“A kindled Torch of God’s Wrath’ ”
By J.M., 1664
Pourtraict Of the New Wonderful Blazing Star Which appear’d to the Inner Austrian Countries, and the adjacent Parts of Croatia, standing over Rackelsburg and Czackenthurn, seen betwixt two and three of the Clock several mornings, from 12th of January 1664. to the terror of the Beholders.
- Author: J.M.
- Publication place: London
- Publisher: Printed by J.M. and are to be sold by E. Brewster at the Crane in St. Paul’s Church-yard
- Publication date: 1664.
- Physical description: Engraved broadside, with letterpress text below.
- Dimensions: 390 by 260mm (15.25 by 10.25 inches).
- Inventory reference: 1322
The comet caused much exciting at the time with its path being mentioned by Samuel Pepys in his diary, who noted that the Charles II had been keen to see it. Another royal to take an interest was Queen Christiana of Sweden who viewed it whilst in exile in Rome. The event was also mentioned by Samuel Danforth in his ‘An Astronomical Description of the Late Comet or Blazing Star’, one of the first works on astronomy printed in America.
The pamphlet draws the reader;s attention to the comet as a fearsome potent of death and destruction, and Day of Judgment; alluding to the comet as ‘a kindled torch of God’s Wrath: It is feared that heavy Wars and Calamities will ensue thereupon’. The text goes on to examples of comets in 1618 and 1652 that led to a great deal of death and destruction. Also commented upon and graphically shown in the engraving was the shape of the comet head, which was said to be in the form of two crescent moons, the symbols of the Ottoman Turks, ‘who with their warlike Preparations astonisheth whole Europe’.
Roger L’Estrange (1616–1704) whose ‘license’ appears above the imprint was, an author, pamphetire, staunch Royalist, opponent of religious toleration — which was something of a badge of honour in seventeenth century Europe — and an enthusiastic suppressor of free speech in his role as Surveyor of the Imprimey and Licenser of the Press from 1663 until 1679. The present pamphlet with its portentous religious tone and no mention of the overthrowing of monarchy evidently met with his approval.