DE VIERI, Francesco

DE VIERI, Francesco Discorso … intorno a’ dimonii, volgarmente chiamati spiriti

Florence, Bartolomeo Sermartelli, 1576


FIRST and ONLY EDITION. 8vo, (xvi), 108, (iv). Roman and Italic letter, printed side notes. Printer’s woodcut device on title page, floriated and historiated initials, typographical head- and tailpieces. Intermittent light age yellowing and foxing, p. 25, side note shaved. A good copy in later vellum over boards, all edges blue.

First edition of this work on demons, familiar spirits, necromancers and other aspects of the occult by Francesco Vieri the Younger, called Verino (1524-1591). Born of a noble family, Verino taught at the University of Pisa, first holding a chair in Logic and later in Philosophy. He was a representative of Neoplatonism, who aimed at reconciling Paganism with Catholic theology, and a follower of Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. Most of his works were vernacular and include meditations on Plato’s theology, Aristotelian meteorology and lectures on ethics, love and literature.

The Discorso was inspired by an event in the Benedictine monastery of Sant’Anna in Pisa. In 1574 some nuns showed typical signs of demonic possession (speaking Latin, revealing secrets and mysteries of faith). Verino was asked to study their affliction and the effectiveness of the rites of exorcism applied. The work was composed for the Archbishop of Pisa, Jacopo Borbone, and received the approval of the local Inquisition. Preliminaries are the dedication to the Venetian aristocrat Bianca Cappello, an address from the printer and a list of sources, including the Fathers of the Church, Dante, Pythagoras, Hermes Trismegistus and the Platonic philosophers, such as Pico and Marsilio Ficino. Part 1 contains an introduction and provides an exhaustive explanation of the concept of “demon”, merging Aristotelian, Platonic and Catholic arguments. Verino lists three meanings: the “demon” mentioned by Socrates, or the inner voice that guides men; the soul independent of the body and judged by God, and the spirit as a rational and immaterial substance, good or nasty, known as “angel”. Verino states that the Platonic philosophers believe in the existence of the spirits, while the Aristotelian do not, as shown in the De anima (II). Part 2 mainly deals with the Platonic approach to this topic, according to which spirits have a mixed nature, half human and half divine. Part 3 describes the origin (original sin and divine punishment), nature and powers of spirits, according to the Bible, Augustin and Saint Jerome. A section particularly is dedicated to exorcism and the examination of the symptoms of possession (violence, plurilingualism and knowledge of events in the Bible). Part 4 focuses on reasons for and modes of possession. Verino maintains that spirits are jealous of men’s happiness and want to make them suffer, as well as to demonstrate their power against God’s will. They can hide in material objects and especially torment vulnerable individuals, such as virgins, pregnant women and sleep-walkers. They also are responsible for diabolic spells on human bodies, and inspire and help necromancers and witches.

BM STC It. 725; Gamba, 1737; Kristeller, Iter Italicum, 215:2092. Not in Adams. Not in Brunet or Graesse. Not in Caillet.
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