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Snapshots in History: July 2: Remembering Nostradamus

July 2, 2013 | John P. | Comments (0)

On July 2 and beyond, take a moment to remember one-time apothecary/physician and seer Michel de Nostradame or Nostradamus (Born: 14 or 21 December 1503 in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, Provence, France; Died: July 2, 1566 in Salon-de-Provence, Provence, France) whose predictions and prophecies have generated a great deal of interest over the centuries, regardless of whether one accepts them as having any validity or not.  Nostradamus was best known for developing prophecies organized in quatrains published in his work “Les Prophéties“ (or The Prophecies, in English). The first installment was published in 1555 with 353 quatrains. The second edition with 289 additional verses was published in 1557. The third edition was published purportedly in 1558 with 300 new quatrains but these quatrains are now only accessible through the 1568 omnibus edition that contains 1 unrhymed and 941 rhymed quatrains, grouped into “centuries” of 9 sets of 100 and 1 set of 42.

Nostradamus supported judicial astrology as a means of forecasting future events by calculating planetary and stellar bodies in relation to the Earth and the quality of events occurring thereon. Some astrologers in Nostradamus’ time criticized judicial astrology as a premise for predicting future happenings. Apparently, Nostradamus’ disdain for astrologers was expressed in his writings of the last quatrain in his sixth century of writings. (Click here for an English translation of the sixth century of Nostradamus’ writings and pay close attention to quatrain 100.)

Many of Nostradamus’ predictions deal with natural and human-made disasters (i.e. floods, earthquakes, plagues, wars etc.). Some have credited Nostradamus with predicting the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte and Adolf Hitler (both deemed to be “anti-Christ” in nature), the Great London Fire of 1666, and the September 11, 2011 terrorist attacks in the United States. Some skeptics suggest postdictions (i.e. predictions after the fact or retroactive clairvoyance) whereby modern-day supporters use the vague wording supplied by Nostradamus to make his words fit the events rather than the other way around. However, Nostradamus has followers who believe that his prophecies carry weight. What do you think about Nostradamus and his prophecies? The fascination about Nostradamus continues in the publishing world, on the Internet (including many personal websites), and in the mainstream media, including this 2011 article on Business Insider.

Whatever you might think, consider these selected titles for possible loan from Toronto Public Library collections if you are interested in learning more:


The prophecies a dual-language edition with parallel text

The prophecies: a dual-language edition with parallel text [English and French] / Nostradamus; translated by Richard Sieburth; historical introduction by Stéphane Gerson, 2012. Book. Adult Non-Fiction.

Award-winning historian Gerson and award-winning translator Sieburth teamed up to provide readers with a newly-translated and edited English version of Nostradamus’ prophecies. Emphasis is placed on the poetics of the quatrains.



Nostradamus how an obscure Renaissance astrologer became the modern prophet of doom

Nostradamus:  how an obscure Renaissance astrologer became the modern prophet of doom [1st ed.]  / Stéphane Gerson, 2012. Book. Adult Non-Fiction.

Despite the wording of the book’s sub-title, historian Gerson sidestepped the debate on whether Nostradamus’ quatrains can predict the future or whether said quatrains are vague and subject to interpretation. Instead, Gerson filled a gap by exploring the life and legacy of Nostradamus and, naturally, the effect that his quatrain verses have had on the world’s culture. Read the assessment by Kirkus Reviews



Nostradamus & the third antichrist Napoleon Hitler and the one still to come

Nostradamus & the third antichrist: Napoleon, Hitler and the one still to come / Mario Reading, 2011. Book. Adult Non-Fiction.

A total eclipse of the sun is due to occur on March 24, 2034. The author (a Nostradamus scholar) contended that Nostradamus used this event to predict the coming of a third Anti-Christ.



Nostradamus bibliomancer the man the myth the truth

Nostradamus, bibliomancer: the man, the myth, the truth / Peter Lemesurier, 2010. Book. Adult Non-Fiction.

The author, also the author of The Nostradamus Encyclopedia: the definitive reference guide to the work and world of Nostradamus, contended that Nostradamus was an ordinary individual using the rather ordinary technique of bibliomancy whereby one selects randomly chosen excerpts of randomly selected books to offer foresight of happenings to come. The author contended that out of some 6,000 prophecies made by Nostradamus, only a small number have come true.  


Nostradamus the good news

Nostradamus: the good news / Mario Reading, 2007. Book. Adult Non-Fiction.

The author re-examined the prophecies of Nostradamus to find glimmers of a positive future, suggesting good news for most of the continents, especially Africa where an emergent leader will serve as an agent of restoration and renewal. Following the conclusion of a horrible epidemic, peace will be in place for many years. A new world order will emerge due to a change in how democracy is perceived. 



If you are interested in documentaries about Nostradamus, then consider the following DVDs for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections:

The lost book of Nostradamus [DVD] / James Lurie, Kreg Lauterbach et al., 2008. DVD. Documentary. Adult Non-Fiction.

Recently uncovered cryptic predictions are discussed as are prophecies about some of the Popes, the Middle East crisis, and the apocalypse. This program was broadcast on the History Channel.

The Nostradamus files [DVD] / James Lurie, Kreg Lauterbach et al., 2009. DVD. Documentary. Adult Non-Fiction.

This 2-disc DVD set includes “The lost book of Nostradamus” and “Nostradamus: 2012”, programs that were broadcast on the History Channel.


If your preference is for fiction reading, then all is not lost. You too can weave Nostradamus into your world of reading with the following fantasy novels by Scottish-Canadian author Dave Duncan:


The alchemist's pursuit

The alchemist’s pursuit / Dave Duncan, 2009. Book. Adult Fiction.

Mystery, fantasy, and historical fiction fans alike might relate to this third novel in an alternate Renaissance Venice. This time, an ill-tempered Nostradamus, battling ill-health, accepts a sizeable commission to find a serial killer who strangled three women, all of them prostitutes. Once again, he is helped by his trusted apprentice Alfeo Zeno. Donna Violetta Vitale, courtesan and friend of Alfeo, implores Nostradamus to predict and stop the next murder. After the fourth victim is stabbed to death, Alfeo escapes death by a whisker with the help of a magical cat. An added complication results when Alfeo is retained by the mother of the prime suspect of the murders to prove her son’s innocence. 



The alchemist's code

The alchemist’s code / Dave Duncan, 2008. Book. Adult Fiction.

In an alternate Renaissance Venice setting, Nostradamus accepts a commission from the Council of Ten to determine the identity of a spy by decoding intercepted, ciphered messages. Once again, Nostradamus elicits the help of his apprentice (and swordsman) Alfeo Zeno. Together, they employ a mixture of the occult, deductive reasoning, and investigation to solve the case. 



The alchemist's apprentice

The alchemist’s apprentice / Dave Duncan, 2007. Book. Adult Fiction.

The setting of this inaugural novel in this fantasy series is an alternate Renaissance Venice. Facing suspicion at a gathering of noblemen when one is poisoned after predicting an uneventful day, Nostradamus charges his apprentice Alfeo Zeno with solving the murder and exonerating himself. Fantasy and mystery fans alike should find common ground in this novel.


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