Feature of the month: seventeenth-century prophecies. In 2016 Senate House Library is commemorating the quartercentenary of the death of William Shakespeare. This year’s Features of the Month celebrate books published in the same year as Shakespeare’s first four folios: 1623, 1632, 1664 and 1685. This is the second of three books featured from 1664.
The Prophecies of Christopher Kotterus, Christiana Poniatovia, Nicholas Drabicius …
Johann Amos Comenius
London: R. Pawlet, 1664
[H.P.L.] Kotter (RBC)
The Prophecies of Christopher Kotterus, Christiana Poniatovia, Nicholas Drabicius This small book from 1664 is the translation of a Latin work, Lux in tenebris, published as an illustrated quarto in Amsterdam in 1657. It collates the work of three prophets who portrayed the approaching ruin of the House of Austria and the speedy downfall of the Pope. Two of the three suffered thereby. Christoph Kotter (d. 1647) began a series of visions in 1616, with his prophecies assuming an increasingly concrete character from the beginning of the Thirty Years’ War. Taking imagery from the book of Revelation, he predicted victory for the Protestant lion over the Catholic Habsburg eagle, was consequently imprisoned and then exiled, and died in hunger and poverty. The Polish writer and prophetess Krystyna Poniatowska (1610-1644) started prophesying in 1627 and used plant imagery to demonstrate that a power would come from midnight (the north) to conquer and destroy the mid-day, or southern, Roman Emperor and Pope. Mikuláš Drabik (1588-1671), a priest in the Bohemian Brotherhood who from the 1630s onwards prophesied the defeat of the Habsburg Empire and the Popes, the liberation of Bohemia and Moravia and the return of the exiles, was executed brutally for his prophecies and his corpse was burned publicly.
It is through this book’s compiler, Johann Amos Comenius (1592-1670), that the prophets are immortalised. Comenius was a Moravian philosopher, pedagogue and theologian. He is best represented at Senate House Library through his extremely popular educational works aiming to teach Latin to children, Janua Linguarum Reserata (“The Door of Languages Unlocked”; a textbook transposing Latin sentences about all sorts of subjects next to their vernacular equivalents) and Orbis Sensualium Pictus, a bilingual picture dictionary. The Prophecies was a more controversial volume, which upon its first appearance attracted fierce opposition from Calvinist theologians, who regarded Comenius as a dangerous heretical thinker connected with chiliasts. However, the prophecies remained unfulfilled, such that, as Pierre Bayle recorded in his dictionary, the work was forgotten after a few years. In 1683 the Turks besieged Vienna. This validated the book’s prediction of a Turkish invasion of the German empire and ensuing events, such that it was prodigiously sought after, with copies being taken out of garrets and sold at a high prices.
The English version was translated by Robert Codrington (1602/2-1665?), whose career as a translator spanned thirty years and covered the translation of literature, sermons and history from French, Latin and Spanish. It went through two editions, both in 1664. Both are scarce, with only seven copies of the first edition (one a variant issue) recorded on ESTC (the Senate House Library copy constitutes the eighth), and two copies of the second. Our copy is one of over 150 books, printed from 1553 onwards, comprising or discussing prophecies and held in the Harry Price Library of Magical Literature.
Since the late 1630s Drabik had visions . He prophesied the decline of the Habsburgs and the papal power, the liberation of Bohemia and Moravia and the return of exiles. Many believed his clairvoyant powers, this included Comenius (Comenius) as well as visions of Christoph Kotter and Christine Poniatovska in his bookLux in tenebris published. Drabík finally paid his respects to the Habsburgs and the Pope. As an eighty-year-old old man, he was brutally executed on the town hall of Pressburg and his corpse was burnt publicly at the gates on the banks of the Danube. The historian Jan Evangelista Kosina wrote about Drabík: "He was a ruthless man, an avaricious collector of the character of a ruthless, fickle, and vindictive drinker." His contemporaries, as well as his countrymen from the brotherhood, characterized him similarly.
The internet has much more to offer on Drabicius, and with translations. Although, some do not translate perfectly to English. I had posted one here, but have since deleted it to make the reading presented a bit less complexed.
My final note as a possible descendant of Nicholas Drabicius (aka Drabik, which was also the spelling of my ancestors early on in many records) : No doubt Kosina (who came much later in the 1800's) must have been a fan of the Pope; and all others feared in 1671 to speak any kinds words for Drabicius as he was set to be executed. They did not want to be literally burned as he was as yet another barbaric act by Christians. He was another person in history who was murdered in the act of religious persecution. What a shame they were so blood-thirsty and fearful to murder such an old man so viciously.
I want to release to Drabicius a birthday wish, in this now 428 year anniversary of his birth on December 5, 1588. Rest in Peace, my Drabicius. I remain a Drabician in your honor in regards to all who still seek freedom from religious persecution. The struggle and prejudices still exist.