Histoire Veritable et Memorable de ce qui c’est passé sous l’exorcisme de trois filles possedées es païs de Flandre,.


Paris, O. de Varennes, 1623.

FIRST EDITION. 8vo. Two parts in one volume pp. [xxviii], 386 [i.e. 398], [ii]: 346 [ii] . â8, b4, A-Bb8 ; a-y8, Z4. Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut floriated initials, woodcut headpieces with double H’s, typographical ornaments, purchase note on fly “2 Juin 1835 Mourtini.; 4 tributini – Marqué tres rare”, C18th engraved armorial bookplate of  ‘De Laménar’ on pastedown, modern bookplate of Eric Gruaz below. Light age yellowing, with some minor mostly marginal spotting, very pale waterstains in places, a little heavier in second work, mostly marginal single worm holes in second work, some marginal trails, one at gutter just touching a few letters on quires l-n.  A good copy in contemporary vellum over thin boards, remains of ties.

Extremely rare accounts of the diabolic possession and the exorcisms of the Nuns of the Monastery of St. Brigitte in Lille in 1613, conducted by the Dominican inquisitor Sebatien Michaëlis and recounted by his disciple Le Normant. Michaelis was vice-inquisitor in Avignon during the 1580s and was involved in a number of witch trials: a series of cases in 1581 and 1582 led to eighteen women being convicted and burnt. In 1587 he published a work on demons, the ‘Pneumalogie ou discours des esprits’. By 1610 he was prior of the Dominican community at Saint-Maxim near Aix-en-Provence where he was later involved in one of the most notorious witch trials, and case of demonic possession, in the history of France, that of the priest Louis Gaufridi, who was convicted of sorcery, tortured and burnt, on the evidence of a nun ‘possessed by the devil.’ This work is even more extravagant in the details it gives than Michaelis’ account of the Louis Gaufridi possession of nuns in Aix. It bears extraordinary and most detailed witness to the immense pressure, both moral and physical, the nuns were subjected to when they were pressed to confess that they were in fact witches. Le Normant finds it ‘admirable’ when the nun , Marie de Sains, having been denounced by three other nuns possessed by demons, ends up confessing to being a magician and witch herself, after months of imprisonment and ‘mortifications’. Le Normant gives, naively, tremendous insight into the process of blackmail and pressure involved in extracting these confessions, and in the ‘demonic’ possessions that occurred. The questioning by the inquisitors reveals extraordinary accounts of sexual transactions with the devil which are all carefully recorded and categorised. These orgiastic rituals or sabbaths, follow a strict timetable. Thus on Sundays the devil takes his traditional form, with serpent feet, red tails claws and horns. Marie de Sains states in her confession that “quelle prenoit plus de plaisir lors qu’elle avoit cohibitation avec le diable en forme de diable, que quand il abusoit d’elle en forme humaine, ou d’autre creature”. On Mondays and Tuesdays these sabbaths were ‘ordinary’, though the Thursday was consecrated to sodomy. “soit hommes, soit femmes commettent le péché de la chair, hors du vaisseau naturel: et que l’on se polluait pours lors en plusieurs sortes et manieres de tout estranges et abominables, la femme avec la femme, l’homme avec l’homme.” Saturdays were reserved for bestiality where the devils took the form of many animals. When the nun Didyme, who had confessed to extraordinary horrors, retracts her confession at the end of the second work she states “Et je m’esbahis ou j’ay peu prendre de telles inventions: ce qui me donne a croire que c’est le diable qui me les a soufflées en l’aureille.”  One has to wonder if the devil she was referring to was not, explicitly, the inquisitors themselves. Cf. Marianne Closson ‘L’imaginaire démoniaque en France (1550-1650): genèse de la littérature .’

“When Le Normant came to defend his ‘Histoire Veritable’ against criticism from the academics of the Sorbonne, he too had to satisfy doubts about the propriety of listening to Demons. And, like Michaelis, he replied by stressing the overwhelming authority of properly conducted exorcisms and by examining what was revealed both for its intrinsic plausibility and for the way that might (in these two episodes at least) be externally corroborated by reference to the eschatological truths. Contemporaries did, therefore, express scepticism on this point (and increasingly came to do so) but these two Catholic authors cannot be said to have been unduly discomfited by there arguments” Stuart Clark. ‘Thinking with Demons: The Idea of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe.’

An extremely rare and extraordinarily meticulous account of demonic possession, witchcraft, and exorcism.

BM STCFr. C17th. p309, L915. Caillet, 6530. Guaita 487. “Ouvrage de démonologie des plus curieux et de la plus insigne rareté.”.


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