POLIDORO, Valerio.


POLIDORO, Valerio. Practica Exorcistarum…Ad Damones & Maleficia de Christifidelibus expellendum.

Padua, apud Paulum Meietum, 1582


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. Pp. (xxxii) 122 (iv). Roman letter, little Italic. Tp with woodcut printer’s device, repeated on last leaf, floriated initials. Old typed Spanish description pasted to ffep. Very light age yellowing, tiny nick to lower outer corner of tp. A very good clean copy with generous margins in highly attractive polished vellum with rare gilt bachelor arms of De Thou on covers, his shelf mark at head of pastedown.

Exceptionally bound copy of this rare guidance manual for exorcists. Valerio Polidori (fl. late C16) was a conventual Franciscan and theologian, whose fame rests on this work. The work is in two parts: one on the expulsion of demons, the other on their dispersion. The first part discusses the necessary characteristics exorcists should have (strong faith, pure conscience, not greedy or vain), the ways in which demons attack human bodies, how to tell if something is being generated by a demon or if a demon has been expelled, the nature of demons, orations and prayers to be used, and what demons should be asked (e.g., name, cause for entering the body, the angels he fears). The second explains the nature of ‘maleficia’, natural remedies to disperse demons, and how to tell the difference between a normal sickness and the consequences of demonic possession (Thorndike Vol VI p. 556). ‘The work is very good, clear, well-founded on doctrine and mostly based on Peter Lombard. […] Of the subjects he does not want to discuss at length he mentions the best authorities, and he provides sound instructions for both the exorcist and the exorcised’ (Franchini, ‘Bibliosofia’, 561). It was, however, listed among the prohibited books in the Index of 1744. Caillet 8805 calls it “ouvrage d’une grande rareté.”

Jacques Auguste de Thou (1553-1617) was a French historian, president of the Paylement de Paris and a copious book collector. He formed an international network of connections and allies, including Arnaud d’Ossat, François Hotman and Joseph Justus Scaliger and served both Henry III and Henry IV, he negotiated the Edict of Nantes. Under Marie de Medici he became conseil des finances and died in Paris in 1617. He wrote a number of works including his great historical chronicle Historia sui temporis which was inspired and fuelled by his extensive library. De Thou was the greatest French book collector of his day, of whom it was long said that a man had not seen Paris who had not seen the library of de Thou. “The De Thou library had a reputation as the finest private collection of its day; it numbered about 6,600 volumes at his death, and was greatly increased by his children.” P. Needham, Twelve Centuries of Bookbindings. 

BMSTC It. 530 (1587 edition); Caillet III 8805; Not in The Witchcraft Bibliography Project cat., Univ. of Oregon or Cornell Univ. Witchcraft Collection.
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