Observation & Prognostication - The Comet of 1664

COMETS. Richter, Johann (i.e. Praetorius, Johann) (1630-1680)

Meridionalis Nuncius, Das ist Ein Wunderseltzamer Südischer Crinit= oder Comet= Stern / Welchen der Allmächtige und Getreue Gott im Reste des 1664. Jahrs nach Christi Geburt / vom Außgange Novembris biß in den Decembrem weit hinein / an Himmel gegen Mittage / nach Mitternacht in denen Morgen-Stunden / der untern Welt zur Warnung und Erleuchtung / angebrandt und hernieder gehänget hat: wie solcher von etlichen Jahren … vom Herrn D. Tackio und Barth. Schimpfero &c zuvor verkündiget / und prognosticiret worden: nebst einem astrologischen und cabbalistischen judicio so wohl jenes südischen / als des allerneuesten Nordischen Cometens illustriret / Von Johanne Richtern / Astrophilo.

Leipzig: bey Christian Kirchner, 1664 or 1665


Quarto: (195 x 160 mm) [32] p. (last page blank). Collation: A-D4.


With an engraving on the title showing the comet's path through the constellations. Marbled paper guard. Title with tiny hole (paper flaw), no loss. Imprint slightly shaved at foot. Rare.

First edition of this work on the comet of 1664 with a detailed description of the path of the comet. The author is Johannes Praetorius (i.e., Hans Schultze 1630-1680), here writing under the pseudonym of Johannes Richter “astrophilus"(star-lover). The latest date mentioned in the text is 18 December 1664 so it is lkely that the book was printed in 1665.

The comet of November – December 1664 (C/1664 W1) was a phenomenon of enormous scientific and popular interest, generating numerous accounts of the comet's path, size, and appearance. Among the astronomers who observed the comet were Huygens, Newton, Cassini, Hevelius, Lubieniecki, Fabri, and Hooke.

The comet was also caused great consternation and led to the production of numerous cabbalistic and astrological prognostications. Praetorius' work combines elements of all of these genres, with chapters on the comet's size, appearance, color, path, and altitude, as well as speculation about its origins and age. Before giving his own "astrological and Cabbalistic" prognostication, Richter gives a historical review of previous comets and the events that accompanied their appearance.

Praetorius “had an open eye and a sharp ear for all wonder stories, witch tales, and accounts of ghosts and sorcery current among the people. He indefatigably collected all information on remarkable subjects and happenings, and was fond of popular gossip.”(Faber du Faur, German Baroque Literature, pp. 199-200).

Literature: See Faber du Faur, German Baroque Literature, pp. 199-200) andDünnhaupt, Neue Kometen - böse Propheten, in Philobiblon 18 (1974), 112 – 118)

Dünnhaupt 18; Kat. Wolfenbüttel A 3163 (Pseudonym left unresolved); VD17 3:011703A (likewise without resolving the psudonym); Bircher A1148; Brüning 1092 (under Praetorius); Rosenthal 3623; Houzeau-L. 5737; Gundel, Naive 95