WITCHES, SORCERERS AND SPIRITS


Le Fleau des demons et sorciers.

Niort, Par David du Terrior, 1616.

£3,750

8vo. pp. [v] 556 [xxii]. Roman and italic letter, occasional Hebrew and Greek, title within architectural border, woodcut initials, head- and tail-pieces. General age browning, marginal worming at E2 until end, slightly affecting side-notes (still legible) in gathering Ii. A good copy in contemporary vellum, title inked on spine, bookplate of Dr. Maurice Villaret to front pastedown, fly loosening.

The ‘Scourge of Demons and Sorcerers’ is the first edition by J. B. Angevin of Bodin’s immensely popular Démonomanie (1580) against witchcraft, which identifies signs of witchcraft and demonic possession, and takes a hard line on the punishment of witches and sorcerers. Book one begins with a discussion of the nature of sorcerers and spirits, and their means of disguising themselves in everyday life. Book two focuses on the types of magic sorcerers and witches perform, continued in book three along with tips on avoiding enchantment, or worse.

Bodin works by example, from the Swiss werewolf that attacked a lumberjack, to children in Germany and France given to the devil at birth. He is virulent in his refutation of Johannes Wier, a doctor who believed, ahead of his time, that “demonic possession” was really a symptom of psychological illness. Bodin speaks with something like a personal vendetta against Wier’s teacher Cornelius Agrippa, the ‘tres-dangereux’ sorcerer, and his dog Monsieur, a demon. When Agrippa died in Grenoble in 1535, Monsieur drowned himself in a nearby river, proof positive for Bodin that both master and dog had a deal with the devil.

In the last book, Bodin advises the Inquisition on collecting testimonies against suspected witches, as well as interrogating, torturing, and ultimately executing them. “Full of digressions and meanderings” (Thorndike, cit. infr.), not to mention a catalogue of highly dramatic situations, the work nevertheless cites the authorities of Latin, Greek and Hebrew sources, and includes a helpful index. Bodin’s “Bible of Demonology” reached many editions from the 16th to the late 17th century, as popular as it was provocative of the hysteria over witchcraft.

Brunet II 462: 36. Bibl. Magica et Pneumatica 55. Caillet I 1273 “Cette édition, avec encadrement sur le titre, est de toutes la plus rare et la plus recherchée.” Thorndike VI p. 525-7 “He should perhaps be as infamous for his Démonomanie  as he is famous for his Republic”. Yve-Plessis 844 “C’est une édition à peine remaniée de la “Démonomanie.”

L1413

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