Saturday, December 1, 2018

Bookplate and newspaper clipping inside a Nostradamus book

This beautiful bookplate, measuring three inches across, appears on the inside front cover of a Modern Library edition (#81) of Oracles of Nostradamus, by Charles A. Ward. This book was first published in the early 1940s. This appears to be a later edition. The dust jacket references Modern Library volumes costing $1.25 as of April 15, 1947.

Crist is a common name in southcentral Pennsylvania, so, while I found some possibilities, I would need more information to fully determine which Ruth Crist owned this book. I can tell you, though, that the illustration on the bookplate is a wood engraving by American artist Lynd Ward (1905-1985).

The cover text pitches the book about "prophet" Michel de Nostredame (1503-1566) as follows:
"Nostradamus, Europe's greatest prophet, foresaw three centuries ago events which history has confirmed with uncannny frequency. His 'prophetic centuries' forecast the fall of Paris, war in the air, the invasion of Britain. Read the fateful happenings predicted tomorrow for Europe and America by the sixteenth-century soothsayer whom Hitler relies upon today."
The endless interpretations of Nostradamus and his quatrains are, of course, ridiculous. But it's not hard to see why his prophecies have fascinated folks, especially in the 20th century, when it seemed as if The End of the World was around every corner. I first encountered him via the 1981 "documentary" The Man Who Saw Tomorrow, featuring Orson Welles. I remember watching it a few times on either HBO or Spotlight, when we were living on Willow Street in Montoursville. As an 11- or 12-year-old, I was fascinated by the supernatural-seeming angle and the fiery, horrifying visions of the future offered by the film, which preyed on both Cold War fears of nuclear annihilation and racist anti-Arab sentiment. It cast "The Middle East" as some strange land from which a devilish villain would start the gears of World War III into motion in the 1990s.

Another piece of Nostradamus ephemera is tucked away inside this book. It's an undated (but must be from the 1960s or later) newspaper clipping with the headline "Predictions by Nostradamus Have Been Coming True for 400 Years."

In the article, Paul Bannister — possibly this Paul Bannister — states that Nostradamus might have predicted an invasion from outer space and quotes author Stewart Robb: "It could be that 'the king of terror' will come from the planet Mars. I think the prediction also means that victory will be on the side of the right."

Of course, that's a different Orson Welles production: The War of the Worlds.

On the flip side of the Nostradamus clipping is an advertisement for a watch made from the John F. Kennedy half dollar, which was first minted in 1964.

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