Tractatus de hereticis et sortilegiis omnifariam coitu Eorumque penis. Item de questionibus & tortura ac de relaxatione carceratorum…

Lyon, apud Jacques Giunta, 1545.


8vo. f. [xvi] 128. Aa-Bb8, A-Q8. Gothic letter in double column. Title in red and black within four part woodcut border with small woodcut vignette of a doctor reading to an assembly, Giunta’s woodcut printer’s device on verso of last, white on black criblé and floriated woodcut initials, engraved bookplate of Alfredo Tiburzi on pastedown. Age yellowing, waterstaining in upper margin, and lower outer corner of first few leaves, upper blank margin of t-p restored on verso just touching border, likewise with last three leaves at head, the occasional thumb mark. A good copy in slightly later vellum over boards, title mss. on spine, a.e.r. upper cover a little scratched.

Excellent edition of these works of Paulus Grillandus on heretics and witchcraft with two further works on sexual crimes and on torture, first published in this form by Giunta in 1536, dedicated to Felix, Archibishop of Chieti. Grillandus’ case book of trials for sorcery and heresy contains particularly valuable and detailed accounts of their procedure and greatly helped in establishing belief in witchcraft, enjoying great and long authority. It was probably the most influential work on witchcraft published before the middle of the C16th. Grillandus, a judge and doctor of canon and civil law, builds his treatise on witchcraft with quotations from Scholastic philosophy, theology and law and records many curious anecdotes. The book opens with an index and a ‘proemium’ and continues with five sections respectively on heretics, sorcery, punishment for sexual offences, examination and torture and finally punishment in jail. “Paulus Grillandus who supervised witch trials near Rome, wrote the ‘Tractatus de hereticis ..’ (tract on heretics and diviners) in 1534. This influential text helped to describe and define the sabbat.. Although demons do not have natural bodies, Grillandus wrote, their actions could affect people. Another book he wrote, De Quaestionibus et tortura (Concerning interrogation and torture) systemised methods for examining witches.” Brian Alexander Pavlac. ‘Witch Hunts in the Western World.’

“With Grillandus we enter the courtroom proper; he was himself a papal judge who presided over witch-trials at Rome. Robbins heaps scorn upon him; says that by his efforts ‘the fabric of witchcraft was buttressed by the crassest fables of the preceding century. And yet Grillandus was a Doctor of Laws.’ Other modern authorities are more respectful. .. Many of the facts which Grillandus gives are warranted as first-hand experience; he actually handled witches’ ointments, for example. Lea thinks that he did not depend so much upon earlier authors as upon his own observations, which makes him an especially valuable source of data, although not one .. to be read without caution.” Charles Alva Hoyt ‘Witchcraft.’ Grillandus’ theory of witchcraft distinguishes between the ‘Tacit Profession’ and the ‘Express Profession’. The former is a pact made with a sorcerer, the Devil’s agent, the latter is the pact made with the demon in person. He describes ‘Maleficia’ as those who seek to obtain some part of the person to be bewitched (teeth, hair, nails, blood, fragments of clothing). He also describes philtres, potions and poisons that are used to produce harm (such as inducing abortions and causing the drying up of milk in women and cattle, impotency in men.etc..) Another interesting subject discussed is whether witches are transported corporeally to the Sabbat, a view most theologians, including Grillandus, held, or whether it is merely a diabolic illusion, as the doctors of civil and canon law thought. Many of the anecdotes arise from Grillandus’ own experience as a judge in witchcraft trials in the area of Rome and inquisitor at Arezzo. One such anecdote tells of a girl of sixteen who was seduced by a witch and carried to the Sabbat, warned not to cross herself or utter the name of God or Christ. When she saw Satan on his throne and the crowd around him, astonished, she crossed herself exclaiming “Jesu benedetto”. Suddenly everything vanished and she found herself alone. She started to pray and made a vow of virginity. In the morning an old peasant and his son rescued her and after three days she was able to return home. She entered a Franciscan convent and the witch who had misled her was denounced and burnt.

The third section, “De penis omnisariam coitus”, is a most interesting treatise that deals with sexual offences such as prostitution, incest, adultery etc. “Ouvrage très curieux; on y trouve les plus singuliers détails de procédure en usage contre les hérétiques, les sorciers, etc., etc. Les questions de omnisariam coitu sont très scabreuses et en font un véritable code pénale de la prostitution au moyen âge” (Gay III 1226). The fourth work is on torture and gives a chilling account of the practise, how, when and on whom it was used. The final section of the work deals with punishments for heresy.

BM. STC. Fr. C16th p. 209. USTC 149495. Baudrier VI, p.220. Gültlingen IV p. 39: 324. Brunet II 1739 “Curieux et assez recherché”. Caillet 4776 (1592 edn. only). Dorbon 1989 (1547 edn. with long note). Gay III 1226.


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