly better Italian translations. I could...
But hell, why bother? Ramotti is clearly not a candidate for the Source-list.
Book review: 'Nostradamus: Predictions for the 21st Century' by Manfred Dimde (Sterling, NY, 1998, tr. from the 1997 German by Falken Verlag: 160 pp., some b/w illustrations: ISBN 0-8069-0757 6)
Quite what the problem is that the Germans have with Nostradamus I am not quite sure. But this slender book comes crammed with many of the same idiocies as Boeser's Nostradamus (the book of the film) - which suggests either that they have been borrowing from each other, or that both derive from some earlier and possibly equally silly German source.
It is not just that Dimde (as translated in this edition, at least) can't even spell Nostredame's family name right (or Catherine de Médicis', for that matter), or that he sends him to Montpellier in 1520 or so (when by his own admission he was in fact roaming the countryside), or that he gives him a brother called Bertram (Bertrand?) whom he makes mayor of Salon (a town that didn't even have mayors at the time - and Bertrand in any case lived at St-Rémy), or that he ascribes to him a 10-mile long shipping canal (actually it was a small irrigation artery!), or that he places him in close contact with the British (rather than the French) royal family. He also makes Nostradamus a secret (rather than privy) councillor, calls the 1557 Prophecies the fourth edition, claims that the complete Centuries were first published in 1605, has him buried upright in a cemetery, and makes him Prior of a secret philosophical circle.
He also has him published first by somebody called Macée Bonhomme (actually his name was Macé, or Matthew - the fact is rather more important than it may seem...!) and then by somebody else called Antoine de Rosné (actually he was called Antoine du Rosne). Indeed, it is on the evidence that the former was called 'Macée' that Dimde's esoteric decoding of Nostradamus's involvement with the above circle partly rests.
Ah well - bang goes another theory!
But this is merely for starters. You see, Dimde thinks that the whole thing is really in code - a code that he doesn't actually deign to explain to us in the book, as he claims to have done so already in an earlier one! (He also suggests that the datings are simple functions of the verse-numbers). And he thinks this for the self-same reason as everybody else who makes the same suggestion. So far as he is concerned, the seer's French is just gibberish - which means, of course, that actually knowing French isn't much of an advantage when it comes to decoding it.
Which is just as well - for Dimde's French (as displayed in this book, at least) is truly awful, and his knowledge of 16th century French appears to be positively non-existent. It is not just that he apparently hasn't the faintest idea (as you can see from the above) of what the accents are about. He...
Well, let me give you just one example. Using (of all things) the very late and very corrupt 1668 edition (!!), he translates X.49 as:
The garden of the world - near a new city - it is burning [??]
On the road to the lie-sharp [montaignes = mensonges aigus?!] is the cave [cavees!!]
Will be impounded and taken from above to a cellar [cuve!!]
Strength of wind [Beuvant = du vent??] is due to the power of the lighted [envenimees??] sulfur.
[comments between square brackets are mine]
Or again, X.91 comes out as:
Roman cleric [clergé!] - in the year 1000 six hundred and nine
Chosen to be head of the donkey [l'an= l'âne!!]
Emerging from the society [Compagne!!] of the gray and black
Has not made smart [??] the eleven [onc= onze??!]
[Interpolations, again, are mine]
Well, all I can say is that, by comparison, even Ramotti's efforts seem positively brilliant!
In Dimde's defence, it has to be said that the English translation of his book is not always competent - but this can hardly explain the crass incompetence exemplified above. That anybody should publish such nonsense is, frankly, astonishing - but probably stems from the fact that most publishers are just as much in the dark on the subject of 16th century French as their would-be authors! Possibly the original had sold well in Germany for lack of anything better?...
NOSTRADAMUS: THE COMPLETE PROPHECIES by John Hogue (Element Books, April 1997, ISBN 1-85230-959-8): 961 pages, no illustrations. £24.99 UK: $29.95 US: $39.99 Can.
This positive doorstep of a book is a magnum opus in every sense of the term. Intensively researched, rigorously organised, extremely businesslike yet also informally and engagingly personal, it finally ties up all the loose ends left by Hogue's two major previous tomes.
How to describe it? Perhaps the best approach is via a comparison. Take Erika Cheetham's The Final Prophecies of Nostradamus (original French text and all), extend it to include some technical notes, the Preface to Cesar, the Letter to Henri II, the 'extra' quatrains and the Presages (Hogue omits what he calls the 'Sixians' as fakes), and then endlessly elaborate the various interpretations in best Hoguean style. Then round the whole thing off with a much more comprehensive bibliography and index than hers - and you will have a fair idea of Hogue's new work.
The comparison is not all that far-fetched. The potted biography seems largely Cheetham-based, and typically ignores all the latest research. Nostradamus is still educated by grandfathers who were royal physicians, still goes up to Montpellier at 19, still graduates in 1525, still treats a mysterious disease known as le charbon (actually a disease of sheep) by methods which were similarly unknown to contemporary history, still adds -us to his name on gaining his doctorate, is still interrogated by the Inquisition, still visits (as a matter of stated fact) Lorraine and Sicily, still performs all kinds of apocryphal miracles, goes to live in Salon with his brother Bertrand (who in fact lived at St-Rémy, where his estate can still be visited), still visits the Paris Court in 1556 instead of 1555, and is still buried upright in the wall of the Chapelle des Cordeliers. Perhaps we should be thankful that he is not also still found to be wearing a medallion bearing the exact date when he is finally dug up at the time of the Revolution . . .
The French text (again like Cheetham's) is a more or less exact transcription of the posthumous 1568 edition, rather than of anything earlier, with necessary additions mainly from the 1605 edition. Most of the translations are slightly updated versions of Hogue's earlier ones, which are similarly Cheethamesque word-for-word efforts giving (in the verses) little idea of the seer's literary style or even in some cases of his grammar - let alone of the fact that he was writing poetry. It has to be said, though, that the suggested translations of the letters represent truly valiant efforts to comprehend the almost incomprehensible. The over-all presentation is new for Hogue in that everything is offered in approximate order of publication.
As for the interpretations, which draw heavily on the efforts of earlier commentators (even Dr Turi helped, apparently!), these are highly personal and conjectural (as the author himself happily admits), and (thanks to the treatment of each verse in isolation) are able to expand entertainingly and at some length on all Hogue's favourite themes - unduly credulous though many of them seem to this reviewer.
Thus, contemporary events assume their obligatory rather over-large proportions. The usual cast of international villains from Quaddafi to Abu Nidal duly put in their appearance, as does the familiar procession of world-sages from Meher Baba to Rajneesh. Kennedy is shot, Challenger rises and falls, men walk on the moon and humanity takes up residence somewhere in the constellation of Cancer. And the threat of imminent world catastrophe eventually gives way during the next century to a thousand years of peace and the advent of the Age of Aquarius. And, all the while, datings are somehow conjured up out of nothing more substantial than mere verse-numbers . . .
It is, as I say, all very engaging - not least for its sheer familiarity. The book is often well-written, always imaginative and never gives itself airs. On the other hand, it is also rather daunting in its sheer bulk - not a single illustration, just 961 pages of almost unremitting text. In fact it could have done with some much more brutal and (occasionally) careful editing.
But perhaps the book's most revealing part is its bibliography's league table of other commentators' books. This is revealing, of course, in that it inevitably says at least as much about Hogue's own approach as it does about the books themselves. Poor Dolores and Henry Roberts, you will be sad to learn, can manage only an F (for 'Fail'). Leoni merits an A, Fontbrune a B and Cheetham a B/C. But Lemesurier, I regret to say, rates only a C . . .
[Whatever his views on other writers, Hogue is thus clearly not a suitable source!]
Book Review: John Hogue's 'Nostradamus: A Life and Myth' (444 pages: Element, 2003): ISBN 0-00-714051-7
John Hogue's new biography of Nostradamus is better than I expected - but not much. As a literary biography, it is much more literary than it is a biography. The 16th century French seer's cultural and historical background is indeed extensively and lovingly described, but the rest of the book seems merely to consist of huge clouds of elaborate, typically Hoguean speculations about Nostradamus - 'he may have', 'he could have', 'perhaps', 'we can imagine that', 'it is possible that' - interspersed with only relatively brief factual extracts from the seer's known life-story. One would almost think that very little is known about it.
Hogue (a self-confessed 'rogue scholar' - p. 124) starts his book by rubbishing the purely factual approach. It is a wise precaution. For, despite his frequent professions of scepticism, various of the usual hoary myths and Old Wives' Tales - the famous stories of the Wrong Pig, the Surprised Future Pope, the Lost Dog - are duly trotted out, as are the fake Prophecies of Orval. Hogue doesn't actually insist that they are all true. In fact he describes them as 'apocryphal'. But we are still left with the distinct impression that we really ought to take such undocumented later inventions seriously, or at least to consider them as possibilities. Otherwise why mention them in the first place? As a result, the newcomer to the subject is left not really knowing what to take as fact and what as fiction.
And then there are his translations. Several of Hogue's most recent original translations of Nostradamus's prose in particular just don't correspond to any edition of the French originals that I have ever seen. Whole chunks are omitted without acknowledgement, whole sentences at best paraphrased and at worst misparaphrased. As for his translations of the prophetic verses, most of these are in my view frankly grotesque, and some are not even in comprehensible English.
Which leaves, I'm afraid, all the other fallacies and factual errors in the book. Here are just a few of the more obvious ones:
I could go on... 'Aurens' for Aurons, 'De Tornay' for De Tournes, 'Catherine de' Medici' for Catherine de Médicis, 'chateau Blois' for Château de Blois, even 'Salon en Provence' for Salon-de-Provence -- but what would be the point? However, just to add one final point, since Hogue makes so much of it, even while seeming to question it...
To Hogue, certainly, Nostradamus was an occult Master, a powerful mage with gifts of theurgy and foresight that are scarcely imaginable. The image has a long, if dubious, pedigree. I have no doubt that he honestly believes in it. But so anxious is he to reinforce this impression, that he ignores, or is unaware of, a great deal of recent research that suggests precisely the contrary, namely that the seer's real 'inspiration' lay almost exclusively in written documents - pre-existing collections of prophecies, published historical works, printed reports of 'omens' old and new... As Arthur C Clarke puts it: 'Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic' – or any technology, one feels tempted to add, that is sufficiently unknown to the beholder.
Hogue concludes his doorstop of a book not only with an index and bibliography, but with 34 pages of useful (but not entirely reliable) chronological tables, and no less than 64 pages of liberally-spaced footnotes, infuriatingly arranged by difficult-to-identify chapters.
That said, it has to be admitted that Hogue's latest elephantine literary masterpiece is at least entertaining and engaging to read. For obvious reasons it is not, however, suitable for the article's source-list.
Book Review: 'Nostradamus le mythe et la réalité' by Roger Prévost (Laffont, 1999: pb, 270 pp: 119 FF: ISBN 2-221-08964-2)
In his exciting new book, Roger Prévost presents the fruit of 12 years' academic research into the sources of Nostradamus's Propheties at the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris - studies which have revealed, thanks to a chance suggestion by Georges Dumézil, that almost every verse is based on a known historical event, whether as reported by classical historians such as Livy (he could have mentioned Suetonius, too) or by medieval/renaissance ones such as:
Villehardouin ('Histoire de l'empire de Constantinople', 1209-13)
[Curiously, Prévost doesn't seem to mention Froissart, almost the grandaddy of them all, whose 'Chroniques' date from around 1308 onwards: they were first printed in 1504, and Nostradamus indicates specifically that he had studied them in his 'Significations de l'eclipse' of 1558]
Commynes ('Memoires', 1489-98).
D'Auton, J. ('Chroniques de Louis XII', 1499-1508)
Machiavelli (various works)
Crinito, Pietro ('De honesta disciplina', 1504)
'Rozier historial de France', 1522
Joinville ('Histoire de Saint-Louis, a chronicle in French prose, providing a supreme account of the Seventh Crusade', 1270-1309, first printed in 1547)
Bandini, A.M. ('Dell' obelisco de Cesare Augusto', 1549)
Lycosthenes, C. ('Prodigorum ac ostentorum chronicon', 1557)
Noguier ('Histoire Tolosain', 1559)
Guise, Duc de ('Memoires-Journaux')
Marcouville ('Recueil memorable d'aucuns cas merveilleux', 1564)
to say nothing of other events that would later be reported by
Garcaeus ('Meteorologica', 1568)
Paradin, G. ('Memoires de l'Histoire de Lyon' 1573)
De la Planche, Regnier ('De l'estat de la France sous Francois II', 1576)
Belleforest, F. de ('Histoires Prodigieuses', 1580)
Laval, J. le Frere de ('Histoire de France', 1581)
Monluc, B. de ('Commentaires', 1592)
De Serres, J. ('Recueil des choses memorables', 1598)
-- or else on other prophetic works of the time such as
Lichtenberger ('Pronostication', 1488, including prophecies for 'St Peter's Barque')
The 'Livre merveilleux', 1522, including Joachim de Fiore (Papal Prophecies, C12), Teolofre de Cosenza (prophecies including King of the North and future king whose name begins with H or C, 1378), Mme Brigitte (C 14th), Lichtenberger (above), First 8 books of Sybilline Oracles (including return of Nero), first printed 1545, Saint Catuldus (rediscovered 1492), Saint Cesaire (rediscovered shortly afterwards), Guillaume Postel ('Thresor des propheties de l'Univers' -- including the eventual defeat of Antichrist), and
Roussat, Richard ('Livre de l'estat et mutations des temps', 1549-50).
There can really be no doubt about it. The terms used by Nostradamus are often lifted directly from the accounts listed above. Consequently Prévost rightly castigates those who obsessively perform extreme gymnastics either with Nostradamus's language or with the events -- and more often with both -- to make the prophecies say what they want them to say. There really is no need for such antics. Once due allowance is made for the 16th century language, the vagaries of contemporary printers, and particularly the chaotic way in which they tended to render place-names with which they were unfamiliar, everything falls into place with incredible precision. This becomes especially obvious when words that previously were not even recognised as place-names turn out to refer to groups of places that are all in the same geographical area, and even on each others' doorstep -- and that duly figure in immediate proximity to each other in the various accounts referred to above!
Moreover, Prévost's thesis becomes even more convincing when it turns out that, purely on the basis of his historical analysis, the verses start to fall naturally into pairs or groups (something which he himself was certainly not expecting, but which some of us have been suggesting for quite a long time...)
Thus, the famous verse I.35 turns out not to refer to any kind of ritual tournament at all, let alone Henri II's fatal one in 1559, but is based fairly and squarely on the deposition of the old emperor Isaac II Angelus and his son Alexius IV (and the putting out of their eyes) by the younger Alexius V Ducas Murtzuphlus in 1204, just as the Crusader and Venetian fleets were allying themselves to attack the city (deux classes une, in other words, means exactly what it says!). Which no doubt is why Nostradamus himself evidently didn't associate it with the Henri II disaster, either...
And which is also why, in verse VIII.69, Nostradamus supplies a paired verse for it in which he plays with the family name of 'Angelus'...
Quatrains IX.19 and 20, similarly (another pair), are based on the grisly exploits of one Antoine du Plessis around the city of Tours during the contemporary Wars of Religion (there are at least 31 places called 'Varennes' in France!)...
I.81, similarly, has nothing to do with the Challenger disaster, but is based (as is II.51) on the famous 'affaire des Templiers' between 1307 and 1314...
And II.97 is based on events surrounding the coronation of Pope Clement V in 1305, when a lot of spectators were killed by a falling wall.
Again and again, Prévost supplies what one can only describe as what the Germans call an Aha=erlebnis -- a whole series of 'Eureka!' moments, in fact, as everything suddenly makes sense and falls into place, possibly for the first time.
So impressed is Prévost himself with all this (as is this reviewer), as demonstrated by the 300 verses he analyses, that he even goes so far as to suggest that Nostradamus wasn't really writing prophecy at all, but history. True, he recognises the contemporary idea of history repeating itself, and even the role of astrology in predicting when it might do so -- but he does not pursue the idea himself.
Which is fair enough, as long as he doesn't mind others doing so...
There is a problem, however. Quite a few of the events on which Prévost says events in the Propheties are based fall just a few years AFTER the particular editions in which they occur were first published (1555, 1557 and presumably 1558). This has to mean either that
(a) he has in some cases identified the wrong events or
(b) Nostradamus was a prophet of some sort after all!
In the earlier part of his book, Prévost seems unaware of this, almost as though he was originally working from the 1568 edition and did not know of the existence of the earlier editions (both of which, to be fair, have been rediscovered and republished only relatively recently). Later in the book, however, he addresses the problem head-on and -- possibly being too honest to amend his previous conclusions in the light of this -- suggests that the earlier editions were possibly antedated, pointing out that virtually all the published criticisms of Nostradamus during his lifetime referred not to his Propheties but to his Almanachs. This is an interesting idea, but difficult to square with the fact that the 1555 and 1557 editions both came with a dated official 'Privilege' which it would have been more than the publisher's life was worth to falsify in any way...
Personally, I think he should swallow his pride and look at possible earlier events for the verses concerned!
Prévost , then, has performed an extremely valuable service. In identifying many of the historical events on which the Propheties are based, he has provided what, in the event, is clearly the only real basis for understanding what many of them are really talking about in the first place. Short of such historical analysis, it seems, there is virtually no hope of doing so -- let alone of then projecting that event into the future and hazarding a guess as to when it might happen again on the basis of comparative horoscopy, say...
True, as I say, Prévost is not inclined to undertake that further task himself. Perhaps it is a case of "chacun à son metier". Perhaps he sees it as his job simply to provide the historical basis on which others can then hope patiently to rebuild Nostradamus's original vision of the future. But certainly Prévost's book promises totally to revolutionise Nostradamus studies.
Naturally the various Dinosaurs won't like that. Dinosaurs don't like revolutions. What they want is more of the same. New information frightens them. It threatens their long-held myopic preconceptions. That's why they won't even look at it. What would be the point? They wouldn't be able to understand it even if they did.
Yet Prévost has started something. It is to be hoped that he will continue the task until we have something like a total historical database for the prophecies. Only then shall we be able (a) to say with confidence what each verse is really about and then (b) to use our various computerised ephemeris programs to project it into the future and hazard a guess at when and where (in the light of Nostradamus's description of his work as 'perpetual -- i.e. cyclically repeating -- prophecies') the blow might fall again .. and again ... and again...
The book is of course in French, but non-Francophones should be able to scan it in via OCR and use various of the various automatic translation programmes that are now available on the Web to get a fair idea of its contents, even though the actual Nostradamus verses will of course come out as pure gobbledygook!
For all its evident flaws, then, Prevost's work deserves a place in the article's Source-list.
Bernard Chevignard's huge and impressive new book on Nostradamus: Présages de Nostradamus' (Editions du Seuil, June 1999 -- 500 pages) is a major contribution to Nostradamian research that nobody seriously studying the subject can now afford to be without.
Basically, its purpose is to present and analyse the newly restored, (and even huger) manuscript of 1589 by Nostradamus's secretary Jean-Aymes de Chavigny entitled Recueil des presages prosaiques de M. Michel de Nostradame in which Chavigny (formerly Chevignard, then Chevigny) does his zealous best to record and where possible explain in no less than 12 books every prediction ever written by Nostradamus outside the Centuries, and to identify them with subsequent historical events. This was clearly designed to serve as the basic research base for his later publications La Premiere Face du Janus François (1594) and Les Commentaires du Sr de Chavigny Beaunois of 1596.
In fact the manuscript includes no less than 6338 Nostradamian predictions (!), of which 154 (and not merely the usual 141 -- of which one is in any case by Chavigny himself) are in verse form. The remaining 6184 are in prose, and the first 239 or so of these (up to and including the Presages for 1554) are therefore inevitably among those to which Nostradamus refers in his Preface to César as 'my other prophecies which are composed at length, in soluta oratione [in prose]'.
And the whole thing is headed with what is currently known as Presage 1, in which the seer makes it plain that he claims divine inspiration for his efforts, and Chavigny, by placing it there, clearly concurs.
Of these, Chevignard presents for the moment only the first four books, namely:
Book I 537 presages for the years 1550 and 1552-5
Book 2 324 presages for 1556-7
Book 3 301 presages for 1558
Book 4 476 presages for 1559
Clearly, though, even this relatively restricted database is immense enough to be potentially capable of revealing to us (much more reliably, certainly, than the guesswork that has usually been applied hitherto) exactly what Nostradamus habitually meant by each term he used. There, after all, the man himself is, actually using them in what for the most part is perfectly straightforward language!
Thus, for example, PP (Prose Presage) I.222 has: "the rive[r His]ter, called Danube" (which ought to settle that particular question for good and all!), while the word olcade occurs repeatedly among lists of other types of ships, so confirming its Greek meaning of 'towed cargo ship'.
Moreover, the text is annotated in the margin by Chavigny himself who, in justifying to Jean Dorat his efforts to clarify and explain his master's words, explains: "I have some right, it seems to me, to do so, for I have enjoyed his intimate friendship. His style, his way of expressing himself, his ambivalences, his circumlocutions, his plays on words are known to me..."
Moreover, his distant modern relative Bernard Chevignard (Professor of Language and Communication at the University of Burgundy in Dijon) also identifies the frequent Latin quotations with which the seer lards his text -- from the Vulgate Bible to Virgil, Suetonius et al. -- so making it possible correctly to understand these, too.
At the same time it becomes possible for the first time to see Nostradamus developing as a prophetic author -- from the few annual prose Presages that started in 1550, via the twin sets of Presages that started to appear from 1553 (namely (a) a seasonal prognostication and (b) a monthly Almanac) to the triple publications that are foreshadowed in the 1566 Almanach and eventually manifested in the Almanach, Grand'Pronostication and 'Presages Merveilleux for 1557. Clearly the prophecy industry was paying off, and it was as an offshoot from this that, in 1555, Nostradamus expanded into the sphere of 'Perpetual Prophecies', as he calls them in his preface (an essentially cyclic genre already apparently somewhat in vogue at the time, not least from the pen of Thomas Illyricus ), which would be less tied to particular years and thus, freed from any particular 'sell-by date', more enduring as a potential sales-item.
As, indeed, proved to be the case.
The Centuries, in other words, are not some kind of one-off, but part of a natural prophetic progression that can be traced throughout the seer's writings by anybody who cares to do the research.
In the process, some fascinating evidence comes to light. For a start, there is constant recourse to the theme of history repeating itself -- an essential precondition for what I have described as 'comparative horoscopy'. The predictions for 1550 suggest that "the age of Sylla or of Marius has returned": 1553 will be the year such as "was in the time of Caesar and Pompey": in 1554 "it will be deduced that the age of Ataxerxes...shall by celestial cycles have returned", and so on...
The next point is the fact that the predictions are so often simply wrong! For 1555 Nostradamus predicts, for example, that the Pope will be "this year in perfect safety... The person of His Holiness is not due to suffer any strange event this year... His reign will last a long time yet..." Yet during that year Pope Julius III died in March, his successor Marcellus II also died, and a third Pope (Paul IV) was installed in his place!
Again, in the predictions for 1559 there is absolutely no mention of anything untoward happening to King Henri II, whether in June/July (when he was in fact accidentally killed in a joust) or at any other time. True, Nostradamus does announce that "Some great Prince, Lord and sovereign ruler shall die...", but then adds that "France shall greatly grow, triumph, be magnified, and much more so its Monarch." Ah me!
Indeed, even Chavigny, ever anxious to prove that his idol Nostradamus was always right, is unable to put actual historical fulfilments to even half the dated prophecies, despite his efforts to suggest (as he often does) that 'he really meant the opposite', or that 'he really meant this year, not the year described' -- risible antics which of course serve rather to undermine Nostradamus's prophetic reputation than to strengthen it (as, alas, so often happens even today with such rabid Nostradamanes!).
The book concludes with actual facsimiles of the Grand'Pronostications for 1557 and 1558, the Significations de l'eclipse, qui sera le 16 Septembre 1559 and the English Almanack for 1559, followed by an exhaustive bibliography, a carefully-researched 16th-century French glossary that many here could well do with, and an index of proper names and terms giving the exact predictions in which they occur.
Anybody currently writing a book on Nostradamus would do well to acquire, read and carefully digest this magnificent new work -- along, of course, with the other standard works such as Leroy, Chomarat & Laroche, Benazra and both of Brind'Amour's. Otherwise they risk kicking themselves afterwards for making fools of themselves in the light of what is now the copious and readily available evidence as to what Nostradamus's prophecies really consist of and what they are really about.
The book, clearly, is essential to any Source-list.
Book Review: Ian Wilson: 'Nostradamus: The Evidence' (Orion, 2002, hb, 304 pp, ISBN 0-75285-263-9; £20 in UK
This new book describes itself as a 'biographical study' and (rightly) as 'exhaustive'. It is such a huge compendium of information (more a reference-book than a reading-book, I feel) that it will probably sink the general reader without trace, undoubtedly useful though it will be for Nostradamus students and enthusiasts -- though I doubt if most even of these will make it through to the end. Even I, who am already familiar with most of the people, places and events mentioned, found it positively overwhelming in its detail and complexity.
The point is, of course, that you simply can't write 100,000 words about Nostradamus (which is what Orion commissioned Wilson to do), since not enough is known about him. So you have to pad it out with extensive quotes, then rope in large amounts of extraneous information that is barely relevant, if at all. Wilson does both -- even to the extent of supplying the original French, Latin or Italian of each of his documented quotes in copious chapter-notes as well.
Nevertheless it has to be said that, relying as he does on much of the same French research as I do -- as well as on my own Nostradamus Encyclopedia -- everything he says corroborates my own conclusions, virtually to the hilt. The resulting message thus totally belies what has been believed about Nostradamus in English-speaking countries previously.
What Wilson doesn't know about, of course, is the new, ground-breaking research that has at last unearthed the very basis of Nostradamus's prophetic method -- i.e. the projection into the future of past events and prophecies. He ignores the considerable influence of Du Bellay and Roussat, too. He doesn't really get inside the skin of life as it was lived at the time. He evidently knows very little about Craponne's canal project, in which Nostradamus was heavily involved financially. And, surprisingly, he appears to know very little about the content of the absolutely fundamental Almanachs, despite the fact that Chevignard had published extensive extracts from them some two years before Wilson started writing.
(Which makes a bit rich his castigation of me for [among other things] devoting scant attention in my Nostradamus Encyclopedia [which he otherwise seems to make full use of] to Nostradamus's private correspondence -- justified though the criticism no doubt is!)
He suggests, meanwhile, that somebody should translate Nostradamus's correspondence into English (long since posted online by the Nostradamus Research Group!). He suggests that somebody should translate his Cookbook, too (long since part-posted online by me -- for both see the online links towards the end of the article). And he suggests (despite his strictures above) that I, of all people, should do a translated 'Complete Works of Nostradamus'.
Certainly it has to be said that Wilson's own translations leave something to be desired (not that they are noticeably incorrect). Many of his half-tones, alas, don't really work. There are no colour pix -- which would have helped. And there are, of course, a number of embarrassing factual clangers as well (only to be expected, I suppose, in a book of this size and complexity, on a subject with which he seems only recently to have become familiar). Thus:
1. He suggests that Nostradamus's recorded expulsion from the student body at Montpellier took place on the very same date as that of the document recording his admission on which it is scrawled -- a somewhat naive assumption, to say the least, given that the scrawl isn't dated. Consequently he is able to assume that he was indeed at college with Rabelais. To his credit, though, he still manages to express some doubt that Nostradamus really obtained his doctorate...
2. He asserts that Nostradamus's horoscopes were for his clients' time and place of birth. Perhaps they should have been. But in fact the planetary data that he took from other people's tables were always for noon at the place of their composition. But then Wilson admits to having no great love for astrology...
3. On page 127 he names the killer of King Henri II not as Gabriel de Lorges, but as Jacques de Lorges -- a canard which I can only attribute to the unconscious influence of former European President Jacques Delors!
4. In a photograph on page 112, he mistakenly identifies as 'Craponne's canal' the huge 20th century hydroelectric canal beside it. Craponne's canal was only 18 feet wide, for heaven's sake! (I believe this is corrected in the paperback edition.)
5. He refers to 'America's Erika Cheetham', even though a more jolly-hockey-sticks Englishwoman I have yet to come across!
6. He describes the huge mural of an anonymous old man on a shop-front in the centre of Salon (a reproduction of a tiny drawing in one of the museums at St-Rémy) as 'of Nostradamus' -- just as all the tourists are of course meant to assume!
However, these are, relatively speaking, mere details. Otherwise Wilson's book is by far the most accurate and comprehensive account of Nostradamus's life since Brind'Amour (whose seminal, epoch-making research it naturally largely reflects). It is wonderfully researched and fully documented. It contains all the evidence on the seer that everybody here should have read, but that virtually nobody has. And it is in English.
So in future there will be no excuse!
The book thus deserves a distinguished place in any Source-list.
Book Review: Elmar Gruber's Nostradamus: sein Leben, sein Werk und die wahre Bedeutung seiner Prophezeiungen (Scherz, 2003) [Nostradamus, His Life, His Work and the True Meaning of his Prophecies]
Dr Gruber's new book is by far the best-informed and most comprehensive study of Nostradamus and his work outside the French language to date. Gruber has read everything -- including the modern Prévost, Benazra, Halbronn, Brind'Amour and Chevignard! He personally has transliterated Chavigny's unique 12-book manuscript collection of 6338 prophecies taken from his master's annual Almanachs, recently restored in Paris and now carefully preserved in the Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon. He has even discovered and translated the original French and Latin manuscripts of Nostradamus's celebrated horoscope and commentary for the Imperial Crown Prince Rudolf (all 46 chapters and 238 pages of it!) -- a spiel which, like the Orus Apollo, interestingly contains next to no punctuation or accents. (It also, incidentally, turned out to be largely wrong, though also, in places, rather strikingly right!)
Gruber's approach is thorough in the extreme. He misses out nothing. He knows French. Not only has he studied the Prophecies, private letters and Almanacs and all the available research to date (including Ruzo's -- but not including mine!). He is also familiar with the whole gamut of Nostradamus's classical and medieval sources, apparently in the original. Perhaps this is why his book extends to 463 pages of tiny German (though no longer old German!) print, with not a single illustration!
The results are stunning. Nostradamus did indeed base himself largely on the Mirabilis Liber and other prominent texts that were available at the time (for which Gruber invents the useful term 'hypotexts'), most of which he quoted from memory, as it were on the spur of the prophetic moment. He was indeed a hopeless astrologer. But at the same time he was a canny observer of human psychology, and a past master at covering his tracks with clever literary tricks. Possibly he did have hallucinatory visions that he took to be prophetic -- visions that may even have been epileptic in nature (though, after investigating this last possibility, Gruber decides that he rather doubts it).
But at basis, Nostradamus was a man of his time, using the literary techniques of his time to express the beliefs and attitudes of his time to the people of his time. He was not divine. He was not reliably inspired. He was certainly not infallible -- except in the eyes of those determined to twist his words to make him seem so.
I can find virtually nothing factually wrong with this book. So far as I can see, it has only two informational weaknesses. First, in attacking (rightly, in my view) the theories of Prévost and Halbronn to the effect that the original editions have to be antedated (i.e. that they were printed later than their title-pages claim), he takes too much on trust Brind'Amour's hint (though it is not stated as such) that the Venetian Ambassador Soriano referred to Nostradamus's quatrain X.39 in a letter home of 20th November 1560 (thus 'proving' that it had indeed already been published): in fact, as Mario Gregorio's research reveals, Soriano's letter doesn't mention Nostradamus's Centuries at all.
Second, and more seriously, Gruber relies for his later texts of the Prophecies on the already corrupt 1605 and 1611 editions, instead of on the originals of 1557 and 1568. I am at a loss to explain this rather strange decision, which leads, for example, to his having to explain why X.72 says un grand Roy d'effrayeur ['a great King of terror'], when in fact the original, bipartite edition says un grand Roy deffraieur [which means 'a great defraying King']. Fortunately, though, he actually quotes and analyses only a limited number of the later quatrains, so this poses only a few problems in practice.
These apart, though, Gruber's book is a real milestone in Nostradamus research -- especially in Germany, where such research is so often ill-informed and of poor quality. Indeed, it is striking to note how the world-wide research climate is now moving inexorably towards a more realistic, historical view of Nostradamus that has little to do with the credulous, speculative idiocies that have hitherto been the norm across both Europe and North America. With Brind'Amour in French Canada, Ian Wilson in Australia and (dare I say it?) myself in the UK all singing pretty much from the same hymn-sheet, perhaps there is hope for the real Prophet of Provence yet?
In short, this book is highly recommended for anybody who can read German competently. Gruber's style is not heavy, and Scherz have even adopted the latest German spelling convention whereby the old 'ß' (for double 's') is abolished, so making the text a lot easier on the eye.
Definitely, then, a prime candidate for any Source-elist!
Book Review: 'Nostradamus and the Lost Templar Legacy' by Rudy Cambier (Adventures Unlimited Press, 2002: ISBN 1-931882-11-8). 188pp, pb, some half-tone prints, no bibliography, no index.
This book is devoted to proving in extraordinarily florid language that Nostradamus stole his prophecies from a lost manuscript by a 14th-century Belgian monk called Yves de Lessines, and that they indicate (rather like Bacon's alleged cryptograms in Shakespeare!) the hiding-place of the lost Templar treasure somewhere near Cambronchaux in Belgium.
Needless to say, it is written by a Belgian -- and translated into Double Dutch!
Moreover, the supposed treasure, despite all his detective work, remains lost and unlocated to this day.
Full of scornful irony about 'nostraddicts', Cambier starts by ridiculing the spelling of the phrase 'deux classe une' in Century I.35 -- a spelling which, of course, appears in none of the four original editions of Nostradamus's Prophecies.
Huge numbers of subsequent pages are devoted to similarly demolishing the various false spellings of an edition so corrupt that it doesn't even seem to be as early as the 17th century -- and then to proving that the words in question are 'really' Picard or Flemish, and so mean something quite different from what they appear to say. For the literary detectives among you, the edition in question is one that apparently contains 948 verses -- when it doesn't contain a thousand, that is.
Nevertheless, Cambier (when he isn't just indulging in intellectual showing off) shows considerable knowledge of early medieval language and history -- rather more than he does of 16th century language and printing practices, in fact. He points out (possibly quite rightly) that people at the time tended to read aloud, rather than silently -- a point which the 'nostraddicts' would do well to remember and apply to Nostradamus's verses. He reminds us that 'the whole hallucinatory element of the Centuries is inevitably lost if one attempts to turn them into prose.' That's worth remembering, too. He convincingly exposes the source of verse I.35 in events surrounding the Fourth Crusade of 1204, and that of I.60 in the life and reign of the Emperor Frederick II von Hohenstaufen. All this is good stuff.
But to him, Nostradamus was a thief and 'a megalithic monument of ruse who uses his intellectual shortcomings and infirmities as a means to attain his financial aims'. He also 'made the stupid mistake of entitling the publication Les Centuries.'
One rather wonders what books Cambier has been reading!
Not this one, hopefully. True, it contains masses of fascinating historical and linguistic information. Sometimes this is even relevant. But one would have hoped that somebody writing a book about the original Nostradamian texts would actually have read them.
He might then have been able to tell us how it was that his 14th century monk managed to paraphrase, if not to quote, whole chunks of the 1522 Mirabilis Liber, or of Roussat's Livre de l'estat... of 1549/50 -- or, indeed, to refer back to the Battle of Pavia of 1525, or to Charles V's triumphant attack on Tunis of 1535, as Nostradamus evidently does.
He might also be able to explain how it is that Nostradamus can be held responsible for the spellings in an edition of his work that evidently didn't appear until the 18th century.
The publisher, by the way, is called 'Adventures Unlimited'. That, certainly, is what the author appears to have been having.
Book Review: Nostradamus: The Complete Prophecies for The Future by Mario Reading (Watkins, 2006: hb, ISBN 84293 173 3)
Frankly, this book is a disappointment – which is a pity, as it's beautifully bound and presented.
So far as I can see, the book displays no awareness of any reputable research (biographical or otherwise) done on Nostradamus during the last 40 years, let alone any recent French research. Its French texts are taken from no original edition that I can identify (though the fact that quatrain I.29, as printed, contains two English words rather makes me wonder whether this might not be because the words printed are not in every case the original ones!). Its 'translations', which are full of the most elementary schoolboy howlers (au tour de = 'the towers of'; sera saisi = 'they will be seized'; mis à bas = Abbas; trois lieu[e]s = 'in three places'; Mer par solaires seure ne passera = 'The sea, chastened by the sun, will no longer pass'; ceux de Venus = 'the heat of Venus'), display next to no apparent knowledge of 16th-century French. Its assumption that the number of each quatrain corresponds to the corresponding year of the 21st century (or later) seems naive at best – especially as the same principle seems to apply to no event before 2006 (!). And its conclusion that Nostradamus wrote no more than 136 quatrains for our future is... well... unusual to say the least.
True, the author does make a handful of legitimate points in his introduction. He refers, for example, to the importance of taking into account Nostradamus's reliance on classical history and mythology. On the other hand, he also points to the danger for the translator of wishful thinking – a trap into which he promptly falls himself.
Thus, it is difficult to imagine what his editor was thinking of when he commissioned this book. Surely, one suggests, he could have brought in a qualified assessor to advise on the subject? But then publishers are rather prone to assume that there are no Nostradamian facts, but only personal opinions. It is, of course, a frequently encountered myth – and, fortunately, an unjustified counsel of despair.
Thus, Mario Reading's book certainly does not qualify as a source: indeed, it seems extraordinarily unaware of the sources itself.
Book Review: Nostradamus: The Good News by Mario Reading (Watkins, 2007)
This is yet another beautifully produced book of Nostradamian nonsense by Mario Reading, yet again apparently uninformed by recent reputable research into the subject, let alone that published in France. True, this time he has actually bothered to go back to the French of the original editions, and has done a huge amount of what appears to be good research into world history. Where he falls down is in trying to connect the two. He uses two main methods for this. First, he asserts that the Century numbers refer to particular periods of time (though he doesn't seem to be very clear which), and that the quatrain numbers refer to year numbers – except, of course, when they don't (as in the case of quatrain II.51, which according to his theory ought to refer to the year '51, yet unaccountably refers to the Great Fire of London of 1666!). Then he tries hard to connect the two. This he does either by doing a reasonable translation and then spoiling it by looking up obscure, alternative meanings and claimed homonyms, or by skewing his translation in the first place, usually by ignoring the grammar and pairing up singular subjects with plural verbs or vice versa. Which is a bit worrying, given his statement that 'The key to Nostradamus, in my opinion, lies in the actual process of translation.' I can't help feeling that Nostradamus would have been rather surprised at that!
The upshot is that Reading's book is full of wishful retrodictions and decidedly hopeful predictions - some 100 in all – which is, of course, a game that any fool can play. He is right, of course, to point out that Nostradamus doesn't predict only gloom and doom. But the author is unlikely to identify reliably any 'Good News' that the seer might have announced by wrapping himself in a cocoon of Nostradamian ignorance - so allowing himself, for example, to deny that Nostradamus was kicked out of the Montpellier Medical Faculty, when the actual handwritten expulsion exists to this day in the Faculty library!
This book is beautifully written. But then so it should be, given that its author is a historian who has already won several literary prizes. It is just as well, too – because the book is positively HUGE (1215 pages). This is a result of the fact that Clébert analyses all the Nostradamian quatrains in intricate detail and at great length, analysing every 'difficult' word on the way. In some cases he even analyses their sources, of which he is often well aware – though this is not his particular forte. His work is somewhat vitiated, however, by his assumption that the November 1557 edition is the genuine article rather than the pirated one that, in the light of the much higher quality edition published in September, it now seems to be.
Of particular value is his 28-page Introduction, in which he goes into the nature of the Centuries, explores their purpose ('he projects into the future,’ he says, ‘the shadows of the past and the dark clouds of the present') and points out that, with Nostradamus dictating his words to his secretary, and a worker in the printing house re-dictating them to the compositor, we are confronted with something like a game of Chinese Whispers. He goes on to explain the informative, but also restraining influence of Apianus and the layout of contemporary astrological charts (the modern, circular ones, he explains, weren’t invented until the late 19th century). But Nostradamus was, he suggests, a diviner rather than an astrologer, and careful not to be too specific in his forewarnings. Clébert reminds us of Rabelais’s irresistible satire on such things, as opposed to the dire predictions of Melchior Hoffman (1530), Martin Stiefel (1532) and even Martin Luther (1541). Nostradamus’s astrology was merely a cover to support what were in fact essentially intuitions. Being dedicated to the King, the final work was (suggests Clébert) basically political -- which made their publication difficult, given that in 1501 the Pope had laid down that all books must in future be approved by the ecclesiastical authorities, and that in 1547 the Index of Forbidden Books (including Luther, Savonarola, Erasmus and Rabelais) was published -- to say nothing of the fact that in France the Sorbonne, too, was on the warpath, itself condemning Rabelais in 1543. Dolet, Giordano Bruno and Vanini all suffered at the hands of the Catholics, while the Protestants condemned Servetus, Kepler and Jakob Boehme. It didn't help that the new writers of almanacs, unlike the writers of earlier prophecies, were doctors, philosophers and astrologers, rather than ‘safer’ ecclesiastics.
Ever since Paracelsus’s Prognostication of 1536, would-be prophets had used cloudy, symbolic images (not unlike those of von Hutten!). If Nostradamus’s Propheties have, as he alleged, only a single sense, it isn't at all easy to get at. Neither the order, nor the numbering of his verses means anything at all. Many of the words have changed their meanings. Moroever, the verses are full of rhetorical devices, and should not be taken with such idiotic literalness as to foretell such things as the recent moon landings. In short, there remains much to do…
The book concludes with an extensive explanatory bibliography that is well worth consulting, and is authoritative enough to be regarded as a seminal work.
Published reviews of Lemesurier's The Unknown Nostradamus (2003: mainly from Amazon)
Lemesurier writes in a fluent style and manages to include a great many hard facts about the latest issues discussed among scholars in the field without burdening his book with scientific jargon. No doubt this is a fine piece of work, putting together a great number of sources used by the prophet and original works by Nostradamus so far not published in English. Dr Elmar Gruber (leading German Nostradamus expert, and one of the article's other academic sources)
I purchased this biography for an assignment I have to do. As a high school student this book was hard for me to understand. The author of this book is a famous nostradamus critic that knows and did a lot of research and its shown in the book. I would give this book 4 stars if it was a bit more exciting. A young Amazon reader
Here is, finally, a biography of Michel de Nostredame that is based on objective research. The amount of information presented in this biography, and its accompanying appendices (which include translations of Nostradamus' lesser-known writings), clearly indicates that Lemesurier has conducted a considerable amount of research in order to produce this fascinating and very different book on Michel de Nostradame. A history of the man himself is presented along with supporting correspondences and publications from Nostradamus' lifetime, a few of which would come as quite a shock to modern American "fans" of Nostradamus. I would recommend this book to anyone who has a either serious in, or a mere curiousity about, the man Michel de Nostredame - AKA Nostradamus. Another Amazon reader
Published in honor of the 500th anniversary of his birth, The Unknown Nostradamus by linguist, translator, educator, and Nostradamus expert Peter Lemesurier is a comprehensive and up-to-date biography of Nostradamus, the medieval prophet whose predictions are still closely studied today. Extensively researched, filled with translations of contemporary critiques of Nostradamus' work, offering full translations of surviving documents, and much, much more, The Unknown Nostradamus is a "must-read" for anyone seeking to learn more about this remarkable figure and his metaphysical and encoded prophetic visions. Midwest Book Review
Readers seeking a balanced look at the controversial astrologer will do well to start here. Publishers Weekly
Highly recommended biography. Stern magazine (Germany), 4th December 2003 (bibliographical comment, translated)
Here is a book that tells you the truth and nothing but the truth about Nostradamus! East and West
Valuable insights into the medieval world as well as the seer’s life and work. This book would be of interest to both devotees and debunkers of Nostradamus. The Beacon
This book has the power to overturn the preconceptions and myths about Nostradamus and launch those who are serious about the subject into an entirely new direction of thought. Indeed, once again, Peter Lemesurier leaves authors such as John Hogue, Erika Cheetham etc, wanting in this field of study, by demonstrating his scholarly authority and providing students of Nostradamus with the most up to date research on his life and works. Gary Somai (UK)
If anyone in the world could discover the 'truth' about the seer it would be Peter Lemesurier. Mario Gregorio (archivist, international Nostradamus Research Goup, and owner of the main facsimile site listed under 'External Links')
Published reviews of Lemesurier's Nostradamus: The Illustrated Prophecies (2003)
A. Specialist and peer reviews:
...a major breakthrough in Nostradamus research... notably successful in translating "Les Propheties" into readable English and in giving to the quatrains a more true meaning instead of the rough translations that we knew until now. One of the most impressive achievements is the explanation of Nostradamus's sources... a truly magnificent result. Mario Gregorio, archivist of the international Nostradamus Research Group and owner of the main facsimile site listed under 'External links'
Lemesurier's book is a significant effort to reveal the written sources underlying the prophecies of Nostradamus. He especially manages to show convincingly how Nostradamus drew on contemporary publications for implicit references in his abundant use of omens. In this way Lemesurier reveals where Nostradamus really took his "inspiration" for many of his prophetic verses. This book represents one more substantial step in the critical evaluation of the work of the famous Renaissance prophet. Dr Elmar R. Gruber, leading German Nostradamus expert and one of the article's other academic sources
Peter Lemesurier is well known in the uneasy world of Nostradamians as a conscientious and accurate researcher. Probably his strongest point is that he investigates the Prophecies of Nostradamus in the context of the time when they were composed. His translation of the quatrains is based on an impartial analysis of 16-century-related materials and strict observance of the available historical sources. Alexey Penzensky, prominent Russian Nostradamus scholar, and editor of books on Nostradamus
An excellent edition of Nostradamus's Prophecies based on the original editions (Lyon: 1555, 1557 and 1568) with their translations, and especially its research into the textual and iconographic sources (including the famous Mirabilis Liber). This new opus of Peter Lemesurier will be just as helpful to the researcher as it will intrigue the newcomer and interest him in the universe of the Provençal prophet. Dr Patrice Guinard, Director, Centre Universitaire de Recherche en Astrologie (CURA), of whose site (listed under 'External links') he is the owner
B. Media review
A revelation. I am amazed by the translations’ objectivity and Lemesurier’s refusal to interpret the prophecies beyond what the text itself suggests. The handsomely produced book is a supremely important volume to stock in your store. New Age Retailer
Published reviews of Lemesurier's Nostradamus Encyclopedia (1997)
Fantastic look into the life of the most famous prophet of all time. From his Family Tree to his will, his preminitions and the translations. Not sure what happened to some of them though. dkzopstaker (Amazon UK)
This book has everything anyone wants to know about Nostrodamus.Its starts off with a comprehensive biography.Detailed maps,Family tree,Portraits and more.What makes this book better than others on him is that his ideas are being challenged instead of completley going aloung with him.All quartens are translated and explained.Very comprehensive look at his early life and also on people he knew.Definatley recomended. Michaelhogan20 (Ireland)
The modern languages expert Peter Lemesurier is widely regarded as Britain's leading authority on Nostradamus. His Nostradamus Encyclopedia, published in 1997, represents itself as the 'definitive reference guide to the work and world of Nostradamus'. Ian Wilson, another of the academic sources listed
Le sous-titre est un peu ambitieux et le texte retenu pour les quatrains de Nostradamus n'est pas toujours convaincant, mais l'ouvrage est superbement illustré et propose une très utile concordance des Prophéties. Prof Bernard Chevignard, Department of Language and Communication, University of Burgundy, Dijon, and another of the article's academic sources, in Présages de Nostradamus, 1999, p.470)
Published reviews of Lemesurier's Nostradamus, Bibliomancer (2010)
A radically new view on Nostradamus’ prophecy-making, supported by a biography putting things back into the right perspective, along with the most literal and up to date translation so far.
Wouter Weyland, member of the international Nostradamus Research Group
Peter Lemesurier’s Nostradamus, Bibliomancer provides much long-needed commonsense concerning the many myths and misconceptions surrounding Nostradamus’ famous prophecies, together with properly authoritative English translations that have hitherto been lacking. In an age in which popular television documentaries too often peddle mindless rubbish concerning Nostradamus, Peter Lemesurier’s authoritative, no-nonsense approach to the subject is both welcome and opportune. I wish that I had had his book available to me eight years ago!
Ian Wilson (bestselling author of The Shroud and Nostradamus: The Evidence/ Nostradamus: The Man Behind the Prophecies)
It is gratifying to find a book on the famous (or perhaps notorious) Michel de Nostredame, a.k.a. Nostradamus – designed for the non-specialist but deeply interested reader – written by such a uniquely qualified writer. Peter Lemesurier is a scholar with a world-wide reputation in esoteric studies and is deeply knowledgeable about mediaeval French as well as all the significant works that have been published over the centuries on the topic. It is surprising to find that a book on such a topic can be so readable, interesting and encompassing. The author’s renditions, in modern English, of some of the key quatrains via the original Middle French and modern French translations, are works of art in themselves. They also usefully illustrate the author’s explanation of the difference between what Nostradamus wrote, what some later commentators claim they mean, and what is the author’s realistic interpretation of what they mean. This is no sensational account that exploits superstition and fantasy to attract readers, but a much more valuable, objective and succinct account of a man of the 16th century who has cast such a long shadow into our own times. In this book we encounter the real Nostradamus who, while very different from many popular accounts of the past, is a man who lived in times that are interesting in their own right, and with a story that needed telling. The book draws a well documented picture of the man, his times and his limitations that will fascinate any reader with an interest in this ancient seer. I found the discussion as part of Chapter 5 concerning what method(s) of "divination" Nostradamus actually used was plausible and well argued – remembering that, amongst other aims, Nostradamus had to avoid the Inquisition. Of particular interest is the accompanying Compact Disc that contains many of the original documents to which the book refers.
David Hill, Emeritus Professor of Computer Science, University of Calgary
Lemesurier’s book stands out from the host of incompetent and ridiculous ‘interpretations’ of Nostradamus. His sound approach to uncovering historic sources that have or might have served as models for the allegedly prophetic utterances of Nostradamus is a substantial contribution to our understanding not only of the writings of Nostradamus but of the genre of prophetic literature in 16th century Europe in general.
Dr Elmar Gruber, leading German Nostradamus expert
This new and refreshing look into the writings of Michel de Nostredame is an excellent example of timely and timeless scholarship. Mr. Lemesurier exposes and brilliantly explains the many myths and misconceptions surrounding Nostradamus’ life and writings. A must-read for any one interested in learning the truth about Nostradamus.
J E Schuler, writer, linguist and member of the Nostradamus Research Group
A lot of people find Nostradamus and his predictions fascinating and, even if I have doubts about them, a new book by Peter Lemesurier, Nostradamus, Bibliomancer: The Man, the Myth, the Truth will prove of interest to those who want to learn more about the 16th century figure who denied that he was a prophet. Instead, he used the process of bibliomancy, the random sampling of extracts from the Bible, and then claiming “divine inspiration.” The book comes with a CD that contains facsimiles of the three original editions of the “Propheties” on which his reputation is based. Amidst the many biographers of Nostradamus, Lemesurier remains the calm center of conscientious and accurate research while presenting valuable insights into the medieval world in which he lived.
Nostradmaus' famous book was based on the idea of history repeating itself. The argument was that because humans create history, and human nature doesn't change, history can only repeat itself. This seems quite a Renaissance notion, like the notion of the correspondence between the macrocosm and the microcosm.
I think Lemesurier makes a brilliant case, and I have not yet seen it opposed. If anything, it is being ignored by the Nostradamus industry.
'Ronald' on the Good Reads website
Hardcover: 304 pages • Publisher: St Martin's Press (13 Nov 2012) • Language: English • ISBN-10: 0312613687 • ISBN-13: 978-0312613686
There is no denying it: Gerson writes well (if somewhat over-expansively!), and is clearly very cultured – much more so than most writers on the subject. He has done a vast amount of research, much of it on the spot. He has consulted Chomarat, Chevignard, Guinard et al, and is a co-editor of Penguin Classics’ 2012 translation of the Propheties. He is familiar with the translations of Nostradamus’s correspondence on Mario Gregorio’s website. And his extensive bibliography reflects all this. The fact that it doesn’t include the most recent research (Clébert, for example, to say nothing of the three latest works by Lemesurier) merely suggests his research’s inevitable cut-off point, while the fact that it sadly omits the vitally important Brind’Amour (1993) may simply reflect this seminal work’s unavailability at the time of writing.
Perhaps this explains some of his book’s weaker points. He swallows Chavigny’s old canard to the effect that Nostradamus attended Montpellier University in 1523, for example, (for which there is in fact no contemporary archival evidence) and he calls the vast mural of an anonymous old man on a shop-front in the centre of Salon (based on a tiny drawing in one of the museums at St-Rémy) as ‘a fresco of Nostradamus’, just as the tourists are of course meant to assume. (Do I detect the influence of the Maison de Nostradamus’s propaganda here, I wonder?) Moreover, he assumes that Nostradamus had ‘trained to be a doctor’ and was an astrologer, without fully documenting either proposition (what did ‘being an astrologer’ mean at the time, for example, and how far did Nostradamus compare with the great astrologers of the day whose published planetary tables he freely used and whose efforts he so denigrated at VI.(100)?). Indeed, he goes so far as to suggest that Nostradamus could calculate the Ascendant and the planetary ephemerides and routinely adjusted their figures for his clients’ place and time of birth -- when, if Gerson had had access to Brind’Amour’s meticulous 1993 research, or even had taken due note of Gruber’s, he might have realised that none of this was in fact the case and so perhaps have revised his view, to say nothing of his subtitle (‘How an Obscure Renaissance Astrologer Became the Modern Prophet of Doom’)!
Gerson’s discursive account is certainly colourful and engaging, as well as highly atmospheric, despite his occasional English translations which are sometimes so inanely literal as to seem near-incomprehensible. But he is clearly an enthusiast, too, and so, with only a few caveats, the first part of his work seems to be very much an extended and highly effective panegyric on the prophet of Provence. Nostradamus was, it seems, an accomplished poet (if you ignore his own denials!); a considerable astrologer who frequently got things right (and not just an astrological charlatan who had the knack of putting his conclusions into words so vague that they could always be construed retrospectively as having been right!); and an extraordinary visionary capable of constructing a vast prophetic kaleidoscope of future events (and not just a literary magpie who lifted them straight from identifiable historical accounts of past ones, and notably the classical ones!). One can go along with the view that the seer was socially astute and psychologically insightful, but in the end one wonders whether Gerson has not unconsciously used his vast research to bolster a slightly one-eyed view of him. Readers may well argue over the point, but the upshot is that this part of Gerson’a account is not original enough to qualify as a major source for the Wikipedia article, since the only pieces of new information he brings to the debate seem, alas, to be a couple of rather basic pieces of misinformation – even though evidently through no fault of his own.
From this point onwards, however, Gerson’s massive research starts to pay off. The work turns into a vast and compelling kaleidoscope of changing attitudes to Nostradamus since his death, set firmly in the context of historical events and developments – the Renaissance, the seventeenth century, the Enlightenment, the Revolution, the Romantic era, the late nineteenth century, the World Wars, the atomic era, post-9/11… Literally hundreds of works are referenced, both hardback and ephemeral – though, curiously, no general modern commentary since Roberts and Fontbrune. The whole thing shows up the sheer unoriginality of the modern Nostradamianiacs. And all of it excellently written, if with a tendency to over-use the verb ‘to parse’ and the noun ‘trove’ in a text which itself is decidedly over-wordy. In consequence, the book undoubtedly qualifies as an essential companion to Benazra’s already-listed bare-bones bibliography and so deserves a place in the article’s bibliography.