Novus malleus maleficarum sub Quaestiones de Strigibus seu Maleficis.

Cologne, M. Colinum, 1581.


8vo. pp. (xvi) 398, lacking final blank as usual. Roman letter, little Italic. Woodcut vignette to t-p, decorated initials, head- and tailpieces. Light browning, t-p dust-soiled, marginal fraying and softening to first and last gathering and few other ll., light marginal waterstaining, tiny worm trail to upper margin of couple of gatherings. An acceptable copy in contemporary limp vellum, yapp edges, traces of ties, worming, joints cracked. Ex-libris of the German preacher Peter Hubern 1649 and modern label of Hanns-Theo Schmitz-Otto to fep.

An unsophisticated copy, owned by a C17 German preacher, of the first combined edition of this scarce collection of three important C16 treatises on witchcraft. Bartolommeo della Spina (1475-1546) was a Dominican professor of theology at Padua, inquisitor and influential demonologist. This collection, greatly influenced by the ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ of 1487, gathered his most important works originally published in the 1520s. The first text opens with a statement summarising the core issue of Spina’s argument—whether witches be physically involved in demonic activities. In the first work, ‘Quaestio de Strigibus’, Spina’s answer was positive as he explained, for instance, how witches did physically (‘in veritate aut in corpore’) fly to the sabbath and not simply through an illusion (‘per phantastica visiones aut in somnis’). The second work, ‘De preminentia sacrae theologiae super omnes alias scientias’, compares the tenets of theology to those of other kinds of law, with a short section on why cases of witchcraft should be dealt with according to the principles of theology, not civil or canon law. ‘Apologia’ was a defence of Spina’s demonological theories against those of his contemporary, Giovanfrancesco Ponzinibbio, a jurist who argued instead that witch trials should be the domain of civil law not the Church. An extremely important attempt to reconcile late medieval theology, law and demonology in the aftermath of the Reformation. Reginald Scot was greatly influenced by ‘Novus Malleus’ for the composition of his ‘The Discoverie of Witchcraft’ of 1584, the fundamental work of English demonology.

Michigan and Arizona copies only recorded in the US.

BM STC It., p. 637 (1576 ed.). Not in Brunet or Caillet.


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