Practycke in criminele saecken. Nut en proffytelyck, voor alle souvereins, baillius borgemeesters ende schepenen. Item hier is noch by ghevoecht d’Ordinantie op t’stuck van de criminele justitie in dese Nederlanden.

Rotterdam, Jan van Waesberghe de Jonge, 1628.


8vo. two works in one. (xviii), 366 (ii) 102. Gothic letter, some Roman and Italic. First title within fine engraved border, Justice above and scenes of execution and torture within roundels at side and below, second title with woodcut printer’s device; woodcut initials and typographical ornaments, 53 half page woodcuts (recut from the first illustrated edition attributed to Gerard de Jode). Light age yellowing, some browning in places, occasional marginal waterstain and spot. A good copy in contemporary polished vellum over boards, slightly soiled.

Rare Dutch translation of this important and beautifully illustrated manual of criminal law, of inestimable value for the history of legal customs and social conditions in the 16th century. Josse de Damhouder (1507–1581), lawyer and paymaster-general to the Spanish forces in the Low Countries under Charles V and Philip II, was a leading crusader against the moral deterioration of his time and the widespread abuses in judicial procedure. Obtaining his doctorate in 1533, he practiced as an advocate in Bruges. In 1537 he was appointed legal advisor to the city, and in 1550 clerk of its criminal court. In 1552 he was made a member of the Dutch Council of Finance by Mary of Hapsburg, governor of the Netherlands, and held that office until 1575.

His Praxis Rerum Criminalium is considered to be the first complete system of criminal law to be published in northern Europe. “The first treatise on criminal law published outside of Italy was written by a Belgian practitioner, Jodocus Damhouder. His Praxis rerum criminalium, the most important part of which is devoted to procedure, served as a guide for a long time to the practice of the tribunals in the Netherlands and in Germany.” A. Esmein, ‘A History of Continental Criminal Procedure’. It was first published in Latin, in 1567 but widely used and immensely popular was quickly translated into French and German. Its popularity was based on the the adaptation of Roman Law to local practice and to the customs and traditions of Northern Europe. Later research has shown it to have been plagiarised from an unpublished text by Filips Wielan and others.

The present edition is beautifully produced and illustrated with fine, vivid woodcuts, based on the cuts of the first edition e.g. a lawyer’s office, a court-room, a prisoner escaping, torture, various kinds of homicide, patricide and suicide, robbery and burglary, forgery, arson, scenes illustrating adultery and incest, a scribe at work taking and writing statements, pimps, rape, and gambling. The work was to have a lasting influence on European civil law. The Praxis dedicated a lengthy 64 paragraphs to witchcraft, copied in large part from Paulus Grillandus’s Tractatus de sortilegiis. According to the Praxis, witchcraft was a heinous crime that went unpunished too often because of the ignorance of magistrates, and which also covered love charms, fortune- telling, astrology and other superstitious practices. De Damhouder expanded on this by providing detailed practical advice (backed up by examples from his own court practice) on how to conduct interrogations of suspected witches under torture. He asserts that a single indication of guilt is sufficient for torture to be applied to achieve a confession, though he does recognise that too much torture can produce false confessions.

A good copy of this important and richly illustrated work.

Brunet II 479 other editions. Caillet 2769 (earlier editions) Not in Graesse.


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