Portrait de Nostradamus
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Forgery and fallacy in Nostradamus :
A reply to Jacques Halbronn

by Elmar R. Gruber

    I will respond only very briefly to some of the arguments raised by Halbronn1 in his reply to some papers published in issue 26 of CURA, as I do not see much value in a prolonged discussion of this type. Halbronn denies that he has ever claimed to have conceded, as I have written2, that there might at least have existed unknown editions of the Prophéties from the years 1555, 1557, and 1560, even though the ones we know are in his opinion antedated ones. He affirms : “…nous n’acceptons pas que des éditions des Centuries aient pu exister du vivant de MDN.” But in fact in one of his articles he states precisely what I have just cited.3

   He furthermore makes assertions designed to make my position seem ridiculous, such as that “Gruber a évidemment besoin de se convaincre et de nous convaincre que tout ce qui n’est pas Centurie, même s’il s’agit d’un faux, est forcément correctement daté”. This in no way reflects what I wrote, but perhaps Halbronn has a problem in following my arguments because of the language. I did not say that “everything that is not Centurie” is certainly correctly dated. I only tried to show that those publications meant for a certain year - i.e. the almanacs and prognostications, whether fake or not - were not antedated. This certainly does not cover all the literature available. What he describes as my attempt at “sanctuarisation de plusieurs faux nostradamiques non centuriques” is in fact his own attempt to refute any kind of evidence which points to the fact that a certain number of Centuries were well known and published during Nostradamus’s lifetime.

   Halbronn is astonished that “Gruber ne lâche rien, il n’admet pas la moindre contrefaçon ayant eu pour but de renforcer le crédit des Centuries.” In fact I admit of many fake and counterfeit editions and even describe them as certainly counterfeit, but the difference is, in my opinion, that the fake almanacs and prognostications were not produced at a later time to “reinforce the belief in the Centuries”, but rather to cash in on a booming market by using the name of Nostradamus.

   Of course the evidence of Jean de Marconville (or Marcouville) concerning the date of publication of the fake Barbe Regnault almanac for 1563 is a serious challenge to Halbronn’s arguments, and hence he tries to show that the publication date and place of Marconville’s work is unknown and therefore useless for such an argument by claiming : “E. Gruber veut nous prouver que le faux almanach pour 1563 est bien paru à cette date et il corrige pour ce faire l’étude de R. Benazra (RCN, p, 62) consacrée à Jean de Marconville, auteur d’un Recueil mémorable des cas merveilleux advenuz de nos ans etc, ouvrage non daté et sans mention de lieu et a fortiori de libraire.”

   As a matter of fact Benazra’s study does need an amendment. He quite evidently took his bibliographical information from the copy in the Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon, which is the only one he cites (RCN, p. 62). But there is also a copy of Marconville’s book in the BN (G. 31834) and contrary to Halbronn’s assertion, this copy is dated and it does carry the place and printer : “A Paris, Pour Iean Dallier libraire, demourant sur le pont Sainct Michel, à l’enseigne de la Rose blanche, 1564.” This consequently means that Marconville wrote his piece in 1563 and had read the passage he quotes (“Aussi ilz ont escrit & pronostiqué, que c’est an present 1563…”) in the same year as the Barbe Regnault almanac, which consequently has to have been published by then, and not in some subsequent year, as Halbronn would like to have it. Nice try, Dr Halbronn !

   Halbronn furthermore rejects this same piece of evidence on the basis of Marconville’s statement “Nostradamus en la prédiction de May ne renvoie nullement à un almanach.” A strange line of reasoning indeed ! The publication from which Marconville quotes is an almanac, entitled Almanach pour l’an 1563, and in this almanac we also find “predictions” for every month. Even if Halbronn keeps insisting that a “prédiction” does not pertain to an almanac, the section concerning May cited by Marconville in this very Almanach pour l’an 1563 carries the title “Prediction de May”, just as Marconville says. Why, in that case, could he not have had exactly this issue in hands, if no doubt it did (and still does) exist ? On the other hand there is no evidence for a phantom “Prognostication nouvelle for 1563” by Barbe Regnault, which Halbronn is inventing to bolster his own arguments. His only piece of evidence for its supposed existence is the Italian Pronostico et Lunario from the Biblioteca Marciana. I am aware of this Italian publication as I have myself a reproduction of the other known copy from the Biblioteca Augusta di Perugia in my own collection. Halbronn deduces from the fact that the Italian version does not carry the dedicatory letter to François de Guise found in the Regnault almanac, that this translation was made from his hypothetical “Prognostication nouvelle for 1563” by Barbe Regnault, which supposedly did not carry the dedicatory letter or the almanac section with the quatrains. He also states that generally the Italian translations of Nostradamus’s works carry the French dedicatory letters - which is true, but does not mean that all of them necessarily follow this rule. The Italian Pronostico et Lunario indeed not only lacks the dedicatory letter and the almanac with the quatrains, it also lacks the “foires de France” at the end of the Barbe Regnault almanac. The Italian Pronostico et Lunario is a very short booklet of only seven folios. Maybe the publisher, intent on a cheap, rushed production, simply omitted any material which seemed less relevant to him and just stuck to the prognostications. At least this is certainly, in terms of Ockham’s razor, a more probable scenario than the hypothetical production of an unknown phantom publication as an alleged source for the translation.

   Halbronn makes a very true and interesting observation that we need ”la nécessité de disposer d’un maximum de documents et de ne tirer aucune conclusion qui dépasse le champ des documents ainsi utilisés.” Unfortunately he is contradicting his own methodological premise by invoking time and again phantom publications of which we have neither a trace nor any allusion in the literature. These are certainly not “documents at our disposal”, but rather documents whose existence is supposed only by Halbronn. This amounts precisely to “dépasser le champ des documents ainsi utilisés” ! In support of this argument he invokes a phantom, stand-alone publication of the Letter to César in around 1555, a phantom publication of the first edition of the Centuries in around 1568 which Crespin had allegedly made use of, a first phantom publication of the complete set of Centuries in around 1584, and yet further references to phantom almanacs. As Peter Lemusurier puts it : “Of more concern, however, is the fact that Halbronn’s approach seems to me to be based, for all its apparent academic rigour, on what amounts to little more than speculation…”4

   There is another strange argument of Halbronn’s. It is hard to conceive how Halbronn can deduce from the fact that we know of an authentic almanac of Nostradamus for 1565 that a fake could not have been published in the same year. Why on earth not? Nostradamus is known to have been furious about the fact that fake almanacs were circulating under his name, and Hans Rosenberger asked him as early as December 1561 specifically to send him his latest almanac in order to avoid buying a fake one put out in his name. He did so because he knew that many fakes were circulating bearing his name, which means that the fakes were circulating at the same time as the originals.5

   Halbronn counters that for his “adversaires” “il est évident qu’il n’y aura pas de public pour acheter vingt ans après un almanach pour 1563, mais cela vaudrait aussi pour une édition Macé Bonhomme, datée sur sa couverture de 1555”. Not at all. These are very different texts, serving very distinct purposes. The Prophéties are not a piece of work designed to be obsolete after a specific year, as the almanacs are !

   Works were antedated, if at all, in order to try to convince readers of the truth of the prophecies they contained. The prophetic tradition knows of two basic approaches in order to achieve this goal. One is to reprint a given text with minute or significant corrections that would seem to corroborate the occurrence of the predicted events; the other is to represent some politically desired developments as having been foretold in order to influence public opinion. We know of many examples of this type of continuous work on the texts of the prophetic tradition, such as the cases of the Vaticinia de summis pontificibus, the Prognosticon de eversione Europae, the Apocalypsis Nova and the Mirabilis Liber, to point out only a few of the better known examples. The point of antedating can only be to reach one of these goals. But in the supposedly antedated almanacs and prognostications we do not find convincing elements of this type of interference with the text. We find in them neither the late introduction of “prophecies” of events that have occurred in the meantime (designed to promote the supposed prophetic faculties of its supposed author) nor politically motivated insertions or amendments that would render them useful for propaganda means.

   Halbronn states that in the realm of prophecy “il s’agit de montrer que MDN avait bien prévu, longtemps à l’avance ceci ou cela. Nos adversaires n’ont pas compris que l’essence même de la littérature prophétique était l’antidatage”. I agree, as I have said above, that “creative” amendments in prophetic texts are the very basis of the prophetic tradition, which I have described in my book on Nostradamus.6 But this does not mean that original texts do not exist at all. The prophetic tradition is a historic process, but at some point there were original texts by different authors, which, because of the reputation the authors had gained in the meantime, were copied, amended, plagiarized, corrected, etc. The same is true for Nostradamus, and although Halbronn seems to encounter only later publications altered by the hands of counterfeiters, at least where the Centuries are concerned, I think it is still more probable that a number of original versions of the Centuries, written by Nostradamus, do exist. Do the supposedly antedated works really show that Nostradamus had predicted this or that event long ago ? If we could pinpoint such instances, the fake would easily be discovered, as in the case of the amendments of the Centuries against Mazarin during the time of the Fronde. But neither in the supposedly antedated Prophéties, nor in the allegedly antedated almanacs and prognostications we do find convincing cases where it is obvious “que MDN avait bien prévu, longtemps à l’avance ceci ou cela”. Why would fakers make such a bad job with Nostradamus, when they did so well with other prophecies ?

   This is an important point. Although Halbronn counts myself among his “adversaires”, I am only trying, as he is, to solve some of the riddles surrounding the dates of publication of the Prophéties. I am by no means interested in producing an apology for Nostradamus as a prophet : I am concerned only to clarify the textual production of Nostradamus and his forgers.

   I am glad Halbronn makes clear that when he is speaking of Chavigny’s Recueil de Présages prosaïques “nous ne faisons pas allusion aux notes marginales ajoutées par la suite mais au corps de l’ouvrage”. What Halbronn has written previously, however, is that the Recueil “ne fait aucune référence aux centuries” - and the Recueil as an integral manuscript of course consists of the main body of text and the marginal notes. I am not to blame for criticizing him on this point if he does not make this distinction clear in the first place.

   Of particular interest, though, is his assertion that the marginal notes have been “ajoutées par la suite”. It would be certainly hard to prove the fact that the main body of the manuscript was definitely written at an earlier time than the marginal notes, especially given that in most instances the marginal notes are mere short summaries of the prediction in question.

   Halbronn sees in the papers published in issue 26 of CURA that do not agree with his hypotheses “les dernières cartouches d’une approche angélique qui refuse toute idée de manipulation, de contrefaçon du canon nostradamique, à part peut-être les sixains qui ne sont plus en odeur de sainteté.” This denouncement, in its use of religious terminology to make those authors who do not comply with his views appear as belonging to some sect and not to the world of scientific endeavor, only shows how desperate he is to find followers for his own belief system. Moreover it is utterly wrong, since I describe many fakes and counterfeit editions in my book and in my paper for CURA - which is not at all a refusal of “toute idée de manipulation, de contrefaçon du canon nostradamique”. I disagree about some alleged fakes, and on others I disagree on the dates on which the fakes were published.

   Halbronn also insists that one should read all of his works, especially his magnum opus, before setting out to evaluate his ideas. On the contrary, each single publication has to be able to stand up to criticism, and he can certainly not reasonably demand that his readers study all of his papers and books, since his production is so prolific that one can barely keep up with it. Granted, I do regard his opinions as important, but not so significant as to justify such an overwhelming task.

Elmar R. Gruber


1 Jacques Halbronn, Réponse aux observations parues dans le n° 26 du CURA. Analyse 40 consacré à Nostradamus Retour

2 Elmar R. Gruber : Reconsidering the “Nostradamus Plot”. Retour

3 Jacques Halbronn, “Les Prophéties et la Ligue” in Prophètes et prophéties. Cahiers V. L. Saulnier 15. Paris, 1998, p. 132. Retour

4 Peter Lemesurier, Dating the Editions of the “Prophéties” : A Chronolinguistic Approach. CURA 26. Retour

5 Jean Dupèbe, Nostradamus, lettres inédites. Genève, 1983. XXXIV, pp. 112f. Retour

6 Elmar R. Gruber, Nostradamus - Sein Leben, sein Werk und die wahre Bedeutung seiner Prophezeiungen, Bern, 2003, pp. 89 - 122. Retour


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