With Four Tracts on Demons, Exorcism & Spells - In a Contemporary Nuremberg Binding

Hemmerlin, Felix (1388-1460)

Opuscula et tractatus

[Strasbourg: Printer of the 1483 Jordanus de Quedlinburg (Georg Husner), or Johann (Reinhard) Grüninger, or Printer of Hemmerlin (Wilhelm Schaffener?),] after 13 August 1497


Chancery folio: 27 x 19.5 cm. π4, a-z6, aa-gg6. Complete with the blank leaves π4 and gg6)


The dedication by Sebastian Brant is here dated 13 August 1497. Another undated Strasbourg edition, printed by Prüss (ih00016000), has the same dedication (but without the date given in our edition.) The anonymous press has been assigned to Husner by Voulliéme (ZfB, 1915, p.311). BMC and Polain, followed by Goff, assign the book to an unidentified press, designated by Polain as the Printer of Hemmerlin, while BMC and CIBN (A-406) identify the printer (tentatively) as Schaffener. Proctor assigns the book to Grüninger.(See ISTC note)

Bound in a contemporary Nuremberg binding of blind-stamped calf over wooden boards [Kyriss 117], with the author's name tooled in blind on the upper board. With metal clasps and catches (one loose), and evidence of earlier center- and corner-pieces. Title page with large woodcut portrait of the author in a landscape with insects swarming about his head [Schreiber 4198], opening initial in red and blue, a few others in red. Binding with moderate wear and scuffing. The contents are in excellent condition with a little soiling to the title and some minor worming; last signature coming loose. 16th? Century inscription on inner board.

Felix Hemmerlin (also known under his Latin name Malleotus), was a Swiss scholar and adherent of the reform party at the Councils of Constance (1414-1418) and Basel (1431-1449). This collection of his works was edited by the Nuremberg humanist Sebastian Brant. 

Hemmerlin is well known to historians of witchcraft and demonology, and this collection includes his four works on spells, witches, demons, and exorcism: 1. De benedictionibus aure cum sacramento faciendis; 2. Tractatus de exorcismis; 3. Alius tractatus exorcismorum seu adiurationum; 4. De credulitate demonibus exhibenda.

Hemmerlin, who wrote in the generation before Institor and Sprenger, "was interested in the devil's immediate and physical appearances in the world, rather than as some abstract principle of moral evil: his devil is mainly the cause of tangible misfortune rather than of sin. But Hemmerlin's demons are in other respects quite traditional; they do not abdicate their responsibilities to human followers, and when there is mischief to be done, they do it themselves. Hemmerlin also believed in magic. [In one tract in our volume, he argues for the efficacy of a spell to heal ailing cows. In another, he champions a healing spell that had been condemned by the Heidelberg theological faculty. He also deems it licit to use holy names and even the consecrated host to 'exorcize' pests from fields. In fact, it was Hemmerlin's opinion that most common spells, blessings and charms were harmless or even beneficial (See Bailey, " A Late-Medieval Crisis of Superstition?"].

"Hemmerlin knew that peasant women brewed poisonous herbs and roots together to cause storms… He described a 'mulier strega', who could turn herself into a cat and killed many infants in their cradles before she was burned. Yet for Hemmerlin, the devil had not been eclipsed by witches, and demons retained a well-defined role in the production of evil. Whereas misfortune in the 'Malleus Maleficarum' is virtually the exclusive prerogative of witches, Hemmerlin's demons might still cause storms of their own accord, and were even known to make off with a penis or two. In one instance, the devil in disguise as a holy man removes a sinning priest's male member (the cause of all his troubles). Naturally it returns to view, larger than ever, at the worst possible moment."(Broedel, The Malleus Maleficarum and the construction of witchcraft: Theology and popular belief)

ISTC ih00017000; HC *8424; GW 12187; BMC I 172 (& 102); CIBN H-9; Bod-inc H-010; BSB-Ink H-42; Goff H-17