LE LOYER, Pierre

IIII Livres des spectres ou apparitions et visions d’esprits, anges et demons, se monstrans sensiblement aux hommes

Paris, chez Gabriel Buon, et Angers, pour Georges Nepveu, 1586


FIRST EDITION. Two parts in one vol. pp. [xii] 642 (i.e. 644); [iv] 364 [ii]. Roman letter, some Italic and Greek. Buon’s woodcut device on first title, Nepveu’s device on second, floriated woodcut initials, typographical and woodcut headpieces, woodcut tail-pieces, contemporary autograph ‘Loyer’ transliterated into Greek on verso of errata, bookplate of Eric Gruaz on pastedown, early shelf mark above. Light age yellowing, a few quires lightly browned in second part, occasional light mostly marginal spotting, the rare mark or spot. A good copy, clean, with good margins, some lower margins uncut, in contemporary vellum over thin boards, remains of ties, a little creased and soiled.

Rare first edition of this highly influential and important work on ghosts, visions, demons, witches, and transformations by the the demonologist and poet Le Loyer (1550-1634). Using a number of ancient authors as sources, both religious and secular, Le Loyer details the causes of apparitions, the natures of spirits and demons, magicians and sorcerers, and how they communicate. Zachary Jones made a translation, the only early English version, that corresponded with the second French edition 1605. This work introduced the term ‘Spectre’ into the English language. Le Loyer was a very considerable scholar, widely read in the medieval authors such as Lull and Nider and their later counterparts, Cardan, Lemnius and Sprenger. Whilst admitting that in many cases ghosts, apparitions, demons and prodigies were merely the result of a deranged imagination, hypersensitivity or natural occurrences, he insists that both good and bad spirits do appear to men in visible form. He discusses at length the question of the return of the souls of the dead, citing the opinions of Jewish cabalists and Moslems. Also considered in detail are the raising of demons, necromancy, the distinguishing of evil spirits from Angels, the souls of the dead, the use of charms and the practice of exorcism. He is contemptuous of Paraclesus and dismissive of alchemical medicine in general.“In the first chapter Le Loyer attempts to define the nature of spirits — which the author calls “spectres” — while also developing a scientific approach to this human phenomenon, which he distinguishes from the study of ghosts. In Le Loyer’s opinion, there is a real difference between “on the one hand, an apparition that is the product of the human imagination (insane or not), which he calls a ‘fantasm’ and, on the other hand, the apparition of a Spirit who, of its own accord takes shape in the human imagination as a spectre.” (Huot, p. 578).” Éliane Laberge. ‘Ghost stories by Pierre Le Loyer.’

“Before his treatise on ghosts appeared in 1586, Le Loyer was known as a playwright and poet .. he published a translation of Ovid’s ‘Ars Amatoria’ and three comedies..By the mid 1580’s Le Loyer was a writer of some repute. ..Now back in Angers the author chose to move away from poetry and devote his energies to a new project, a treatise on ghosts. The publication was evidently a costly and complex undertaking. George Nepveu, who had just been made maitre libraire-jure to the University of Angers, oversaw the publication which had to be financed at Le Loyer’s own expense. .. the result – a quarto of over a thousand pages – was an object de luxe, marked out for the gentleman’s library. .. The sheer number not to mention the range of Le Loyer’s sources are indeed impressive. So extensive is his reading in the Church Fathers and medieval theology, despite his lack of formal training, that Serclier was led to descibe him as ‘un grand jusrisconsulte et theologian tout ensemble’. Over and above his Patristic sources, which he shared with a number of other writers on ghosts, Le Loyer’s inventio also included a number of hitherto unknown stories and examples…Le Loyer’s expertise as a linguist and a lawyer allowed him access to an unprecedented range of spectral narratives. His treatise is also notable for being the first work of French demonology to draw extensively upon – and subsequently influence – contemporary European cosmography.” Timothy Chesters. ‘Ghost Stories in Late Renaissance France: Walking by Night.’

This first edition if particularly rare. A very good copy in its original vellum.

USTC 52848. BM STC Fr. C16th p. 261. Thorndike VI 531-33. Caillet 6456 (Fr. edn. of 1605). Not in Duveen.
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