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SPINA, Bartolomeo della

SCARCE WITCHCRAFT

Novus malleus maleficarum sub Quaestiones de Strigibus seu Maleficis.

Cologne, apud Maternum Cholinum, 1581.

£2,950

8vo. pp. (xvi) 398 (ii), last blank. Roman letter, little Italic. Woodcut printer’s device to t-p. T-p a little dusty and softened, small tear at lower gutter, light age browning, tiny worm trail to outer blank margin of first gathering, light water stain to outer blank margin of gatherings G-Q 8 . A good copy in contemporary limp vellum, yapp edges, traces of ties. C19 armorial bookplates of L.A.G. du Plessis and Jules Édouard Potier de la Morandière.

The scarce, first combined edition of this collection of three important C16 treatises on witchcraft. Bartolommeo della Spina (1475-1546) was 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 ‘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 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 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.

Louis Alexandre Adolphe Gitton Duplessis (1800-1888) was a French lawyer, politician and bibliophile, whose collection was purchased en bloc by the architect Jules Édouard Potier de la Morandière, after his death.

Arizona State and GW copies only recorded in the US.
BM STC Ger., p. 386. Not in Caillet, Duveen, Bib. Esot., Thorndike or Graesse.

L2610