SAINT-ANDRÉ, François de
Lettres de M. de Saint-André, .. au sujet de la magie, des maléfices et des sorciersParis, chez Robert-Marc Despilly, libraire, place de Sorbonne, à Sainte Ursule, 1725
FIRST EDITION. 12mo. [viii] 446 [ii]. [ã4, A-S12, T8]. Roman letter, some Italic. Woodcut initials, head and tail pieces, typographical ornaments, occasional underlinings. Light age yellowing, occasional minor spotting, a few tears in blank margins with early repairs. A very good copy, with good margins, in C19th three quarter olive calf over marbled boards, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, blue and red morocco labels gilt, a.e.r. joints restored.
First edition of this important enlightenment text on witchcraft and demons by the French physician Francois de Saint-André, published posthumously. Saint-André, physician to Louis XV, denounces popular belief in witchcraft and wizards, and demonstrates, with many examples, that all that is attributed to wizards and demons is most improbable and, most often, derived from the imagination of weak-minded people. He also inveighs against superstitious practices on the grounds that they are contrary to the teachings of the Holy Scriptures. “Clearly, there was still a lively interest in witchcraft during the 18th century, but through polemics and controversies the discussion was integrated into philosophical, legal, and religious debates, within which more or less modified versions of traditional Demonological theories jostled with “enlightened” critiques of those very theories. In France, for example, a quarrel developed over the physician Nathaniael de Saint André’s ‘lettres .. au sujet de la magie, des maléfices et des sorciers (1725. Letters about magic, evil spells, and sorcerers.) In this work he calls into question the traditional justification of a belief in witches by citing both passages in the Bible and canon law, and he explains all the phenomena in question in terms of natural effects or the power of illusion. The demonologists and even, to a certain extent, the physician John Wier, in his De Praestigiis Daemonum (1563 On the imposture of Devils), had interpreted such phenomena as effects of the devils power of the imagination, melancholia, and matter. However, Saint-Andre interprets them in purely human terms, drawn from psychology and physiology. The light of science, and particularly of medicine, is therefore to ‘disabuse’ human beings of false belief in witchcraft” Michel Delon. ‘Encyclopaedia of the Enlightenment.’
A very good copy of the first edition of one of the first treatises to move away from the theories of witch-craft developed in the the late C15 and C16th centuries.