Friday, June 23, 2017

A very short review: Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism (1998)

McGinn, Bernard, John Joseph Collins, and Stephen J. Stein, eds. The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism. 3 vols. New York: Continuum, 1998. ISBN 978-0826412522.

I usually save short reviews for academic work that is of the highest quality or makes a substantial impact on my own work. So this review is about 20 years late, but well deserved. I came across the three-volume Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism while browsing in the university library last fall and ended up reading it from cover to cover, from cover to cover, and from cover to cover - for all three volumes, from ancient Persia to the late twentieth century.

The articles were on the whole well written, authoritative, and thoroughly documented. I thought there were only two real clunkers; the rest ranged from highly informative to truly excellent. Now matter how distant any article seemed at first, I found that almost every article was relevant to my research on early modern Germany and helped me see my work in a much broader context, while the best articles motivated me to rethink and redefine what I research and how I go about it. When I first started the research project that turned into Printing and Prophecy, I planned to look only at prophecy as a communicative act in late medieval and early modern Germany, but soon found I couldn't avoid dealing with astrology and the Reformation. Now I see that I can't avoid dealing with apocalypticism as well. The Encyclopedia of Apocalytpicism is going to be one of those reference works that stays near my desk for just about any research project.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Vanished booklets of the 1560s: a few core samples

When talking about printing, literature, or anything having to do with medieval and early modern texts, it is easy to overlook something that must not be overlooked: how much of what was once written or printed has now vanished. For practicas, annual astrological prognostic booklets, which were by nature ephemeral, we can assume that many editions have left no surviving copies, but pinning down how many or characterizing the relationship of the known to the unknown is tricky.

One source of evidence are book lists that can be compared to known editions. For practicas in the 1560s, we have two interesting sources in practica compilations, one printed in Frankfurt for the year 1565 (VD16 ZV 29072) and the other printed in Basel for 1569 (VD16 P 4544), both of which claim to reprint all the astrologers who have made prognostications for that year.

The first collection, for 1565, includes sections from the practicas of ten astrologers: Johannes Huldrich Ragor, Nikolaus Neodomus, Johannes Hebenstreit, Andreas Rosa, Christoph Statmion, Sebastian Brelochs, Gregor Fabricius, Nicolaus Winckler, Simon Heuring, and Moritz Steinmetz. Of these, nine are known from printed editions of practicas for 1565; only Ragor's is otherwise unknown. (This is an interesting list of astrologers. Six are well known practica authors, while four are sparsely attested: Ragor [otherwise attested only for 1581], Neodomus [attested only for 1565], Sebastian Brelochs [only attested for 1565 and 1568-69, in contrast to his widely published predecessor Anton Brelochs], and Moritz Steinmetz [only attested for 1565]. But the editor also omits a few astrologers with practicas for 1565, including Valentin Engelhart, Georg Holsthen, and the well-known Joachim Heller.) In comparison, VD16 records 16 practica editions from 12 authors, but lacks Johannes Ragor's.

The second collection, for 1569, includes chapters from eight astrologers: Nicolaus Winckler, Johannes Hebenstreit, Victorinus Schönfeld, Simon Heuring, Valentin Butzlin, Erasmus Reinhold, Sebastian Brelochs, and Hieronymus Wilhelm. Again, half of the authors are well known, while the other four are more obscure (Sebastian Brelochs again, Valentin Butzlin, Erasmus Rehinhold, and Hieronymus Wilhelm). The editor again omitted some well-known astrologers with known practicas for 1569, including Georg Caesius, Andreas Rosa, and Christoph Statmion. The included chapters are drawn from four practicas that are unattested in VD16.

So to sum up: The collection for 1565 tells us that VD16 misses 1 out of 13 authors (7.7%). The collection for 1569 tells us that VD16 misses 4 out of 11 authors (36.4%). For both years, VD16 records 23 editions from 14 authors. The two collections suggest that VD16 misses at least 4 out of 18 authors (22.2%). This isn't an answer to the question of missing editions, but it does give us some interesting core samples to think about.

Friday, April 7, 2017

A prognostication for Valentine's Day 1469 from the desk of Hartmann Schedel

Bettina Wagner's work on letters, notes, and other miscellanea from Hartmann Schedel has uncovered quite a few interesting things, including this cataclysmic prognostication for 1469 copied onto a loose leaf. It's an interesting text that I haven't seen before. An attempt at a transcription and translation follow. Punctuation has been added and capitalization has been altered for sense and abbreviations have been resolved silently.
Anno Mo cccco lxviiiio quartadecima die mensis Januraii incipietur delusio mundi, evacuatio cleri, derisio christianitatis, deposit[i]o potentiarum scilicet Imperatoris et regum. Insuper quartadecima die mensis februarii circa[?] meridiem eclipsabitur sol et quasi omnino emittet formam sue dispositionis. Et significat iiiior mala. Primum quod deus movebit celum et terram in suo empisperio quasi mundum subverteret. Secundum quod virtutes superiorum movebuntur scilicet ordo contra[?] ordinem. Tercium de magna et in audita sangwinis effusione qualis numquam fuit a mundi origine timendum est. Quartum fames magna ita quod maritus non curabit uxorem nec uxor maritum nec pater et mater prolem curabit, quia quasi unanimiter desperabunt. Post hec sequitur pestis in audita de uno in alterum precedens et pauci effugient. Sed qui superstites manebunt bene habebunt et in cunctis prosperabuntur.

Dicitur quod hanc prenostica Scola Parisiensium fecit que missa dicitur magistro Johanne Gerstman.

On the fourteenth day of January 1469 will begin the deception of the world, the purging of the clergy, the mockery of Christendom, and the cessation of power, namely of the emperor and of kings. And then on the fourteenth day of February around noon, the sun will be eclipsed and almost entirely expel the form of its disposition. [NB. Is the thought that the sun will lose its light and weaken, or shine out its entire force at once?] And this signifies four evils. First, that God will move heaven and earth in their orbits ["hemispheres"] as if to overturn the world. Second, that the powers of the superior [planets] will be moved, namely one order against the other. Third, one must fear a great and unprecedented outpouring of blood the likes of which have never been from the beginning of the world. Fourth, so great a famine that a husband will not provide for his wife, nor a wife for her husband, neither father and mother for them children, because almost all will be united in despair. After these things, an unheard of plague will follow, advancing from one side to the other, and few will escape it. But what survivors will remain will be well and prosper in all things.

It is said that the school of Paris made this prognostication, which is said to have been sent to Master Johannes Gerstman.

The text, an amalgamation of astrology and catastrophic prophecies, bears some resemblance to the "Toledo Letter" and to the prognostication of "Meister Theobertus von England" printed around 1470 both in their construction and in their attributions to foreign astrologers. According to the NASA catalog of solar eclipses, there was a solar eclipse on 13 January 1469, which approximately matches one of the dates in the prognostication, but that eclipse was not visible in Europe. The eclipse of 9 July 1469 would have been much more dramatic. The closing note that anyone who survives will experience marvelous things is a motif that appears many times, particularly in the lead up to 1588.