VAIRO, Leonardo

VAIRO, Leonardo De fascino libri tres.

Venice, Aldus, 1589


8vo. pp. (xvi) 375 (xlv). Italic letter, with Roman. Aldine device to t-p, floriated and decorated initials, grotesque headpieces. T-p a trifle dusty, occasional very minor marginal foxing, small paper flaw to lower blank margin of three ll. A very good copy in contemporary vellum, raised bands, title inked to spine, all edges blue, slight wear at foot. Several ms. casemarks to t-p and ‘Loci S: Pauli prope Bononiam’, the odd little ink mark.

A very good copy of the first Aldine edition of this remarkable work on witchcraft by Leonardo Vairo (1523-1603), Benedictine monk and bishop of Pozzuoli. Not too long after printing, this copy entered the library of the Friars’ Observant at San Paolo in Monte, near Bologna. This is the second edition, originally published in 1583. It is entirely devoted to ‘fascinum’ (‘fascination’ or ‘charm’), a ‘pernicious quality summoned through intense imagination, sight, touch, voice, together or separately, as well as the observation of the sky, or inflicted through hate or love’. With the help of authorities like Aristotle, Plutarch and Heliodorus, Vairo addresses the nature of fascination caused by external action (moral) or inherent qualities (natural). The work seeks to set apart the natural from the supernatural whilst discussing subjects like monstrous births, werewolves, the sabbath, the nature of daemonic powers, basilisks, the faculty of divination pertaining to some animals, supernatural prophecy and daemonic possession which may more frequently affect melancholic people. ‘De fascino’ was still mentioned in C18 theological debates on witchcraft and the supernatural.

This edition concludes with the interesting priced catalogue of the ‘libri di stampa d’Aldo’ available for purchase in 1589. On the Aldines listed in this copy, an early annotator marked Bodin’s ‘Trattato della Demonomania’, probably as a desideratum.

BM STC It., p. 706; Brunet V, 1029; Caillet, 10964: ‘Traité fort rare’; Rénouard 242:8.
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