Paris: Chez Jacques du Puys, 1580. First Edition. Hardcover. Small Quarto, (8 1/2 inches x 6 1/2 inches - 22 x 17 cm), [xiv ff] + 252 ff (ie pagination is on the rectos of the leaves only). Signatures: â-î4, ô2 (ô is signed î) A-SSs4. Various errors in pagination: the text is, however, complete as issued, although with a non-standard title-page (see further below). Attractive early (seventeenth century?) full leather binding, gilt titling and decorations between raised bands to spine. Decorated headpieces and occasional decorated initials throughout. Housed in a modern, custom-made protective box, brown cloth spine, matching marbled paper boards, leather title-label to spine. FRENCH TEXT. A rare, possibly unique, issue of the first edition. With the exception of the title page the sheets are those of the 1580 du Puys first edition - they collate perfectly against the copy in the Bibliothèque municipale de Lyon. The title page appears to be that of the 1588 revised edition of the work which is also by Jacques du Puys, however, unlike any other copies of the second edition that we could trace, the title-page of this volume does not have the elaborate woodcut device printed in the centre of the title-page. We cannot find any other copy recorded with a title-page thus (either first or revised edition). Sadly with the passing of time it is impossible to know what the true history of the book is, but one possibility is that whilst preparing the revised edition the publisher located a set of sheets from the first printing that lacked the title page. They decided to bind them up using a title-page from the revised edition, but perhaps to avoid possible confusion deliberately used a title-page that had not yet had the woodcut device applied to it (the sheets were evidently first printed with the text, and then, when they had dried, had the woodcut device stamped into them). Of course this is conjecture, but it would explain how a set of first edition sheets came to be bound with an apparently unrecorded variant of the 1588 revised edition title-page.
The book was of course one of the most significant and influential works in the history of witchcraft persecutions. The author, Jean Bodin (1530-1596) was a noted lawyer and author. His "Demonomanie" was drawn from his own experience as a judge, as well as other contemporary accounts of witchcraft (many of which are recounted), and was written to assist other members of the judiciary who were dealing with cases of witchcraft. Bodin was one of the first writers to attempt a legal definition of witchcraft, and sought to explain what motivated witches and how they could best be identified. Despite having a reputation as something of a liberal in other spheres, Bodin had no tolerance when it came to suspected witches. His book shows an unflinching brutality as he carefully set out the best ways to carry out the interrogation, torture, sentencing and execution of the accused, regardless of the age or infirmity of the accused. The volume was disturbingly popular amongst both jurists and theologians: as noted the First Edition was published in 1580, it was reprinted in 1582, the revised edition was published in 1588, and by 1604 it had gone through ten other editions.
The work is divided into four "books": the first book contains chapters on: The Definition of a Sorcerer (Witch), The Association of Spirits with Men, The Difference between Good and Evil Spirits, Of Prophecy and other Means to know Occult Matters, Of Natural and Human Means to know Occult Matters, etc. The second book contains chapters on: Of Magic in General, Of Secret Invocations of Evil Spirits, Of the Ecstacies and Ravishment of Sorcerers and their Usual Relations with Demons, Of Lycanthropy and if Spirits can change Men into Beasts, If Sorcerers Copulate with Demons, If Sorcerers can inflict Illness, Can Sorcerers Cure Illness. The third book is largely devoted to questions about what Sorcerers can achieve, and how they do it - whether or not they can influence others, cause and cures other, etc. etc. The fourth book deals primarily with the legal aspects: Of the Inquisition of Sorcerers, Of the Proofs needed to show the Crime of Sorcery, Of Voluntary Confession and the Use of Force with Sorcerers, The Judgements that can be made about the Sorcers, and Of the Punishments to be given to Sorcerers. Interestingly it ends with a refutation of the opinions of Johann Weyer, who had questioned some of the more extreme assumptions of the witch-hunters in his "De Praestigiis Daemonum et Incantationibus ac Venificiis" (1563).
Leather binding rubbed and discolored, corners of boads bumped and rubbed through, and one corner missing small chip. The head of the spine is lacking a significant finger-thickness sized strip and a thin sliver of leather is missing from the bottom of the spine. The spine itself appears to have been glued to the text block. Leather hinges cracked but boards still quite firmly attached by the binder's ties and the endpaper gutters. Endpapers darkened and with neat old repair to front hinge. The front free end-paper and title-page each have a neat old reinforcement across the top on the verso. Small stamp "A.L.L.R." at bottom of title-page, some light red-pencil underlining on about half-a-dozen pages of the Preface (this could be erased, but great care would be required so as not to stress the hinges further in the process). Occassional inoffensive and relatively faint marginalia on about 25 leaves - the marginalia appears to be more or less contemporary with the volume. Very pale, quite unobtrusive tide-mark to the upper margins of about 50 leaves, and while the pages show occasional signs of their age, the paper remains fresh and supple. Generally VG or better condition for a volume of this age, with a pleasant and attractive antiquarian look and feel. Protective box in Fine condition. As noted a rare, possibly unique, issue of the first edition of this important work. Item #70872