1600 Malleus Maleficarum Hammer Of Witches Medieval Witchcraft Trials Demonology

1600 Malleus Maleficarum Hammer Of Witches Medieval Witchcraft Trials Demonology

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1600 Malleus Maleficarum Hammer Of Witches Medieval Witchcraft Trials Demonology:

Early Printing - Germany - Frankfurt am Main] [Occult and Esoterica] [Witchcraft and Demonology] [Magic and Sorcery]
[History of Roman Catholic Church - Middle Ages - Inquisition] [Canon Law] [Criminal Law & Procedure]

Printed in Frankfurt am Main by Wolfgang Richter for Nicolas Bassaeus, 1600. Fourth Frankfurt printing.
Scarce: WorldCat locates only 4 copies of this edition in the US libraries.

Contains the complete text of the Malleus Maleficarum in the original Latin (with the pertinent auxiliary material), as well as Johannes Nider's De Maleficis et eorundem deceptionibus from his Formicarius.

RARE EARLY EDITION OF THE INFAMOUS "HAMMER OF WITCHES" - BY FAR THE MOST IMPORTANT AND INFLUENTIAL EARLY WORK ON WITCHCRAFT AND DEMONOLOGY, well-preserved in its original unrestored limp vellum binding, formerly in possession of a Carmelite convent.

The book, which is absolutely complete in itself, was published as Volume I of a 2-volume compendium of various demonological texts (Volume II, not present here, contained additional texts on witchcraft by such authors as Ulrich Molitor, Girolamo Menghi, et al. not directly related to Malleus Maleficarum.)

ONE OF THE MOST SINISTER AND MORoffer TEXTS EVER PUBLISHED, the Malleus is a veritable encyclopedia of witchcraft describing alleged practices of witches' sabbaths, intercourse with the devil, casting spells, etc., and giving chilling details of the procedures for inquisitors to follow in conducting witchcraft investigations and trials. The authors, Institoris and Sprenger, were Dominican papal inquisitors for Germany and neighboring regions.

The text is prefaced by the Papal Bull promulgated by Pope Innocent VIII, which sanctioned the interrogation and severe punishment of those believed to be witches, and followed by an approbation supposedly issued by the theological faculty at Cologne. The first and second parts of the work give a detailed description of the lore and practices of witches and demons, while the third and final part, aimed at civil and ecclesiastical authorities, specifies detailed procedures for conducting witchcraft investigations and trials.

Following the text of the Malleus Maleficarum, this edition also includes another important medieval work on witchcraft: Formicarium de Maleficis et eorundem deceptionibus by Johannes Nider (1380-1438), a German Dominican theologian, which was initially published as the fifth book of his influential Formicarius. First printed circa 1475, this remarkable work (whose title translates as "The Ant Hill") gathered stories about all sorts of ghosts, apparitions, devils, and divination, taken from classical and contemporary authors. The material presented in Liber V of the Formicarius (included in this volume: pp.694-806) Nider claimed to have obtained from a magistrate in Bern and from a Benedictine monk who had been a sorcerer before his conversion.

The Malleus Maleficarum ("The Hammer of Witches") is arguably the most infamous treatise on prosecuting witches to have come out of the European witch craze which began in the late Middle Ages and peaked during the Renaissance. The Malleus Maleficarum served as a comprehensive witch-hunter's handbook, designed to guide the inquisitors in the identification, prosecution, and dispatching of Witches. It was first published in Germany in 1487, and its circulation grew fast into fourteen editions from 1487 to 1520 and then sixteen editions from 1574 to 1669 in France, Italy, and Germany. These editions spread throughout Europe and had a profound impact on witch trials on the Continent and in England.

The Malleus was widely used as a judicial case-book for the detection and persecution of witches, specifying rules of evidence and the canonical procedures by which suspected witches were tortured and put to death. Thousands of people (primarily women) were judically murdered as a result of the procedures described in this book, for no reason than a strange birthmark, living alone, mental illness, cultivation of medicinal herbs, or simply because they were falsely accused. Although the Malleus is manifestly a document which displays the cruelty, barbarism, and ignorance of the Inquisition, it has also been interpreted as evidence of a wide-spread underground pagan tradition which worshiped a pre-Christian horned deity.

Bibliographic references:

Adams S1619; Coumont, Demonology & Witchcraft, I4.29; Caillet III, 7058.

Physical description:

Thick octavo; textblock measures 15½ cm x 9½ cm, approximately 5 cm thick. Bound in contemporary (circa 1600) limp vellum; paper label with (faded) handwritten title to spine.

Pagination: [16], 806, [40] pp (final leaf blank).
Signatures: )(8 A-Z8 a-z8 Aa-Gg8 (blank Gg8).
Collated and COMPLETE, including the terminal blank Gg8.

Printed in roman letter with marginal notes. Title-page with large woodcut publisher's device (a nude female figure representing Fortuna). Numerous decorative woodcut initials and several woodcut tail-pieces. Colophon on verso of leaf Gg7v.

The text of Malleus Maleficarum is followed by "Sequitur in Praecedentem Tractatum Aprobatio..." on pp. 685-693 (the letter of approbation of the treatise by the theological faculty at Cologne). Nider's Liber insignis de maleficis, & eorum deceptionibus occupies pp.694-806.

Extensive Index Alphabeticus at the end of the volume (leaves Ee5r-Gg7r).

Preliminaries include the Dedicatory Preface by Lazarus Zetzner from the 1588 edition (leaves )(2r-)(5v), followed by Tenor Bullae Apostolicae adversus Haeresim Maleficarum (Bull against witchcraft by Pope Innocent VIII, dated December 1484) on leaves )(6r-)(7v, and the authors' 'Apology' Apologia auctoris in Malleum maleficarum on )(8r,v.


Henry Graham Pollard (1903-1976), a noted British bookseller and bibliographer; with a purchase invoice for this book in his name from a London bookseller, dated 31 Dec. 1952, laid in. Bibliographical notes in his hand pencilled on front fly-leaf.

Two barely legible 17th-century ownership inscriptions on title, of which one is of the Carmelite convent at Leontini (now Lentini) in the Province of Syracuse (Southeast Sicily); the other a private ownership signature, dated 1607?.


Very Good antiquarian condition. Vellum binding rubbed; original ties perished; slightly darkened; some wear to extremities, and a short closed tear to vellum on front joint and at head of spine. However, binding still supple and solid; joints and hinges intact and firm. Minor tears to pastedowns. Pencilled notes to front pastedown verso; early shelf-mark inked to front fly-leaf. Two early manuscript ownership inscriptions to title-page. Textblock slightly browned with some moderate spotting throughout, a few opening leaves and the Index leaves at end with light damp-staining (mostly marginal). Interior generally clean, unmarked, and fairly bright (with considerably less browning than is typical for books printed in Germany during this period). An attractive, genuine, unrestored example of this extremely rare and desirable volume!

Please click on thumbnails below to see larger images.

Additional notes on Malleus Maleficarum and its contents:

The Malleus Maleficarum is notorious for its vivid misogyny. "...In the fifteenth century an aspect of witchcraft emerged that, to many modern minds at least, is perhaps the most striking and compelling element of the stereotype - the pronounced association of witchcraft with women rather than with men. This connection was developed most completely and ruthlessly in what is now by far the most famous late-medieval text dealing with witchcraft, the witch-hunting manual Malleus maleficarum, written by the Dominican inquisitor Heinrich Kramer in 1486. In this profoundly misogynist work, Kramer linked witchcraft entirely to what he regarded as women's spiritual weakness and their natural proclivity for evil. Above all, he linked witchcraft to supposedly uncontrolled female sexuality, famously concluding that 'all witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which in women is insatiable'." [Michael Bailey, The Feminization of Magic and the Emerging Idea of the Female Witch in the Late Middle Ages, Essays in Medieval Studies - Vol. 19, 2002, pp. 120-134]

"It is hardly disputed that in the whole vast literature of witchcraft, the most prominent, the most important, the most authoritative volume is the Malleus Maleficarum (The Witch Hammer) of Heinrich Kramer (Henricus Institoris) and James Sprenger. The date of the first edition of the Malleus cannot be fixed with absolute certainty, but the likeliest year is 1486. There were, at any rate, fourteen editions between 1487 and 1520, and at least sixteen editions between 1574 and 1669. These were issued from the leading German, French and Italian presses. [...]

The Malleus acquired special weight and dignity from the famous Bull of Pope Innocent VIII, Summis desiderantes affectibus of 9 December, 1484, in which the Pontiff, lamenting the power and prevalence of the witch organization, delegates Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger as inquisitors of these pravities throughout Northern Germany, particularly in the provinces and dioceses of Mainz, Cologne, Treves, Salzburg, and Bremen, granting both and either of them an exceptional authorization, and by Letters Apostolic requiring the Bishop of Strasburg, Albrecht von Bayern (1478-1506), not only to take steps to publish and proclaim the Bull, but further to afford Kramer and Sprenger every assistance, even calling in, if necessary, the help of the secular arm.

This Bull, which was printed as the Preface to the Malleus, was thus, comments Dr. H.C. Lea, "spread broadcast over Europe". In fact, "it fastened on European jurisprudence for nearly three centuries the duty of combating" the Society of Witches. The Malleus lay on the bench of every magistrate. It was the ultimate, irrefutable, unarguable authority. It was implicitly accepted not only by Catholic but by Protestant legislature. In fine, it is not too much to say that the Malleus Maleficarum is among the most important, wisest, and weightiest books of the world. [...]

Heinrich Kramer [aka Institoris] was born at Schlettstadt, a town of Lower Alsace, situated some twenty-six miles southwest of Strasburg. At an early age he entered the Order of S. Dominic, and so remarkable was his genius that whilst still a young man he was appointed to the position of Prior of the Dominican House at his native town, Schlettstadt. He was a Preacher-General and a Master of Sacred Theology. P.G. and S.T.M., two distinctions in the Dominican Order. At some date before 1474 he was appointed an Inquisitor for the Tyrol, Salzburg, Bohemia, and Moravia. His eloquence in the pulpit and tireless activity received due recognition at Roma, and for many years he was Spiritual Director of the great Dominican church at Salzburg, and the right-hand of the Archbishop of Salzburg, a munificent prelat who praises him highly in a letter which is still extant. In the late autumn or winter of 1485 Kramer had already drawn up a learned instruction or treatise on the subject of witchcraft. This circulated in manuscript, and is (almost in its entirety) incorporated in the Malleus. By the Bull of Innocent VIII in December, 1484, he had already been associated with James Sprenger to make inquisition for and try witches and sorcerers. In 1495, the Master General of the Order, Fr. Joaquin de Torres, O.P., summoned Kramer to Venice in order that he might give public lectures, disputations which attracted crowded audiences, and which were honoured by the presence and patronage of the Patriarch of Venice. He also strenuously defended the Papal supremacy, confuting the De Monarchia of the Paduan jurisconsult, Antonio degli Roselli. During the summer of 1497, he had returned to Germany, and was living at the convent of Rohr, near Regensburg. On 31 January, 1500, Alexander VI appointed him as Nuncio and Inquisitor of Bohemia and Moravia, in which provinces he was deputed and empowered to proceed against the Waldenses and Picards, as well as against the adherents of the witch-society. He wrote and preached with great fervour until the end. He died in Bohemia in 1505. [...]

James Sprenger was born in Basel, 1436-8. He was admitted a novice in the Dominican house of this town in 1452. His extraordinary genius attracted immediate attention, and his rise to a responsible position was very rapid. According to Pierre Helyot's 1715 Histoire des Ordres Religieux (III, ch. XXVI), in 1389 Conrad of Prussia abolished certain relaxations and abuses which had crept into the Teutonic Province of the Order of S. Dominic, and restored the Primitive and Strict Obedience. He was closely followed by Sprenger, whose zealous reform was so warmly approved that in 1468 the General Chapter ordered him to lecture on the sentences of Peter Lombard at the University of Cologne, to which he was thus officially attached. A few years later he proceeded Master of Theology, and was elected Prior and Regent of Studies of the Cologne Convent, one of the most famous and frequented Houses of the Order. On 30 June, 1480, he was elected Dean of the Faculty of Theology at the University. His lecture-room was thronged, and in the following year, at the Chapter held in Rome, the Master General of the Order, Fra Salvo Cusetta, appointed him Inquisitor Extraordinary for the Provinces of Mainz and Cologne. His activities were enormous, and demanded constant journeyings through the very extensive district to which he had been assigned. In 1488 he was elected Provincial of the whole German Province, an office of the first importance. It is said that his piety and his learning impressed all who came in contact with him. In 1495 he was residing at Cologne, and here he received a letter from Alexander VI praising his enthusiasm and his energy. He died rather suddenly, in the odour of sanctity - some chronicles call him "Beatus" - on 6 December, 1495, at Strasburg, where he is buried. [...]

Certain it is that the Malleus Maleficarum is the most solid, the most important work in the whole vast library of witchcraft. One turns to it again and again with edification and interest: From the point of psychology, from the point of jurisprudence, from the point of history, it is supreme. It has hardly too much to say that later writers, great as they are, have done little more than draw from the seemingly inexhaustible wells of wisdom which the two Dominicans, Heinrich Kramer and James Sprenger, have given us in the Malleus Maleficarum. [...]

It is a work which must irresistibly capture the attention of all men who think, all who see, or are endeavouring to see, the ultimate reality beyond the accidents of matter, time and space. The Malleus Maleficarum is one of the world's few books written sub specie aeternitatis." (from Montague Summers' Introduction to his edition of Malleus Maleficarum in English].

The book is divided into three sections, each of which raises specific questions and purports to answer them through opposing arguments.

Part I seeks to prove that witchcraft or sorcery exists. It details how the Devil and his followers, witches, perpetrate a variety of evils with "the permission of the Almighty God". Part of this section explains why women, by their weaker nature and inferior intellect, were supposedly naturally more prone to the lure of Satan than men.

Part II of the Malleus Maleficarum describes the actual forms of witchcraft. This section details how witches cast spells and how their actions can be prevented or remedied. Strong emphasis is given to the Devil's Pact and the existence of witches is presented as fact. Many of the book's reports of spells, pacts, sacrifice, and copulation with the Devil were gained from actual inquisitions performed by Sprenger and Kramer.

Part III details the methods for detecting, trying, and sentencing or destroying witches. Torture in the detection of witches is dealt with as a matter-of-course; if the accused witch did not voluntarily confess their guilt, torture was to be applied as incentive to confess. Judges are instructed to mislead the accused if necessary, promising mercy for confession. This section also covers how much belief to place in witnesses' testimonies and the need to eliminate malicious accusations, but also states that public rumor is sufficient to bring a person to trial and that too vigorous a defense is evidence that the defender is bewitched. There are rules on how to prevent the authorities becoming bewitched and the reassurance that, as representatives of God, investigators are shielded from all of the witch's powers.

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1600 Malleus Maleficarum Hammer Of Witches Medieval Witchcraft Trials Demonology:

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