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The Strange and Terrible Visions of Wilhelm Friess

The Strange and Terrible Visions of Wilhelm Friess: The Paths of Prophecy in Reformation Europe

Jonathan green
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 207
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    The Strange and Terrible Visions of Wilhelm Friess
    Book Description:

    Although nearly forgotten today, the prophetic writing of Wilhelm Friess was the most popular work of its kind in Germany in the second half of the sixteenth century. While the author "Wilhelm Friess" was a convenient fiction, his text had a long and remarkable history as it moved from the papal court in fourteenth-century Avignon, to Antwerp under Habsburg oppression, to Nuremberg as it was still reeling from Lutheran failures in the Schmalkaldic War, and then back to Antwerp at the outbreak of the Dutch revolt.

    Dutch scholars have recognized that Frans Fraet was executed for printing a prognostication by Willem de Vriese, but this prognostication was thought to be lost. A few scholars of sixteenth-century German apocalypticism have briefly noted the prophecies of Wilhelm Friess but have not studied them in depth.The Strange and Terrible Visions of Wilhelm Friessis the first to connect de Vriese and Friess, as well as recognize the prophecy of Wilhelm Friess as an adaptation of a French version of theVademecumof Johannes de Rupescissa, making these pamphlets by far the most widespread source for Rupescissa's apocalyptic thought in Reformation Germany. The book explains the connection between the first and second prophecies of Wilhelm Friess and discovers the Calvinist context of the second prophecy and its connection to Johann Fischart, one of the most important German writers of the time.Jonathan Green provides a study of how textual history interacts with print history in early modern pamphlets and proposes a model of how early modern prophecies were created and transmitted.The Strange and Terrible Visions of Wilhelm Friessmakes important contributions to the study of early modern German and Dutch literature, apocalypticism and confessionalization during the Reformation, and the history of printing in the sixteenth century.

    eISBN: 978-0-472-12007-9
    Subjects: History, Religion
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Preface (pp. v-viii)
  3. Table of Contents (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction (pp. 1-10)

    As I write this, several devout students of holy scripture have just seen their careful calculations for the date of the Rapture come to naught, while budget and debt projections for the next seventy-five years continue to dominate the headlines. No matter how unpredictable the future might be, we remain obsessed with what tomorrow holds. Whether full harvests or foul weather, the dawn of a golden age or the advent of the Antichrist, divining the future has been a feature of human civilization since the time of its earliest written records, when a few scratches on clay or tortoiseshell might...

  6. CHAPTER 1 A Strange Prognostication (pp. 11-22)

    The prophecies of Wilhelm Friess, the most popular German prophetic pamphlets of the later sixteenth century, were the writings of a dead man: the title pages of these booklets insist that the prophecies were found with their ostensible author after his death. Their story begins, however, not in Germany but in the Low Countries, not in Friess’s native Maastricht but in Antwerp, with Friess not yet dead, and with a printer being led to his execution.

    On 28 November 1545, Jacob van Liesvelt was beheaded on the Great Market Square in Antwerp as the sudden conclusion to a lengthy and...

  7. CHAPTER 2 A Seditious Prophecy (pp. 23-35)

    On 4 January 1558, the printer Frans Fraet was executed in Antwerp for publishing seditious books. Until quite recently, Fraet’s martyrdom was the only thing anyone knew about him as a printer, as there were no known copies of any book from his press.¹ Instead, Fraet was known as an author and poet and as the translator and editor of the first Dutch emblem book, which had been printed twice by Maria Ancxt, in 1554 and 1556, and once more by her son, Hans van Liesvelt, in 1564.² Fraet had been a member of one of Antwerp’s rhetorician’s guilds, which...

  8. CHAPTER 3 From Avignon to Antwerp and from Antwerp to Nuremberg (pp. 36-53)

    The ways in which the text attributed to Wilhelm Friess changed from edition to edition run parallel to changes in who was reading it and where it was being printed. Those who published and redacted the prophecy left their marks on the text. By piecing together the history of the text (which will be referred to in quotation marks as “Wilhelm Friess” to distinguish the text from Wilhelm Friess, its alleged author), we will be able to trace how the prophecy entered Germany and understand how a text that was suppressed with the severest penalties in Antwerp could become a...

  9. CHAPTER 4 From Protest to Propaganda (pp. 54-71)

    Establishing the relationship of one edition of “William Friess” to another is a slow and wearisome process in which slight and seemingly inconsequential variations are identified, compared, and categorized. I have reserved most of the details for the appendixes. Even for the brief summary presented here, it can be helpful to keep one eye on the schematic diagram of textual history in figure 1 (in chapter 3). The result of this effort is a view of how the text changed on a fine scale as it was transformed from political agitation, to sectarian polemic, to a commercial ware that could...

  10. CHAPTER 5 A Horrible and Shocking Prophecy (pp. 72-93)

    With a better understanding of when the L version of “Wilhelm Friess” was printed and how the text took shape, we have come full circle, returning once again to Antwerp and the Low Countries. In Dutch history, 1566 is thewonderjaar, the “year of miracles,” which saw the outbreak of open hostilities and the initial successes of the Dutch Revolt against Habsburg rule.¹ The events were so remarkable that Godevaert van Haecht, a Dutch Lutheran observer of events in Antwerp at the time, thought that a prophecy made seven years earlier that had foreseen a miraculous year was then being...

  11. CHAPTER 6 “Wilhelm Friess” in Strasbourg (pp. 94-112)

    Despair at the sight of enemies on all sides and from all nations, which is so vividly depicted in “Friess II,” had also been the experience of the embattled Calvinists of Antwerp in March 1567, whose defeat would have been made more humiliating by the stridently Lutheran prophecy of “Friess I” circulating in the Netherlands at that time. Seven years later, a rejoinder appeared in the form of the second prophecy of Wilhelm Friess. Although the earliest known editions of the second prophecy appeared in 1577 and were primarily printed in Basel, we have been able to establish Strasbourg as...

  12. CHAPTER 7 The Last Emperor and the Beginning of Prophecy (pp. 113-130)

    The previous chapters have allowed us to connect the numerous editions of “Friess I” printed in Nuremberg in 1558 with the appearance of “Friess II” in Basel beginning in 1577 by establishing a chain of textual and historical connections through Antwerp in the 1560s and Strasbourg in the 1570s. Rather than two isolated events twenty years apart that share only a name and a genre, “Friess I” led to the publication of “Friess II” through a sequence of cause and effect and a network of personal relationships. The first prognostication of Wilhelm Friess, printed by Frans Fraet in Antwerp, had...

  13. APPENDIX 1 The First Prophecy of Wilhelm Friess (pp. 133-150)
  14. APPENDIX 2 The Second Prophecy of Wilhelm Friess (pp. 151-156)
  15. APPENDIX 3 Editions Attributed to Wilhelm Friess (pp. 157-168)
  16. Notes (pp. 169-190)
  17. Bibliography (pp. 191-202)
  18. Index (pp. 203-208)