De la lycanthropie, transformation et extase des sorciers…

Paris, chez Nicolas Rousset, 1615


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. pp. 109, [i]. A-O4. Roman letter, some Italic. Small typographical ornament on t-p., floriated woodcut initials, grotesque and typographical headpieces, grotesque woodcut tailpieces, C19th bookplate of ‘Bibliotheque Daniel Molliere’ on pastedown. Light age yellowing, some light spotting particularly at the beginning and end, the rare mark or spot. A good, clean copy, with good margins in handsome C19th French polished calf, covers bordered with a triple gilt rule, spine gilt ruled in a single panel, fleurons at head and tail, title gilt in long, edges gilt ruled, combed marble endpapers, fractionally rubbed at extremities.

Very rare first edition of this important and fascinating work on werewolves and the ‘transformation and ecstasy of witches’, by the physician Jean de Nynauld, written, in part, as a reply to Bodin’s work on the same subject, one of the major early works on Lycanthropy. Unlike Bodin, de Nynauld did not believe that persons could become wolves, or even appear to become wolves, and believed those who stated that they became wolves were deranged, but not demonic. Nynauld wrote this work in 1614 and it was published a year later with the approval of the doctors of the Sorbonne. (despite the fact that it contradicted much of the contemporary orthodox thinking surrounding witches and demons). It is dedicated to the Primate of France Cardinal Jacques du Peron, Archbishop of Sens. The work is divided into seven chapters. The first chapter explains that the Devil cannot in any way transform men into beasts or separate the soul of a sorcerer from the body. Chapters two to five concern the potions and ointments, and their composition, that could be used to make people believe they were werewolves. Chapter six concerns the disease of Lycanthropy, ‘de la Lycanthropie Naturelle.’ Chapter seven is devoted to the drugs and hallucinogenic potions that can have the effect of tricking the imagination, such as preparations of belladonna, or the smell of violent perfumes that can cheat the senses. He adds an epilogue, a refutation of the opinions and arguments which Bodin sets out in the sixth chapter of his Dmonomania that posit the reality of werewolves. “The magic ointment that a werewolf used to transmute him- or herself could be identical to that used by witches to facilitate flight. Werewolf magic ointments might include various poisonous or hallucinogenic herbs. These were the same as those found in witches’ flying ointments. Such ointments were described in 1615 by Jean de Nyauld, a French physician who wrote a book about werewolves. De la Lycanthropie, .. devoted considerable attention to werewolf ointments. While Nyauld was convinced that lycanthropy was a mental disease and not an act of evil magic, he nonetheless comments that people believe, if they use ointments, they could at least think they had become wolves as part of their mental delusions.” Jane P. Davidson. ‘Early Modern Supernatural: The Dark Side of European Culture, 1400–1700.’

A very good copy of this exceptionally rare first edition.

BM STC Fr. C17th p. 399 N358. Brunet IV, 142. Caillet 8124. “L’un des ouvrages ‘classiques’ sur la Sorcellerie et néanmoins l’un des plus rares” Guaita 774. “un ouvrage fort curieux et très rare sur la sorcellerie”