[Speyer: Anastasius Nolt], ca. 1525.
Quarto: 19 x 14.5 cm.  p.
Modern speckled wrappers. A fine copy. Half-page woodcut with Christ enthroned and the Last Judgment taking place below. The dead are seen rising from their graves. Some are captured by devils and dragged away, others are rescued by angels. Christ is shown with a lily and a sword. The lily signifies innocence and mercy, the sword guilt and punishment. Extremely rare. I have located two copies in North America (Princeton, Harvard).
Sole edition of this prophecy of the coming of the Antichrist and the Last Judgment by the German astronomer, astrologer, and magician Johann Virdung of Hassfurt (1463-1538). Educated at Cracow and Leipzig, Virdung was an established authority on astronomical and astrological matters. Virdung had touched on the subject of the End Times before, in 1503, in a prognostic booklet on the coming of a false prophet.
In his “Practica von dem Entcrist”, Virdung attempted to calculate the precise date of the end of the world by analyzing astronomical phenomena, the prophecies of the Sibyls, the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius, the words of the Biblical prophets, and learned authorities such as Ptolemy. In the course of his work, Virdung assesses dates previously proposed for the Last Judgment, predicts solar and lunar eclipses, and prophesizes various catastrophes.
Virdung studied at the University of Cracow, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1486, and earned his master’s at Leipzig in 1491. Works copied by him for his personal use tell us a great deal of his learning and interests. While still at Cracow in 1488 he copied the canons and astronomical tables of Giovanni Bianchini, the Equatorium of John de Lineriis, and a list of works left by Regiomontanus at Nuremberg. He also drew up a table of fixed stars with their positions.
Concerning his own writings, he made yearly astrological predictions from 1487 to 1500, for most of the first decade of the 16th c., and sporadically into the 1520s. His “practica” format set a standard that would be followed by many others in the field. “In 1503, Virdung printed at Strasburg a Practica in German addressed to Philip, the elector palatine, dealing especially with the effects of the conjunction of Saturn, Jupiter and Mars in Cancer… To Philip’s successor, Ludwig, as elector palatine, Virdung addressed a discussion of wonderful signs in the sky -three moons with a cross in the middle and largest one- seen in 1514 in Wurtemberg… In 1520 Virdung wrote on a similar theme, meteoric apparitions, at Vienna from January 3 to 7 of that year.”(Throndike).
Virdung had yet another interest, related to his work in astrology. In 1503, he visited England to, in his own words, “learn magic”. “Virdung’s interest in magic is further attested by a tract [found in a manuscript copied by Virdung] on imprisoning spirits of the planets in rings by using a metal and sacrificing an animal appropriate to the planet as well as by employment of exorcisms, characters and engravings on gems. The spirit will appear either in the form represented on the seal or in that of the decapitated animal, and will do whatever it is commanded.”(Thorndike).
VD16 V1302. Benzing-Nolt I, 5. Not in Adams; not in STC