Title: Malleus Maleficarum / The Hammer of Witchcraft
Author: James Sprenger and Henry Kramer, Montague Summers (trans), Pennethorne Hughes (intro)
Publisher: Folio Society, 1968. Scarce.
Condition: Hardcover, decorative cloth. Very good, little wear.
About the book:
One of the most infamous and destructive books ever written, this is the best known of the witch-hunt manuals. Written in Latin, the Malleus was first submitted to the University of Cologne on May 9th, 1487. The title is translated as “The Hammer of Witches”. Written by James Sprenger and Henry Kramer (of which little is known), the Malleus remained in use for three hundred years. It had tremendous influence in the witch trials in England and on the continent.
The Malleus was 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 (often for financial gain by the accuser). The Malleus serves as a horrible warning about what happens when intolerence takes over a society.
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 subterranean pagan tradition which worshiped a pre-Christian horned deity, particularly by Margaret Murray.
While the Malleus itself cannot be blamed for the Inquisition or the horrors inflicted upon mankind by the Inquisitors, it certainly played an important role. Thus has it been said that The Malleus Maleficarum is one of the most blood-soaked works in human history, in that its very existence reinforced and validated Catholic beliefs which led to the prosecution, torture, and murder, of tens of thousands of innocent people.
The lasting effect of the Malleus upon the world can only be measured in the lives of the hundreds of thousands of men, women, and even children, who suffered, and died, at the hands of the Inquisitors during the Inquisition.
At the height of its popularity, The Malleus Maleficarum was surpassed in public notoriety only by The Bible. Its effects were even felt in the New World, where the last gasp of the Inquisition was felt in the English settlements in America (most notably in Salem, Massachusetts during the Salem Witch Trials).