Romanian Nostradamus Stamps

Romanian Nostradamus Stamps
Nostradamus is a name that most people know, even if they don't know much about the man behind the name. Nostradamus was born Michel de Nostredame in December 1503 in Saint-Remy-Provence, France. Leaving the University of Avignon after an outbreak of the plague, he became a traveling apothecary, experimenting with herbal remedies.

In 1522, he enrolled in the University of Montpelier to study medicine, but, according to some accounts, he was expelled when it was discovered that he had worked as a tradesman and had been critical of some doctors. Marriage to a rich widow relieved him from the necessity of working for a living and he began to devote his time to the study of astrology and the occult.

He wrote "The Prophecies," a sprawling collection of predictions that would happen in the distant future; and the "Almanacs," published annually from 1550 until his death in 1566, which also contained prophecies. Popular in his lifetime, Nostradamus enjoys an even wider following today.

His prophetic works remain widely read because they were set in what was for him the far distant future and because they are specific enough to tantalize the reader, and yet just vague enough that virtually anything can be red into them.

On July 2, 2003, the 437th anniversary of his death, Romania issued a se-tenant pair of Nostradamus stamps (Scott 459). These stamps fit well in topical collections of medicine, astrology, and the occult.

The 2016 Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue values the mint se-tenant pair at $9. It is selling at around $4 at present, and is probably a good buy at this price. The supply of the stamps currently exceeds the demand for them.

In The Prophecies he compiled his collection of major, long-term predictions. The first installment was published in 1555 and contained 353 quatrains. The second, with 289 further prophetic verses, was printed in 1557. The third edition, with three hundred new quatrains, was reportedly printed in 1558, but now only survives as part of the omnibus edition that was published after his death in 1568. This version contains one unrhymed and 941 rhymed quatrains, grouped into nine sets of 100 and one of 42, called "Centuries".

Given printing practices at the time (which included type-setting from dictation), no two editions turned out to be identical, and it is relatively rare to find even two copies that are exactly the same. Certainly there is no warrant for assuming—as would-be "code-breakers" are prone to do—that either the spellings or the punctuation of any edition are Nostradamus' originals.

The Almanacs, by far the most popular of his works, were published annually from 1550 until his death. He often published two or three in a year, entitled either Almanachs (detailed predictions), Prognostications or Presages (more generalised predictions).

Nostradamus was not only a diviner, but a professional healer. It is known that he wrote at least two books on medical science. One was an extremely free translation (or rather a paraphrase) of The Protreptic of Galen (Paraphrase de C. GALIEN, sus l'Exhortation de Menodote aux estudes des bonnes Artz, mesmement Medicine), and in his so-called Traité des fardemens (basically a medical cookbook containing, once again, materials borrowed mainly from others) he included a description of the methods he used to treat the plague, including bloodletting, none of which apparently worked.] The same book also describes the preparation of cosmetics.

A manuscript normally known as the Orus Apollo also exists in the Lyon municipal library, where upwards of 2,000 original documents relating to Nostradamus are stored under the aegis of Michel Chomarat. It is a purported translation of an ancient Greek work on Egyptian hieroglyphs based on later Latin versions, all of them unfortunately ignorant of the true meanings of the ancient Egyptian script, which was not correctly deciphered until Champollion in the 19th century.

Since his death only the Prophecies have continued to be popular, but in this case they have been quite extraordinarily so. Over two hundred editions of them have appeared in that time, together with over 2,000 commentaries. Their persistence in popular culture seems to be partly because their vagueness and lack of dating make it easy to quote them selectively after every major dramatic event and retrospectively claim them as "hits.”

Nostradamus claimed to base his published predictions on judicial astrology—the astrological 'judgment', or assessment, of the 'quality' (and thus potential) of events such as births, weddings, coronations etc.—but was heavily criticised by professional astrologers of the day such as Laurens Videl[42] for incompetence and for assuming that "comparative horoscopy" (the comparison of future planetary configurations with those accompanying known past events) could actually predict what would happen in the future.

Research suggests that much of his prophetic work paraphrases collections of ancient end-of-the-world prophecies (mainly Bible-based), supplemented with references to historical events and anthologies of omen reports, and then projects those into the future in part with the aid of comparative horoscopy.

Hence the many predictions involving ancient figures such as Sulla, Gaius Marius, Nero, and others, as well as his descriptions of "battles in the clouds" and "frogs falling from the sky."] Astrology itself is mentioned only twice in Nostradamus's Preface and 41 times in the Centuries themselves, but more frequently in his dedicatory Letter to King Henry II. In the last quatrain of his sixth century he specifically attacks astrologers.

His historical sources include easily identifiable passages from Livy, Suetonius, Plutarch and other classical historians, as well as from medieval chroniclers such as Geoffrey of Villehardouin and Jean Froissart. Many of his astrological references are taken almost word for word from Richard Roussat's Livre de l'estat et mutations des temps of 1549–50.

One of his major prophetic sources was evidently the Mirabilis Liber of 1522, which contained a range of prophecies by Pseudo-Methodius, the Tiburtine Sibyl, Joachim of Fiore, Savonarola and others (his Preface contains 24 biblical quotations, all but two in the order used by Savonarola). This book had enjoyed considerable success in the 1520s, when it went through half a dozen editions, but did not sustain its influence, perhaps owing to its mostly Latin text, Gothic script and many difficult abbreviations.

Nostradamus was one of the first to re-paraphrase these prophecies in French, which may explain why they are credited to him. It should be noted that modern views of plagiarism did not apply in the 16th century; authors frequently copied and paraphrased passages without acknowledgement, especially from the classics. The latest research suggests that he may in fact have used bibliomancy for this—randomly selecting a book of history or prophecy and taking his cue from whatever page it happened to fall open at.

Further material was gleaned from the De honesta disciplina of 1504 by Petrus Crinitus, which included extracts from Michael Psellos's De daemonibus, and the De Mysteriis Aegyptiorum (Concerning the mysteries of Egypt...), a book on Chaldean and Assyrian magic by Iamblichus, a 4th-century Neo-Platonist. Latin versions of both had recently been published in Lyon, and extracts from both are paraphrased (in the second case almost literally) in his first two verses, the first of which is appended to this article. While it is true that Nostradamus claimed in 1555 to have burned all of the occult works in his library, no one can say exactly what books were destroyed in this fire.

Only in the 17th century did people start to notice his reliance on earlier, mainly classical sources. This may help explain the fact that, during the same period, The Prophecies reportedly came into use in France as a classroom reader.

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