De idolatria magica, dissertatioParis, ex officina Nivelle apud Sébastien Cramoisy, 1609
FIRST EDITION. 8vo., ff. (viii) 73 (iii). Roman and italic letter. Printer’s device on t-p, woodcut floriated and historiated initials, headpieces with foliage, animals and putti. T-p dusty, age yellowing, some marginal spotting, tiny wormhole to outer blank margin of first 6 ll., slight waterstain to outer edge of last gathering. A good copy in contemporary limp vellum, covers a bit soiled, small hole to upper cover, missing ties. Early ms. note to front paste down, autograph “Samuel Hundius, Romae 1652, φρονεῖν εἰς τό σωφρονεῖν” to t-p.
Rare first edition of this fascinating treatise against illicit magic.
A Parisian theologian and priest, Jean Filesac (1550-1638) was rector of the Sorbonne in 1586 and as such was addressed by Giordano Bruno in his ‘Camoeracensis Acrotismus’. Afterwards, he became dean of the Faculty of Theology and later served as confessor of Ravaillac, the assassin of Henry IV. He was regarded as a pious and godly man. Announcing his death in a letter of April 7, 1638, Gui Patin (1601-1972) – doctor and dean of the Faculty of Medicine in Paris – described him as “more than an octogenarian, a man of great learning and eminent for many virtues”.
‘De idolatria magica dissertatio’ (Dissertation on magical idolatry) is aimed at demonstrating the diabolical character of magic, using a collection of quotations from ancient authors, church fathers and church councils. In the seven chapters, Filesac presents the Devil’s malefic powers and where they come from, he describes demons, the use of spells, magic words, exorcisms, sacrifices and rejects the use of magic in medicine. Interestingly, Numa Pompilius – the legendary king credited with introducing Rome’s most important religious institutions – is condemned as ‘artifex supersitionis’ (master of superstition) and used as an example to define magic as a form of idolatry. In this treatise, Filesac “asserted that the transportation of witches to nocturnal sabbats had been so thoroughly proved by the most erudite men of the age, that, if anyone any longer cherished any doubt about it, he should be judged not only a wanderer from the Christian faith and religion but as sadly deficient in reason and judgement. Filesac futher affirmed that magicians, sorcerers and witches in his time in the Christian world far surpassed in number all the brothels and houses of ill fame. These vehement declarations of Filesac were not, however, generally accepted, for he complains that these servants of Satan are held to be innocent and harmless, that evils for which they are responsible are attributed to chance or vulgar error, and that some men have become so insane as to deny boldly the existence of demons” (Thorndike).
“Samuel Hundius” is almost certainly the German poet and historian Samuel Hund (1620 – after 1680). He wrote mainly in his youth, often using the pseudonym ‘Numa Sedulis’. Born in Bickau, close to Herzberg in Saxony, he studied jurisprudence in Helmstedt and later in Strasbourg. In 1657, Hund was appointed electoral councillor by the Saxon elector Johann Georg II. He travelled to Italy, France and the Netherlands, and owned a significant private library, which was auctioned after his death. The short Greek sentence ‘φρονεῖν εἰς τό σωφρονεῖν’ is a quotation from Paul’s Gospel (Romans 12:3), which can be literally translated as ‘so to think as to think soberly’ and it is an invitation to be modest, and think with proper moderation and judgement.USTC 6017101; Caillet 3934; Goldsmith F232. Not in Brunet or Graesse. L. Thorndike, A History of Magic and Experimental Science (1958), p. 540. On Hund, see: R. Jürgensen, Melos conspirant singuli in unum: Repertorium bio-bibliographicum zur Geschichte des Pegnesischen Blumenordens in Nürnberg (1644-1744) (2006), p. 102-103. Worldcat records only two copies in the US.