Friday, May 4, 2012

I told me so: Notes on Paul Severus

As I was working on the previous draft of the "Wilhelm Friess" project, I took a quick look at other prophetic pamphlets that went through many editions quickly around the same time as "Wilhelm Friess." One that sticks out is the prophecy of Paul Severus, the Bedeutungen die folgen werden, appearing in 17 editions dated 1560-69. The literature on Severus, as far as I can find, is confined to appearances in five footnotes in Volker Leppin's Antichrist und jüngster Tag and two paragraphs in Robin Barnes's Prophecy and Gnosis (pp. 118-19). Another thing that sticks out about Severus is how defective the text is. Barnes notes that although Severus claimed to have based his prognostication on astronomical events, "no reference to astrological evidence appeared anywhere outside the title of his tract."

In the previous "Friess" draft, I wrote about Severus:

The printed text of the Bedeutungen seems to reflect a considerable and not always skillful interference with the original text, leaving some clauses with ungrammatical disagreement between subject and object. "Following the aforementioned constellation and eclipses, a very horrible storm will come," the tract begins, without having described any astronomical events at all.  The astronomical explanation appears to have been removed from an astrological interpretation, leaving only a prognostication of future events.
Now, of the seventeen editions, sixteen are quarto booklets of four leaves, with two available in online facsimile (VD16 S 6142 and ZV 14383). One edition, however (VD16 S 6144), is a quarto booklet of eight leaves. Now that I've had a chance to consult it, there's no need to to qualify the statements above: The longer edition turns out to contain the missing first half of Severus's prognostication with all his astrological reasoning. So the paragraph above will get scrapped and replaced with facts rather than suppositions.

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