Pourtraict Of the New Wonderful Blazing Star, Which appeared 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.

Broadside, with engraved vignette at head and letterpress text in two columns below (40mm marginal tear just into text affecting one letter, with old paper repair on verso, light scattered spotting, sometime folded); housed in a modern quarter moroco box.

1514 x 1014in. (39 x 26cm.)
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Lot Essay

Very rare: not in the British Library, ESTC records copies at Oxford and Harvard only. The comet caused much excitement 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 astonished whole Europe'.

Roger L'Estrange (1616-1704) whose 'license' appears above the imprint was, an author, pamphleteer, 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.
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