A pilfered copy of the Nostradamus manuscript written by Renaissance-era French physician, astrologer and psychic Michel de Nostredame, has been recovered and returned to the library from which it was stolen 15 years ago.
It was back in 2007 that librarians at the Barnabiti Historical Research Center Library in Rome first noticed that their Latin-language copy of Les Prophéties (The Prophecies) , which contains over 900 of Nostradamus’s allegedly highly accurate predictions, could no longer be found anywhere in their collection, the Guardian correspondent in Rome reports .
Library staff had no expectation that their version of the controversial Nostradamus manuscript, which was published around the turn of the 18th century (or 150 years after the original French version was published in 1555), would ever be recovered. That’s why they were delighted when informed by Italian authorities that the lost manuscript had been found in Germany, where it had been put up for auction in 2021 by an auction house that had no idea it was about to sell an illicitly obtained item.
While monitoring the legal antiquities auction market, where stolen artifacts sometimes appear, a representative of Italian military’s Cultural Heritage Conservation Command (Carabinieri) saw a picture of the book on the auction house’s website. He immediately noticed a stamp on the book’s cover which identified it as having belonged to a library in Italy as recently as 1991. The Carabinieri launched a full-scale investigation soon after, and eventually identified the manuscript as the copy of Nostradamus’s legendary work that had been taken from the Roman research library sometime in the mid-2000s.
After being contacted by the Italian police, the auction house in Germany halted the sale of the book immediately. Incredibly, it seems that before arriving in Germany, the book was actually purchased from a flea market in Paris. Exactly how it ended up there is unknown, but after being taken back to Germany it was eventually sold at yet another flea market in the city of Karlsruhe. From there it was picked up by an art dealer who recognized the book’s true value, and this individual arranged to have it listed on the website of an auction house in Pforzheim, Baden-Württemberg, at an opening bid price of 12,000 euros (12,630 dollars).
If the sale had gone through the book would have likely sold for a much more, given Nostradamus’s fame and reputation. But instead of being auctioned off to a private collector the manuscript has now been returned to its rightful home at the Barnabiti Historical Research Center Library, where it will presumably be safeguarded much more diligently than it was in the past.
A portrait (painted by his son César) of Renaissance-era French physician, astrologer and psychic Michel de Nostredame (Nostradamus), who wrote his famous manuscript that prophesized many dark future events. (César de Notre-Dame / Public domain )
Introducing Nostradamus, a Man Ahead of His Time
Michel de Nostredame was born in the Provence region of southeast France in 1503. He became a successful physician in his adult life, but he also gained renown as an astrologer and a psychic who could accurately predict future world events. He didn’t publish his book of predictions until 1555, but his alleged precognitive abilities and skills as an astrologer were already widely known about by this time. Nostradamus gained many followers and even some wealthy patrons during his lifetime, with the latter category including Catherine de Medici , the Queen of France.
Nostradamus’s dual interest in medical science and the occult may seem unusual from the modern perspective. But in Nostradamus’s, time astrology and alchemy were considered legitimate practices and were not automatically dismissed as superstition or pseudo-science, as is the custom among most scientists today.
During the Renaissance and the Enlightenment it was common for academics and acclaimed thinkers to combine scientific explorations with occult experimentation. This is perhaps most famously reflected in the career of Sir Isaac Newton , the discoverer of gravity, who in the 17th and 18th centuries actually wrote more about alchemy than he did about mathematics and physics.
What made Nostradamus unique in his time was his claim that he could actually see into the future, and accurately predict what was going to happen in his own time and far beyond.
While he had supporters in the 16th century, and still has many in the present day, his assertion is hard to prove or disprove by simply looking at his work in “The Prophecies.” The problem is that Nostradamus’s predictions are notoriously obscure and difficult to comprehend, which leaves them open to a broad range of interpretations.
Oddly, each prediction was delivered in a four-lined rhyming verse known as a quatrain. Complicating things further, they may have been written intentionally in coded language that would require some work to decipher – in part because Nostradamus may have been worried about the Holy Inquisition and the possibility he could be accused of heresy or practicing witchcraft if he made his writings too easy to comprehend (this is a theory offered by some scholars). Furthermore, Nostradamus never specified exactly when he expected his predicted events to occur, and while his analogies and metaphors often evoked vivid imagery, they were always vague and ambiguous enough to make firm interpretation elusive.
However, if Nostradamus really was clairvoyant, and was able to see events from the future in his mind’s eye, his visions may have been extremely difficult for him to understand at times, since he was looking at a world far more technologically advanced than his own. His obscure use of language could have been an outgrowth of his own internal confusion at what he was seeing, rather than a sign of trickery or of a need to write in code to avoid persecution.
The problem with prophecies like those found in the Nostradamus manuscript is that everyone can be an expert, depending on how they “interpret” the text, much like astrology. ( Rustic Witch / Adobe Stock)
How to Become an Expert on Nostradamus
Ultimately, it is up to each person who chooses to read Nostradamus’s great work (in French, Latin, English, or any other language in which it has been published) to decide for themselves if he was truly a gifted clairvoyant who knew what would happen in the future.
Many who’ve studied his writings in detail, and written their own books and articles about him, say he was. They are convinced he correctly predicted the onset of the French Revolution , the rise of Napoleon and Hitler , and even the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York City in September, 2001, among many other historically significant events. Skeptics of course dispute this, falling back on the assertion that his writings are so vague they can be interpreted in a thousand different ways.
Fortunately, no one has to travel to Rome to visit the Barnabiti Historical Research Center Library to read “The Prophecies” in Latin to make up their minds. Nostradamus’s quatrains have now been published in dozens of books and on hundreds of websites and in every language, meaning it has never been easier for the curious to check out Nostradamus and his enigmatic writings for themselves.
Top image: This Italian copy of the Nostradamus manuscript was stolen in the mid-2000s from a library in Rome, but a member of the Italian military’s Cultural Heritage Conservation Command (Carabinieri) spotted it online in a German auction and “saved” it. Source: Carabinieri
By Nathan Falde