“SITTING BY NIGHT IN MY SECRET STUDY…”: 1672 FIRST ENGLISH TRANSLATION OF NOSTRADAMUS’ PROPHECIES
NOSTRADAMUS, Michel de. The True Prophecies or Prognostications of Michael Nostradamus… London: Thomas Ratcliffe and Nathaniel Thompson, 1672. Folio, contemporary full dark brown mottled calf rebacked, raised bands, red morocco spine label.
First edition in English of Nostradamus’ famous prognostications, with scarce engraved frontispiece portrait, often not present, and bound in contemporary calf boards.
A physician by trade, Michel de Nostredame “began his prophetic writings in the early 1540s with a series of short yearly almanacs in which he made predictions in verse. The new art of printing gratified a popular demand for supernaturally acquired ‘certainty,’ and such almanacs were a common literary production of the day. It was with Les Prophéties (1555), however, that Nostradamus became an author of contemporary reputation and a figure who has had an impact on later history… [His more than 1000 rhyming quatrains, arranged in ‘centuries’ of 100] constitute the largest body of prophetic verse prepared to that day, perhaps in all literature” (Clute & Grant, 694). By blending scholarly learning, received folklore and religious sentiment in richly symbolic, highly poetic and frequently innovative language—and by crafting veiled commentary on the celebrities, scandals, warfare and pressing issues of his day—Nostradamus captured both the public’s imagination and the French royal family’s patronage. The doctor-seer’s influence continues: readers have found in his prophecies such crises as the French Revolution and both World Wars, and several have interpreted his reference to war erupting in the Balkans or the Middle East as a glimpse at the end of the world. “More than any other writer in modern times Nostradamus knew how to titillate the deep-seated craving, felt by potentate and plebeian alike, to foresee the future, near and remote” (DSB). This edition, the first in English, includes the original French quatrains with accompanying translations and annotations, and is illustrated with ornamental woodcut headpieces and initials. Without final blank, as often. Wing N1399. Lowndes, 1708. Early owner signature on title page.
Frontispiece remargined, repair to verso of title page, expertly repaired closed tear to 3R4; a bit of marginal wormholing to a few leaves, text with marginal dampstaining. Expected age wear to handsome contemporary boards. Rare.