Friday, May 24, 2013


The quatrain for 1588 that shows up all over the place in the 1580s first appears in print in 1547 1553. It's often attributed to Regiomontanus, although that seems unlikely. (See earlier posts here and here; the essential bibliography is Volker Leppin, Antichrist und Jüngster Tag, 139-49.) Wigand Spanheim's account is not untypical:

Daher hat der fürtreffliche Mathematicus Iohannes Regionmontanus, so umbs jar Christi 1457. gelebt / dieses Reymens weyß von dem jetzt künfftigen 88. jar vor 130. jaren geweyssagt:
Tausent / fünffhundert achtzig acht /
Das ist das jar das ich betracht.
Geht in dem die welt nit under /
So gschicht sonst großmercklich wunder.
While I still think the attribution to Regiomontanus is spurious, I was surprised to come across the following in the UB München manuscript catalog for 2o Cod. ms. 684 (fol. 120r), a manuscript dated to 1465:

Prophetische Verse, Legat und Kaiser in den Mund gelegt

Merck acht und betracht
das lxviij yar nit ueracht
und geschicht darin nit wunder
so gat das ertrich uber sich und der himel unter.

Wer ym lxviij nit stirbt
und ym lxviij nit uertirbt
der ist ain gelückselig man
dz merck ewen und getenck daran.
The legate's verse and the 1588 quatrain are very similar in construction: the first two lines pair a year with verbs of observation and a rhyme on 'betracht,' while the second set of lines pairs the earth's destruction with the alternative possibility of great wonders and rhymes 'unter' with 'wunder.' The similarities are so striking that the 1465 verse has to be seen as a precursor to the 1588 verse, I think. While we can forget about Regiomontanus as the author, the existence of a fifteenth-century precursor does suggest that the 1588 quatrain is one more way that sixteenth-century Lutheran apocalypticism reached back to pre-Reformation texts and ideas.

As for the Kaiser's verse, I've seen it before as well...somewhere. Some late-sixteenth century prognostication includes it along with the 1588 quatrain. I'll find it in my records...eventually.

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