MEIGER, Samuel.

SCARCE GERMAN WITCHCRAFT

MEIGER, Samuel. De Panurgia Lamiarum, Sagarum, Strigum ac Veneficarum.

Hamburg, [Hans Binder], 1587

£7,850.00

FIRST EDITION. 4to. 224 unnumbered ll., A-3K4. Gothic letter, little Italic or Roman. Title in red and black, full-page woodcut arms of Frederich, King of Denmark, with M.H.Z.G.A. (Meine Hoffnung zu Gott allein) to D4 recto, decorated initials and ornaments. Slight toning, small ink splash at foot of title, paper flaw to lower outer blank corner of A4 (marginal ink smudges to verso), 2F3 and 2X3, the odd little marginal spot. A very good, clean, well-margined copy in contemporary pigskin over bevelled wooden boards, one clasp, double blind ruled to a panel design, outer and second border with blind roll of tendrils and heads within circles, central panels with blind-stamped Crucifixion (signed CR) with Moses and John the Baptist (not in Haebler or EBDB) to lower cover, unidentified scene (soft impression) on upper cover, raised bands, part of upper joint expertly repaired, upper cover scratched and a bit creased, small burn and very minor superficial loss to outer edge of lower cover, added rear ep. Early inscription trimmed at foot of title, occasional c.1600 ms. marginalia and underlining in reddish ink.

A very good, clean, well-margined copy of this scarce work in German – unmentioned in Caillet, Thorndike and Dorbon-Aîné – entirely devoted to witchcraft. Samuel Meiger (or Meyer, 1532-1610) was a Lutheran pastor from Hamburg, who spent much of his life in Denmark. Dedicated to Frederick II, King of Denmark and Norway, ‘De panurgia lamiarum’ – i.e., on the crafty deceit of witches – is one of two works that brought him fame. Based on a variety of sources spanning the Scriptures and early modern authors like Carrichter, Sprenger, Lavater and Bodin, the work advocated the persecution of witches, albeit with reservations on torture, reputing witchcraft the greatest evil. The work was perhaps among the causes of a rise in witchcraft trials in the Hamburg region in the 1590s.

 

Part I is an introduction to the several kinds of magic – ‘naturalis’, ‘superstitiosa’, ‘incantatio’, ‘veneficio’ – and how witchcraft has its ultimate source in the Devil. Part II discusses the sins of witchcraft, how witches defy the Ten Commandments (with sections devoted to each), and the use of torture in interrogations, citing trials and executions of his time, e.g., in Brunswick. In fact, whilst encouraging the local authorities to prosecute witches, Meiger advocated for a circumscribed use of torture, to avoid punishing innocent people who had only confessed under duress. Part III is concerned with ‘poltergeisteren’ (spectres), domestic and familiar spirits, and other kinds. The early Germanic annotator of this copy glossed the odd passage, especially the section on how weird natural events may be interpreted as witchcraft, even though they are not. Most interestingly, Meiger’s work is also interspersed with numerous references to northern European mythologies, with passages on Odin/Woden, werewolves (the causes of lycanthropy and its connection to magic), and the connection between the biblical Simon Magus and Johannes Faustus (the famous Faust).

Only Boston Athenaeum copy (imperfect) recorded in the US. VD16 M 2234; USTC 630877; BM STC Ger., p.607; Grässe, Bib. Magica et Pneumatica, p.50. Not in Caillet, Fairfax-Murray, Dorbon-Aîné or Thorndike.
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