PLUTARCH and CAMERARIUS, Joachim De Natura et effectionibus Daemonum

Leipzig, Johannes Steinman, typiis Voegelianis, 1576


8vo. pp. [lxiv], 159, [i]. Italic letter, preface in Roman some Greek. Small woodcut device on title of Christ above the Ark of the Covenant, three woodcut figures in text, contemporary autograph of ‘G. Baucynet’ on title. Light age yellowing, rare marginal spot or mark. A very good copy in contemporary vellum, recased.

Rare edition of this translation by Adrien Turnebe of Plutarch’s two works on the oracles, ‘De defectu oraculorum’ and ‘De Figura El, consecrata delphis’, prefaced with a lengthy and important essay by Camerarius. There is no Greek text to complement Turnebe’s translation, but Camerarius includes Turnebe’s annotations and explanations, drawn from other Greek authors, who discuss methods of divination, oracles and astrology. Camerarius’ lengthy preface is important as he not only comments on Plutarch’s text on oracles and prophecy but extends the discussion into contemporary concern over witches and witch-craft. “Joachim Camerarius was a Lutheran scholar of high reputation, who died in 1574. He seems to have had much interest in these matters (demonology and witchcraft). Graesse (p.14) gives as his a book “De Natura et Affectionibus Daemonorum” Libri II Lipsiae, 1576, though this is rather a translation of Plutarch’s book of that name by Turnebus, with an introduction by Camerarius (Graesse, p. 46). … Camerarius says he was led to consider the subject (of witchcraft) by a talk with Albinus, who related the horrible deeds of witches of which he had heard in a recent journey towards the Rhine…. Besides this were accounts by Albinus from many places of these unfortunate women punished with atrocious penalties. .. His essay (the preface) is largely devoted to classic times, but he has full faith in all that is attributed to witches and he says: ‘Tanta est enim exemplorum hujas generis copia ut ejus toti pluminarum chartarum libri compleri hi quidem possent sed enumerari illa non possent’ Introd. to de Defectu Oraculorum….. Camerarius was consulted in 1571 by William IV of Hesse Cassel about some women arrested for jugglers tricks on a boy. Camerarius opposed the use of torture in such cases and also the water ordeal which Wilhelm was disposed to employ, as he was sure they would sink, and warned him against the cruelty of witch burning and the prosecutions by which the innocent were obliged to confess.” Henry Charles Lea. ‘Materials Toward a History of Witchcraft’. Plutarch’s two works on the Oracles and prophecy touch on a wide range of subjects including some astronomy, geometry and some interesting bits of information about Britain and the East.

Guillaume Baucynet was a doctor from Orleans who wrote a number of medical treatises, some of which were controversial, particularly his ‘Notationes in apologiam et censuram scholae medicorum Parisiensium’ which defended, against the Faculte de Paris, spagyric methods, a form of alchemical practice involving the production of herbal remedies using alchemical procedures.

BM STC Ger. p. 706. Caillet III 8763. Graesse p. 46. Not in Cantamessa.
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