Friday, March 9, 2012

From Avignon, to Antwerp, to Nuremberg and Strasbourg and Basel: The strange paths of the prophecies of Wilhelm Friess

I mentioned not long ago that the first prophecy of Wilhelm Friess, with most of its many editions printed in 1558, was in fact an abridgment and reworking of Johannes de Rupescissa's Vademecum of 1356. Now I've found language I had thought was specific to Friess in a later vernacular manuscript of the Vademecum, which plugs Friess even more directly into the reception of Rupescissa.

Now that I have a better understanding of the first and second prophecies of Wilhelm Friess, I think the most significant questions regarding these prophecies, the most popular German prophetic pamphlets of the second half of the sixteenth century, are as follows:

  1. Where does the first prophecy come from (answer: Rupescissa, with an important stop in Antwerp), and how are the four different versions of the first prophecy related?
  2. What was the context for its transmission, and why did the prophecy achieve such popularity in Nuremberg in 1558?
  3. How are the first and second prophecies of Wilhelm Friess related?
  4. How are the three redactions of the second prophecy related, and what was the historical context for their origin? Who wrote them, and where, and when, and what did the nightmare vision of the second prophecy mean in context?
  5. And what does this tell us about printed prophecies in early modern Germany?

I think I have answers to all these questions at this point, and the answers turn out to be fairly interesting, although not at all what I expected when I first started working on what I thought would be a neat little follow-up article to Printing and Prophecy back in 2010.

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