No. 650
Crime, Eccentricity, and the Sporting Life in 19th Century America.
April 18, 2024

Napoleon's Oraculum.

June 19, 2012
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Tag: Lynching

He May Be Lynched.

Miss Lily Dunkley, a Miles City, Mont., girl, refuses to marry Charles Snyder and he tries to kill her.

3/30/2015

He May Be Lynched.

Miss Lily Dunkley, a Miles City, Mont., girl, refuses to marry Charles Snyder and he tries to kill her.

3/10/2015
Via Newspapers.comAs I believe I’ve mentioned before, I have a particular fondness for obscure, unimportant, but intriguing little mysteries.  One such example appeared in the “London Morning Chronicle,” April 21, 1809:Nevis, Feb. 7, 1809.“Dear Sir,"I beg leave to mention the following circumstances, and leave to your better judgment the propriety of making the same public.-- "About a
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Strange Company - 4/17/2024
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Lizzie Borden: Warps and Wefts - 2/12/2024
How many ways are there to style a subway entrance sign? In New York City, dozens of designs and typefaces are used across the subway system—often with no rhyme or reason. Take this gold and white sign on William Street. It’s for a side entrance/exit for the Fulton Street station, affixed to a 20th century […]
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Ephemeral New York - 4/15/2024
An article I recently wrote for the British online magazine, New Politic, is now available online. The article, “The Criminal Origins of the United States of America,” is about British convict transportation to America, which took place between the years 1718 and 1775, and is the subject of my book, Bound with an Iron Chain: […]
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Early American Crime - 12/17/2021
 Samuel Smith and his wife Emma appeared to the world as a happy and affectionate young couple. She was pretty and vivacious with a dazzling wardrobe, and he was energetic with a winning personality. But beneath the surface was a hidden turmoil that did not come to light until Emma was found dead in their apartment, her head blown apart by a shotgun blast, and Samuel nowhere to be found.Read
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Murder By Gaslight - 4/13/2024
CHIEF OF CONSThe Morning Times(Cripple Creek, Colorado)February 15, 1896Courtesy of Mitch Morrissey ig Ed Burns robs a dying man?      Mitch Morrissey, a Facebook friend and historian for the Denver District Attorney’s Office, found and published an interesting newspaper piece on "Big Ed" Burns, one of the most notorious characters in the West. Burns was a confidence man and
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Soapy Smith's Soap Box - 4/2/2024
Youth With Executioner by Nuremberg native Albrecht Dürer … although it’s dated to 1493, which was during a period of several years when Dürer worked abroad. November 13 [1617]. Burnt alive here a miller of Manberna, who however was lately … Continue reading
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Executed Today - 11/13/2020
Torturing a Lover. | Street Arabs and Gutter-Snipes.

Napoleon's Oraculum.

Napoleons Oraculum

Somewhere between the I Ching and the Magic 8 Ball lies Napoleon’s Oraculum, one of many fortune telling books popular in nineteenth century America. 

Napoleon’s  Oraculum or Book of Fate, was allegedly discovered by one of Napoleon’s men in an Egyptian tomb during a military expedition in 1801. At Napoleon’s request it was translated by “a famous German scholar and antiquarian.” The Oraculum became one of the emperor’s most prized possessions and he consulted the book “before every important occasion.” It was found among Napoleon’s personal treasures after the defeat of his army at Leipzig in 1813. As it states in the 1839 edition of the Oraculum, “Happy had it been for him, had he abided or been ruled by the answers of this Oracle.”

This story is highly unlikely for a number of reasons. The Rosetta Stone, which translates Egyptian hieroglyphs into Greek, was not fully deciphered until the 1820s. It would have been impossible for Napoleon’s “German scholar” to translate the Oraculum with the detail necessary for consultation. But more to the point, it is hard to imagine how a conquering emperor would use this book. The questioner is limited to a fixed list of thirty-two questions, most of which have nothing to do with military success. The answers tend to be little bits of conventional wisdom, more reminiscent of Poor Richard than of King Tut.

The true origin of the Oraculum is unclear. Reportedly there were English translations in the 1820s but the most widely sold version was Boney’s Oraculum, or Napoleon’s Book of Fate, published in Ireland by James Duffy and Sons in 1830. The Oraculum was published in America in the 1830s and the book remained popular, with numerous editions, throughout the century. There were several twentieth century editions but the book is out of print today. Public Domain Review has two editions, one from 1839 and one from 1923.

How to use Napoleon’s Oraculum for Divination

To foretell the future, the diviner first selects a question from the printed list. Then the diviner draws five rows of lines, “taking care that each row shall contain more than twelve lines or marks; but by no means to do so studiously, or count the marks till the five rows are completed.” The lines are counted, and for each row if the number is even the user draws two stars, if odd one star:

lines

Using the arrangement of stars and the question number, the diviner looks up a symbol ( a letter, punctuation mark, or faux hieroglyph) from the “Key.” Then using the stars and the symbol, he or she looks up the answer to the question.

Try it Yourself!

The National Night Stick has developed a simple, online version called Napoleon’s Oraculum Interactif. Now you too can consult the Oraculum before major battles, just as Napoleon did!


Sources:

Public Domain Review:

  • Napaleon’s Oraculum and Dreambook; 1839; S.N., New York.
     
    The Book of Fate, formerly in the possession of and used by Napoleon rendered into the English language by
  • H. Kirchenhoffer, from a German translation of an ancient Egyptian manuscript found in the year 1801 by M. Sonnini in one of the royal tombs near Mount Libycus in Upper Egypt; 1923; H.S. Nichols, New York.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Duffy_(Irish_publisher)