Strasbourg: [Bartholomaeus Kistler], after 31 Dec. 1499.
Quarto: 19.1 x 14 cm. 48 ll., A8, B4, C8, D4, E8, F4, G8, H4
AN EARLY LATIN EDITION. The 1st two editions, one in Latin, the other in German, appeared in 1488.
Further fifteenth-century editions were published in Latin, German, and Italian versions. This edition, printed by Kistler, is number 11 in Kurze’s census of editions in all languages (for the date, see the bib. notes at the end of this description). Illustrated with 46 woodcut illustrations in text, including large vignette to title-page. Bound in 17th c. alum-tawed pigskin (remboîtage), blind-tooled in Southern Germany with triple-fillet panel of interlacing palmettes and a central saint (Saint Benedict?) within a wreath on both boards (binding lightly rubbed, small repairs to spine). Excellent, complete, copy with good margins. Minor marginal soiling, a few clear damp-stains, ink stain in margin of one leaf; three contemporary annotations by a German reader as illustration titles. Provenance: from the renowned Fürstlich Stolberg-Wernigerodesche Bibliothek, founded by Graf Wolf Ernst zu Stolberg (1546-1606). Armorial stamp (“Grafl. Stolbergische Bibliothek z. Wernigerode") at foot of title.
This is an unusually fine copy (and a rare edition) of the most important illustrated 15th c. book of prophecies, written by Johannes Grünbach (Lichtenberger), Imperial astrologer at the court of Friedrich III, hailed “as a miracle of nature, a man not inferior to Ptolemy, and by many regarded a prophet” (Thorndike).
Despite being condemned by the theological faculty of Cologne in 1492, the book achieved numerous editions. “Heinrich Knoblochtzer printed the first edition, in Latin, in 1488 and a German translation around 1490 using the same woodcuts. In June and July 1492, Jakob Meydenbach of Mainz issued a Latin and a German edition that reused the woodcuts from Knoblochtzer’s editions. Bartholomäus Kistler of Strasbourg then issued German editions in 1497, 1500, and 1501 and two Latin editions [‘not before 31 Dec. 1499’].”(Green, Prophets in Print, p. 43)
Yet, the book’s popularity also impacted the survival rate of copies; all editions are now extremely rare. ISTC records four copies of this edition in North America (Lilly Library, LC, Morgan, Huntington). Only seven other North American institutions hold any 15th c. edition (Harvard, NYPL, Newberry, Met. Museum, Trinity, Williams, The Walters.)
“The secret of Lichtenberger’s success lay in the adaptation of prophecy and prognostication to the medium of print and, above all, in the creation of a new kind of prophetic author ... As a popular compilation of prophecies in combination with astrology, Lichtenberger’s ‘Prognosticatio’ had no equal. Not only the several early editions but, particularly, the many later editions, retranslations, and re-combinations with other works made the ‘Prognosticatio’ the most successful prophetic compilation and the most influential combination of astrology and prophecy of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.” (Green)
A key factor in the book’s popularity was its striking images. “From its first edition in 1488, Lichtenberger’s ‘Prognosticatio’ had a distinctive graphic identity. Later publishers treated its illustrations as an essential element of the work.”(Green). As late as 1527, Luther observed, “[Lichtenberger] hit the mark in several things, and came especially near with the pictures and images, much more so than with the words.” The series of 46 illustrations in this edition, which follow the iconography of the Heidelberg 1488 editio princeps, are ascribed to Bartholomaeus Kistler, who also acted as the publisher (see N. F. Palmer).
“The ‘Prognosticatio’ brings astrological prognostication and various prophetic authorities to bear on questions of politics and foreign relations, the fortunes of ecclesiastical leaders and clerical reform, the depredations of Muslim invaders, failures of public and private morality, and the advent of a false prophet, and it also makes a number of predictions concerning the years from 1488 to 1567. The impetus for its appearance was the conjunction of Saturn and Mars in the year 1484, which the astrologer Paul of Middelburg had treated at some length in his twenty-year prognostication for 1484–1504. Rather than rendering his own judgment on the conjunction, Lichtenberger copied extensively from Middelburg’s work as well as from a comet tract printed in 1474 and other prophetic compilations…
“[In fact], Paul of Middelburg complained bitterly in his 1492 Invective that Lichtenberger’s wholesale borrowing from his work -without even once mentioning his name- was scarcely to be borne, and he particularly saw the images as the modus operandi of Lichtenberger’s intellectual theft: ‘He also added foolish pictures of women in labor, members of religious orders fighting and beating upon one another, crowing roosters, the Antichrist teaching, the emperor devastating Rome, and various other pictures of kings and princes, so that, having changed its appearance, he could usurp to himself my work and not appear to have only recited it.’
“The first woodcut in the ‘Prognosticatio’ is simultaneously a visual statement of authority, an encapsulation of the work’s contents and editorial program, and a recapitulation of the preceding four decades of print history. On the left, Ptolemy and Aristotle represent the inheritance of classical antiquity in astrology and astronomy, while Birgitta of Sweden and Brother Reinhart (depicted as a hermit), mediate Christian visionary prophecy in the tradition of Joachim of Fiore. Between them stands the Sibyl, both a pre-Christian observer of the heavens, like Ptolemy and Aristotle, and a foreteller of Christian salvation, like her religious colleagues. All the figures are illuminated in equal measure by divine emanations from [God] above. The figures in the woodcut represent both Lichtenberger’s sources and also traditions that had become established in print since Gutenberg and his associates had printed the Sibyl’s Prophecy…
“Lichtenberger was born as Johannes Grünbach around the year 1440 near the town of Baumholder in southwestern Germany. All that is known of his education is what can be deduced from his astrological-eschatological writings and from his role as parish priest during the last decades of his life. There is no record of how he gained his training or his qualification for office. The high point of Lichtenberger’s personal status appears to have come in the 1470s, a period in which he wrote horoscopes for several important noblemen. His first known work, written in 1468 while he was in Speyer, was a prognostication based on the observation of a comet, while the next was a horoscope for Duke Ludwig the Rich of Landshut-Bavaria in 1471. The publication in 1474 or 1475 of his astrological judgment on a conjunction of Saturn and Mars made Lichtenberger one of the earliest astrologers to appear in print, and a folk song dated to the 1470s described Lichtenberger as known throughout Germany. Lichtenberger’s later manuscript prognostications of the 1470s address the geopolitical affairs of leading German cities and the fortunes of princes and kings. Twice in them, Lichtenberger describes himself as court astrologer to Emperor Frederick III. (No contemporary source apart from his own self-description identifies Lichtenberger as the imperial court astrologer.) In 1481, the wife of Pfalzgraf Ludwig of Veldenz convinced her husband to install Lichtenberger as parish priest in Brambach, where he remained until his death in 1503. Lichtenberger wrote that there were those who “know that I have truly foretold to many spiteful people every single one of the great calamities that have come to pass in German lands for twenty years” which may accurately reflect his declining fortunes, as the twenty years between Lichtenberger’s first known astrological writing and the publication of the ‘Prognosticatio’ correspond to the reduction in his circumstances from an astrological consultant to the nobility to a simple parish priest…
“The text of the ‘Prognosticatio’ depicts its author as a prophet in its own way. There are three ways to predict the future, Lichtenberger explains in his introduction: through long experience with the world and its ways; by the stars and the influence of the upper planets on the lower spheres; and by divine revelation through dreams, visions, or angels. Lichtenberger states that he will draw on all three possibilities in order to raise a voice of warning to his readers. Lichtenberger’s claim to astrological and experiential authority was certainly plausible, but Lichtenberger also claimed to be the conduit of divine revelation by virtue of his compilation of prophetic writings.”( Printing and prophecy: prognostication and media change 1450-1550, Ann Arbor 2012)
“Grünbach believed he was living in an era of apocalyptic events: he formulates dire predictions for 1516-1517 (the fall of Kingdoms due to terrible comets and epidemics); for 1524 (cataclysms, earthquakes and new flood); for 1524-1525 (trouble for the Christian religion); for 1518-1520 (ruin of Venice). "(Cantamessa)
The date: Kistler printed two editions with a colophon indicating that the text was updated from the edition published on 31 Dec. 1499. This is the second of the two, distinguished from the first by a different title page woodcut. The colophon reads: “Emendatum denuo praesagium hoccine impressioni quoque iterum quoque iterum deditum anno domini 1499, ultima die mensis Decembris.”.
ISTC il00206000; HC 10084. GW M18233. BMC I, 165. Goff L206. Klebs 606.10. Schreiber V, 4501. Fairfax Murray 240. Benezit V, p. 260. Cantamessa 4512. Literature: Jonathan Green, Printing and prophecy: prognostication and media change 1450-1550, Ann Arbor 2012, pp. 39, 43, 86. N.F. Palmer, Illustrated printed editions of the Visions of Tondal, pp. 160 and ff. Kurze, Dietrich. Johannes Lichtenberger († 1503): Eine Studie zur Geschichte der Prophetie und Astrologie. Lübeck: Matthiesen, 1960, (p. 81–87); Schmitt, Anneliese. “Text und Bild in der prophetischen Literatur des 15. Jahrhun- derts: Zu einer Praktik des Johannes Lichtenbergers aus dem Jahre 1501.” In Von der Wirkung des Buches: Festgabe für Horst Kunze zum 80. Geburtstag: gewidmet von Schülern und Freunden, ed. Friedhilde Krause, 160–76. Berlin: Deutsche Staatsbibliothek, 1990. Provenance: The Stolbergische Bibliothek in Wernigerode was an important private library of a noble family; founded by Graf Wolf Ernst zu Stolberg (1546-1606); declared a public library on January 15, 1746 (open to those with a scholarly interest 2 days a week); the Grafenhaus (counts) was raised to princely rank (Fürstenstand) in 1890; sales of important holdings began in 1926, and the library closed officially in 1929, after which further holdings were sold.