Guidelines for Nostradamus research
(document prepared for the interview given to the National Geographic, on 11. 14. 09)
by Dr Jacques E. Halbronn
I would like to summarize the most important points regarding Nostradamus as a result of my last 20 years of research.
1 A certain Préface to Cesar has actually been published during the lifetime of Nostradamus as an Epistle of Nostradamus to King Henry the second (Présages Merveilleux, 1557). Those documents have been used to forge false adresses.
The Preface to Cesar refers to a "memoir" that Nostradamus will leave for after his death. The 1555 document was not supposed to have been printed at this moment but only written as a sort of will. It opens the edition of the Centuries and confirms their posthumous character. There is no doubt, however, that an Epistle to Cesar was published in 1555 but not introducing centuries and not having a posthumous tone.(see Antoine Couillard's commentary of 1556).
2 Certain quatrains have been made from manuscript notes left by Nostradamus, as "touristic" quatrains due to Nostradamus travels, and deprived originally of any prophetical character whatsoever.
3 the title "Prophecies" used for many editions of the Centuries was used by Nostradamus for a certain type of publication, that has not been preserved but which is mentioned in archives of book keepers. We know, on the other hand, that imitators of Nostradamus did publish predictions covering several years at the same time. It was problaly what Nostradamus called his "Prophecies", quite a different genre as the Centuries. As a matter of fact, in 1672, the first english version has for title "Prophecies or Prognostications of Michel Nostradamus", showing that "prophecies" may just be synonymic for Prognostications.
4 The Centuries appeared first as a posthumous work, made of documents showing different dates when Nostradamus did or was supposed to have written (but not published them). In a later stade, the dates of those manuscript documents were used to forge editions as 1555 for instance.This posthumous edition has not been preserved but 1568 seems to be a good guess since many editions were later connected with 1568, that is 2 years after Nostradamus 's death.
5 From this lost first postumous edition, appeared in the 1580s, new editions with quatrains changed and adapted to the political situation, connected with the death of the Duke of alençon (1584), the death of Henry the third (1589), the civil war between "Paris" and "Tours", the attempt to elect a new king of France by both sides, the abjuration of protestantism by Henry IVth (1593) and his coronation in Chartres (1594)
6 One important document is the 1588's edition of only 4 "Centuries", in Rouen, This book belongs to the Ruzo collection and has been described by Benazra, although no copy circulates for the time being. This edition does not include IV 46 connected with Tours. In 1589, this quatrain appeared in another Rouen edition. Some say it has disapeared for some reason then reappeared. We believe, that such quatrains (44 to 47) did not exist before and that the first group of quatrains did not include 353 quatrains but only 349 quatrains, the last century having less than 50 quatrains, in the same way that the 7th Century does not pass the line of 50 quatrains.
7 The Guide des Chemins de France of Charles Estienne -a sort of travel guide of the 1550s - is one important source of some quatrains, which affords to identify additions to the original text, especially in IX, 86 where Chartres is mentioned. Also the source of the famous "Varennes" quatrain, connected with Louis XVIth. Such a content reveals that the notes and elements used had nothin to do with prophetism and were made prophetical later on.
8 The iconography of the title pages of the "Prophecies" shows that the source of the forgery came from false editions (not of the Centuries of course but of almanachs) published even before the death of Nostradamus. The woodcut used is clearly different from the official editions of the "Prognostications". The forgeries were made possible by the conservation of all sorts of documents (manuscripts and prints) which were combined to create them. As a matter of fact, such a collection included false and authentic documents but the forgers were unable to distinguish between them, so they used false elements to produce antidatededitions of the Centuries ; we could even say "lifted" editions using the vocabulary of esthetical surgery to let people/texts look younger than they are. They neglected the fact that already in the 1560s, when Nostradamus was still alive, were published false almanachs under his name with a special type of woodcut which was not the one used in the authentic Prognostications of Nostadamus.
9 The first (posthumous) "edition" of the Centuries has probably been manuscript and reserved to "happy few". As late as 1570, Jean de Chevigny was offering one of those quatrains to Larcher, which would not make sense if the book had been in circulation, in print. In 1572, Antoine Crespin gave extracts of the quatrains in his Prophéties dédiées à la Puissance Divine, and other publications, which directs us in the same direction. The expression "not yet printed" which appears in the title of additions to the first Centuries, confirms the fact that at first, only manuscripts circulated.
10 The 7 first centuries were manipulated by the Catholic Camp while the last 3 were used by the camp of Henry the IV. One will find attacks, in the lost 4 quatrains (absent from the Rouen 1588 edition of 4 centuries but present in the 1589 Rouen edition), against Tours, the capital of Henry the IVth (IV, 46), a quatrain in favour of the Marquis du Pont, catholic candidate to the throne of France (VII, 24). The use of the Guide des Chemins de France is limited to the last 3 centuries. In Paris, the last 3 centuries were never published since they were announcing the victory of the Bourbons (Vendome, mendosus) against the Guise - Lorraines (Norlaris)
11 The antidated editions include elements which were added in the 1580-1590s or which are corrupted as the Preface to Cesar. We have versions of the first versions of the Preface to Cesar which do not present such corruption (see the first sentences of the said Preface) and which were published only in the second half of the XVIIth Century (see the English translation and Antoine Besson's French edition). In the Besson edition (c 1690s) the Preface is announced as " addressée à son filz Cesar Nostradamus pour luy donner une idée des Centuries de ses Propheties"), that is "to give him an idea of the Centuries of his Prophecies") and it became at a later period, according to us, "Preface de M. Michel Nostradamus à ses Propheties", which is the canonical formula.
12 We have the example of an attemps to build a myth turning around Michel de Nostredame. The case is not so rare, as for instance, in the XXth century with Rommel. (see Benoit Lemay, "Erwin Rommel", Paris, Perrin, 2009). The case of Anastasia is also quite striking, she was manipulated by well informed crooks (see Jean des Cars,, "La saga des Romanov, de Pierre le Grand à Nicolas II", Paris, Plon, 2008, p. 351). The more you know of a subject, the more you are qualified to produce - or to sustain- a forgery.
16. 11. 09