Tractatus de magis veneficis et lamiis, deqve his recte cognoscendis et puniendis.

Frankfurt, ex officina typographica Ioannis Saurii : impensis Nicolai Bassaei, 1601.


4to. Three parts in one vol. pp. [vii], 115, [ix]; 68; [ii],[xxxvi], 147, [xxxi]. A-R⁴, 2A-2I⁴, 3A-4C⁴, 4D² [without 4D2 blank]. Pt. 2 and 3 with divisional half-t.p.s, each begins new pagination and register. Roman letter, some Italic and Gothic. Small woodcut ‘fortune’ device on first title, larger on second and third, and on leaf 2I4 of part 2, small woodcut diagrams in text, floriated woodcut initials, woodcut headpieces, purchase and price note on blank margin of title “Noriberg 1678.8 rarisse – Z 10. Catlogue d’une Noriberge collection de livres en tout genre rares et curieux chez J Neaulme JJ 1763. 8. nii. n. 2876/138h”, occasional marginal annotation and underlining in the same hand, bookplate of Frédéric and Anne Max on pastedown. Age yellowing with some browning, some minor spotting, title strengthened on verso, with small strip of paper at fore-edge and at gutter, lower outer blank corner of R3 torn, tiny worm trail on two quires in blank outer margin, tiny burn hole to lower margin of 3C2, the odd marginal spot or mark. A good copy, in C19th vellum over boards, later red morocco label gilt, top edge red. 

Second edition of this most interesting treatise, in three parts, on witches, demons, werewolves; the first two parts focus on magic, sorcerers, and witches and the last on the legal procedures in witchcraft cases. Johann Georg Godelmann, (1559 – 1611) was a German Protestant jurist, diplomat and demonological writer. He was born in Tuttlingen, and died, aged 51, in Dresden.

“Another response to Weyer was that of the Swabian jurist (later of Rostock) Johann Georg Godelmann, who published a Tractatus de magis veneficis et lamiis in 1591 that adopted Weyer’s categories verbatim. Those accused of witchcraft might be magi (magicians), venefici (poisoners), or laminae (witches), and Godelmann was quick to agree with Wayer that laminae were mainly women who imagined they had made a pact with the devil and that they did all sorts of evil on its basis. The devil attacked women because they were more often ‘unsteady or flighty, credulous, malicious, ill-humoured, melancholy or depressed, but especially old, worn out women, who were foolish and awkward, badly grounded in the Christian faith, and unsound old hags’. Their pacts with the devil were only illusory, but necromancers and learned magicians did have a real pact with the devil, which Godelmann believed worthy of severe punishment and even death. While attempting to defend witches from unjust accusations, in other words, Godelmann disagreed with Wyer and left open the argument that at least some persons did have a contract with the devil. Godelmann argued strenuously against abuse of torture and in favour of cautious procedures, but in strictly theoretical terms, he was not the radical opponent of witchcraft trials that Weyer was. Indeed, when modern critics attack Johann Weyer for holding a mixture of confused and inconsistent ideas, they might better aim their indignation at Godelmann. And yet, despite the illogical features of his argument, Godelmann was crucial in the process of restructuring the insanity defence. Precisely because he thought that the witches’ pact was a real possibility, Godelmann did not think that one could just assume that supposed witches were mentally ill. This was an empirical question on which advice had to be sought.” H. C. Erik Midelfor ‘A History of Madness in Sixteenth-century Germany.’

“Godelmann attempts to take middle ground between what he regards as the extreme positions of Bodin and Wier. ..[He] was widely read in the literature of his subject and cites many past authors. If his work is a mixture of sanity and credulity, of religious prejudice and a feeling for law and nature, it was perhaps the more effective on that account than a strictly rational and scientific work would have been then in doing something to check the excesses of the witchcraft delusion.” Thorndike.

BM STC Ger C17th II G810. Graesse, Magica, 59. Caillet 4626 (1st edition only). Thorndike. VI pp. 534-6. Not in Guaita.


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