Compendium Maleficarum.

Milan, ex collegi Ambrosiani typographia, 1626.


4to. pp. (xvi), 391, (i). Roman letter with Italic. Charming engraved architectural titlepage with standing figures of St Ambrose and St Barnaba, urns, putti, and arms of the Serbelloni. Typographical headpiece, woodcut initials throughout. 40 delightful ¼ page woodcuts with witches, demons, and depictions of sorcery, some repeated. Intermittent light browning, a few marginal annotations, small tear at 207 not affecting reading. A good, well-margined copy in antique style vellum, yapp edges, printed ex libris of Eric Gruaz on front pastedown.

Attractive copy of this finely illustrated book on witchcraft. This is the second and enlarged edition of the rare original of 1608, and includes a new, most compelling section on exorcism. Francesco Maria Guazzo (1570-1640) was a friar at the Collegium Ambrosianum in Milan, and was known for his successful exorcisms on personalities including Charles III of Lorraine and the German Duke of Julich-Kleve-Berg. The ‘Compendium Maleficarum’ was an epitome of his theoretical and practical knowledge of witchcraft and its manifestations, inspired by previous works on demonology by Michele Psellus and Nicholas Rémy.

Originally made for the 1608 edition, the 40 handsome woodcuts are among the most renowned early modern illustrations of witchcraft. These vivid pictures portray winged devils, assemblies of witches, demonic animals, and sorcery at work, and were influenced not only by the medieval figurative tradition but also by more recent illustrations of the New World, including scenes with cannibals often shown, like some of Guazzo’s witches, roasting children.

The first part of the ‘Compendium’ discusses the nature of imagination and magic, the rituals of witches, their pacts with the devil, and their ‘maleficia’ like apparitions and copulation with demons. The second focuses on a variety of sorcery including soporific poison and rare illnesses. The third part teaches how to recognize demons, witches, and their manifestations, and reveals divine and natural remedies to defeat them, from prayers to blessed tree branches. It is followed by a new section including orations and blessings for the rite of exorcism. The opening dedication to Cardinal Giovanni Antonio Serbelloni, whose heraldic escutcheon decorates the titlepage, summarises the crucial question of the ‘Compendium’, that demons find their abode in heresy and idolatry.

 Eric Gruaz was a chemist and great book collector, with a fine library of early modern texts on the history of alchemy, religion, magic, sorcery, and occultism.

Caillet II, 4805: ‘Avec beau frontispice en taille douce et un grand nombre de figures sur bois des plus curieuses’; Gaïta 374; BM STC C17 It. p. 417. Not in Brunet, Graesse, or Kraus.


Print This Item Print This Item