The 1941-Vreede-translation of the Prophecies and the 1558-Lyon-Edition
The Netherlands and the Prophecies
The Netherlands play a modest part in the publishing history of the Prophecies. French editions of the Prophecies were printed in Leiden in 1650 and in Amsterdam in 1667 and 1668.1 The edition, printed in Amsterdam in 1668, is known as the édition d’Amsterdam. In this essay, it is entitled : the 1668-Amsterdam-edition.
In 1688, Ulucht publishers in Delft published a French-Dutch extract of the Prophecies. In French, it was entitled : Extrait de propheties des centuries de Michel Nostradamus, touchant l’estat présent des affaires. In Dutch, it was entitled : Extract van prophecyen...2 In 1715, Blank publishers in Amsterdam published another extract of the Prophecies, translated from the English. This extract contained a retrospect on what happened to the Royal Family in England until the coronation in 1714 of George I.3
It was in 1941 when the first complete Dutch translation of the Prophecies was published by Servire publishers, The Hague. The Prophecies were translated by mr. dr. W.L. Vreede, pseudonym of prof. dr. mr. H. Houwens Post. He was born on September 18, 1904 in Surakarta, Dutch East Indies, and died on September 1, 1986, in Utrecht, the Netherlands. He studied French, Italian, Latin and Portuguese. In daily life, he teached French, later he was professor in Portuguese at the University of Utrecht.4
Besides the quatrains, the Letter to Cesar and the Epistle, this 1941-Vreede-translation contained a biography of Nostradamus and an introduction, both written by Vreede himself. He does not comment any of the predictions.
At some moment, the 1941-Vreede-translation of the Prophecies went out of print. At the end of the seventies, interest in the Netherlands in astrological and occult literature increased heavily. Schors publishers in Amsterdam decided to publish the 1941-Vreede-translation by means of facsimile. During the next years, they reprinted this book ten times. In 1998, J. Vandevoort wrote a slightly edited version of the 1941-Vreede-translation. It was published by Schors publishers, Amsterdam.
Vreede carefully translated the Prophecies. For the Dutch-speaking regions, his translation is very valuable.
When presenting the fundaments of his translation and the publishing history of the Prophecies, Vreede made remarks which deserve our attention.
On June 27, 1558, Nostradamus wrote the Epistle to Henry II. In this letter, he dedicated the eighth, ninth and tenth century, up to then not published, to the French king.
Original copies of earlier editions of the Prophecies such as the 1555-Bonhomme-edition and a 1557-Du Rosne-edition (now in the University Library, Utrecht, the Netherlands) are preserved. The contents of the 1555-Bonhomme-edition are the Letter to Cesar and the quatrains 01-01 to 04-53. The contents of the 1557-Du Rosne edition are the Letter to Cesar, the quatrains 01-01 to 06-99, a Legis cautio and the quatrains 07-01 to 07-42.
A 1558-Lyon-edition published by Jean de Tournes is mentioned in the Bibliographie Nostradamus. It is entitled : Les Prophéties de M. Michel Nostradamus. Centuries VIII, IX et X. Qui n'ont encore iamais esté imprimées. The existence of this edition is only known by reference to it in other editions such as the 1668-Amsterdam-edition, where it reads on the title page : Reveües & corrigées suyvant les premieres Editions imprimées en Avignon en l'an 1556 & à Lyon en l'an 1558 & autres.
There are indications that the eighth, ninth and tenth century were in print by 1560. Brind'Amour mentions a letter from Michael Soriano, a Venetian ambassador at the Paris Court.5 On November 20, 1560, Soriano described the illness of the French king Francis II, born on January 18, 1544, and referred to an astrological prediction, which said that the king would not pass beyond his eighteenth birthday. Francis II died on December 5, 1560.
Soriano seemed to refer to quatrain 10-39 :
Premier fils veuve malheureux mariage,
Sans nuls enfants deux îles en discord :
Avant dix-huis incompétant âge,
De l’autre près plus bas sera l’accord.
The earliest preserved edition of the Prophecies dates from 1568. It contains the Letter to Cesar, the quatrains 01-01 to 06-99, the Legis cautio, the quatrains 07-01 to 07-42, the Epistle to Henry II and the quatrains 08-01 to 10-100. In 2000, Michel Chomarat published this edition by means of facsimile. Not a single copy of the 1558-Lyon-edition has been preserved. Because of this, experts like Benazra and Chomarat consider this edition as hypothetic.
The contents of the 1941-Vreede-translation
Vreede, the Dutch translator of the Prophecies, claimed that the source text he used was a complete edition of the Prophecies, published in Lyon in 1558. In his introduction, he wrote :
... In 1558 a second edition was published, in which was printed successively: the Letter to Cesar, the Centuries I - VII, the Letter to King Henry II and the Centuries VIII - X […] In this book, the reader will find a complete, Dutch translation, in the same order, of the edition of 1558, mentioned above...
If his claim is credible, it means that an edition, which is considered to be lost, is available in Dutch.
The contents of the 1941-Vreede-edition do not sustain his remark that he used a 1558-Lyon-edition as the one and only source edition. The 1941-Vreede-translation contains more than what was available in 1558. The additions date from the 17th century. Vreede included the quatrains 06-100, 07-43 and 07-44, first published in the 17th century, long after the decease of Nostradamus in 1566. The Legis cautio, which in the 1568-Lyon-edition follows quatrain 06-99 as a not-numbered quatrain, is located between the sixth and seventh century as a not-numbered quatrain.
The title of the 1558-Lyon-edition
Vreede does not mention the title of the 1558-Lyon-edition. Vandervoort, who in 1998 slightly edited the 1941-Vreede-translation, mentions as title : Les vrayes centuries et prophéties de maister Micheld Nostradamus à Lyon 1558.6
Both the title and the term of address of Nostradamus raise doubts. The title Les vrayes centuries et prophéties was used for the first time in the 1650-Leiden-edition and for the last time in the 1710-Rouen and -Paris editions. These editions do not include the Letter to Cesar, but include additional centuries, the Présages and the Sixains. The title mentioned by Vandevoort raises too many doubts to assume that Vreede owned a 1558-Lyon-edition and used it as a source text. This title dates from the 17th or 18th century.
The term of address maister (or mayster) is used in only three cases, namely in the English Almanachs for 1559 and 1562.7 The letter -d- in the word Micheld could point to the name Michel de Nostredame, but is never used in combination with the latinized form Nostradamus.
Anagrams and illustrations
Vreede gives two examples of anagrams, used by Nostradamus.8 One of them is the word EIOVAS (Savoye). This anagram occurs only once, in quatrain 12-69, first published in the 17th century. Vreede strongly doubts the authenticity of the eleventh and twelfth century.9 For this reason, it is incomprehensible why he chose an example from the twelfth century, while the anagram CHYREN (Henryc) occurs in several authentic quatrains, such as quatrain 04-34.
The 1941-Vreede-translation contains three illustrations. The second illustration is a page of the first century of the 1668-Amsterdam-edition, which contains the text of the quatrains 01-54 to 01-62. The third illustration is the frontispiece of the 1668-Amsterdam-edition. Vreede wrote that he took these illustrations from the 1668-Amsterdam-edition. By means of photocopy, these pages are, in reverse order, included in Le Secret de Nostradamus et de ses célèbres prophéties du XVIe siècle, written in 1927 by the French commentator P. V. Piobb. Piobb also published a photocopy of the 1668-Amsterdam-edition, to which Vreede refers a couple of times.10 There is a perfect match between the two illustrations and the photocopied pages of the 1668-Amsterdam-edition in Le Secret de Nostradamus... The conclusion is that Vreede did not take these illustrations from the 1668-Amsterdam-edition. He took these illustrations from Le Secret de Nostradamus... The question rises why he chose to depict pages from a 1668-Amsterdam-edition when a 1558-Lyon-edition was at his disposal.
The first illustration in the 1941-Vreede-translation is a portrait of Nostradamus at a writing desk, with a four-line verse :
Dieu se sert icy de ma bouche
Pour t’anoncer la verité
Si ma prediction te touché
Rends grace à sa Divinité
This portrait was not included in the 1668-Amsterdam-edition. It resembles a portrait, first published in 1697 in an edition, published by Jean Viret in Lyon.
Biography of Nostradamus
Vreede wrote a biography of Nostradamus. During this investigation, it became clear that he copied many passages from the 1668-Amsterdam-edition.
The biography in the 1668-Amsterdam-edition is for the most part copied from the biography published by De Chavigny in La Premiere Face du Ianus François.
Quatrains in old-French
Vreede does not give a full parallel French source text. He gives texts in old-French of 35 quatrains, of which 29 caused trouble during the translation in Dutch.11 It is remarkable that his transcript does not contain interpunctions, except for the closing point at the end of each fourth line and points, used in abbreviations.
The quatrains 01-03, -47 and -95, 02-63, 03-89 and the quatrains 04-26 and -44 were compared with the 1555-Bonhomme-edition, the 1568-Lyon-edition and the 1668-Amsterdam-edition. The old-French in the 1555-Bonhomme-edition and the 1568-Lyon-edition dates from earlier than the old-French in these quatrains. The texts of these quatrains match on almost all points (with the exception of a few transcript errors) with the 1668-Amsterdam-edition.
The quatrains 04-63, 05-15, -20, -45 and -56, the quatrains 08-30 and -88, the quatrains 09-20, -21, -24, -27, -31, -34, -48, -57, -95 and the quatrains 10-07, -08, -33, -36, -41, -50, -52, -60 and -79 are for an important part not identical with the 1568-Lyon-edition. The texts of these quatrains match on almost all points (with the exception of a few transcript errors) with the 1668-Amsterdam-edition.
The question rises why Vreede presented transcripts of the 1668-Amsterdam-edition while a 1558-Lyon-edition was at his disposal.
Vreede went into the research of at least three commentators (among whom Piobb and De Fontbrune), the publishing history of the Prophecies and the contents of several editions. Sometimes, his statements are quite accurate. Sometimes, his statements are capable of improvement.
According to Vreede, the contents of the first edition of the Prophecies (Lyon, 1555) were the Letter to Cesar and the centuries 1 - 7. This is not correct. The 1555-Bonhomme-edition, the first edition of the Prophecies, contains the Letter to Cesar and the quatrains 01-01 to 04-53. Next, Vreede wrote that the editions, published between 1555 and 1558, were reprints of a 1555-Lyon-edition. This also is not correct. In 1557, an enlarged edition was published in Lyon by Antoine du Rosne. Vreede’s remark that the 1558-Lyon-edition is the second edition of the Prophecies, is also not correct.12
Vreede writes that the 1668-Amsterdam-edition contains all texts by Nostradamus, both the authentic ones and the non-authentic ones.13 This also is not correct. In the 1668-Amsterdam-edition, the Letter to Cesar is not included.
The Epistle to Henry II
Examining Vreede's claim, the Epistle to Henry II deserves extra attention. The investigation on which Nostradamus, astrology and the Bible is based, showed that in the part of the Epistle in which Nostradamus discusses the second timetable regarding the Old Testament, there are three major differences between the 1941-Vreede-translation and the 1568-Lyon-edition.
...from his [Jacobs] hour of birth until his entrance into Egypt, passed 130 years, and from Jacobs entrance into Egypt until his exodus, passed 430 years.14
...dés l'heure qu'il [Jacob] entra dans Egypte, iusques à l'yssue d'iceluy passerent cent trente ans. Et depuis l'entree de Iacob en Egypte iusques à l'yssue d'iceluy passerent quatre cens trente ans.15
...from the exodus out of Egypt until the building of the Temple, erected by Solomon in the 4th year of his kingship, passed 480 or 490 years.
...et depuis l'yssue d'Egypte iusques à la edification du temple faicte par Salomon au quatriesme an de son regne, passerent quatre cens octante ou quatre vingt ans.
from the building of the Temple until Jesus Christ passed, according to the calculations of the Scribes, 1020 years.
...depuis l'edification du temple iusques à Iesus Christ seló la supputation des hierographes passerent quatre cens nonante ans.
- The period Jacob - Exodus : in the 1941-Vreede-translation, the Dutch phrasing of the period Jacob - entrance Egypt corresponds with Genesis 47,9 and Exodus 12,40. In the 1568-Lyon-edition, this period is phrased wrongly. The difference in the phrasing of the period Jacob - entrance Egypt can be due to a tacit correction by Vreede.
- The period Exodus - Temple : In the 1568-Lyon-edition, the number of years of the period Exodus - Temple corresponds with 1 Kings 6,1. The number 490 does not occur in the 1568-Lyon-edition, it does occur in the 1941-Vreede-translation.
- The period Temple - Jesus : the number 1020 in the 1941-Vreede-translation does not occur in the 1568-Lyon-edition. In that edition, the number 490 occurs, which in the 1941-Vreede-translation is located in the previous line.
In both editions, the period Creation - Noah lasts 1506 years. This is a printer's error. In the Old Testament, this period lasts 1056 years. The words mil cinquante & six (1056) are printed as mil cinq cens & six (1506). After correcting this error and while counting 480 years for the period Exodus - Temple, the total of the second timetable in the 1941-Vreede-translation is 4172 years and 2 months. This differs 1 year and 6 months with the total of 4173 years and 8 months, mentioned by Nostradamus. Correction of this printer's error in the 1568-Lyon-edition results in a total of about 3684 years, which differs 525 years with the 4173 years and 8 months.
The investigation on which Nostradamus, astrology and the Bible is based, shows that the total of 4173 years and 8 months can be provided of an arithmetical fundament by means of the numbers in the 1941-Vreede-translation (although there is still a shortage of 1 year and 6 months). This is important, because the total of 4173 years and 8 months leads to the millennium model, the model which Nostradamus used to calculate the number of years of existence of the world.16
If the numbers in the 1941-Vreede-translation are founded on a 1558-Lyon-edition, one could state that later, may-be in the 1568-Lyon-edition, the text of the letter to Henry II was revised in order to improve the second timetable. The original total was 4622 or 4632 years. This is 448 or 458 years too much. Revising would mean that the number 1020 was replaced by the number 490. This results in a total of 4092 years, 80 years too little, compared with the total mentioned by Nostradamus. The printer's error was neglected. The length of the period Temple - Jesus can not be derived from data, given in the Old Testament. One can only calculate the number of years of the period Temple - End Babylonic exile: 502 years. This means that couting 490 years for the period Temple - Jesus is off. If the Bible was consulted, the revision would have been different. In the Almanach pour l’an m.d.lx.vi, Nostradamus counts 1087 years.17 In Thesaurus Temporum, J.J. Scaliger counts 1014 years for the period Temple - Jesus.18 Theoretically, it is possible that Vreede himself changed the number 490 into 1020 and added the number 490 to the line in which the period Exodus - Temple was estimated 480 years. But then, for what reason should he alter the text if the result was a surplus of 448 years instead of a shortage of 80 years, compared with the 4173 years and 8 months ?
Starting from the 1568-Lyon-edition, all phrasings of the second timetable regarding the Old Testament, are identical, i.e. 490 years for the period Temple - Jesus. In only one case, the 1941-Vreede-translation, the number 1020 shows up and the number 490 is in a different line. This might be a trace of a 1558-Lyon-edition. This hypothesis can only be proved if this edition is found.
As for Vreede’s claim that he used a 1558-Lyon-edition as the one and only source text, the conclusion of this brief investigation is that such an edition was not at his disposal. His translation contains quatrains, first published in the 17th century. Instead of illustrations, taken from a 1558-Lyon-edition, he included illustrations, taken from a photocopy of the 1668-Amsterdam-edition and a portrait which resembles a portrait, first printed in 1697. The French texts of 35 quatrains match with the French texts of these quatrains in the 1668-Amsterdam-edition.
It is possible that Vreede used the photocopy of the 1668-Amsterdam-edition, published by Piobb, as a source text. However, neither the 1668-Amsterdam-edition nor the Piobb-photocopy include the Letter to Cesar. For this letter, Vreede has used another edition of the Prophecies, but is sheer impossible to trace that edition.
In the 1668-Amsterdam-edition, the Epistle to Henry II contains a printer’s error. There, the beginning date of the first set of predictions in the Epistle is March 14, 1547. In the 1941-Vreede-translation, as in all other editions, this date is March 14, 1557. Considering the editorial errors, it seems not likely that Vreede’s knowledge of the quatrains and letters was adequate to correct this printer’s error.19
During the research, the idea rose that Vreede used a source edition which dates from the 18th century or later. The contents of this edition : the Letter to Cesar, the quatrains 01-01 to 06-100, the Legis cautio, the quatrains 07-01 to 07-44, the Epistle to Henry II and the quatrains 08-01 to 10-100. The text is in modern-French. This edition should contain the portrait of Nostradamus, originally published in 1697. Chances are that in the text of the Epistle to Henry II, the period Exodus - Temple lasts 480 or 490 years and the period Temple - Jesus 1020 years.
Vreede might have used the photocopy of the 1668-Amsterdam-edition as additional material, from which he copied the texts of quatrains which raised difficulties during translating, in order to present his labour as scrupulous as possible. He copied fragments of the biography of Nostradamus as published in the 1668-Amsterdam-edition and elaborated them. He also owned Le secret de Nostradamus... and copied two illustrations of this book.
The 1941-Vreede-translation and the Second World War
For a layman, it is almost impossible to verify the credibility of the claim of Vreede regarding the use of the 1558-Lyon-edition. A proper investigation shows he did not at all possess this edition. In other words, this claim is as a kind of masquerade, which in 1941 had it purposes.
When in 1940 the Netherlands were invaded by Nazi-Germany, Ort publishers in The Hague published a booklet, entitled : Hoe zal de oorlog eindigen ? (How will this war end?). This booklet was compiled from the writings of Jean François Pasteur, a late Frenchmen who studied the work of De Fontbrune. According to Pasteur, Nostradamus predicted that Germany would dominate Europe. Around 1942, Hijmans, Stenfert Kroese & Van de Zande publishers in Arnhem published a similar booklet, written by A. de Tombre, entitled : Voorspellingen die uitgekomen zijn. Michael Nostradamus spreekt in 1558 over het verloop en den uitslag van dezen oorlog. (Fulfilled predictions. Michael Nostradamus speaks in 1558 about the developments and the outcome of this war). De Tombre referred to the oeuvre of the late Pasteur.
In 1982, A. van Dis, a Dutch columnist, wrote that the purpose of the 1941-Vreede-translation was to counter-react to pro-Nazi editions of the Prophecies.20 Vreede's claim that he used a 1558-Lyon-edition might be a way of trying to emphasize his integrity, compared to the re-writings and mutilating comments by Nazi propagandists. The reason Vreede did not give any comment on the actual situation in the Netherlands and / or Europe, might be due to the German occupation of the Netherlands and Nazi-censorship. In addition, the Dutch word “vreede” (the pseudonym chosen by Houwens Post) means peace.
T. W. M. van Berkel
De Meern, April 30, 2003
- T.W.M. van Berkel, Nostradamus, astrology and the Bible - a lecture on his prophecies and letters, De Meern, 2002.
- P. Brind’Amour, Les premières centuries ou prophéties (édition Macé Bonhomme de 1555). Edition et commentaire de l’Epître à César et des 353 premiers quatrains. Genève, 1996.
- J.-A. de Chavigny, La premiere face du Ianus François, Lyon, 1594.
- B. Chevignard, Présages de Nostradamus. Saint-Amand, 1999.
- M. Chomarat, J.-P. Laroche, Bibliographie Nostradamus XVIe - XVIIe - XVIIIe siècles, Baden-Baden, 1989.
- A. van Dis, Nostradamus, een profeet voor duistere tijden, Article in NRC-Handelsblad. Rotterdam, 1982.
- M. Nostradamus, Almanach pour l’an M.D.LXVI, Lyon, 1565.
- M. Nostradamus, Les prophéties, Lyon, 1568, Lyon, 2000.
- M. Nostradamus, Les vrayes centuries et prophéties, Amsterdam, 1668.
- P. V. Piobb, Le secret de Nostradamus et de ses célèbres prophéties du xvie siècle, Paris, 1927.
- J. J. Scaliger, Thesaurus Temporum, Amsterdam, 1658 (1606).
- Dr. B. N. Teensma, Levensbericht van prof. dr. mr. H. Houwens Post. Brief aan de secretaris van de Commissie van de Publicaties van de Maatschappij der Nederlandse Leterkunde, Leiden, 1987.
- A. de Tombre, Voorspellingen die uitgekomen zijn. Michael Nostradamus spreekt in 1558 over het verloop en den uitslag van dezen oorlog, Arnhem, 1942.
- J. Vandevoort, Nostradamus, de grootste ziener aller tijden, Amsterdam, 1998.
- Dr. W. L. Vreede, De profetieën van Nostradamus, Amsterdam, 1980 (1941).
1 Chomarat / Laroche, p. 121 - 123, 137 - 141. According to Vreede, there were Leiden-reprints in 1558, 1566, 1568 and 1611. Vreede does not mention the 1650-Leyden-edition. He mentions a1669-Paris-edition, a 1689-Cologne-edition and a 1698-Lyon-edition. These data correspond with Chomarat / Laroche (Vreede, p.7). Retour
2 Chomarat / Laroche, p. 155. Retour
3 The information about the contents of this edition is taken from the catalogue of the Royal Library, The Hague. Chomarat and Laroche listed this book as item #329. The source text is probably item #330 (Chomarat / Laroche, p.184). Retour
4 Biographical notes on Vreede (Houwens Post) taken from Teensma. Retour
5 Brind’Amour in Chevignard, p. 37. Retour
6 Vandevoort, p. 238. Retour
7 Chomarat / Laroche, p. 26, 30 and 38. Retour
8 Vreede, p. 19. Retour
9 Vreede, p. 12. Retour
10 Vreede, p. 11 and 14. Both books by Piobb were published in 1927 by Adyar publishers, Paris. Retour
11 In the introduction, six quatrains are printed in French. In an appendix, 29 quatrains, which caused troubles during translating, are printed in French. Retour
12 Vreede, p. 10. Retour
13 Vreede, p. 11. Retour
14 These and next quotations : Vreede, p. 147. Retour
15 These and next quotations : Nostradamus 1568, p. 166 - 167. Retour
16 Van Berkel, p. 3 - 5. Retour
17 Nostradamus 1566. Retour
18 Scaliger, section Isagogicorum chronologiae canonum libri tres, second book, section epochae temporis historici. Retour
19 R. Benazra (private correspondence) thinks Vreede used the photocopy of the 1668-Amsterdam-edition as a source text, corrected the printer’s error March 14, 1547 in March 14, 1557 and added the Letter to Cesar. Retour
20 A. van Dis in NRC Handelsblad, February 19, 1982, entitled : Nostradamus, een profeet voor duistere tijden (Nostradamus, a prophet for gloomy times). Retour
Tous droits réservés © 2003 T. W. M. van Berkel