VISCONTI, Zaccaria

VISCONTI, Zaccaria Complementum artis exorcisticae, cui simile nunquam visum est

Venice, apud Franciscum Barilettum, 1619


8vo. [vi], 442, [xxii]. A-2F8. Roman letter some Italic. Engraved globe device on title-page, historiated and floriated woodcut initials, grotesque headpiece, typographical ornaments, early armorial library stamp on blank margin of the title, ‘Biliotheca Montis Oliveti’ with the purchase note of ‘Cypriano Pinto’ for that library on the front fly dated 1688. Light age yellowing, some minor, mostly marginal, spotting, title-page fractionally dusty, tear to lower blank corner of one leaf, the occasional minor marginal mark or stain. A good copy, with good margins, some lower edges uncut, in contemporary vellum over thin card, title manuscript on spine, ‘Capuccini di Vievo’ manuscript at top and fore-edge.

Rare Venetian edition of this important and most influential work on Excorcism and remedies against evil spirits by the Milanese exorcist Visconti. Zaccaria Visconti, a professional exorcist from Milan, belonged to the order of SS. Barnaba e Ambrogio, a company of secular priests founded by Carlo Borromeo. He taught the art of exorcism (he is referred to on the title page as a professor of the art of exorcism and perhaps taught at the university of Pavia) and flourished between the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. This most interesting treatise addresses all aspects of exorcism, provides the theological and theoretic framework for the practise of exorcism as well as a manual of instruction on techniques, prayers, formulae, rituals and all sorts of remedies to expel the Evil within. As pointed out in the initial dedication, Visconti hoped that his books would help reduce the number of cases of demonic possession recently recorded in the Milanese area. Visconti’s work shared many similarities with other works on demons, and the art of exorcism, with other Franciscan exorcists, though his own work has much local reference particular to Italy, and more specifically to Milan. His work was printed, by Lazarus Zetzner, in Cologne, in a collection of the six major works of the Franciscan Exorcists in a single volume, Thesaurus exorcismorum (‘The treasury of Exorcists’) in 1607, often described as the greatest compendium of exorcism manuals. These works shared many similarities and all were particularly preoccupied with witchcraft, often merging exorcism, counter-witchcraft and the demonstration of techniques on how to ward off demons or evil spirits. Visconti’s work was therefore part of a body of work that was distilled into the shorter exorcism ritual prescribed in the Rituale Romanum (1612) the church’s official guide for exorcisms in use down to the present day.

The map on the title page is most intriguing as, even though it is tilted to the north pole, it shows, in the southern hemisphere, two distinct and separate land masses, one in the place of Antarctica and the other in the place of Australia, with the Dutch East Indies clearly above. The Dutch had landed on the north coast of Australia in 1606 followed by Spanish and Portuguese sightings and a second landing by the Dutch in 1616. An interesting and surprisingly accurate depiction of ‘Terra Australis’ on the eve of its recognition as the Australian continent.

Not in BM STC It. C17th. or Caillet.
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