De la demonomanie des sorciers.

Paris, Chez Iaques de Puys Libraire Iuré, a la Samaritaine, 1580.


FIRST EDITION. 4to. [xiv], 252 (i.e. 256). ã4, e4, i4, õ2, A-Z4, Aa-Zz4, AAa-SSs4. Roman letter, some Italic and Greek. Du Puy’s charming woodcut device on title, floriated and grotesque woodcut and metal-cut initials, woodcut head pieces, ‘ex libris Pauli Augusti le Chevalier’ on recto of last with two pages of manuscript notes on the following blank leaves and on rear pastedown, purchase note dated 1739 (exchanged for several books) at head of title page in his hand, a few annotations and underlinings in the same hand, early monogram stamped on blank margin of title. Light age yellowing, light damp stain on last few leaves and quire DDd. A very good copy in contemporary limp vellum, yapp edges, spine covered in calf c.1700, gilt ruled in compartments, tan morocco label gilt, vellum speckled at the same time, ‘Ex dono De A Lechevalier’ gilt stamped on upper cover, remains of ties.

Rare first edition of this important, fascinating and most influential treatise on witches by Jean Bodin, which went through five editions by Jaques Du Puy by 1582, including another edition, almost identical to this one, in 1580 (unnoticed by IA but recorded in USTC as no. 1664). “Jean Bodin’s ‘On the Demon-Mania of Witches’ (De la démonomanie des sorciers) appeared in 1580 and rapidly became a major publishing success. It underwent at least twenty-three editions and was translated from its original French into German, Italian and Latin. It was surely the most published work of the era on the subject of demons and witches. Because of its wide distribution, it has been considered by generations of historians to have been an extremely influential book, responsible in itself for large-scale prosecutions of witches in the four or five decades following its appearance.” Jonathan L. Pearl,.”On the Demon-mania of Witches”

Jean Bodin attained eminence as a political philosopher, economist and advocate of religious toleration, and was regarded by most contemporaries as a sceptic or even an atheist, yet he retained an abiding belief in sorcery, astrology and other superstitions. In this work he denounces all who disbelieve in witchcraft and calls for the burning of witches and wizards, although he implies that he himself had for 13 years been guided by a friendly demon who touched one or other of his ears whenever he intended to do right or wrong. He records a number of pacts made with the Devil, as well as alleged sexual relations with lesser demons, and “asserts that witches are transported through the air, that demons assume human form, and that men are transformed into animals. He believes in lycanthropy or werwolves and in the marks of sorcerers. In their professed cures they employ unnatural remedies and poisons like the brain of a cat or head of a raven. Really the only maladies which they can cure are those which they have inflicted, and in this case they must pass the ailment on to someone else…..” (Thorndike VI 526).

“In his many works, Bodin, influenced by Renaissance syncretism and shaken by the extreme violence of his time, was very tolerant of varieties of religious belief. While he generally supported a Catholic settlement of the conflicts, he was far from being an orthodox believer. Generations of scholars have admired the ‘Commonwealth’ as the first modern study of the state and have often depicted Bodin as a modern man. .. But many of these scholars have been shocked and perplexed at the apparent contrast between the ‘modern’, ‘rational’ political Bodin, the ‘tolerant’ religious Bodin, and the intolerant and superstitious Bodin of the Demon-Mania. There is a long tradition among Bodin specialists of either ignoring the Demon-Mania or treating it as a bizarre aberration in an otherwise respectable ‘progressive’ intellectual. .. in fact the Demon-mania shares essential points of view and concerns with the ‘Commonwealth’ and the ‘Colloquium’. Jonathan L. Pearl.

The work has interesting provenance having belonged to the Rouen Lawyer and historian, Auguste Le Chevalier; the C19th historian Albert Sarrazin published a biography of his life based on his correspondence in 1876. The work contains two most interesting pages of his notes on witch trials in Rouen in the C16th. A very good copy of the very rare first edition.

USTC. 1660. Thorndike VI 526. Index Aurel. 120.816. BM. STC. Fr. C16th p. 72.. Brunet I 1025: “ce dernier ouvrage a eu une grande vogue dans le temps”. Caillet 1269.


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